by Kristen Williams

Special to the MLN

Kristen Williams ‘saving the hostage’ in an indoor simulator. Photo by Dick Williams.

It’s 2 a.m. on a Tuesday, and you wake from a deep sleep to noises in the house that don’t belong. Your dog is fidgeting and nudging you, and your partner is still fast asleep. You’re suddenly wide awake and your senses are keener than usual. You quietly shake the person next to you as you listen to identify the noises. You reach for your: a) gun; b) flashlight; c) baseball bat; d) a and b; e) diaper. By the time you have whatever you reached for in your hand, you see a shadow outside your window and the noises inside your house are getting closer to your bedroom. You whisper loudly to your partner, “Call 911.” As the saying goes, “when seconds count, the police are minutes away.” What’s your next step? Do you have a plan for this? Let’s come back to this later.

Overnight on Nov. 21, there was a string of burglaries around Mesquite, Nevada. Several businesses and churches were victimized. You might think it was lucky that no one was at those locations when that happened. But was it lucky for them, or for the burglar? What’s your mindset?

Kristen and Dick Williams in an earlier Team Tactics course at Gunsite. Photo by Joy Hughes.

Burglary, by definition, is an illegal entry into a structure with the intent to commit a crime within it. You feel victimized and violated after the fact. Robbery, on the other hand, is characterized by the added human element – the criminal attempts to take something (by fear or force) from a person. The day after the burglaries, our excellent Mesquite Police Department had a suspect in custody (believed to be the lone culprit) who was also wanted for armed robbery and home invasion in Las Vegas. What if someone had been at one of those offices when the break-ins occurred? Well, if that person was a well-trained concealed carrier, this burglary could have been – best case – thwarted robbery, worst case – someone gets injured, or even killed.

Notice I said “well-trained” concealed carrier. If you do the bare minimum to get your CCW permit and actually carry a handgun, will you be confident enough to use it? If so, will the outcome be in your favor? Or are you just carrying to make yourself feel safer?

Without good training and ongoing practice, carrying a firearm may actually be putting you (and other innocent people) in more danger. I’m 100 percent for your right to keep and bear arms. I just want you to do it responsibly and give yourself the very best chance at prevailing in a life threatening situation, and that involves training.

Did Someone Say Training?

Becky Hoff doing square range drills. Photo by Bruce Warren.

I have been shooting since I could reach the trigger of Dad’s primary home defense pistol – which was around age six – but my training started well before that. Yes, gun safety starts in the mind of a child. I developed a healthy fear of firearms as a little girl. Dad not only told me, but showed me, what guns are capable of by letting me watch him shoot.

By the time I was allowed to hold and shoot a gun, I knew it was still not safe to do without his supervision. As I aged and grew, that healthy fear became respect, and I started shooting competitively at the junior version of Dad’s matches that I had witnessed (and worked) so many times.

Fast forward to today. I have continued to train throughout the years, including carbine, shotgun, and intense defensive pistol training. Until my first class at Gunsite Academy (arguably – though I’ve never known anyone to argue – the world’s premier firearms training facility), I didn’t know what I didn’t know. None of us ever will.

I am committed to lifelong learning, and that applies to my firearms training as well. As long as I am able, I will continue to train. Of course it’s fun, so that helps. I get this from Dad, I’m sure, as he’s still going to Gunsite – with an enviable frequency – in his 70’s. By the way, he’s a Field Editor of Shooting Illustrated, so perhaps writing and editing runs in the family as well.

I’ve been fortunate enough to complete numerous weeks of different levels of training with a variety of weapons systems at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona ( Alumni are all considered family at Gunsite, and I consider the owners, as well as many of the instructors and staff there, personal friends.

I was recently given the opportunity to bring friends and family out to get the “Gunsite Experience” in a specialized course. I’ve been working with the women who run Defense Preparedness Training, the Women’s Defensive Weaponry Club, and the WDW Training Center in Mesquite, in their mission to teach and empower local residents in the arts of self-defense, including CCW and other firearms instruction. So, naturally, I extended the offer to Peggy Pope and Becky Hoff, and they jumped at the chance.

Pope and Hoff are both certified NRA instructors, so they were already experienced and skilled shooters. But they were about to take those skills to new levels, and learn many more. Of course, Dad received the same invitation, so while he and I were enjoying a custom carbine and pistol course, Pope and Hoff were experiencing a specialized course that included all the elements of Gunsite’s flagship week-long “250 Pistol” class, condensed into three intense, action-packed days.

Dad and I rented “The House on Gunsite Road,” a well appointed VRBO so close to Gunsite you could walk to class. Dad brought his entourage from southern California – namely, Mom and my aunt and uncle, which made our return from each day’s instruction that much more of a treat. They’d spend the day exploring Prescott, Arizona or the nearby winery, and join us after class for some relaxing adult beverages, and the house had plenty of rooms for us all to have a comfortable stay.

Pope and Hoff opted to stay at a hotel around eight miles away, so they could decompress in their own rooms, do their homework in private, and process the lessons they’d learned each day. Though we saw one another on lunch breaks, we still touched base by phone or in person at the house to share our experiences each evening – giggling may have occurred.

Founded in 1976 by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, Gunsite just celebrated its 40th anniversary. They continue to teach the Modern Technique of the Pistol, and apply the same technique to other weapons systems. The courses all cover the “combat triad” – marksmanship, gun handling and mindset, and no matter how many times you go and how many classes you take, you’re going to have a “Gunsite epiphany” in one of those areas. That epiphany could be as minor as a tip toward better trigger control, or as dramatic as a life-changing adjustment in your defensive mindset. I’ve had both, and many more in between.

I’ve been developing a defensive pistol course to offer in Mesquite through Pope’s and Hoff’s business, Defense Preparedness Training. I’ve been working with them on the curriculum because the instruction will be a group effort. Now that they have experienced Gunsite for themselves, we’ll be moving forward with that course and others in the coming months. I asked for permission from Gunsite to use portions of their materials and some of their methods in our courses, and I was honored to get their blessing. We look forward to bringing it to the community, and will continue to encourage everyone who can to make the trip to Gunsite for their world class courses.

Got Your CCW – Now What?

“Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” – Jeff Cooper, founder, Gunsite Academy

Whether you’ve taken, or plan to take a CCW course to get your concealed carry permit (we offer them once a month), I strongly urge you to follow that up with more training and ongoing practice. In addition to the course(s) mentioned above, we currently offer beginners and brush-up shooting classes as well as “firing line” training, so you can just come out and shoot while we help coach you. You’re going to want to practice from concealment, right? Consider our CCW Practical Application course.

What about situational training? Remember that scenario from the beginning of this article? Evil doers have entered your home and it’s decision time. If you haven’t thought about it and you don’t have a plan, this situation may not go well for you even if you answered a) or d) to the “what do you reach for” question. You need a plan. We can help get you to the point of developing one for yourself or even work through it with you to determine what would be best for you in different scenarios with personalized, private training.

Pope and Hoff’s original mission was to empower women and provide a safe space for learning lifesaving skills, both armed and unarmed. We continue to do that, because that vision hasn’t changed. But we work with all people who seek to be responsibly armed citizens, and maybe have some fun while they’re at it. Giggling not required.

For more information, visit, or call (702) 346-6149.