The Super Ego, or Why Men are Afraid to Train

Feb 23rd, 2012 | By | Category: Cultural, Military/LE, News, Psychological, Sociological, Strategies, Tactics

No, I’m not a psychologist; I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Nonetheless, I’ve been around long enough to know that men have an innate belief, even if subconsciously, that the mere possession of testicles makes them skilled drivers, lovers, and shooters. From a coldly analytical perspective we know that this is simply not the case.

I’ll leave driving and love-making as topics for another day, but I’d like to take a moment to tackle the shooting part. Yes, there are natural athletes. You have likely encountered them all of your life. We all remember the guy in high school that lettered in every sport his tried out for.

The natural athlete argument aside, humans are not “natural” shooters in that operating a firearm in a consistently smooth and effective manner requires both physical and mental ability. My experience from teaching literally thousands of students both male and female is that the mental component is far more difficult for the student to grasp than the physical.

Lest you guys think I’m singling you out unfairly I will offer this concession. It’s been parroted in the gun press and around firearms instructor circles for decades that women are better first time students because they don’t show up with a lot of bad habits and a preconceived notion that they are already great shooters. This statement can be true. However, there is a pretty big caveat to that assertion. Women who arrive with a sincere desire to learn are great first time students.

Women who were told or commanded to take firearms training; such as in the law enforcement and military arenas can be an instructor’s nightmare. A lot of these women are only there because the training was mandated. Many of these girls could care less about learning to shoot effectively. To make it worse, a fair amount of ladies have been allowed to slide after they pouted, whined, or got all teary-eyed. So unclench your teeth guys, this article isn’t reverse sexism.

A healthy ego in men is not necessarily a negative. We don’t need a society full of self-doubting, wishy-washy Charlie Browns. We need real men who see a problem and think “I can fix that. I can come up with a solution.” We need men who look at adversity as a challenge not an excuse. We need men who when they are told a task is too difficult set out to prove the doubter wrong. We need men who don’t have to ask permission from their wives to defend their family. These men built the Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal, and beat back the forces a Nazi Fascism and Japanese Imperialism on two separate fronts in World War II, in less than five years.

Today we have bred into men a false ego, a specious external facade that somehow they can succeed without any real effort. These men have been instructed by insidious outside forces that if someone does in fact ask you to put forth extra effort or even dare to point out your short-comings that they are the ones out of line. “How dare you tell me I’m not good enough or that I need to work harder?” Modern men have been conditioned to accept mediocrity as the norm and that their opinion about a subject is more important than whether or not they can actually perform the task. They hide in their “Man Cave” playing Xbox thinking they are manly.

This takes us right back to the subject of shooting and the ability to operate a firearm with confident proficiency. American men currently have the freedom to go out and purchase firearms and ammunition with only tacit permission from the government. The modern man has come to equate ownership with ability. The more gear they own, the better they will be. These men fall back on empty phrases and rationalizations that they are “good enough” or “safe enough”. Driving your car back and forth to work each day without crashing is “safe enough” but it doesn’t mean are ready to enter the Daytona 500.

If your desire is simply to hit a large, near target somewhere on the paper without injuring yourself or your companions a scant amount of basic instruction is necessary. However, for most men that is not their stated desire. Amongst their friends and family they state that they own a gun for ‘self-protection’ and many of them stage and often carry a gun legally with that in mind.

I’ve witnessed far too many of these men hit the range with their personal defense gun and blast away at a milk jug tossed on the ground some five yards away. Somewhere around the fifth or sixth round they’ll connect with the jug and smile with glee after hitting it. As I put pen to paper, this very day I witnessed over a dozen men at a public range with self-loading rifles and pistols firing more rounds than were expended during the 1st Battle of Manassas. In the end they accomplished little more than generating empty brass and tearing up the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, the folks at Winchester and Federal will be happy to sell you more ammunition. They’ve got kids to feed. I would, however, submit there are more productive uses of your resources.

Far too many modern gun-owning men have merged their ego with their guns. Men who have never attended a single professional training course will argue for hours over the merits of this particular style of sights or whether or not a certain firearm is better for personal combat or defense. They argue about caliber selection, operating systems, and this gun over that. This situation makes about as much sense as NASCAR fans arguing with each other about which model of car is the best for racing. None of them are racecar drivers, so where is the basis for the argument?

The false ego generated by all the talk and supposition drives modern man to actually avoid professional training. If they take that big step and attend a course or go to a school they risk having all their pre-disposed notions shattered. They might discover to their great displeasure that they aren’t actually good shooters and that their favorite blaster is not actually akin to Thor’s Hammer. Having been raised in a society that embraces mediocrity and excuses failure, these men’s ego can’t risk the blow. Their solution is to simply buy more expensive gear.

You are probably reading this in the United States of America and you still have the freedom to do as you please. Life is full of choices make your own decisions. In the end, the self-taught shooter is much like the self-taught motorcycle rider. They are an accident waiting to happen. The self-taught rider and shooter can get by on nominal instruction and luck as long as they maintain low speeds and never face a challenge. However, if forced to accelerate and negotiate the obstacles fate sometimes puts in their path, both are doomed to injury and failure.

Paul Markel © 2012 Follow Paul Markel at Student of the Gun.com and PaulMarkel.com. Look for Paul’s new eBook “Student of the Gun; A beginner once, student for life.” On sale now at BN.com and Smashword.com.

Header photo provided by US Dept. of Defense.

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2 Comments to “The Super Ego, or Why Men are Afraid to Train”

  1. Col John R. Bates USMC (ret) says:

    Paul,

    Important topic. Well thought and expressed. Good job, Marine.

    Semper Fidelis, John R. Bates

  2. Jere Hodges, SFC, USA (ret) says:

    Good stuff. Applies to far more than just the firing range or the late-night inner city “encounter.”

    Put it this way – if we were all as good as we sometimes think we are – we’d have no reason to complain about the poor state of public education, the lack of “men” willing to take responsibility for their own actions, and an infinite number of other societal problems.

    As a former “expert” marksman who still considers himself more qualified with a baseball bat – I know this much: overconfidence is fatal, and so is paralyzing fear. The smart gun owner respects the situation, the weapon, and his opponent, and knows the limits of his skill. Using his gun in a life-saving situation is a last resort he is prepared for, not a first choice he can’t wait to exercise.

    Well put.

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