I never served in the military and quite frankly regret that decision. That said, I can’t go back in time, I can only press forward.
I’ve been shooting for many years, and when I started I wanted to be high speed. I mean I wanted to be a badass. I wanted a rifle, I wanted to shoot it. Fast. Aggressively. I needed to prepare YESTERDAY. I bought a Sig 556 and an M&P9 and got to work.
Perhaps that came from some mid-life crisis, regret, compensation for something (not that THAT’s a problem, yuk yuk yuk). I don’t know. Maybe it was that I became susceptible to marketing practices in the gun industry that if I just have one more cool guy item or one more piece of gear, I will be respected by the guys that have BTDT.
I wanted to be sooo fucking tacticool.
Over the years, my philosophy has changed quite a bit. I am now focused on the science of marksmanship and the factors that will matter in MY life. Do I wear a plate carrier everyday? Hell no, but I own one and train in one. Why? Because you never know.
I also go to the range and train as if I were in Handgun 1 more often than not, focusing on all of the intricacies of good marksmanship.
I have barely purchased any new gear unless I deem it absolutely necessary, like the Dark Angel Medical Pocket DARK. QUALITY has replaced quantity, and that’s one of the reasons I started this company. I love working with quality products, instructors, and people.
I’ve taken plenty of classes and will continue to seek out high quality training throughout the US, but I’m basing my decisions on the quality of the instructor, not the specific curriculum.
My training and instruction is not focused on diving under cars or kicking down doors. All of that is great and has its place, but gone are the days of me wanting to gunfight solely with a rifle. I am much more likely to employ my M&P9c in a defensive situation than I would be with an AR. Or I’m more likely to be rolling hand to hand than I am to use a handgun. It’s just the facts.
I see a lot of newer shooters heading down this same path that I was on of “get all the gear and you’ll be better”. A lot of guys in the industry tend to demean these folks as newbs or mall ninjas or assclowns, and quite frankly a lot of them are. That said, everyone starts somewhere and with the wealth of information on the Web, most of it wrong, how can we blame these folks for making the decisions they do? It comes down to each of us being EDUCATORS, not judge and jury.
The more QUALITY training I receive, the more thinking I do about the type of shooter I want to be, and HOW I pass that knowledge on to others passively contributes to how the gun industry is shaped, perceived, and ultimately moves forward. I don’t believe for a second that I will singlehandedly change gun culture in the US, but I feel that moving AWAY from the tacticool mindset has allowed me more freedom and growth as a shooter, competitor, instructor, and student.
Where am I going to be a year from now? I’m not sure. I still train with the carbine often, pushing myself to my limits. I love shooting pistols at 50 yards and getting combat effective hits. I still love doing high speed type drills, IF, and it’ a big IF, I am learning from the process, not just turning money into noise. Am I going to wear a battle belt when I go to RiteAid? Do I need a DBAL on every rifle I own? Probably not.
And I am so OK with that.
Matt Stagliano is a photographer first, and firearms / outdoors enthusiast second. His work has appeared in countless magazines and online outlets such as RECOIL, SKILLSET, Guns & Ammo, Concealment, Breach Bang Clear, Ammoland, and others. He spends most of his time running Stonetree Creative, a full service portrait studio in Maine when he is not on assignment as Firelance Media. Learn more about Stonetree online or follow him on Instagram (@stonetreecreative). On Facebook here.