Why Military and Law Enforcement firearms force training may not be optimal for Joe Citizen "Self Defense."

Bottom Line Up Front:

Train to achieve your goals.

First, let's be clear. This isn't an anti-military or anti-cop article. We all have great respect for both the military fighting personnel and for LEO (Law Enforcement Officer/Officers). These individuals are well trained and do a difficult and often dangerous job which may include putting their own lives at risk to meet their mission or objective.

However, military and LEO are not the "average citizen" and their specific Use of Force training is different than that of a non-LEO civilian. The objective, goals and consequentially their training for Military Use of Force are different from Use of Force goals and training for LEO. Not surprisingly both military and LEO are poles apart of that of a non-LEO "civilian" self-defense objective.

Military Goals

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The role of the military is far reaching and broad. It is impossible to cover all of it in even a large book, never mind a small article. However, broadly speaking, the goal of the military is to "win" military engagements as directed by command. General George Patton is quoted saying, "I am a soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight." What constitutes "win" to General Patton? "When we meet the enemy we will kill him. We will show him no mercy." That's the general goals: To kill the enemy and break his toys, or at the very minimum, to violently disable the enemy and remove him from the fight by whatever means necessary.

To achieve those goals, military force training of the war fighter has emphasized the skills necessary to kill the enemy or, at the very least, to incapacitate the enemy with tools designed to kill him. There has been a debate which suggests that it is more effective to disable an enemy ("wound") but not kill, thus requiring more men and materials to be dedicated to evacuating and caring for the wounded soldier.

I can document this theory going back at least to the Hague Convention of 1899, if not earlier. However, even then the theory was generally rejected under the logic that a wounded man might fight on, or may return to combat after his wounds are healed. They concluded that it is far more efficient and effective in the long run to kill the enemy.

LEO Goals

Again, painting with a broad brush, the goals of LEO are not to kill a suspect but, instead, to prevent the suspect from harming innocent third parties, to restrain, and to "capture" & arrest the suspect. LEO often attempts to "contain" a violent suspect to a given area or find some way to evacuate innocents from an area to which the suspect is moving. Once contained the suspect is "captured" and arrested.

Unlike the military warfighter, the goal of LEO is not to kill. That is a "last resort" so to speak, if containment and "capture" is not reasonably possible without serious risk to LEO lives and safety. While SCOTUS has ruled that LEO are not legally obligated to "protect" any given individual and that their duty is to the community as a whole, most Officers take to heart the old saying, "to serve and protect." For most LEO, it is their intention to protect innocent lives and to keep their citizens safe. At its most simplistic, LEO arrest bad guys.

Joe Citizen Self Defense Goals

This one is easy. Self-defense means "self" and "defense" is just that; to stop a bad guy from hurting him or his loved ones. Joe Citizen's goal is to make a violent attacker "go away" and "stop trying to hurt me." That's it. Most self-defense firearms instructors will advise to "shoot until the threat is gone" or alternately, "shoot to stop the threat."

That means only shoot when a bad guy is threatening immediate and real, serious bodily harm or death to you or an innocent third party and then to stop shooting immediately when the bad guy stops trying to hurt you. It doesn't matter if he's not dead or if he runs away because in the end the goal of self-defense is to STOP THE THREAT. Nothing more.

Yes, a bad guy who is shot might die. But that's not the goal. It's an unintended, if not unexpected, consequence of making the bad guy stop trying to harm you.

Yes, he might decide to "surrender" to you and wait for you to call emergency services. But, again, that is an effect which is secondary to the primary goal.

The Conclusion

Again, the modern warfighter and LEO are well trained for their individual goals. But their training is not necessarily the most ideal for the average citizen interested in self-defense because their goals aren't exactly the same as the average citizen's goals for self-defense. Yes, they may know firearms and how to be accurate and effective with them. But there is a lot more to each of the three goals than merely shooting straight.

For the average citizen interested in self-defense with a firearm, it makes the most sense to seek training specific to the goals of self-defense. Even if the citizen was a highly trained warfighter, now a civilian again, his goals have changed and his training should be updated. Even if the self-defense advocate has the opportunity to train with LEO, the goals are different and his training should be specifically and narrowly targeted at non-LEO civilian self-defense because it's not a civilian's job to arrest bad guys.

*Special thanks to my Editor/Proof-reader who wishes to remain anonymous