For 19 years, I served as chair of the Firearms Committee for ASLET, the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, and spent a few years on their Ethics Committee as well. ASLET’s motto was Qui Doscet, Disket (hope I spelled that right). From the Latin, it translates roughly to “Who teaches, learns.”

Having been involved in adult education for pretty much my whole career, I can say that truer words were never spoken.

I was reminded of that after returning from a 17-day tour in the Southwest, with a couple of days spent teaching in a lecture environment in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the rest at hands-on Massad Ayoob Group classes in Sierra Vista, Arizona, pausing only to fly east to testify at an officer-involved shooting trial. The brilliant Marty Hayes covered for me at class while I was away at court, for which I will be eternally grateful.

There were lessons of the importance of using the right equipment. One shooter in the first-level MAG-40 class came to grief with constant gun malfunctions, until we determined that he had been shooting reloaded ammo he bought at a gun show. I had to explain to him that gun show reloads are to ammunition what crack whores are to women. Lesson learned for him; lesson reaffirmed for me and the rest of the MAG teaching staff.

One shooter in the second-level MAG-80 class was shooting an expensive Wilson Combat .45 caliber semiautomatic. It worked flawlessly for him with the factory hardball ammo he’d brought for the class. At qualification on the last day, however, he switched to Federal Gold Match mid-range semi-wadcutter ammunition. This is deliciously accurate stuff, and because it’s a soft load, he thought its mild recoil would be an advantage in the double-speed qual.

And it would have been…except that this ammo is loaded so light, it won’t run a standard 1911 style pistol like the Wilson that’s set up from the factory with a recoil spring designed for full power ammunition. Without going down to a 14-or-so-pound recoil spring, it just isn’t powerful enough to reliably cycle the gun. He still managed to qualify despite all the jams he had to clear with the unforgiving clock running, but he lost his chance to be top shot in class. Lesson learned for him, and reaffirmed for the rest of us.

Learning is a lifelong process, and “the gun” is sufficiently complicated a topic to constitute a “life study.”  I’ve always learned more from mistakes than from the rare perfect performance…how about you?



  1. Those who do teach learn. I have to say teaching is an easier way to learn. That way you learn from your own and others mistakes/errors and not just your own. Twice the bang for the buck. Living is the best teacher but it can be really brutal!

  2. The only competition shooting I do is against my previous score. I’m right handed and for quite a while I used my right eye as dominate when, in fact, it wasn’t. I started using my left eye as dominate and my personal score greatly improved. Thank you, Mas, for your help by letting me know that I’m not the only one that is right handed and left eye dominate and it’s OK to use my left eye. It definately made a positive difference. Thanks again.

  3. Without going into what are probably obvious and self-explanatory details, here’s how my mistakes led to certain lessons…

    First lesson resulted in: never use Wolf handgun ammunition, for a competition.

    Second lesson: never use Wolf handgun ammunition.

    Third lesson: never use Wolf ammunition.

    I’d wager the same would/will be true of Tula as well, but I have no plans to ever touch the stuff. =P

  4. I have a saying, and feel free to make it your own when circumstances allow. Whenever I see a chance for failure or experience a situation where the prospect of things going very badly presents itself, I usually remark,
    “…a man can do a whole lot of learning on a day like that”.
    If you aren’t making any mistakes, you’re not doing anything. Simple as that. The human animal doesn’t like being told they are wrong. Ever meet anyone who volunteered the information that they thought themselves to be a poor driver? Everyone is a great driver in their own estimation, right?

  5. I took a class 6-7 years ago. Towards the end of the range part I really started getting a lot of jams. I was shooting a full size 1911 and was sure my wrist was solid and I didn’t think it was the gun or ammo. I asked one of the instructors to watch me. It was my elbow that was breaking.It just got tired.Learned a lot from that , got pretty good at clearing a 1911 too. Sometimes it just has to happen whatever it may be.

  6. This was an excellent example of why factory loaded ammo is always better and more reliable in a combat handgun.

    Once I had occasion to teach a customer who purchased a 38 special revolver from my shop to use clean and reload the weapon.

    I provided this customer with some very reliable carry ammo in the initial sale, (Blue tip 38 spec. + P Glasser Safety Ammo ).

    The customer assured me she had some good reloaded ammo to practice with , provided by a friend who reloaded ammo as a hobby.

    During the target practice with this ammo, one round misfired and only made a pop rather than a normal report.

    Since this was a revolver, the customer attempted to fire the next round but the cylinder would not rotate.

    I examined the weapon to find the bullet had lodged between the barrel and the cylinder.

    This required disassembly of the firearm to clear the jam.

    It was obvious that the reloaded round had been primed but missed receiving a powder charge.

    The “pop” was just the primer going off.

    I discarded the remainder of the reloaded ammo.

    If the bullet had traveled another half inch into the barrel, the revolver would have exploded when the next round was fired !

    If the simplest handgun , (a revolver) can malfunction in this manner with improper reloaded ammo, the use of reloaded ammo in a semiautomatic handgun is even more likely.

  7. My good friend Steve Denney, a retired police supervisor who attended many ASLET conferences and also taught there, advises me that the proper spelling of the organization’s Latin motto is “Qui docet, discet.”

