What to look for in a shooting instructor.

Discussion in 'Self Defense Tactics & Weapons' started by Agentwil, Mar 1, 2010.

  1. Agentwil

    Agentwil New Member

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    Too Many Experts by Jerry Webb.





    Everyone is a shooting instructor and tactical "operator."

    Pardon me if I am not impressed. In the last few years there has been an exponential growth of shooting schools, shooting experts and "new" techniques. Well, actually the techniques aren't new, just renamed.


    I have been a handgun and long gun shooter since 1969 when my Grandpa taught me to shoot. Things have changed significantly since then, but the basics of marksmanship have remained the same. Some techniques have evolved for the better, often as a result of competition or combat shooting.

    But really the modernization of practical shooting began well before my birth, during the 1940's. WWII handguns were much like our handguns today, considering they carried S&W revolvers and 1911 pistols. What improved dramatically from the late 1930's through the 1970's were the practical shooting styles that incorporated "combat" techniques, replacing formal target methods. Once techniques such as a two-handed hold and boxer's stance were widely accepted as superior for combat, it didn't take long for the same styles to dominate competition.


    During this period of combat and competition handgun shooting evolution, many men developed teaching methods and became famous for their handgun shooting research, doctrine, and schools they operated. Rex Applegate, Jeff Cooper and others did thorough research and taught what they learned to countless others through their writing. This was a time of great discovery and advancement of better handgun shooting techniques. Certainly the giants of the pistol shooting world brought us out of the dark ages during that time. There is no disputing that the genesis of "combat" or "tactical" shooting was the result of these men endeavoring to improve handgun shooting skills.


    Now fast forward to 2010. It seems every self-proclaimed "operator" is an expert, and he has a school or self-named shooting technique, and he is a gunzine writer, and he might even have a corny TV show. It goes without saying that he was either: a Special Forces member; a dark ops undercover intelligence operative; or a cop (usually a part time reserve volunteer... or maybe he was a just crossing guard at the local elementary). This of course qualifies him as a tactical operator.


    But what makes him a qualified instructor, let alone an expert? Even the real combat veteran or SWAT team member is not necessarily a good teacher, because that is a whole different skill set! For that matter, who says he can even shoot better than you?

    A shooter who genuinely wants to improve his skills will find that there are plenty of "experts" out there. Therefore I am putting forth these qualities needed in a shooting instructor, especially one who charges money for instruction. But this also applies to someone writing a book, a magazine article, or appears on TV telling me how to shoot:

    - you had better be able to shoot better than me.

    - you better be more experienced than I am.

    - you must be a skilled teacher.

    - you better improve my skills and knowledge.

    - you had better be able to prove all of the above... on demand.


    Gee, that seems kind of harsh. But you know what? I am tired of self-aggrandizing poseurs who babble on in tacticool speak and strike a pose in Oakleys on a shaved head while facing nothing more dangerous than a camera. Enough already -- there are untold numbers of real shooters who can out-perform me, and real "operators" who face dangerous badguys on a regular basis, and damn few of them are shooting instructors. No, I am afraid the fact is that most of these TV, gunzine, and school "operators" are actually experts at marketing and salesmanship, not combat shooting.


    So forget shooting schools that have a trademarked gimmicky "system" or an instructor who is arrogant and berates students. Here is a newsflash: becoming an expert shooter takes time and effort, and that does not mean shooting 2,500 rounds in three days!


    This diatribe may seem endless in its attack on shooting schools and instructors. Actually, I am all for seeking and receiving quality instruction, which is unfortunately rare in a market that is crowded with Johnny SWAT wannabes.

    So I recommend you are picky when seeking instruction, and use any of these hints:


    - Pick a school that is established, such as Gunsite or Thunder Ranch.

    - Find former students of the school and instructor(s) for real recommendations.

    - Look for a school that is based in shooting fundamentals, not a gimmicky system.

    - Look for a school that will teach you skills in which you need improvement.

    - Choose an instructor who is known, experienced, and qualified (Such as Hackathorn, Ayoob or Smith).


    Stay away from schools that push a named "gadget system" or that requires any of the following:

    - Fire a certain number of shots as a "standard response".

    - Use of only sightless fire (point shooting).

    - Use of the "SUL" position (a hold actually meant for entry or assault teams, and has no purpose for an individual other than to look cool).

