As a former US Army soldier and professional trainer I wanted to outline the differences and in some cases similarities between training military personnel and civilians.

The Players


First of all you need to look at the mission at hand - what is the training trying to achieve.  Military personnel may be called to travel anywhere in the world and put themselves in harm's way to defend the interests of the United States.  Some are oblivious when it comes to the employment of their issued weapons systems. Others are in roles that require increased levels of weapons proficiency to have mission success, such as Infantry and Special Operations forces. The last group are gun enthusiasts who just happen to also serve their country.  All three categories create distinctly different training experiences.

Additionally we have Law Enforcement professionals to throw into the mix. Law officers are required to use extreme restraint while continuing to conduct their mission with little regard for their own safety.  That being said, most Law Enforcement personnel are sadly under-trained.  Many don’t even care about the training available to them. They find themselves wandering the streets in hope of peace and tranquility for all involved unprepared for the sound of gunfire.

Civilians are not chartered to defend the Constitution of America against all enemies, foreign or domestic but rather to sharpen their skills in case they need to defend yourself, your family, or your property. This is not a slight; I want all civilians to hone their skills to a razors edge.  Ignoring anti-gun civilians who have use for firearms training, but no interest, there are socially responsible and legally responsible civilians who have chosen to train with the firearms they have at hand.

Civilians who seek out training usually fall into two groups.  The first group are those who in crisis scenarios enshroud themselves in the recesses of their home, dial 9-1-1, try to maintain a safe status quo and wait for the cavalry to arrive.  For this group of shooters most training will do. Bad guys entering your house would have to be high or suicidal to venture into your line of fire.  Many of these defensive shooters simply want to learn how to safely handle their firearm around their family and if needed provide limited protection for themselves or their family. The second group are those who wants to enhance his or her abilities to the point of being able to offensively protect their life, family or property. These folks generally seek out more training, sometimes to an advanced level.  Their level of proficiency in almost all cases is far beyond that of the average Law Enforcement officer.  Don’t confuse average LE with those who have taken it to the next level such as many American SWAT Officers and motivated cops who seek out higher training and professional development on a regular basis.  It's all about degrees of engagement.

The Game

So we head to the range to train and I have a group that consists of all of the above.  I've spent some time differentiating these individuals, but when push comes to shove I wouldn't approach any of these individuals that differently.  Why not? As a staunch supporter of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, training citizens to the highest levels means a lot to me.  There could come a time when they may need these skills.  Often what differentiates the groups is where they fall on the spectrum of defensive to offensive, as I've referenced.  But I teach an aggressive mindset.  The more aggressive your training the better your survivability or thrive-ability in a gunfight. In training, you can’t push a rope uphill, an adage that applies nicely with regard to trying to get a defensively minded shooter to be aggressively offensive when needed.

Civilian Option 3

Technically speaking there are differences. The distances that targets are engaged with during normal carbine instruction, for instance. LE and civilians  generally do not train past 200 yards, because  their standard engagement distances are usually much shorter than 200 yards. However for military operators, we sometimes shoot out as far as 600 yards with our carbines, so that training is necessary. In most cases the bullets used will be of little effect at this distance, it does however allow us to hone long-range skills that only get easier as the distances are shortened to more realistic ranges such as 300-400 yards. As we train for the most difficult scenarios, we are actually training to a standard well above and beyond that of the enemy that we will engage on the battlefield.

Civilian option 1

Many who see how we train on the range give me a quizzical look. They wonder why we shoot so many rounds with so many targets over and over, but that's what practice is. We want to train above and beyond the training of our adversaries. This is why repetition and degrees of difficulty are so key to our training success. Don’t be confused by a shooting drill and its relation to a scenario. Many drills have absolutely nothing to do with a so-called scenario; they have everything to do with a particular skill set that will be used during that scenario, such as a drill that practices driving the gun from target to target.  Some have been lucky enough to witness an El Presidente-type drill through their actual sights.  This particular shooting took place while conducting combat operations in Iraq. Imagine having three muslim extremists, with bombs strapped to their chests, presenting themselves at one moment in time.

There he is, a military operator with the skill set from shooting drills on the range to triumph good over evil.  Most of us can only imagine, but with aggressive training this man kept himself and his team alive while he deftly sent the jihadists to check out their 72 virgins.

LE option 1

Training is hard work, but can be fun as well.  As such we allow qualified civilians of this great country to partake in advanced training, like our Streetfighter course. Sitting in an old junked car, targets to your front and flanks. You can almost taste the leaking radiator fluid in the air and the musty scent of old car interior permeates your nose like an icepick. With your seatbelt fastened and your hands tightly gripping the steering wheel you visualize how you will deal with the mayhem. You are startled back to reality as the VTAC instructor slams his hand on the top of the car yelling, “Contact front.” You grab for your pistol from its concealment holster as you methodically start to trace your seatbelt. Your pistol comes to bear on a target to your immediate front, you brace for the explosion as you squeeze the trigger sending your first bullet through the front windshield of a car. Your heart pumps as you release the belt and drive your pistol over the steering wheel to ensure you don’t hook the wheel with the muzzle. You roll from the car and fight your way in and around the car engaging all threat targets until they are neutralized. Several of your rounds skipped off the vehicle some hitting the target, some narrowly missing. You have learned your lessons here, in a controlled environment. You walk away today with more confidence in your ability to aggressively and offensively fight through a problem.

Now who wouldn’t want to be part of this training? Military, Law Enforcement, Citizen! Sign me up.

About Kyle Lamb


Sergeant Major (retired) Kyle Lamb spent over 21 years in the United States Army, with over 15 of that in 1st SFOD-D Delta Force. He has participated in many conflicts, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Iraq, as well as in the battle made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down in Mogadishu, Somalia. SGM Lamb has received numerous valorous awards and decorations. SGM Lamb is the Founder and President of Viking Tactics, a tactical training and tactical gear business. SGM Lamb also appears on several Sportsman Channel TV Shows and has written a carbine instructional book, Green Eyes and Black Rifles, a Pistol Book, Stay in the Fight, and his latest book Leadership in the Shadows, which highlights his time in the military as well as numerous events from the Law Enforcement world.


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  • itsmefool

    After reading your recent contributions to American Rifleman, sir, may I just say how happy am I you’re a contributor here? Great stuff; keep it coming!

  • Oh, drat. You said this:
    “Civilians are not chartered to defend the Constitution of America
    against all enemies, foreign or domestic but rather to sharpen their
    skills in case they need to defend yourself, your family, or your
    You are so wrong. I am a civilian, and have never been released
    from the oath that I took when I enlisted in the Army years ago to
    do just that. It still applies.
    So, yes, I am still “chartered to defend the Constitution of America
    against all enemies, foreign or domestic”.

  • danish modern

    Kyle Lamb is ex SOF (notably the “Jedi” of operators – CAG) who has earned respect both on and off the battlefield.
    I have read many of his articles and seen him speak on related subjects.
    His written and oral communication skills are comesurate of one with a high intellect and mastery of the subject matter.

    Why then does article read like several intermingled and unrelated rough drafts?
    No editor, last minute commitment, malware or what? Painful read.