    Now, if someone could just agree on the pronunciation. I’ve heard everything from “Kwee DOE-set, DIS-kett,” to “Key DO-chay, DEE-chay.”

    Latin majors out there, feel free to chime in…

    Groping with the language here,


  8. “The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.”

    Before I got my CCW a few years ago, I could hit stuff and thought I was okay with firearms. After getting my CCW and really devoting the time and money into it, I realized how little I knew before and still do, which is why I don’t plan to ever stop studying the use of firearms.

    My biggest mistakes so far have been not giving safety enough attention and taking advice from gunstore commandos.

    Thankfully I never had a Negligent Discharge but it wasn’t until I got my CCW that I really started giving firearms the respect I should have all along. It defeats the purpose of having a defensive firearms if you don’t handle firearms safely to begin with.

    My second mistake was when I was getting my CCW I let myself follow the advice of a gunstore commando. I was planning on a 1911 for carry but was talked out of it by a sales person. I ended up with my second choice an XD subcompact. Had I done enough research ahead of time I would have gotten a 1911 from the start or a full-sized XD. I have yet had a need to carry my subcompact yet.

    I love that gunstore, I just learned to do my own research and take other people’s advice with a grain of salt. That salesman I discovered hates 1911s and says they all jam every other magazine, between 2 1911s and 700 rounds so far, I’ve had no hiccups here…

  9. After 2 yrs of Catholic HS Classical Latin (I hated Latin class), and my having native Italian grandparents/ ages ago in another life.

    There is a difference in true pure classical Latin, variations of Church Latin, Italian, and variations used in dialects, so whatever you like is probably OK.

    Emphasis on the capital letters.
    classical should be:

    DEES-kett /or/ DEES-kate

    depending on the mark over the e in cet which is not indicated in english type format.

    As to the proper grammar to determine that last syllable pronunciation, it’s often pronounced as half way between kett and kate, so IF you get “called-out” on it, you can go waffle either way.

    I’m sure many others will disagree, as google results disagree.

  10. The classical pronunciation was kwee DOE-ket DEE-sket; the ecclesiastical (Church Latin) pronunciation is KWEE DOE-chet DEE-shet.

  11. “Experience is what you get right after you needed it.” I’m not sure how to say that in Latin.

  12. Mas,

    The pronunciation of the letter “C” varies depending on the historical epoch; during the Roman Empire, it was pronounced as a hard “k-” sound, ergo “Kwee Do-ket, Dis-ket;” later, during the time of the Roman Catholic Church and “liturgical/ecclesiastical Latin” it was pronounced as a softer “ch-/sh-” sound, eliding more towards Italian and away from the root “Classical latin” – ergo, “Key Do-chay, Di-shey.”

    Courtesy of 2 years of high-school Latin…

  13. Screw the language Mas! Your point of the post is most salient! Of the thousands of police officers I have instructed, I find it difficult to remember more than a few who did not teach me something I did not know or remember! Thanks for a great post! Jack

  14. I went to “1911 custom build school” 20 years ago. Used to shoot comp. My personal guns (45 and 9) will shoot anything, anytime. People give me bad Wolf and it shoots fine. Shot about 1,000 Wolf perfectly. Carry/combat guns must be built to different standards than paper punchers. Mine shoot 100%. Limp wristing is irrelevant. There are several major points that are overlooked when tuning 1911s. I carry Rem GS 185+P. Can’t write a book here to explain.

  15. Not too much to add, but what I’ve learned from experienc is:

    1) Check your ammunition before loading. I once found one round in a batch of practice 5.56mm with the bullet set at thirty degrees to the case.

    2) And this one may be blithering obvious, but if a round won’t feed and you have to clear the stoppage by ejecting it; regard the round as waste and don’t try to get it to feed again.

  16. My defensive rifle is a rebuilt M1 Garand (perfect for NJ). The first 400 rounds I put through it came packaged in the clips. No problems loading into the receiver. Now I’m buying separate cartridges and loading my own clips. I’ve learned the old lesson of rapping the tips of the bullets on something hard to seat them correctly. I jammed one clip in the rifle so tight that I had to field strip it to clear the jam. That was a learning experience, and I’m glad I learned it through training, and not combat. Didn’t Patton say something about sweat saving blood?

    Thanks for all you do, Mas.

  17. The phrase I’ve heard is: “The best mistakes to learn from are someone else’s”, and fortunately, it wasn’t at the cost of a law enforcement officers life, just a minor embarrassment on the range. I reload my range loads, but for home security, I fill ‘er up with premium factory rounds.

  18. In ecclesiastical Latin it’s pronounced Kwee DOE chet DEE shet. In classical Latin the “c’s” are hard and it’s Kwee DOE ket DIS ket. In Gildersleeve’s Latin Grammar it says: “The sounds represented by C and K were originally distinct, C having the sound of G, but they gradually approximated each other, until C supplanted K except in a few words . . . ” I read in another old book that just as no one can truly learn a language from books alone, the Catholic monks accurately handed down the correct pronunciation of Latin to modern times and that “classical Latin” is a product of a certain group of scholars who tried to plumb the depths of Latin through books alone, made some mistakes, but (academic pride being what it is) tried to cover up those mistakes by writing up a whole new slightly modified grammar. One Latin teacher I spoke to said these scholars came out of Cambridge in the Sixteenth Century.