Gardner’s list of certifications and awards is quite extensive. In addition to being a NRA certified law enforcement tactical pistol and select fire instructor, the Force4Training owner is also an active member of the Florida SWAT Association and has competed in pistol, rifle, submachine gun and rifle competitions since 1991.
OTG: The Force4Training instructors are all active in the private and public law enforcement realm. How do students benefit from a training regimen developed from real-world scenarios?
John: The fact that the instructors are constantly updating their skillsets as well as the curriculum from experience with real world operators encountering real world scenarios is crucial to students. Students realize that their greatest advantage is not the weapon itself, but the edge they have in proficiency. And not only in marksmanship and gun manipulation ability, but also in superior and evolving tactics. Instruction, demonstration and practice in these tactics gives them the advantage that ultimately is the difference between life and death in a potentially lethal encounter. Although a threat may be more ruthless and accustomed to violence, he can still be overcome when faced with a well-trained, determined and knowledgeable intended victim.
OTG: Your firearms training service appears to offer courses geared specifically to the needs of women. Have more women become interested in learning how to shoot and gaining a concealed carry permit in recent years? Why?
John: The need for women to develop adequate skills in self-defense has always been great. There remains a stigma about women being involved in acquiring any kind of combat skills, whether it be hand to hand, firearms training, or edged weapon training. More and more intelligent woman are overcoming these objections and stigmas, and seeking effective instruction to help them be truly able to defend themselves and their families. Self-reliance isn’t just for men. Our training is geared not only towards the specific needs of women, but also to tactics and techniques tailored to their strengths, as well as helping them gain the confidence and knowledge that they can be every bit as effective and lethal when necessary as a man, without having to sacrifice their femininity or roles as mothers, wives and professionals.
OTG: Have you experienced an increased interest in firearms self-defense training from teachers? Do you feel that gun-free zone policies or pistols in the hands of trained individuals will help keep American schools safer?
John: We haven’t had more teachers as students in our classes than normal. I don’t think that the majority of teachers should be placed in the position of carrying a weapon. Some, however, with proper training and a higher skill level would be an asset to the security of our children. The fact that our schools would no longer be a gun-free zone with an unknown number of trained individuals may serve as a deterrent to one seeking to be a threat.
OTG: What is Simunition training?
John: Simunition is a brand name of training ammunition produced by General Dynamics. They are designed to be fired, with minor temporary alterations, through the very same service weapons employed by police, military and civilians in real world situations. Typically the cartridge and associated system enables the weapon to fire a marking projectile with greatly reduce kinetic energy, while retaining the accuracy, range and function of the weapon. Simunition training enables the instructors to create training scenarios in which fire is actually returned, and the outcome can be analyzed in real time with real consequences without injury to any of the participants. This kind of training is crucial to giving students experience in tactics, decision making, situational awareness as well as the all-important shoot/no shoot thought process that is so vitally important yet so seldom actually experience by civilian CCW holders. It helps them to become effective partners in maintaining the peace without compounding the danger to bystanders and responding law enforcement officers. It is also an outstanding benchmark for pros and civilians alike of the skills learn and their effectiveness at real world speeds and under stress as close as can be simulated to a real lethal encounter.
OTG: Civil unrest after either a man-made or natural disaster would likely cause hundreds of thousands of deaths across the country. Do any of your courses offer extreme survival self-defense or shooting skills necessary to live during a state of enhanced lawlessness?
John: All of our courses, from pistol, shotgun, carbine, precision rifle, submachine gun, survival as well as edged weapon and hand to hand training emphasize the particular strengths and limitations of each weapons system, making the well-rounded student not only proficient, but also well able to select the appropriate weapon for the scenario. In addition, all of our training covers the operation and maintenance of weapons and munitions, as well as situational awareness, preparedness for any situation, including crime or extended civil unrest, to complete breakdown of services such as law enforcement. We also offer training in securing premises, retreat to safe and defensible locations. The skills we provide are crucial prerequisites to being able to acquire, maintain, and defend the basics staples necessary to survive in dire situations for extended periods without support. These, as well as first aid and emergency aid skills for the wounds that can possibly result from such circumstances, can also be acquired from our various courses.
OTG: Mainstream media polls often cite statistics indicating that the majority of American gun owners support background checks. How do you feel about this and what feedback on Second Amendment issues have you received from you students?
John: The overwhelming majority of our students unequivocally support the Second Amendment, and oppose any restrictions or limitations, including background checks. That being said, they are all responsible, law-abiding citizens who understand and indeed share the concerns of their fellow citizens who may be less familiar and therefore more gun averse. They understand the reasonable desire to prevent guns from becoming available to criminals and the mentally incompetent. But they temper that concern with a zealous desire to defend their Second Amendment rights. They understand that strong safeguards must be put in place along with any background checks or registration to prevent what may seem like sensible restrictions from being misconstrued, misinterpreted or intentionally misused, to achieve a political agenda of guns prohibition. This is often the true goal of those who propose these restrictions, because of political ambition, pure gun phobia or misunderstanding. Our students and staff alike believe their first responsibility is to educate those who have an irrational fear of guns, not only by showing ourselves to be responsible, sensible and worthy of this right, but also by teaching that a gun is nothing more than a tool that can be used or misused by people. We take seriously our obligation to dispel myths and propaganda spread by those whose goal it is to intentionally spread fear, misinformation and distrust to further their gun prohibition agenda. We do this by providing knowledge and reiterating the indisputably proven fact that such prohibition does nothing to make society safer or prevent crime.
