I swear I didn’t write this to be click-bait, but it’s gotten a lot of play around the InterTubes over the weekend, and quite frankly, it’s a little humbling to have people who I’ve respected and admired consider my rantings worthy of discussion.
I think part of the reason why that article sparked such a discussion is that we are entering a new era of firearms training for armed civilians*. If the first wave was the cop you knew teaching you how to shoot a snubbie .38 or a having a shotgun in the closet, then the second wave was Gunsite and the boom in “Shall Issue” permits that started here in Florida and spread across the country.
I think we’re in the beginning stages of a Third Wave, where it’s not just enthusiasts who carry a gun, it’s everyone. The metaphor I’ve been using for a while now is cameras and my past life as a advertising photographer, but I don’t think that’s quite right. A better metaphor, I believe, is personal computers before the IBM PC came along.
My family bought a computer when I was a teenager. Today, that seems like a no-brainer, but in 1980, it was revolutionary. We bought one so my Mom could do contract book-keeping work for small businesses as a side job, but I quickly used it to learn BASIC and play games. Well, mostly play games, if I’m honest.
We bought a Commodore CBM. Was it the best computer out there at the time? Nope. We didn’t buy it because it was the best, we bought it because the salesperson at the store understood my Mom’s needs were NOT the needs of a hobbyist like himself, rather, they were the needs of a small business owner. The hobbyists at the store that sold Apple ][‘s thought my Mom was interested in technical aspects of the computers they sold, but in reality, what she was interested in was what the computer could DO for her.
Making a connection yet?
We’re seeing a proliferation of brands this year, especially in the mini-9mm market, that reminds me of how everyone and his dog came out with a CP/M machine in the early 1980’s (and PC-Compatibles after that). The customer base was growing by leaps and bounds because people thought they HAD to have a computer in the home to, umn, keep track of recipes, or something. Computers in the home started out very small, and it took a decade (and the Internet) for them to stop being a hobbyist’s tool and become an indispensable part of our home life.
Firearms trainers are hobbyists. Our sports are niche sports (at best) and although the NRA is a fearsome political machine and there are many, many concealed carry permit holders out there, the people who do firearms training are, for the most part hobbyists, and we tend to preach to the choir.
So the choice is ours: Do we want to make something that meets the needs of the public, becomes part of their lifestyle and changes the world, or will we create something that is initially popular but soon retreats to a small market niche?
*Note: For the purposes of this post, “civilian” = “Someone who carries a gun and isn’t employed by a government agency”. We can have the “Law enforcement are civilians too!” discussion at another time.