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The Other Ninety Percent

It’s been said that gunfighting is ten percent physical and ninety percent mental.  From my experience that is certainly true.  A skilled instructor can demonstrate and teach you the proper way to handle a firearm from a mechanical stand point in a matter of a few days.  Marksmanship fundamentals are just that, fundamentals and they can be explained and demonstrated to a student in a couple of hours.

If the previous statements are true why should a police officer require any additional training after they have left the academy?   Most professional academies will require twenty-five to forty hours for their “Firearms” curriculum.  The answer to that question is that the ten percent can indeed by learned during a few days of training, it’s the other 90 percent that we need to concern ourselves with.

Skill and Will

All good cops understand that any jerk-face can get a hold of a gun.  The mere possession of a gun doesn’t make someone an accomplished gunfighter.  You need two big attributes; Will and Skill.  Skill is the physical aspect that must be learned and then honed like the edge of a knife.  The Will portion is the mental ability to make the physical skill work under extreme circumstances.  For new and/or inexperienced officers, it is Will that must be developed and conditioned.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of a rookie officer who hesitated far too long and allowed a vermin to get the upper hand and grievously wound or kill them.   We’ve squirmed in our seats watching dash-cam footage of an officer who we could see was completely justified in drawing and using their gun.  Instead of doing what needed to be done they got stuck in the verbal loop and couldn’t seem to make themselves act, even though it was so obvious they should have.

Naturally the best way to hone your Will is to gain experience in violent confrontations.  Of course, the other side of that coin is the more often you have violent encounters the greater the chance you’ll be killed or maimed.

Experience Condensed

A wise man learns from his mistakes.  A wiser man seeks out others and learns from their mistakes and experiences.   One of the best ways to understand the hierarchy of mortal combat was laid out by my friend James Yeager in his Tactical Response credo.  From most important to least is: Mindset, Tactics, Skill, and Gear.  

We all develop our own mindset through our experiences, education, and training.   The best practitioners of any discipline are those who actively seek out the recognized masters in that field and learn from them.  Naturally, the preferred way to learn from a subject matter expert is to travel to wherever that person is and learn from them in person.  That is not always practical and even when it is, how long can you spend with them; a weekend, a week, two at best?  

I know this is an online forum and we are an Internet society, but sometimes it still good to pick up genuine book.  Before we close I’m going to highlight two excellent books filled with advice and expertise.  I’ve had the good fortune to travel to the authors and train under them, but I couldn’t stay with them but a few days each.  By reading their words I’m able to build upon what they taught me when I was in their presence.

Leadership and Training for the Fight by MSG Paul R. Howe, US Army, Retired

Veteran Special Forces Operator Paul Howe has been there, done that, and gotten more than his share of T-shirts.  While many men who have seen the amount of violence that he has would gladly accept retirement and take up wood working, Paul has stayed in the game.  Through is school, Combat Shooting and Tactics, Howe has trained thousands of police officers and military troops.

Leadership and Training for the Fight is 400 plus pages of experience and knowledge gained over three decades of “being in the game”.   Paul highlights numerous topics in the myriad chapters including Combat Mindset, Individual and Team Leadership, Training for the Fight, and several chapters that discuss developing courses, conducting training, and managing the risks involved in live-fire training.  The book is available from  

The Art of Modern Gunfighting The Pistol: Volume 1 by Scott Reitz 

Scott Reitz, better known as “Uncle Scotty” by his student and alumni, was a career police officer having spent thirty years with the Los Angeles Police Department.  Scotty was with the LAPD during the 1980’s when they were setting the standard for police firearms training.

A veteran of numerous life and death scenarios, Reitz has seen his share of bloodshed and gunfire.  Now retired from law enforcement, Scott carries on with his school, International Tactical Training Seminars.  

Now in its second printing is Reitz’ book The Art of Modern Gunfighting The Pistol: Volume 1.  Throughout the text you will find practical advice and experience offered by someone who spent three decades fighting bad guys and felons in L.A., often to the death.   Chapters included material on Mindset, Justifiable Use of Force and Deadly Force, Post-shooting Considerations, Training and Gear choice amongst others.  The best way to order a copy is through the school’s website at 


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About The Author:

Mr. Markel is a former United States Marine, Police Officer, and has worked as a professional bodyguard both in the U.S. and overseas. A Subject Matter Expert on Small Arms and Tactics, Markel has provided instruction to law enforcement and U.S. Military troops.

As a recognized author and writer, Paul has penned several hundred articles published in numerous professional journals and trade periodicals. Topics include firearms training, use of force, marksmanship, less-than-lethal force options, product reviews and evaluations, emergency medical care, and much more. Sought after as a public speaker, Mr. Markel is at home in front of an audience large or small.