OTG: A viral video created by a county sheriff illustrated how quickly even a novice shooter could empty and reload multiple magazines of various sizes. Do you think a high-capacity magazine ban would help keep Americans safe, or is it merely a liberal feel-good measure after the tragic school shooting in Newtown?
John: Too much of what is being discussed currently in the media is being propagated by those who have virtually no experience in handling guns. If we can take a student and in short order train him to do a sub 2 second magazine reload, how can anyone credibly believe that banning high capacity magazines are the answer to any problem? The Virginia Tech incident is the perfect example of how a determined violent offender with multiple standard capacity magazines or indeed multiple non “assault” weapons, in this case standard capacity pistols, can create absolute carnage in an environment where everyone else is absolutely prohibited from being armed, and where the police must respond with caution and often too late. High capacity magazine bans are nothing more than a political tool, as indeed is gun control in general, to make the uninformed and inexperienced public believe that politicians take effective measures to make them safer, when in fact they are simply indulging the naïve desire for a quick fix and padding their own public perception. No weapon functions flawlessly, and even handguns with standard capacity magazines fail regularly. That is why our students are taught to react instantaneously to any malfunctions and return the weapon to operation whether it be from running dry [empty] or because of a malfunction. To assume that the split second it takes to reload a modern firearm is a window of opportunity to make people safer is pure folly.
OTG: What type of training is included in your long gun courses? How valuable would long gun knowledge be during a civil unrest or disaster scenario?
John: As mentioned previously, all of our courses, including the long gun or carbine training, includes knowledge of how it functions, proper manipulation and maintenance as well as effective marksmanship and tactics. In a situation of civil unrest, our training not only makes the student able to proficiently employ a rifle, but also able to select the right rifle or other weapon system, chose a defensible location, evaluate and prioritize targets, and employ a host of other tactics and skills to confront and hold out against multiple threats for an extended period in the event no law enforcement response or other support. For these situations, the round capacity, range, accuracy and sheer stopping power of long guns and carbines makes them the premier tool for holding back assault in numbers by mobs long before they are close enough to do harm or destroy property.
OTG: What is involved with your specialty courses?
John: Our specialty courses are basically designed to bring the right people with the right expertise to bear on a specific area of need or interest. We conduct specialty courses to address specific needs of individuals or organizations that may be too specialized to interest the general public or even the general professional. The extensive experience of our staff as well as the large number of individuals they that have trained and who have gone on to service and training with many other specialized areas, are a phenomenal resource in addressing any training need imaginable. Examples of these are armed operations from motor vehicles, in low light situations, in challenging terrain, with specialized situations such as breeching, coordinated close quarter’s tactics, multiple man small unit actions such as searching, apprehension, defense, and other areas as required. We work with a broad range of professionals from the law enforcement and military areas that can bring a wealth of training, knowledge and experience to the table to equip operators for any mission or occupational need. One of the courses that I am very excited about is our MeRDeF class [Medical Response to Deadly Force]. In this class, we mix medical training on trauma, gunshot wounds, and stabs with firearms training. We teach the students how to respond to a deadly force and also apply the life-saving skills to themselves or another person. We do this training with our sister company, Safelife Training and Central Florida Training.
OTG: Stories about several military veterans who lost their Second Amendment rights due to youthful misdemeanors, multiple decades old and before their enlistment in the military, relating to a small baggie of pot and a fight which did not result in serious injuries made national headlines recently. Are you and your instructors concerned about new laws reducing gun ownership rights?
John: We believe without question in the inalienable rights granted to individuals by the Second Amendment, and support any and all organizations who defend those. Although we are members of society and understand and share the community’s concern and desire for reasonable restrictions to prevent those who should not possess firearms such as violent felons and the mentally ill. We nevertheless actively opposed any and all laws, restrictions or measures that seek to circumvent the Second Amendment and reduce the rights of any individual who is not a proven threat to society from exercising his right under the Constitution to equip himself to defend his life and liberty.
OTG: What are the Rumble in the Jungle events all about?
John: The Rumble in the Jungle events are designed to challenge student’s ability to put all of the skills they have learned together. Stages are created to heighten the stress as well as to require high levels of situational awareness, judgment, focus, long- and short-range marksmanship, and superb weapons handling skill. Targets are laid out to present a diverse and challenging array of threats that must be engaged in a timely and accurate manner. The targets may be placed at varying distances, hidden and in some cases camouflaged or partially obscured in varying degrees by cover, and set up to challenge a participant’s situational awareness, reaction, proficiency and choice of tools. They are a great way to measure the skillset acquired in our training and refined at our range training nights.
OTG: In March, Florida lawmakers proposed a new ammo law which would require anger management classes before a single bullet could be purchased. How is that legislation progressing and how do you feel about the issue?
John: Aside from in our opinion being unconstitutional, it seems foolish to spend public funds on such an obviously useless law. It is in our opinion just another feel good political gimmick from ambitious politicians looking for “sound bite” solutions to real problems. No determined criminal or violent offender is going to concern himself with “anger management” courses and change his plans or behavior. This will simply be one more obstacle in the path of the law-abiding citizen’s ability to acquire what he needs to defend himself and his family and another step to the real goal of its proponents, namely undermining interest and ability of the general law-abiding public to effectively own and operate firearms of any kind. Fortunately, the citizens of Florida and indeed the majority of its elected legislators can smell this one coming a mile away, and we encourage our students and friends to write their representatives and urge them to work to find real solutions to violent crime and not these phony substitutes and poor excuses for real legislation to empower citizens and put criminals behind bars.