“Tools for the Toolbox”– Another way to look at the metaphor

One of the most overused cliché’s in the training industry is “another tool for the toolbox” when referring to a tactic or technique and its viability. Usually you hear it when an instructor is trying to explain why they teach a certain thing without being able to justify it in a meaningful way. As such, it is usually just a cop-out on important questions about the tactic or technique and really shouldn’t be accepted as a real answer in an intellectual discussion. However, I feel that the saying itself warrants some further dissection as to the relevance of the metaphor and its usage as related to training since it is something that comes up so frequently.

The reason we have tools and toolboxes is that different tasks require different tools. If you need to tighten up a hexagonal bolt, a Phillips head screwdriver isn’t going to do you any good. When we translate that to a metaphor for training, the tool is the technique and the task is the context. The tactic or technique (tool) needed is dependent on the context of use. For instance, if I am on a SEAL team, I am going to require different tactics and techniques to accomplish my mission than a civilian would for personal defense. If I am a civilian and I spend time filling up my “toolbox” with tools that only door-kickers need, I may have a sexy-looking toolbox; but it’s going to be filled with tools that I don’t need.

The more an individual shooter values training, the more likely they are to accumulate multiple tools and even amass multiple toolboxes. I can remember my grandpa having an entire workshop full of every sort of tool you can think of that he had amassed over a long life of building and/or fixing things. Some of those tools he may have only needed once or twice but yet they still remained somewhere in his storage shed. As someone who takes training seriously, you may have trained with several different trainers, with several different backgrounds, who may have taught you tactics or techniques that work for several different contexts. If that is the case and you have amassed many “tools for your toolbox”, you will have an important decision to make: what tools to put on your tool-belt.

Your tool-belt should contain tools that you are proficient with that you know you might need at a moment’s notice for the most probable task at hand. Your tool-belt goes with you in your work truck and is always on your person at the job site. Sometimes the contents may change depending on what you expect to encounter, but they should stay pretty consistent. You want those tools to be efficient, practical, and versatile based on what your daily routine consists of. You don’t want to have a tool-belt that is overly bulky, and you don’t want to have any wasted space. When you look at your training in this way, you want to make sure that even if you have 10 different classes with 10 different methodologies in your “toolbox”; that you have chosen only the tactics and techniques (tools) that are the most practical and efficient for your “tool-belt”. It would make no sense for an electrician to carry a hatchet on his tool-belt; just as it would make no sense for a civilian concealed carrier to carry 5 man room-clearing techniques on his. An electrician may know how to use that hatchet, just as you may know how to clear a room on a 5 man stack; but it isn’t something that is going to warrant carrying around or dedicating much practice time to.

Yes, it is good to take classes and to get as much knowledge as you can. There is much to be gained by training with different instructors and learning new things. In doing this, you may in fact amass a large set of “tools for your toolbox”. Just make sure you are very careful about which of those tools go on your tool-belt when you go to the range to practice and when you live your daily life. Choose only those tools that apply to your most probable context of use and leave the rest at home in the shed.

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