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TACTICAL TRAINING: Train Like You Would Fight

Not How You Would Fight Zombies

I was chatting online with a buddy of mine yesterday about some of the firearm classes and training we’ve both done over the past year. As we were chatting we were sending each other pictures of ourselves while training (you know, the Ninja Action shots everyone takes).

The first thing I noticed was he was wearing a chest rig at the rifle class and a drop leg holster at the pistol course. The second thing I noticed was he was wearing the 5.11 tuxedo with knee and shin pads.

After looking at my pictures he asked me: “dude, why are you wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, chucks and a concealable belly pistol holster – and are you carrying your spare mags for your M-4 in your back pocket? – you own tons of tactical gear, why didn’t you use it for that training?”

I said: “I was honing my stateside civilian gun skills, and that’s how I would fight with a pistol/rifle stateside as a private citizen – my tactical gear and Ninja clothing is for when I am training for overseas high risk work”

So in return I asked him: “why are you dressing up like a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan hunting Osama bin Laden when you train – don’t you work at a bank? – seriously dude if you ever end up using a gun you will probably be wearing Dockers, a golf shirt and wing tips”

His answer: “I never really thought about it that way”

Sure, wearing a MultiCam 1000D chest rig with 12 mag pouches snapped on the front, exposed tactical holster and a pair of 100 dollar TAD pants will make you look almost as cool as an extra in the next Transformers movie.

But by wearing gear that you would never be wearing if you (as a regular guy) ever had to use your gun to defend yourself is silly, and it could be deadly.

As most of you know when you train you build up muscle memory. If you are used to drawing your pistol from a drop-leg holster or drawing M-4 mags from your chest what do you think will happen when you are under stress with adrenaline pumping through your body and you reach for your pistol or spare mags?

Yep – you will grab a big handful of air.

So train like you would fight – if you wear a suit everyday then train in a suit, if you keep your rifle by your bed with a few mags laying beside it then train with your mags in your back pockets in your PJ’s, if you carry your pistol in a paddle concealable holster wearing a windbreaker then… well, you get the point.

So the moral of this article? It’s in the title man – Train Like You Would Fight


~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and training to kill zombies.


  1. James, well done! I train for the most part in jeans and cowboy boots (after a long time in yes, horror of horrors, multicam). What is my tactical training stuff? Oh, AKs, 1911s, Brownings, multicam gear, Blackhawk or Danner boots, big knives, etc. What do I actually wear?

    Wrangler jeans and I usually pack a big single or double action 44 Mag revolver. Grabbing for air is a good analogy as I still pack whatever gun in pretty much appendix carry. Except for my BBQ gun.

    Wait, that means I need to train with it? YES.

    Sir, very much to the point. Thanks!


  2. Very valid points. I still think in a class, students should have some way of keeping extra mags. I keep my AR beside my bed with an extra in a redi mag. However if I were to go up to the line with just that, after two reloads, the class would have to stop for me to retrieve more from my bag. Some way to refresh your actual carry method is a good idea in a class situation

  3. I am with ya James. I got some serious looks from guys during my last training weekend when I ran the course in some TAD spartan pants and a sport coat. With my current EP work I am to look like an average guy in an entourage with a PDA and a douchey messenger bag(blackhawk’s work ok), or uncle to his kids or anything but a tactical ninja. And I agree, you need to train in what you are going to see action in. (by the way running a course with a messenger bag is tough, it flys all over the place and once it got snagged on a nail and dropped me mid sprint,)

    I have done courses in shorts, sport shirts, leather coats, ski jackets, with some Vibram five fingers on, teva style sandals. Whatever I would wear on a daily basis. The only indulgence I succumb to is knee pads. Nothing substantial just some thin volleyball pads because running through a course with shorts on, your knees get bloody real quick.

    And speaking of grabbing air, it took me a while to get used to drop leg holsters, I was so used to grabbing from my hip I would grab from the air constantly. Although when I switched to a chest draw I never had any problems transitioning.

    Thanks James, a good remind to all.

    • You can add a waist strap to most messenger bags pretty easily. All you need is some nylon webbing straps and buckles. When not in use, they tuck easily into the bag.

      Not only does this help training type situations, it can take some of the weight off your shoulders with EDC use of the bag (to and from office, etc)

  4. James,

    Once again, your practical wisdom hits home. It’s fun to do a range day in full ninja kit, but unless you’re downrange, you’re not going to have any of that stuff when you get into a fight. Is “train as you fight, fight as you train” just a pithy statement, or is it really what we need to do to survive? If it is an absolute imperative (and I believe it is), then most of us (myself included) need to continually evalute and re-evaluate our personal training programs.

    James, once again a great post. Keep up the good work.

