Review: Justified Defensive Concepts Defensive Pistol Skills I

posted on March 30, 2019

Northern Virginia is fast becoming a go-to locale for firearm training, and it’s not hard to see why. In addition to being home to the National Rifle Association, the seemingly endless growth of the federal leviathan in D.C. brought an incredible number of people to the area over the last few decades. Civilians and professionals alike seek out good training, so it makes sense that numerous training groups and instructors will emerge to feed the need. One of the latest groups on the NoVa scene is Justified Defensive Concepts, a collection of experience-rich instructors who all felt they could offer an enhanced training experience for civilians and professionals alike.

The tagline for Justified Defensive Concepts is “Building the Decision Maker Behind the Gun,” and the training they offer is tailored to that approach. The instructors all bring a diverse background of experience to each course, with instructors having worked in numerous professional roles in the military, law enforcement and NRA training division, as well as having extensive participation in many of the nation’s top training schools and competitive-shooting circles.

Talks before training revealed the depth of knowledge and training offered by the team at Justified Defensive Concepts.

The company kicked off its first course in Culpeper, VA, in March 2019, and the Defensive Pistol Skills I class is probably different than any defensive-handgun course you’ve taken. For starters, it’s not as basic as it sounds, and that’s important for those looking to get the most out of this class. The JDC team clarifies up front that this course is not designed as a student’s first course. Attendees should be able to comfortably and proficiently draw a handgun from concealment. For those looking to get more of a technical look at the basics of handgun handling, there are other courses in the area, such as FPF Training’s Pistol 101 class also based in Culpeper, VA. Additionally, Justified Defensive Concepts will possibly develop a later course oriented more toward the technical skills related to a defensive firearm.

Rather, this class focuses on something different and utterly critical for those who carry a firearm for personal defense. In any self-defense situation where your life is at stake, the stress level will be high, there will be very little time to take action, information will have to be processed and decisions made. Critically, the principal decision that’ll have to be made is a life-altering one: Should I shoot or not? Make the wrong choice, and you might die, be financially ruined or go to prison. You’ve got about a quarter of a second to make that choice. To say that such a decision can overwhelm the human mind is an understatement.

While no training class can accurately replicate the overwhelming stress, time pressure and adrenaline dump experienced in a fight for your life, the JDC team developed training that incorporates evaluation and decision-making components into a firing drill to help build critical skills under pressure. Elements of realism are introduced during the class, like having a conversation with a possible ne’er-do-well. What happens when someone approaches you and asks for a dollar or two? Comments on your car? Your clothes? Sure, it could be a genuine person down on their luck or a kind comment from a stranger, but the possibility exists that it’s a disarming tactic used by a criminal to get inside your space and head, thereby “getting the jump” on you.

Instructors ran demonstrations with plastic blue guns in front of the class to highlight the importance of concealment and draw techniques.

In the Defensive Pistol Skills I course, early drills involve this conversational aspect, with instructors calling out and questioning students, engaging them in a running conversation until the point where a threatening element is introduced. To simulate the immediate adrenaline dump that is the recognition of a gun or knife, instructors will scream “GUN!” while setting off a timer, prompting students to draw and engage a target from concealment.

Another drill, designed to stress processing and problem-solving skills to the limit, had students staring down a target with six numbered circles, with each number written upside-down. At the buzzer, an instructor threw down a large, six-sided lawn die down in front of the shooter. If it landed on numbers 1-3, students had to add three to the number, put two rounds onto that number and then two more rounds onto the original rolled number. If it landed on numbers 4-6, students had to subtract three from the number rolled, engage that numbered circle, and then place two more rounds onto the original number rolled on the die.

Throughout the class, a number of stress-inducing, decision-making drills tested a student’s ability to rapidly observe a situation, make a decision about what and when to shoot, draw effectively and rapidly and place well-aimed shots onto the target. In addition to these drills, the course covered a number of other technical skills, such as shooting around barriers, and instructors also took lecture time to cover statistics, scenarios, legal considerations and personal experiences that all better-informed students about the realities of defensive-firearm carry and use.

One of the decision-making targets used in the Defensive Pistol Skills course.

One of the elements I particularly enjoyed about the Defensive Pistol Skills I course is that it’s a single day, rather than the 2- or 3-day courses often seen in the training world. This makes the class a bit more approachable for your average defensive carrier, since it doesn’t require sacrificing a whole weekend or taking time off for training, both of which are barriers to obtaining professional instruction for many defensive-minded civilians. Likewise, the cost is less than many other multi-day, professional courses, giving shooters a long, jam-packed day filled with expert-level experience and training for only $205. Instructor-to-student ratio is critical, and Justified Defensive Concepts is aiming for a 1:4 ratio for its courses to allow for hands-on training with each student without making the course cost-prohibitive.

Other courses offered by Justified Defensive Concepts go beyond the handgun, focusing on defensive rifle and shotgun usage, as well as the application of variable-power optics and the science of long-range precision shooting. Custom classes and private-instruction opportunities are also offered through the company’s website, located at


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