    - Require that you habitually rotate your head like an owl. This is a fairly recent fad that supposedly conditions you to scan for threats, but those who promote it have never applied it in a real shooting. Every situation is fluid and unique, so we never require "standard responses" in training because it creates a habit, not a tactical application.

    Also stay away from schools that mandate you use a particular stance or hold. Avoid teachers who demand you use a particular eye or require you keep both eyes open. We are all different, so an instructor should know how to teach individuals, not force you into his system!


    This is just a portion of what you should consider when choosing a shooting coach, attend a shooting school, or even when reading some "expert" opinion, INCLUDING MINE.

    Most of the current gunzine writers and and shooting schools have more to do with inflating the ego of the "expert" than helping you become a better shooter. Take your time to do some research, and you can find good firearms instruction from a qualified instructor who wants to improve your skills. Look for an established school that is based in fundamentals, and you are off to a good start.


    If you don't know where to begin, post a message on this forum requesting more information on shooting schools. The Firearms Forum has many seasoned shooters, students of various schools, and even some very qualified shooting instructors among the membership! (7 Feb 10)
  2. gdlindy

    gdlindy New Member

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    I totally agree with one main statement, There are too many "Experts" out there.
    I have been in the buisness a few years, 25 to be exact. I know some of the boys at Gunsite up in Pauldon and I recently returned from active duty, spending a year, helping to run the U.S. Navy's Expeditionary Combat Skills Ctr. in Gulfport, Ms. (After my 6th Combat Tour) My instructors there are awesome. Alot of them were operators with U.S. forces and/or private contractors, seen real combat, walked da walk..ya know?
    They are good, you know how I know? Cause they are there to teach, they survived their tours.
    Fundamentals; That is what needs to be taught. Everyone has heard that they are unique, skills are learned at different rates. A person matures through mechanics and repetative movement. if it is awkward to learn or do, the student will never master it. Like brushing ones teeth or tying ones shoes, you had to learn step by step...now I bet you never even think about doing it. It is automatic...that is where you want to be in firearms manipualtion and skills.
    A personal touch with an emphasis on Safety, that should be the most important thing to the student. Not; "How cool is my comando instructor." save that type for training the troops, not Aunt Sally who is sick of being a victim of Joe Sh*t the rag man.
    My best students are virgins to firearms..they have no bad habits and expect to learn everything and act like they know nothing.
    There is no glory in learning how to kill people. But there is satisfaction when it comes to learning how to defend yourself and any other innocent victims of criminals.
    Instructors Train, Teachers Teach & Experts Show off.
    I am no expert, I am proficient and my goal is to help you learn your potential.
    Hoo Rah!
  3. sorral

    sorral New Member

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    I too do not go for gimmicky shooting, I do not like lasers on guns (everyone who I know who uses them get slower and sloppier) and I do not think every gun instructor has to have military or police experience! I am physically ineligible for military or police, but I out shoot many I compete against. I also have not been shooting for more than 6 years, but have one hell of an instructor who thinks I am ready to get my NRA basic instructor's certs.

    I would say that if you are a rank beginner, look toward your local shooting club for help and some instruction. If you have been shooting for a while, but your target just is not showing it, then look toward a session or two with a competent instructor to watch and find that "crunch" or "stabbing" the shot out.

    I just wish everyone were as lucky as I to find a shooting instructor that also becomes one of your best buddies. We used to shoot 100-400 rounds a week. I help him with projects around his house, and he let me shoot his reloads. What a great deal, and a great friend.
  4. Oneida Steve

    Oneida Steve Active Member

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    +1, Agentwil. Love it!

    I roll my eyes twice over everytime I see those stupid "owl-head rotation" movements that you mentioned. "Scan for threats"! What BS.
    Ditto for guys that hold their handgun tucked into their chest like some dame in a bad 1930's film. Hold the gun out in front, ya knucklehead! Use the front sight!
  5. Old Grump

    Old Grump New Member

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    Emphasizes safety first then basics and not razzle dazzle. Do his students get better. Does he sound like regular people or does he give you the willy's when he talks. Does he weed out the weed whackers from class or are they his kind of people?

    My readers digest version of Jerry Webb.
  6. UncleFudd

    UncleFudd Member

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    Great stuff agentwill IMHO anyway.
    I agree and hopefully your thoughts will help to guide and direct those who are serious about training, to the right people or places.