  5. Great short article ! Very to the point and direct as usual James ! All my training has been done considering Location ,Climate and usable gear. Always mindful of native dress ,customs and what makes us stand out like a virgin in a whorehouse ! Everyone want to test the new gear Look STRAC and feel the testosterone pumping . The reality in gunfights is that you have fear, to maintain composure after initial contact is easier said than Done . Luckily I have reacted up to this point appropriately in those circumstances . I agree with all stated training Ethos but the Mind is usually neglected .Both in prepping to take another human life or how you will react to lesser threats.Thus the mind must be developed in harmony with the body . That’s my Zen for the day.
    Cheers !!

  6. Same thing applies to self-defense classes. Being the überninja of Kung Pao Duck-fighting is great, but if you wear regular 501’s you might have some problems with those high kicks. Also, few people are attacked on the way to or from the dojo but some “self defense”-style martial arts insist on the traditional japanese PJ. I wear jeans, boots and usually a jacket/coat. Sometimes I might wear shorts and sandals, someday I might even go to work in a suit.
    My spontanious guess is that I never will wear a PJ for my day-to-day (unless of course I’m hired by the Überninja Council of the Kung Pao Duck-Temple), thus the point of training to defend myself in a PJ is limited at best.

  7. Thank you, since I started to do more sales and less getting shot at I find my self training in a swim suit and sandals or at the most an old shot up pair of pants and running shoes. Maybe I can spread this link around and get my civilian friends to do the same.

    So again, thank you.

  8. I agree with the ideology… I rarely train in the same clothing, just to mix it up. I’ll do combat reloads with mags 2 and 3 in my left pocket, and I keep my pistol in a paddle holster so I can just grab and go… Good article

  9. One more thing: Train as you want to fight, because you’ll fight worse than you trained…

  10. On my next trip to the range I will train wearing only flip flops and a banana hammock because that’s the way I roll.

    Seriously, great article – as usual.

  11. James, you are one hell of marksman, always hitting the nail on the head. We have a standard ‘no costumes” policy in our classes. I am sure it has kept some students away, but hey would probably passed out from the ball busting anyway. If you see me in a bar one night, and a class the next I will be wearing, and carrying the same shit. I like the same ol, same ol. – George

  12. I am getting the impression that most commercial firearms schools are thinly veiled adventure camps

    ~James G

  13. Totally disagree, the guy was taking a CARBINE course. Not a defensive handgun course. You use the best gear for what you are running. You will not be affective using a rifle with just a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. Just like you would not wear a LBV for a conceal carry class. You are trying to over simplify and coming up with bad conclusions. You are talking 2 separate scenarios. One, every day carry. Two, SHTF. Truth is you should train for both.

    • Why would a person not be affective using a rifle in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts? How would a person’s attire (in this example) interfere with his ability to use a rifle? There are guys who’d be deadly in bathrobes.
      Most tactical gear is support equipment. It is mission and environment dependent and supports the weapon and operator.

      I love tactical gear. But I’d be willing to bet that (stateside) I could get done what I needed to with rifle and a mag in each pocket (and would have ammo left over after dust settled). I didn’t *draw* a gun (let alone aim or fire) during Katrina, and that was about as SHTF as things get here (stateside).

      Mark Essex, the New Orleans sniper, killed 9 and wounded 13 with a Ruger .44 carbine and a few pockets loaded with bullets.

      Of course, for LEAF, PSD/EP, & BTDT types, or for mission specific purposes, it makes sense to train in combat load out.

  14. Really? What particular situation do you expect to get into so often that it will warrant substantial training beforehand in full battle-rattle?

    What do you do for a living?

    ~James G

  15. To Eugene: “(by the way running a course with a messenger bag is tough, it flys all over the place and once it got snagged on a nail and dropped me mid sprint,)”
    A tip for what it’s worth. when using a messenger type bag: The 1700s longhunters used to cinch up their possible bags / haversacks so that they rode under their elbow and could be held down while running from the indians. Still low enough to be able to reach into but allows you to keep em from flying around and bouncing stuff out or getting snagged on bushes….

  16. Even working patrol I went put a 30 round AR mag in my off back pocket as I exited after popping the trunk to grab my rifle. The rifle already had a 20 round mag in it. Yeah, 20 rounds because there was a damn good chance it would take no more than 20 rounds, and the rounds fired would be shot from over the car or prone under it and behind a tire if I was pinned down upon arrival.

    For some reason people think they are going to get a text telling them when and where they will have to fight, allowing them to get all dolled up with their favorite Guci gear.

    People show up to classes with a spare weapons and dozen spare mags etc, but no FAK, light or water. I mean why would you want gear to treat a GSW when you are training on a range. That just makes sense.

    IMHO not a big deal as long as if you are only responsible for yourself. But for me, now being retired from LE, there is a good chance that if I have to fight it will be in front of my wife and kids, with them in tow, and I prefer to make my training relevant to my everyday life and threats.

  17. Great article James! Very relevent info. Deadcenter 56’s advice on running the go bag up high under your support arm is great too! Thats how I was taught to do it by one of my fellow instructors. Oh, yeah…even instructors need to keep learning. Stay safe guys!

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