Four basic groups/kinds of shooters:
1) Beginner: from absolute novice gun owner to one who has actually fired a box of ammo through his weapon. Broken into sub-groups such as:
A) Absolute beginner who simply bought a gun and box of ammo for protection, put it in a drawer unfired. This person has read the instruction manual but will probably have no idea where it was put or even if it’s still in the house. The standard of accuracy is what has been seen in movies- point and shoot (usually defined as “spray and pray” by advanced and professional shooters).
B) Beginner, one who has actually fired a box of bullets within a week of purchasing the firearm before relegating it to the bedside drawer. Has read the manual, twice- because something didn’t work at practice and an answer needed to be found. May still possess the manual.
C) Advanced Beginner, who has occasionally taken the weapon out for firing once or twice a year, then rendered it to the drawer without cleaning or any maintenance. Still knows where the manual is, has read it before each firing/range session to insure remembering.
D) Beginning Amateur, who is developing an interest in more than just an occasional plinking session, has learned a minimum of basic shooting accuracy and wants to do better.
2) Amateur: one who has purchased a weapon, has developed a little interest in shooting more than just several times a year. Broken into sub-groups as:
A) Beginning Amateur, who has friends with whom they shoot informally three or four times a year, several times alone when the whim overtakes them. Is concerned with accuracy, but only peripherally.
B) Amateur, whose interest has developed enough to insure at least monthly sessions, probably on a square range and standing Weaver or other two handed shooting style. Actually looks forward to the sessions, often wonders why they aren’t shooting more. (Cost of ammunition is the usual reason expressed. Time is another.) Occasionally reads a gun article, usually in the MSM papers.
C) Advanced Amateur, who gets to the range weekly, looks forward to it, often with friends, but often alone- and is developing new friends at the range. This shooter is concerned enough about accuracy to ask questions, seek advice and training, usually from people they meet at the range and whose shooting they admire. Is probably a member of the NRA or GOA, reads quite a bit about the sport.
D) Beginning Advanced shooter- those who take shooting seriously as a major pastime, attend shooting sessions several times a week, may consider taking an advanced class taught by a professional gun-fighter, such as a Suarez International or On-Point Tactical class, naming only two of many. His standard of accuracy is sporadic but improving. Is developing a feel for his trigger and recovery after each shot. Reads/studies about the sport and tactical aspects of firearms, seriously concerned with gun rights and self defense.
3) Beginning Advanced Shooter, who is beginning competition, shooting locally and has a lot of enjoyable times with people of like mind. Is learning advanced skills, shoots from movement, perhaps even at moving targets and sometimes those while moving themselves. Has taken an advanced class from a reputable school and is very concerned with accuracy, strives for it whenever shooting. Has good breathing and trigger control and recovery after each shot. Sub groups include:
A) Beginning advanced, who is beginning to take shooting seriously, probably has more than one firearm and learning to use all equally, though primarily focused on one. Has minimal stressful situations, but is improving in skill sets and accuracy under speed. (Often “kills the hostage”.)
B) Advanced, who shoots as often as possible, probably owns reloading equipment and does reload some, but not all, of their ammunition. Well versed in the use of all their weapons, very serious about self defense and gun issues, encourages others in the sport and is considered by others a pretty good shot and all-around shooter. Is developing skill in weapons use under stressful conditions, most often the clock in competition. (Seldom “kills the hostage”.)
C) Beginning Professional shooter. One who is or is considering a career that includes firearms of some sort. Either civilian, military or law enforcement, where they perceive firearms to be a major aspect of the career and take both seriously. Has attended more than one firearms/weapons training school and is looking forward to more. Knows more than one style of weapon, not necessarily owning all of them, but familiar enough to use the different systems adequately. Faces stress filled situations often in competition, enjoys the situation and is well-rounded in solving difficult shooting situations. (Never “kills the hostage”.)
4) Professional shooter, who is either military or law enforcement, broken into sub-divisions of:
A) Beginner, one who is interested enough in shooting skills adequate to their role in the wheel. (This shooter is more concerned with passing the fundamental shooting skills course to maintain rating and job than being a “better shot”.)
B) Advanced Professional, who is considered above his peer group in skill sets, accuracy and desire to advance.
C) Professional’s Professional, who are the crème-de-la-crème of their class. The SPecOps soldier, the SWAT law enforcement officer, the recognized tactical and shooting school instructors. These people are familiar with all manner of weapons, not just those originating in their home country, and can use them equally well under adverse conditions and under high stress situations. (Never “kill the hostage”, often called upon to rescue the hostage in real life scenarios.)
Who we are and where we fall in these categories is just the point we are currently at and can advance to a higher level by focused practice. Some shooters will fall into more than one category- such as an advanced shooter whose skill level compares favorably with SpecOps types, though the shooter is not interested in being a “professional” shooter. Also, an advanced shooter can lose ground skills-wise through neglect and cessation of shooting. The skills will return rather quickly, however, once shooting resumes.
As noted, not all LEO are “professional shooters”, though their job status would indicate they should be. At least, better than the “average John and Jane Q”, though often is not the case. (We have to remember that some LEO are there strictly for the paycheck- being “good” at their job skills is secondary to the income, and they’ll “be damned if they’re going to spend their money on training.”) Some of the blame for this attitude should be relegated to the respective department, perhaps even city or state councils, that do not require more of their employees.
It is my opinion that those whose intent is self-defense and/or militia status should strive to be the best they can be. This precludes just being an occasional/beginner shooter, but some serious trigger time doing some serious tactical training. The training need not be from a professional school to benefit the shooter as long as practiced with the five “P’s”: Perfect Practice Prevents (Piss) Poor Performance. Practice what you know, seek knowledge from those you know, know, and practice what they know. A skill learned today will be easier to recover when needed, although perhaps not as skillfully used if practice hadn’t been curtailed in the first place. Like all our muscles, shooting muscles need exercise to improve- don’t neglect them!
Bless God, God bless.
Revision addition, thanks to Ye Old Furt for reminding me... the "final" category is "We Old Furts" (which includes any group over the age of 60).
"We Old Furts" cannot be categorized through a logical sequence due to a logical sequence of events: We have what is commonly referred to as "experience" and "BTDT". When it comes to "We Old Furts", don't screw with this class of shooter: they won't play games, they'll just blast your ass to hell and call it a good day.