    I have been fortunate enough in my career to attend numerous courses at Thunder Ranch and was invited by their cadre for the first H.I.T class held at the TR when it was still located in Kerrville. I have also attended courses and even co-taught with Louis Awerbach and Ayoob, Robbie Baarkman and Gunsite the last year maybe even the last class that Col Cooper taught there, and some others. Every one of these, I chose because they were reputed to be the very best at what they do and I wanted to learn from the best. I have never been even slightly disappointed.

    Each of these men are as different as day and night even in what and how they teach, but indeed, when you take lessons from any one of them, you get far more than you pay for in more ways than it is possible for a country boy to explain.

    My point is this in relation to "instructors"!! As you said or alluded, some can teach and some can do and some that do and that have all the experience in the world cannot articulate what they have learned to another individual. Unfortunately, some who have the experience (or not) do just as you say and start a big named school with all the bells and whistles but only talk tough and do a lot of strutting and actually convince those unsuspecting or naive that what they say and do is the real thing and it is a shame to think these people may actually have to bet their lives one day on what they think is the way it is done.
    The fact is these men and women (in one case) should realize they are not and will never be an advanced firearms educator. Never.

    For the past twenty five years I have worked full time as a firearms instructor. Coupled with my own LE and military experience in addition to the hundreds of hours of learning from some of the best instructors in the world and the countless hours spent with students, I have become damned good at what I do.
    The key difference is that I know my place, and I have never professed to being more than what I set about being and that is the best, basic firearms instructor that I could possibly be. Someone has to be available to teach people the basics of firearms and shooting and safe gun handling.
    I have remained just that and stayed with the basics helping those who came to me to learn.

    I leave the hard-core, skoot and shoot to the pros while I prepare the students who will one day seek to further their knowledge and then seek out the Clint Smiths and Maas Ayoobs etc.

    I will not name names, but I have also attended classes with two of the very people you mention (one was a woman who has written books and holds regular seminars) who under the circumstances should never have gone before a class of willing and unsuspecting, unknowing students and wrongfully IMHO taken the money for what they received.

    I have actually seen exactly what you are talking about, in person and it was not good and needless to say in both instances I was not given my money back and in one case I was told never to enroll in another of his classes!! Right!!

    Bottom line is that everyone should know the limits of their abilities and this is particularly true in the art of advanced firearms training. But they won't and we will continue to read books and see DVDs and hear about "the others" but what are you going to do about it?

    UF
  7. Agentwil

    Agentwil New Member

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    Train like you fight and fight like you train!
  8. Insulation Tim

    Insulation Tim Active Member

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    There are many who are full of knowledge....there are few who can successfully convey it to others.
  9. Agentwil

    Agentwil New Member

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    I was talking to a person that claimed to be a firearms instructor and had several students. Long story short after having to listen to all his BS he topped it with what I can only describe as the biggest BS story ever. He was talking to one of his students telling him that he mounted a 12 power scope on a Glock 17 and was getting great groups at a 1000 yards. I'm kicking myself for not ripping him a new one in front of his students but just walked away instead.
  10. blkdragon1212

    blkdragon1212 New Member

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    Being a Cop who is a Martial Arts Instructor/Firearms Instructor/Defensive Tactics Instructor/Concealed Handgun Instructor, who instructors in the police academy to Cadets/Officers. I find no fault with anything that you presented, in fact those have been my thoughts for years. Having said that, I have worked hard over many years to achieve those skills. They in-fact they were skills that I acquired not to make money, but to better myself as a Father, Citizen, and Police Officer. They are highlighted not to brag, because there are a lot of us, but to give validity to the following statements. Statements that really support your statements.

    Not everyone lives where they can access one of the world renowned ranges you listed. It is also a fact that not everyone can afford to take advantage of such valuable training. I have been blessed to have been given instruction by one of Jeff Coopers students who happen to ride patrol in my district. Having been tested under fire, that in of it self doesn't make me a good firearms instructor. While there are, as you stated, a lot of wannabes out there, there is also a lot of very good instructors. Any instructor worth a darn should want, and expect, his students to become better than they are. Ego is not what a good instructor is about.

    One thing for sure, the instructor that you select must have an undying concern for the safety and well being of his/her students. I take that attitude into every session that I teach regardless of who the student is, or their experience. There is no room for theory, if it hasn't been confirmed to work in real life, it isn't taught. I will not discuss theory in any classroom, and certainly not in front of my students. It is my job to research new techniques, but to keep it simple at all times. My job is tough enough thanks to T.V. and movies.

