The internet is a wide open space with few rules and little supervision. Things in the real world such as credibility, lineage, and integrity can easily be counterfeited on the net and replaced with followers, likes, and SEO. If your hobby is of little consequence like, let’s say watch collecting, then the detriment in following the advice of false experts reaches no further than a monetary loss. Conversely, following the advice of a self-appointed snake-oil salesman peddling tactical garbage can have far more grave consequences.
But how does an unwashed, firearms neophyte find reliable, vetted info on the interwebs? How does one ask questions in Facebook groups, forums, etc. without getting smacked down? How does one avoid cultish dogma that inhibits evolution and adaptability? What the f*ck does “Stay in your lane” mean anyway?
This article will be a quick attempt to help those self-defense minded yet novice citizens traverse the dangerous fjords of the internet to find useful information regarding their training and gear choices.
Why Should You Listen to Me?
Here is your first lesson. Vet the person. Before you decide to listen, employ, use or buy information from a person it is imperative to do some research. If an instructor does not have his pedigree or lineage at the ready that is your first clue to dig deeper. If not possible or beyond the scope of the info you need, then use this amazing tool called Google. Look for past military or LE experience, list of training courses, recommendations, AARs (After Action Reports), etc. All or none of these will qualify or disqualify a person though, but usually the more info on the person the better.
That said, here is my bio to gauge whether or not my opinions are relevant to you:
Lifelong martial artist (TKD, Muay Thai, BJJ), no LEO or military experience (save being an Air Force brat), NRA pistol instructor (who isn’t?). I have received previous training from George Wehby of I4Tactical, Matt Jacques of Victory First, John Murphy of FPF Training, Chris Sizelove of 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Aaron Brumley of Solo Defense, Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts, Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training, and private training with Al DeLeon of the State Dept’s MSD unit. I shoot anywhere from 200 to 400 rounds a week. I try to compete three times a month. When not traveling for work I train BJJ 2 to 3 times a week.
In addition, I am also a contributor on PrimaryandSecondary.com and a moderator on two of P&S’s Facebook groups. I have learned, broke bread, shared drink, asked questions and (carefully) expressed my opinion with many professional pipehitters without getting my ass handed back to me. Let’s continue so I can help you do the same.
It’s Called a Clue
The following might be clues that the potential source of information is less than trustworthy:
• They preach that their way is “the way” as opposed to “a way”
• They speak in absolutes
• Asking “Why?” is not allowed
• Either their dress (or in some cases, costume), demeanor, or equipment is disproportionate to the class being taught. Example: full battle rattle for a CCW class
• They cannot provide scientific or mathematical evidence to support their opinion on matters that are directly impacted by science and math. Example: caliber choice, lumens, etc.
• It just sounds goofy
Is This a Driving Course? WTF Do You Mean “Stay in My Lane”?
So now you have a couple of classes under your belt. You go to the range once a month and shoot a mud hole in an IPSC target at five yards. You now consider yourself High Speed / Low Drag and would like to help others. You get into an online debate about the best pistol caliber for self-defense and cite your experience with your chosen round’s impact on a watermelon. Meanwhile another person responds with evidence from studies done by emergency room doctors and the like that contradicts your theory. You respond with video of your watermelon exploding. You are then told to stay in your lane. What the hell does that mean?
Simply put, it means that your level of experience does not qualify you to weigh in on the subject. Does it mean that you have to be a Tier 1 Operator to have an opinion? No. However, it does mean that you should have solid data and empirical evidence from reliable sources.
Remember that information is best transmitted with a low signal to noise ratio. This means that every time you offer your opinion just because…., you are most likely interrupting a vetted, clear answer from a Subject Matter Expert.
Still unclear? Try out one of Einstein’s Theories:
If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X +Y +Z. X = work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut.
Now I am not advocating the internet being a lonely place where only Seals, Rangers, Delta, and Swat members get to talk (well maybe I am…just kidding), but using caution before relaying info is key to keeping the signal clear.
But I Am a Unique Snowflake!
One of the other phenomenon in online firearms discourse is for some people to prove to Military and LEO that they are worthy to be considered their equal. They do this by hero worship or by chiming in when that SME is imparting knowledge. They do not do so with inquiry but with useless banter because, although they have no specific experience, they are a unique snowflake worthy of recognition. Do not be this guy.
There are a couple of reasons for this:
1. It is unnecessary. Most of these men do not consider themselves heroes worthy of your worship. They find it annoying.
2. You have not experienced what they have experienced. No level of training, study, or practice is a substitute for the service they have given. So stop trying.
3. Their “acceptance” of you is not critical to your mission. To clarify, your mission as a self-defense minded, non-professional, armed citizen should be to learn, train, and practice all methods of self-defense to the best of your ability and resources in the most efficient manner possible.
You Are a Guest In Someone Else’s House
Probably the best guideline I have ever heard on the subject was from Bill Blower’s. In preparing for this article I asked some SMEs what they thought was good advice for the firearms novice when interacting on the web.
Bill responded with the analogy that you are a guest in someone’s house. You do not take the same liberties in a friend’s house that you might take in your own. In short, “Don’t shit in someone else’s house”.
Be Good. Stay Safe. Get Training.
Scott “Jedi” Jedlinski