Recently I wrote about my “perfect world” Bachelor’s of Tactical Science. When it came to obtaining my “bachelor’s” equivalent of tactical science, I did a lot of things right. I joined the military which gives some training away for free. I got myself into a special operations outfit, which gives a lot of training away for free. As a civilian I’ve been a little lazy at times, and a little time- or cash-strapped at others, but I have still managed to chip away at it over the years in a more “real world” fashion. Today I’m going to talk about what a more realistic version of the “Bachelor’s of Tactical Science” may look like.
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This is the CLEP, night-school, working-your-way version. This isn’t a nice, neat, four-year program that takes you from zero to hero. This requires you to really want it. While not “perfect world” this still assumes some disposable time and money to train.
If I were 18 again, I would have prioritized some things and gotten some basics down very early. Unfortunately, at that age, I had a hard time looking at all of these skills as part of a cohesive whole. Everything I did at that time was in a vacuum. I was well into my 20s (or maybe early-30s) before I began to understand the totality of what I wanted to accomplish in training. I hope this lands on some young, impressionable mind(s) out there. Even if it doesn’t, the listed skill categories are prioritized my my perception of their importance, so even if you’re my age or older this can still help you shape your training priorities.
Also, keep in mind this is just my opinion. You may agree, and you may not.
Yes, the things I am going to recommend are costly in time and money. But so is any other baccalaureate. If you took this full time, it would still take far less time than a bachelor’s degree. It would also cost a lot less. Really padding the estimates here, I’m going to say you could get all of this training for under $15,000 – a fraction of what you would pay for a bachelor’s degree. This list looks daunting, but keep in mind we are saying this is the equivalent of a four-year degree. I’m calling this a bachelor’s, not the “tactical certificate program.”
Emergency Medical Technician. I would get my ass into an EMT-B class at a young age and maintain it. This would be my first priority above anything else – though it could run concurrently with anything else – because emergency medicine is a skill I am very likely to need at some point in my life. I would take it at night, on weekends, whatever I had to do to get that qualification out of the way. When I think back to my time in my very first unit in the military I kick myself; I had all the free time and support in the world to pursue education like this but chose not to. Learn from my mistakes!
Qualifications aren’t everything, but EMT is an important one. It enables you to work full or part time for EMS systems and gain invaluable experience, and have that as a fall-back employment option. A couple of jobs I have worked pay a little extra if you have an EMT license. EMT licensure enables you to get into other, more specialized training like dive medical tech, tactical responder, wilderness EMT, etc. EMT licensure requires a decent level of training and will enable you to be an asset across a wide variety of situations and circumstances.
As you guys know, I’m in an EMT class currently. I also attended an EMT class almost fifteen years ago, and received a license. Unfortunately, I failed to maintain it. Crucially, if you take this step, MAINTAIN IT! It only requires a few continuing education hours per year to stay current.
At an absolute minimum I would recommend Red Cross First Aid and CPR certifications. I would also highly recommend supplementing/reinforcing these with classes like Lone Star Medics’ “Medic 1”, Dark Angel Medical, and Greg Ellifritz’s “Tactical First Aid & System Collapse Medicine” (I have taken this one and highly recommend it). Even so, I believe EMT is the standard for the well-rounded Bachelor’s of Tactical Science.
High Performance Driving
My second highest priority would be some sort of driving class. How many of you drive on a regular basis? But how many of you have actually be trained to drive? How many of you have been trained – with an instructor sitting beside you – to steer into a skid? How many of you have been on the track, encouraged to push the car to its mechanical limits, and taught how to do so safely? Outside of law enforcement officers, probably not very many of you. It amazes me that we are such a driving culture but we are also almost universally untrained. It takes years of training to be licensed to cut someone’s hair but mere hours of training to operate that 3,000-pound weapon in your driveway.
Driving classes are expensive; most of the ones I have seen are around $1,000/day. But what is a a couple thousand dollars to a 19-year old with no bills? Stop smoking, stop drinking six Monsters a day, get out from under that $600/month car payment, and start saving a few bucks a week. Establish some spending priorities. Not only will a driving class give you some lifesaving skills, these classes are massively fun and will definitely set you apart from your peers. Some of the schools I have been to are open to the public and some are not.
My favorite one that you can pay out of your own pocket to attend is Bill Scott Racing (BSR) in Summit Point, WV. I would recommend their two-day Evasive Driving Course and their one-day Unimproved/Off-Road Driving Course (this one is on my short list) as the minimum for a Bachelor’s in Tactical Science. If BSR isn’t feasible for you to travel to, there are driving courses all over the United States, so look for a course in your area.
This is probably one of the most important classes you will ever take. If you’re considering your sixth handgun or carbine class, re-prioritize that and get into a driving class instead. I have attended a couple of these, and one potentially saved my life. A couple of years after taking a 5-day course at BSR I was able to successfully steer out of a skid on a wet, unfamiliar off-ramp that I took a little too fast. I’m not sure I would have been able to without having attended that training.
A system of practical, effective martial arts/unarmed combatives would be a high priority to me. This isn’t at thing you’re going to take a class or two and get really good at, and move on. This is something you’re going to spend week after week, month after month, year after year progressing at. If there was one thing I could change it would be finding a BJJ dojo and signing up 20 years ago. This would run concurrently with everything else listed here.
