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So you’re a new shooter who just bought your first gun and want to attend a training class to learn the basics. Or you’re a seasoned law enforcement officer, competitive shooter, military trained sniper, special operations, etc and you want to attend a training class to get a different perspective then what is offered within your unit or department. Where do you start? The endless flood of information online and varying opinions within the pool of possible venues of instruction is unbelievable. With over ten years of active combat overseas there is a large number of US and foreign veterans looking for life after military service. Many of these people are attempting to find a life after service running firearms instruction. With current political climate the gun industry is exploding with people buying weapons preparing for the zombie apocalypse, civil unrest, or just personal protection in response to recent natural disasters. So where do you turn, what do you need, what things should you consider before hand, what is important?
Establish your goals
Research and verify your sources of information/mentors and their background
Don’t fall prey to faddish trends
Bring a good attitude and check your ego
Always push your limits and search to further your education/skill level
1. Establish your goals
What are you trying to accomplish with this block of training? Are you trying to be more competent with your concealed carry setup? Do you want to receive military like combat training wearing full gear? Are you training for 3 gun/IDPA/ IPSC? I ask students this question sometimes at courses and the answers aren’t always in line with the goal of the course. Many aspects of weapons manipulation and marksmanship transfer across from more MIL/LEO modeled shooting to civilian concealed carry. If I was to carry a pistol everyday in a inside the waistband holster, and I wanted to improve my proficiency for that scenario I would attend a course with that pistol and holster configuration and one tailored more towards concealed pistol work. I would not a attend a full carbine/pistol course and bring my combat ready light rail pistol with weapon light and carbine setup wearing a chest rig. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, but your goals need to be addressed on what you want to take away from the course. Establish your goals early; which brings me to my next point, which is to attend a course taught by a instructor with that type of background and experience.
2. Research and verify your sources of information/mentors and their background
If i wanted to learn to play piano, I would want to be taught by a piano player; someone who plays the guitar could teach me to read music but wouldn’t be able to speak to the piano specifically. Maybe this is a loose metaphor to use but still holds truth. If someone is a competitive shooter there is a lot to be taken away from them. Someone with that background most definitely can speak to recoil management, shooting fundamentals, accuracy, speed, etc., but I would not ask them to relate it to a combat type scenario. Yet we are seeing the increasing number of people with no functional or real world combat experience preaching “combat” techniques and teaching those style of shooting courses. Stolen valor is another common trend with examples happening frequently. This is where a instructor’s background wasn’t what he/she claimed. I highly suggest attending courses taught by established and vetted instructors with proven backgrounds and be wary of the local range bulletin board posted advertisement. There is something to be gained from anyone whether it is what to do or what not to do. Professional instructors have no need to belittle you, your chosen equipment, or background. If someone advertises themselves as one-stop expert, I will say they are already behind the power curve and to look elsewhere. The saying goes “the best instructors are the perpetual students”, someone somewhere is always pushing the limits and advancing the sport and techniques of shooting. Something else to consider is, simply because someone has an impressive resume on paper does not necessarily make them a good instructor. Some people naturally have the ability to pick up a skill but do not have the ability to relay that information so others can understand it. If you happen to find yourself in a bad choice of course, take what you can from it and move on you will have gained trigger time regardless. Do your research and with the modern media age and the internet, reviews of most popular courses are simply a search button away.
3. Don’t fall prey to faddish trends
Don’t ever let someone tell you that you cannot defend yourself with what you have and that their way is the only way to do something. This goes for equipment, firearms, ammunition, and techniques. Many instructors may be supplied by certain companies with items to run as advertisement during their courses. This is one option, not THE ONLY option, if that instructor choses to suggest that that is the best and only way to go I would take that opinion hesitantly. If that were the case then every military in the world would use the same pistol and same rifle, all shooting “experts” would shoot the same pistol, rifle, optic, holster, grip… you get my point. Use what you own and are comfortable with, try as many new options as possible and settle on what works best for you. Nobody can tell you what is comfortable or what grip fits your hand, stock fits your cheek, holster rides best better then you experiencing as much as you can and finding your own preferences. If you are not training, but are constantly making excuses why you cannot shoot because you are saving your money for the newest gucci sling, offset sights, mil-spec piece of equipment, it won’t matter what you shoot and how high speed it is. Someone will beat you with a basic tool they have learned to use proficiently. You cannot purchase muscle memory, you can’t rent experience, or borrow the needed skill to make it through an actual gunfight or life threatening situation. Those reflexes are earned on the range, too many people focus on the tool and not the skill to use it.
4. Bring a good attitude and check your ego
The biggest hassle as a instructor is teaching students who don’t want to learn. Some of you may be confused by this statement. Why would a student pay to attend a course to not want to learn anything? I’m talking about the student who thinks so highly of their own experiences and knowledge base that they can’t open their mind to new techniques or information.
“Tradition is the enemy of progress.”
This mindset is a common theme for the inexperienced or overcompensating LEO/MIL veteran. Again, I refer to the best instructors I’ve ever worked with constantly referenced information gathered from many other people and sources and not their overwhelming awesomeness. If you are going to take the time to attend a class taught by someone else, check your ego at the door. I challenge you to open your mind to gain and draw as much knowledge as you can. You don’t have to agree with everything they are putting out but its all the more tools you can draw from in your training tool box.
5. Always push your limits and search to further your education/skill level
Look for knowledge from everyone, tactical shooters can learn from competition shooters and vise versa. Question and test everything, do not sit on your accomplishments but always strive to find another training goal to work towards. The fastest and most accomplished shooters stay on top of their game because they are constantly pushing the envelope and looking for that little edge they can get to keep them at that level. Never take anyone’s word as gospel and always look for more supporting information. Experience is earned and teaches us valuable lessons but each experience is different and every instructor has learned their own set they can impart on you. All you can do is train as much as you can and hope when needed your training will be there for you to fall back on.