Tactical Blind Spots

Don’t ignore gaps in your self-defense training

September 24, 2016        |         By Deane R. Marrs


In a previous article (‘Don’t Just Do…Become’ – Sept. 2016), I suggested

that your training sessions should always have a purpose, a focus

designed to move you towards your overall training goals.  Today,

we will drill down into more detail on ways you can make that happen.


Violence Happens

In 2013, there were over 1.1 million violent crimes in the U.S1

more than 2 every MINUTE.  Looking at just the greater Chicagoland

area2, there were approximately 500 murders, 14,000 robberies,

175,000 property crimes, 31,000 burglaries, 128,000 thefts and 

16,000 stolen vehicles that year.  Violence is indeed alive and well.  

Are you fully prepared to deal with the numerous stressors and challenges of ‘The Fight’?


Don’t Ignore the Need

As the good guy, you don’t get to choose the time, place nor nature of an attack – the offender does.  Violent encounters are unpredictable, often occurring with little warning.  They can involve multiple offenders, may last

10 seconds or 10 minutes, and could involve a flurry of fists and/or a weapon.  Having a well-rounded set of self-defense skills will help maximize your chances of prevailing. However, we often avoid working on the things needing the most attention due to denial, ego or fear of embarrassment. This tendency can cause critical gaps in our defense skillset, leading to ‘Tactical Blind Spots’.


Don’t be a One Trick Pony

We all know ‘that guy’ at the range – the pistol rock star, stunning the crowd by shooting holes in holes.  To that gentleman I say ‘Keep up the good work!’ However, does he also dedicate time to single-handed shooting or practicing his draw from multiple, non-traditional positions?  What about time spent improving dynamic abilities such as moving off the line of force, magazine changes and immediate action drills on the move, verbalization, and situational awareness?  Beyond firearm skills, would his cardiovascular fitness allow him to fight for his life for 5 minutes? How about having the empty-hand skills to fight his way to his gun in the first place?  These skills, among others, are just as critical as being able to shoot straight.


Fill in the Gaps – With a ‘Skills Gap Inventory’

If we are honest with ourselves, we are all probably ‘that guy’ on some level.  Despite our dedication to self-defense training, we are likely neglecting aspects critical to our survival. So how can we identify and deal with our Tactical Blind Spots?  One tried-and-true method is to simply put pen to paper and complete a skills gap inventory’ (‘SGI’).     


The objective of the skills gap inventory is to take an honest, holistic look at your personal self-defense proficiencies, match them against critical self-defense skills, identify any gaps, and establish a measurable plan of action to address those gaps.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, as with diets and saving money, the process may be simple but is not always easy.

The Skills Gap Inventory (‘SGI’)


Here is a basic, straightforward approach to help you identify and track your Tactical Blind Spots.

  • Identify and prioritize the desired skills

  • Create a training plan

  • Establish and stick to a timeline

  • Skills (the ‘What‘):

Identify critical self-defense skills; identify your gaps, set priorities and timing.


  • Current Proficiency

Take an honest look at your proficiencies, ranking yourself against each skill.


Possible Proficiency Scale:

  • '0': No exposure or skill

  • '1': Rudimentary skill (you know what it is and have tried it)

  • '2': Basic skill (you can get it right some of the time)

  • '3': Competent (you can do it with concentration - conscious competency)

  • '4': Advanced (you can do it without mental effort - unconscious competency)

  • '5': Instructor/Expert (unconscious competence and the ability to teach others)


  • Priority

Divide and conquer - prioritize which skills you feel most need attention.


Sample skills to consider:

  • Marksmanship Fundamentals

  • Shooting from Retention

  • Immediate Action Drills

  • Shooting from Cover

  • Magazine Changes

  • Shoot/No-Shoot

  • Tactical Movement

  • Legal / Liability Knowledge

  • Multiple Stances / Positions

  • Low-light Skills

  • Situational Awareness

  • Threat recognition (‘Left of Bang’)

  • Room Clearing / Building Search

  • Verbalization

  • Single and Support Hand Shooting

  • Empty-handed Skills

  • Multiple Offenders

  • Cardiovascular Fitness

  • Multiple shooting platforms

  • Strength Training

  • Training Plan (the ‘How‘):

Determine the details of how you plan to fill your gaps as well as your level of commitment.


  • Training Method

There are many different ways to improve proficiency in self-defense skills.  Methods can include live training courses, books, online research (articles, blogs, videos, etc.), practical exercises, online interest groups (Facebook, etc.), seminars, discussions with knowledgeable friends, organization memberships (ITOA, NRA, WTA, ISRA, etc.), competitions (IDPA, etc.), and so on.


Sample training methods:

  • Tactical Training Courses (Iverson, Chudwin, Smith, Farnam, etc.)

  • Books (Ayoob, Grossman, Horne, Pressfield, De Becker, etc.)

  • Online courses*

  • Seminars

  • Respected blogs and websites*

  • Friends*

  • Local ranges

  • Gym memberships / Home exercise

  • Competition (IDPA, USPSA, NRA, NSSF, etc.)

  • Organizations (WTA, NRA, ITOA, ISRA, etc.)


*Warning: Be careful from whom you take training advice. Validate your sources to avoid getting bad information – it can waste your time, or even get you killed.


  • Training Cost

Estimated costs can range from $0 to thousands of dollars – choose options that best fit your budget.


  • Time Commitment

An important aspect of your plan is to estimate the amount of time you are willing to devote to improving a skill.  This is absolutely critical to your success – without a documented time commitment, you have no benchmark against which to measure your progress. Consider your other obligations in life so you can target a doable ongoing commitment to training.


  • Timeline (the ‘When‘):

Set a timetable which will allow you to determine if you are still on track.


  • Start Date

Draw a line in the sand as to when you will begin training.  Like a deadline, take into consideration the priority, costs and availability of your chosen training methods.


  • Duration

Based on your training method, estimate the duration of the effort required to reach the next proficiency level.  Some training may be a 1-time course, while others may require an ongoing effort.


  • End Date

Set this date based on the start date and estimated duration.  This date should align with your deadline(s).

  • Sample Skills Gap Inventory:

Below is a basic Excel example, listing the bare essentials. You can add pivot tables, charts, and other elements to help you monitor your progress. However you document your SGI, make sure it’s easily monitored, updated, and understood.  



The Hard Part

Regardless of whether you make a formal inventory or simply write something on a napkin, the #1 Rule is to STICK TO THE PLAN, regularly checking yourself against the timelines established in your plan. Adjustments to your plan are normal, although these should be made based on either new information or aspects out of your control.  Beware - life has a way of providing us with great excuses; don’t let yourself fall behind.


Keep moving forward, always devoting at least some amount of time to your training gaps. Remember, it is not about looking cool, feeling good or being the range hero; it's about being ready for 'The Fight'.  That day may come – so be prepared.


Train hard and be safe.

  About the Author:

  Deane Marrs is the founder and lead instructor of Marrs Tactical Solutions, Inc., offering pistol tactics

  and defense courses in Illinois.  He is an Illinois Concealed Carry Instructor, NRA Pistol Instructor and

  Range Safety Officer, AHA BLS (CPR) Instructor, member of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association,

  and has 6+ years of law enforcement experience.



   Visit MTS on the Web           |           Visit MTS on Facebook           |           Visit Deane on LinkedIn

1 FBI Crime Statistics 2013 - http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in...

2 Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kendall, McHenry and Will Counties

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