Firearms Training With Smiles

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Green Berets unite guns and smiles. It’s a fact. Chris don’t call him Donnie he hates that is a classic example. Because I’m going to say some nice things about him I hope he never reads this. He’s a member of the US Army Special Forces aka the Green Berets. This means that he’s a master in unconventional warfare and an expert marksman. He’s fired hundreds of thousands of rounds between ranges and combat. If you’re in the shit, your want him there with you. But it also means – equally as important for our Firearms Training – that he’s taught hundreds of Afghanis, Iraqis, and other non-English speaking foreigners how to shoot. This is the central mission of the Green Berets, to force multiply by training guerrillas – then letting them do the work themselves. It’s the old proverb about teaching someone to fish feeds them for a lifetime. If you come to Firearms Training with us, you’ll shoot a ton and our team of Special Forces Cadre will make you (more) confident with guns. And you get to take that confidence back with you to your daily life. If you happen to speak English, think of this as an enormous luxury that we’ll use to our advantage. And yours.

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We love range time so much that we I mean Dan may sleep on the range just because. But when Lou comes a knockin’ first thing and brings the paparazzi aka me with him, the joke’s on you. I think I heard something about ‘You’re being overrun, soldier.’ But no, we did not shoot over Dan or even flash bang him. Safety first, always. And we didn’t have a flash bang, so that’s why we didn’t do that.

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Dan’s Firearms Training essentials in tow: flashlight, Marlboros, a lighter, his Tac Hat with shades in there somewhere, and of course his pistol. With a smile thrown in for good measure to get the day underway.

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Brian (above) – one of my best buds. I deployed with him a few times, which means I trusted him with my life. I might add that he’s probably a descendent of both Zeus and Conan the Barbarian in case you couldn’t tell. Anyway, this Firearms Training happened on his property in Colorado – a long ways from the ranges in the Sandbox where our team trained up a battalion of Iraqis. Not to take away from that experience, but it’s a lot more fun doing this here in the good ol’ USA.

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Back to you + firearms + training + smiles. We start with the fundamentals, we practice the fundamentals, and we finish with the fundamentals.

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Drum-roll please….the fundamentals of firearms training are: Stance, Grip, Sight Picture, Sight Alignment, Breathing, Trigger Squeeze, Follow-Through and Recovery. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, we will make you a better shooter.

Rita (above) showed up with zero firearms experience. That’s not a problem, by the way, and you gotta start somewhere. In her case, though, we had to get her to overcome her morbid fear of guns. They’re lethal and dangerous, that kind of thing. She reminded me of my mom who, for my entire childhood, forbade me from so much as touching firearms. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well for her. Anyway, Rita was a great student – as absolute beginners are – because she had no bad habits and she trusted us. She accepted the fundamentals we taught and applied them quickly and effectively. Once she stopped shaking while holding the pistol that is. We showed her that firearms are logical. Nothing will come out of the end of the barrel unless you pull the trigger. Maintain control of your weapon by controlling where you point the barrel and by keeping your finger off the trigger unless you intend to fire. By the end of the day she was a solid shooter with a healthy respect for firearms. Her fear was gone. If you see her around, ask her how she liked it. I betcha the first thing you get is a huge smile. The lesson is that if you learn how to control a firearm, you will not fear them. Fear is bad, knowledge is good type deal – which is true of so many things in life. The trick is that you have to seek the knowledge out.

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If you watch war movies or read the news, you could assume Special Forces guys are ‘special’ because we’re better at all the wazoo stuff. And rightfully so, we are. [Insert a smile from every Green Beret who ever reads this]. But really we’re masters of the fundamentals. Shoot, move, communicate – that kind of stuff. So we teach the fundamentals, you learn the fundamentals, everyone smiles, and while it’s not magic, it always works.

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And seriously, don’t forget to smile.

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Shooting from a stationary position at a fixed distance from your target is the crawl portion of crawl-walk-run. The walk portion is, you guessed it, walking while engaging your target. Shooting while moving sounds pretty basic, and it is – the same fundamentals apply. But it requires a lot more safety precautions. This is one of the reasons why we have so many Cadre on the range. The ratio is 3-1 Cadre to participant, max. The other reason we have so many Cadre is so we can quickly group participants by ability. If you’re like Rita and you’re new to firearms, we’re going to spend a lot more time going over the basics with you. If you’re an expert, we’re going to show you more dynamic shooting techniques and different – maybe even wazoo – scenarios to make you, well, a better expert.

