With Spring upon us and the bulk of the Combat/Firearm Training season about to happen, I wanted to throw a few observations out there to help your next session be more productive. I have found that when you experience a class as a Teacher and not as a Student, you notice A LOT more subtle things than you would not otherwise. Take into account, some of these faux pas can happen due to the student, but the majority happen because of the Instructor not minding the store!
1. Not Sticking to Topic
This is the biggest error Instructors can make to ensure the students do not get their money’s worth. Some people call it Chasing Rabbit’s (or following a Rabbit Trail), “Soapbox” Ranting or just plain Bullshitting, but no matter the name, the result is the same: Your students get their money and time wasted. I know some instructors are long-winded, and like to mix a “war story” or two in with the lesson and that’s fine, but just make sure the student CAN LEARN something from the time you take to tell the story! One of the best ways to stay on topic is to outline the course in TIMED “Blocks”, that way there is little room for bullshit or horseplay.
2. Chest Thumping and “Penis Measuring”
Oh man is this a big one! When you get a bunch of “Type A” personalities together in a competitive environment and the testosterone starts flowing, watch out!! I can tell you as an Instructor this can be one of the hardest to control, simply because you can get caught up in it so easy, but in order for your students to get maximum benefit, YOU MUST re-direct this energy into something constructive for the class. I can recall a rifle class I was involved in, where maybe 45 minutes were spent on technique and field-craft and the rest of the 8 hour day spent seeing who in the class could shoot the best at 300, 400 and 500 yards….at the end of the day I had blown through about 500 rounds and learned absolutely nothing valuable. Look, competition is a great “stressor” to get people out of their comfort zones, but when it goes unchecked, it can turn a class into a “penis measuring” party and that is not what your students paid for I can assure you! I have found when I Work some competitive “group” shooting drills in at the end of the lesson block and let the students use what they have learned during the lesson plan to try and improve their performance and/or time, it is much more beneficial overall.
3. Students Not Coming Prepared
This can be easily avoided by posting what is expected of the student beforehand, but even then, sometimes you will get that “one guy” who has to borrow everything but the kitchen sink from the other students.
Another HUGE pet peeve of mine is having students come to class with BRAND NEW Weapons that have not been properly BROKE IN or ZEROED..another good reason to be SPECIFIC in your pre-class paperwork instructions! I have adopted the “Zero Tolerance” approach for people who cannot read instructions! I would also add this piece of advice to students: When you come to ANY Training class, pack like you are going camping in the Rockies (or the Sahara) for 2-3 days, that way you over prepared and can battle the elements effectively. What I have been seeing lately is it is the elements that kick students asses, not the course material!
4. Not Having a Backup Gun
This technically falls under not coming prepared, but I wanted to bring specific attention to it, as it can be a real class killer. Listen, guns, like vehicles, are machines, plain and simple. ALL machines break down at some time or another, sometimes it is minor and can be fixed on the side of the road (or in the field) and sometimes it is major and has to be taken back the shop, either way, we need to be prepared for this eventuality. Having the skills and parts to fix minor issues in the field for your specific weapon system is a MUST, that goes without saying, BUT, the smartest contingency plan is ALWAYS to have a backup: Enter the “One is None, Two is One” mentality. You go to a pistol class, and you shoot a G19, bring two of them; you go to an AR class, bring two of them. Now, I know all of us cannot be “Daddy Warbucks” and have two of every firearm we own, and I totally understand the financial challenge this might present to a certain percentage of CO’s out there..however, as I tell all my students, if you cannot do it now, MAKE IT A GOAL to eventually have ATLEAST 2 Glocks, 2 AK’s, 2 AR’s, etc..the preparedness logic behind it is solid and it works on a lot of different levels also..not only do you have a backup, in a “pucker” situation, you now can arm your spouse or loved one with the same weapon you have, and consequently, you can both train with the same manual of arms and course of fire, and at the same time, building that “team” mentality along the way! It also works on a logistical level with ammo storage, now you can buy one caliber and have twice the firepower. (Sidebar: I HIGHLY Recommend to all my students who run AK’s (over 75% or so) to spend the $5 and replace the shepards crook wire with a Retention plate..it is a 5 minute job and will save you untold headaches if you TRAIN alot with your AK!!)
5. Overlooking Safety Measures
I wanted to close with this one to leave it fresh in everybody’s mind. For those who have trained with me, they know I am in no way a “Safety Nazi” or one of those jokers who is calling a “Safety Timeout” every 5 minutes, but, that being said, I am also not one of those who stereotype and totally dismiss this behavior as idiotic either. There are certain personalities in the training community who have convinced people that square range safety consciousness makes “TRUE 360 degree” combat training impossible…this is both untrue and unfortunate. Consequently, just like the guy who handles Cobras thinking he will never get bit, we witness the blow-back from this type of behavior with the report of somebody either being seriously injured or killed on the training range. Most times with the report, the reputation of the trainer is killed right along with it, no matter if the victim lived or died..this is the nature of this business.
When you examine the “WHY’s” of these incidents, typically, they all fall under what I call “Safety By-Passing”, most of the time for the sake of SPEED. The biggest culprit in most of these incidents is not the dreaded “Covering” somebody with the barrel of your weapon or “Dude, you just covered my leg on that reload!” usual suspects, but surprisingly, it is Safety 101 stuff: KEEP YOUR FINGER OUT OF THE TRIGGER GUARD AND AWAY FROM THE TRIGGER UNTIL READY TO SHOOT!
Listen guys, I am not going to get on my soapbox here, but experience has taught me a few things, the first being, ALWAYS buy the good trash bags and not the cheap ones and Two, NEVER SACRIFICE SAFETY TO GAIN ANYTHING IN SHOOTING! Yes, there are those in the Military Tier 1-2 community that use the “Finger inside the trigger-guard” method, but just like with tactics, the same goes for training…what works for these guys will not always work with the everyday civilian..in fact I would say 95% of the time it is not recommended at all! Keep your training Real, but also Safe & Relevant to your situation!
Stay Dangerous and Safe, and yes, the two can co-exist!!