Beyond CCW: Improving Your Skills

Regardless of your skill set, next-level training can prepare you to survive the worst circumstances. These police officers are undergoing training at The SIG Sauer Academy in New Hampshire.

The rising number of concealed carry permits has resulted in a nationwide surge in compact handgun sales, and today there are more and more new shooters obtaining their CCW permit for personal protection than ever before. But taking a class that allows you to legally carry a concealed firearm should just be the beginning of your firearms education, especially if you're serious about self-defense. That's not a denunciation of concealed carry instructors, who may have 20 or 30 students with varying levels of experience with firearms in one classroom and who must spend a great deal of their instruction time covering the most basic elements of firearms operation and local laws governing concealed carry. It's simply impossible in that setting to provide every student with the level of training they need.

For that reason, every shooter who carries a concealed firearm needs next-level training, regardless of their level of experience. Whether you're a rank beginner trying to master the basics of firearm handling or a career shooter, there are next-level courses available that will help you expand your skills and feel more confident with a firearm. Here are five reasons why everyone needs to invest in next-level training. It may be the most valuable preparation you'll ever receive.

NLT 2 copyYou'll Learn To Win a Gun Fight: Concealed carry classes teach students to safely carry a firearm, but they don't teach you how to win a gun fight. Those skills require hours and hours of dedicated training that focuses more on practical applications than basic function and theory. It takes a great deal of time to gain the skills and confidence required to help you survive a deadly encounter, and that means you'll need focused training that covers more realistic scenarios. Next-level training teaches advanced techniques for carrying and drawing a firearm, movement, tactical reloading, engaging multiple targets, utilizing cover and so forth — a scope of knowledge that far exceeds the basic information that is presented in a standard concealed carry class. As you progress through your training, you'll continue to build on the foundation that you established with your initial concealed carry class, and you'll have the knowledge and experience you need to survive. The practical skills that you develop with next-level instruction are the key to success.


Matt Canovi is a world-class shooter and instructor, and he helps shooters of all levels become more proficient. Like other next-level instructors, Canovi focuses on practical applications that will help you survive a gunfight.


You'll Receive Personalized Instruction: One class cannot meet the needs of all shooters. Some students need help loading and operating their firearm, and others need to fine-tune an already extensive skill set. Because of this, CCW instructors are limited in their ability to help all students. But next-level training allows you to find the class that is right for you based on your experience, and with more personal instruction you'll find that you improve more quickly. Oftentimes one shooting academy will offer multiple levels of instruction, so you'll have an opportunity to graduate and move on to more challenging courses. Personalized attention from an experienced shooting coach is one of the fastest ways to improve your skills, and no matter how advanced you are there are instructors that can help you become a better shooter. The goal of any CCW class is to ensure that you know how to properly handle a firearm and understand firearms laws, but next-level instructors want you to improve as a shooter (regardless of your skill set) and to have the tools necessary to defend your life and the lives of others.

NLT 4 copyYou'll Learn From Multiple Coaches: In your academic career, you've had multiple teachers with a variety of different styles, but chances are you learned something from each of them. The same is true for next-level firearms training. Every time I work with an instructor, I learn something new, and on many occasions, I've had instructors key on minor problems that others had missed. You'll learn to apply the tactics that work for you and will add to your own depth of knowledge, and even though you may not apply everything that you learn you'll become a well-rounded shooter. Having multiple instructors has also helped me teach others. In addition, learning from multiple instructors will help you break bad habits that have developed over long periods of time. For instance, when I began defensive shooting training I had developed a habit of keeping my arms extended as I moved and not bringing the gun back to my chest. After two different instructors commented on this I finally realized that I had developed a bad habit and needed to work to break it. I don't know why it took a second opinion to make me stop, but in the end I became aware of my mistake and eventually fixed the problem.

Students at Gunsite Academy in Arizona develop the skills and confidence necessary to survive. Next-level training works for everyone, from beginners to experienced shooters.

You'll Develop Muscle Memory Through Repetition: "Muscle memory" allows you to perform intricate muscular movements with minimal conscious effort. We develop muscle memory through repetition, and over time the complex sequence of muscular movements our brain had to orchestrate become hard-wired. If you've ridden a bike you understand how muscle memory works — when you first took off your training wheels your muscles had to perform a series of complex tasks in unison. After a while, though, you developed muscle memory that allowed you to ride a bike with so little conscious effort that your mind could wander. The same principles apply to defensive shooting. The acts of drawing a firearm, firing and reloading are all require sophisticated muscle movements. If you haven't committed these complex actions to muscle memory by the time you find yourself in a deadly situation you're in real trouble, and your panicked mind may not be able to coordinate the actions required to save your life. Additional shooting instruction will help you repeat the actions of drawing and firing your gun enough that you will commit these actions to subconscious memory. Additionally, next-level instruction will help you break bad habits before they become fixed in your muscle memory.


Developing muscle memory is important to surviving a deadly encounter because you will be able to function physically while your mind is racing. But bad habits can become engrained too, and next-level training will help you break those bad habits early.

You'll Gain Confidence: This is absolutely critical to surviving a dangerous encounter. I've talked to numerous CCW permit holders who never carry a firearm. Why? They aren't confident that they can actually defend themselves if the need arises. Simply having a gun available is far different than being able to defend yourself and others with a firearm, so you need to have the confidence that if you need to protect yourself with a handgun you'll have the skills necessary to do so. This certainly applies to new shooters, but more experienced shooters aren't excluded from the need to develop a confident attitude. Having next-level training exposes you to a variety of situations and helps prepare you to react accordingly, situations that simulate real-life deadly encounters. The more training you receive the more your confidence will increase. One key element to surviving a dangerous encounter is the belief that you can survive, and the more next-level training you receive, the more likely you will be to win when it matters most.


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