    I will have two months shy of 29 years in law enforcement when I retire in December, form a large police department in Texas. I have a decent pension coming, so getting rich is not what I am about. I do this because I love it, I am told I do it well, and after seeing people die, seriously injured, pain caused to families for 28 plus years, I found a way to level the playing field by training others to protect themselves. You know the saying, "When seconds count, the police are minutes away". In a life and death situation I want the deal settled by the time the cops get there. I want my students safe, and if there are any chalk lines to be drawn, let it be around the body of the perp.

    I have seen bad instructors, I have seen the product of such instruction. I have had to try to correct the mistakes in attitude and shooting form.

    Kudos to you sir, I could not have stated better myself, but we are not all the same. Real instructors should not be ashamed of making a living, as long as the money isn't getting in the way of the product. Just because an instructor isn't a household name, or has a big piece of property with a state of the art range should not disqualify them as being value sources of information or training. The guys faking it don't stay around very long anyway, Nuff Said!

    Scott "Blackdragon" Williams
    http://www.blackdragonpersonalprotection.com/
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2010
  11. UncleFudd

    UncleFudd Member

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    Blkdragon11212

    Kudos and well said.
    For what it's worth, I'd pay good money to take one of your courses.

    Stay safe.

    UncleFudd
  12. Double D

    Double D Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I had to add my 2 cents. I have been an active shooter for 30 years. I dont have any law enforcement background and havent taken any high dollar training courses. About 6-8 months ago I opened up a small home based gun shop. This has been my passion for a long time. I am not an expert in any area of firearms. I am a pistol guy more than a rifle guy. I wanted to offer my customers a class to obtain their CCW permits and also have the ability to supply them with their shooting needs. I became an NRA instructor a while back. While that does not make you a teacher, it provides a platform for instruction and everyone has to start somewhere. If everyone follows your advice, I would never have a student. What I am saying is that people do the best they can with what they have. I know considerably more than most of my students but probably not more than all of them. That can only come with time and hands on experience. So, in your opinion, should I just quit my classes until I can outshoot everybody in the country? Should I quit because my tecnique doesnt fit your mold? I mean come on, how did the most highly trained instructor get to be such a good teacher?
  13. zfk55

    zfk55 New Member

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    +1 Double D. I probably won't eat salt for a week after reading all this.

    zfk55
  14. UncleFudd

    UncleFudd Member

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    DoubleD;
    I am not sure who you were addressing your comments to but for me in answer, you are doing the same as I did when I opened my range and for the same reasons.
    I took the classes from all the places I mentioned as ongoing education and because I wanted to be the best that I could be.
    I for one don't think outshooting the students is a criteria. In fact I seldom shoot for or to set an example. (I remember Murphys law). I am an excellent shot with most guns but that is not the point is it?
    I want to be able to pass on quality information in a manner the students can readily understand and do it better than anyone else can do no matter where they go.
    I have been able to do that for a lot of years now.
    My thing is more for basic shooters and basic firearms handling. I want to be sure the people know the basics of handling their firearm first and foremost. Then when they practice or even go to some of those advanced courses, they have a good platform to work from.

    I have taught a lot of advanced course along the way to civilian and LEO and never had a complaint so it is not as if I can't teach the same things Clint and Louie and Maas teach, I can and I can and have done it many times just s good s they do regardless of big names. But I would rather work with people who are just beginning and help them get it right to begin with.

    So as far as I am concerned you sound like a person who cares about your students and are doing the best you can. Keep up the good work. Kudos form this old grey haired fat fart.

    UF
  15. sorral

    sorral New Member

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    I have just seen an episode of SWAT Magazine TV show. They focused on the Man who hosts the show, and owns and operates a "tactical shooting school" . He admits he has never been in a gun fight, has very limited experience on a SWAT team and some military training, but he is a good TEACHER! He also goes on to say that he "and many instructors with their own schools" will go to classes with other instructors to get a new perspective on training and to keep himself sharp.

    I do not think an instructor has to be able to shoot better than everyone (but mine can), or have to have combat experience (but mine has). I think that as long as the instructor has a proficient way of doing, and is good at explaining and coaching others, that is a good instructor. OH, and yes we "scan for threats" when finsihed shooting, it is good practice. From the limited law enforcement experience I have, bad guys are cowards who hunt in packs...I check to make sure the other cowards are not getting brave before I holster my weapon!
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