Currently Before the COVID-19 lockdown I was spending my Monday and Wednesday nights in EMT class and my Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the dojo.
Though maybe not as likely to be called on as medical stuff and driving training, I do think this is massively important and that there are a lot of reasons to pursue proficiency in a system of martial arts. It builds self-confidence in a really healthy way (in my opinion). It reinforces the idea that YOU, not your tools, are the weapon. It gives you options other than relying on tools that may or may not be on you, and you can never be disarmed of your martial skill. Being proficient in a discipline of unarmed combatives allows you to drop into a dojo when you travel, and have some instant friends.
Believe it or not, firearms is pretty low on my list. I think firearms are hugely over-represented as they pertain to personal safety and security. I could be wrong but I think this is because of a confluence of several things. First, firearms are “cool.” You might convince me otherwise when Instagram features as many sexy pictures of recently-inspected fire extinguishers and people checking their tire pressure as there are customized Glocks and sizzle-reel videos from the range. Secondly, firearms are poorly understood. They are viewed as a talisman rather than a single part of a comprehensive system of security. Don’t get me wrong – I think they’re important, but they’re only a single component.
Fortunately for me, my military training probably exceeded a Master’s-level criteria in firearms. Like all Marines I got an insanely strong foundation in marksmanship with the standard rifle qualification. That didn’t prepare me for the “real world” but it did help me understand the fundamentals of marksmanship. Unlike most military guys, I got months of expert handgun, close-range carbine instruction, and many long, painful hours of force-on-force training. For eighteen months I got to shoot on almost a daily basis. This is not typical at all, but it’s not uncommon in the special operations community. What would I recommend the average citizen do to get his or her Bachelor’s level proficiency?
Handgun: Although my original article mentioned proficiency with rifles and shotguns, I think the entry-level practitioner should focus on the handgun. The handgun is the tool most likely to be used in a self-defense encounter, and the firearm that most of us are likely to have on hand.
Honestly, prescribing a training curriculum is a tough one and a lot of people probably aren’t going to like this advice. However, you aren’t going to become an expert at running a handgun after even a two-week course (and good luck finding a two-week course). It’s going to take several weekend-warrior courses, interspersed with long hours of time spent practicing on your own. Here it is:
- Take a two-day, basic handgun class that covers stance, grip, trigger manipulation, reloading. That’s the easy part.
- Next, practice the skills you learned for six months to a year (important note: you should begin practicing only after receiving high-quality, professional instruction, otherwise you have no idea what techniques you are reinforcing and will eventually have to undo). I recommend at least one range session per month, and at least three short, highly-focused dry practice sessions per week. This is extremely important to myelinate the skills you have been taught and truly “learn” them.
- Go get some more training. More training will correct any “drift” in your technique. It will probably offer you slightly different ways of doing things. It will expand your range of techniques. After you’ve gone to two or three classes with one instructor, it’s time to find a new instructor who can put fresh eyes on you, and give you a fresh perspective.
Lather, rinse, repeat for a couple years until you’ve got ten to fifteen days of training, and tens of hours and a few thousand rounds of of practice under your belt. At this point, you’re probably pretty solid. There are dozens of tests out there to test proficiency with a handgun. The Wilson 5×5 Skills Test is probably as good as any, so arbitrarily I’ll say an “Expert” or higher would absolutely qualify you for the “Bachelor’s” level.
The list of excellent instructors is a very, very long one. There are also a ton of books that you can use to speed your advancement: Stay in the Fight by Kyle Lamb, Concealed Carry Class by Tom Givens, and Your Defensive Handgun Training by Mike Seeklander are just a few.
There are two more hurdles I think you should jump before being awarded your “real world” bachelor’s of tactical science.
Concealed Carry Permit: You should obtain a concealed carry permit. Even if your state offers Constitutional Carry, you should still obtain a permit for reciprocity purposes, and as a demonstration of having met a minimum level of training should you find yourself in court.
Legal Training: I strongly recommend some training in the law of self defense. In fact, I strongly recommend Andrew Branca’s Law of Self Defense class and accompanying book. There are other excellent instructors out there, but Andrew’s is the only such class I have taken and can speak about first-hand. If you can’t attend the class, it would absolutely be worth your time and money to read Branca’s The Law of Self Defense. Even if you have attended the class, the book should be in your library to refresh your memory from time to time.
I know this isn’t perfect. I know I probably have some knowledge gaps, but this should get someone off to a very, very good start. If I met a dude at the range that could claim all of this, I would be massively impressed. with this level of training (and the attendant level of skill it would provide) one would be pretty capable.
I NEED YOUR HELP! I am all about self-study. I realize that it would be the very exceptional reader who could drop everything and immediately begin pursuing all these classes. While reading is not a substitute for doing, it’s also much better than nothing. Reading is also an effective form of skill maintenance. As such, I would like to point readers in the direction of some book that can help to being filling in skill gaps, or maintain currently held skills. For some skills, like firearms, this is easy because of an abundance of available titles. For some skills, like driving. . . well, I just don’t know. If you know of affordable, accessible, high-quality books on first aid/TCCC, high-performance driving, unarmed combatives, please let me know!