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We’re people people and we like teaching. We want to share what we’ve learned in our Special Operations careers and we want you to take what you learn back to your daily life. As Dan says, we want to build better Americans, better people. GORUCK Cadre teach confidence in everything we do. Whether it’s at our Events or in Firearms Training. The deal with firearms is that they’re serious business. If you own a gun and paid to get some kind of certification, that is not a substitute for real confidence. We teach real confidence. And in my humble opinion, this is a responsibility every gun owner assumes or should assume. All the Cadre you’ll meet are well trained to be as lethal as the situation requires, but the goal in any situation is to use the least amount of force possible. Preferably none. But if you have to use force, you have to be confident to use it safely.

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No matter how serious firearms are, you can’t take the fun out of time on the range. Hey, who said ‘Dan Sux’?

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Shooting a lot of rounds is mentally exhausting and still the only way to get better. Actually, pulling the trigger is not exhausting at all. But aiming time and time again is. The risk is that fatigue makes you sloppy so as the day goes on the fundamentals become harder to apply. It’s important to take breaks throughout. Smoke ’em if you got ’em type of deal. And if you’re Java, maybe you’ll even go for a swim.

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The Stress Shoot is the culmination of the day’s Firearms Training. It’s the run part of crawl-walk-run and it’s a staple of Special Operations training. You run a short distance and then engage a series of targets. We score you on time and accuracy, which adds a competitive element to it. But even though a surge of adrenaline raises your heart rate (which also happens in real life situations) – the trick is to stay calm and apply the fundamentals. Don’t worry about the outcome. It’s kind of the same thing in life. Do your best, enjoy doing it, and let the chips fall where they may.

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The elephant in the room is Sandy Hook. And Chris Kyle. And Virginia Tech. And Columbine. And the list goes on. I wish I could have been there at any of these places to stop tragedy. With force if necessary, but preferably without. But this post is not a glorification of firearms, nor is it a segue into the debate about things like assault rifles or the right to bear arms. I would rather focus on how we can make a positive difference based on what we’ve done and who we are. It’s kind of like that old Spiderman saying that with great power comes great responsibility. So if you own a gun, be responsible. If you know someone who owns a gun, encourage them to do the same. And don’t forget the smiles. Firearms Training is not the same without them.


  1. Thom says:

    “With force if necessary, but preferably without.”
    Hats off to you guys. Compassion is often the greatest force we have.
    Thanks for shining the light on the simple fact that guns are just fun as hell to shoot and don’t have to be about dealing death or machismo.

  2. What Thom said. I had no idea how much fun shooting at a piece of paper could be. Unfortunately, my father passed away before I started shooting. He would love that my favorite gun is the same as his was thanks to the two young men who did the research and gave it to me.

  3. Brandon says:

    Another great article. I’m really hoping to make it to one of the courses myself.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Julie Walther says:

    I, like Rita, was a novice and nervous at first….Garrett and Chris were so patient and yes- fun! Leaned a lot and left smiling (and not shaking or sweating)… I can’t wait to do it again. And Jase isn’t kidding about his mom banning him from playing with toy guns…God definitely has a sense of humor…

  5. John McGrath says:

    Some of the best training I have attended and will do it again. GORUCK Firearms = Good Livin’!

  6. jason says:

    John – you were great, man. And it was really cool, given your experience, that you had such a good time. Because we did, too 🙂

  7. Alan says:

    Looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully I can make it to the one in New Hampshire this summer. If I can out-shoot the Cadre, does that mean I get a special order GR1?

  8. Rita K says:

    Oh, you betcha Jason, BIG BIG smiles. You and the Cadre are all excellent teachers; I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Can’t wait for Firearms Day here in the White Mountains!

  9. MikeB says:

    I love shooting, but I hate the latest gun talk. Pro and con, it really seems silly. Can’t make light of our recent tragedies though. Not hoping for, or expecting an apocalypse or any number of long acronymed disasters. Just putting holes in paper for fun. The thumbs forward trend is a problem for me though. I’m hoping someone will address this most serious issue. Fun post.

  10. Jason Tarantino says:

    You couldn’t of asked for a better start to Ascent 2012. The instruction was out of this world!!!! The class started with basic instruction and ended with some intense “run and gun” Sh@$!!!!!!!! The cadre were intense, professional and brought out that aggressive nature that we all feel during GORUCK events. Sign up for this class!!!!!!!

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