What are you looking for in a Firearms Instructor?

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Thread: What are you looking for in a Firearms Instructor?

  1. #1
    Sponsor Array DCJS Instructor's Avatar
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    What are you looking for in a Firearms Instructor?

    What are you looking for in a Firearms Instructor?

    I ask this because I feel that in order to be a good instructor; I must first and always be a good student.

    So please let me know what you are looking for when you go to a class. What do you expect to gain or learn from the instruction? I consider myself a good instructor but every time a take a class I learn something….even if it is how NOT to do something.

    For example I had just held an Advanced Handgun course for PPS/PSD operators. And we were doing live fire break contact and peel drills. The class loved the trigger time as it was something you don’t always get to do in class.

    But when we were done and did a de-brief one of the more experienced students said he thought the drill would have gone much better if we had done it dry first focusing on communication. Calling out set, moving, down or (cover) to reload and up when you are ready to get back into the fight. I agree that would have helped. Sometimes as instructors we assume students know something and they really don’t this causes a big disconnect in training.

    So let me know what you think would help you learn better, or give me an example of a class that could have gone better or you could have learned more only if…….However please note I DO NOT want this to turn into instructor bashing.

    I really just want to know what you folks want to learn form us Firearms Instructors!


    Tom Perroni
    Perroni's Tactical Training Academy - Virginia Firearms Training
    Golden Seal Enterprises

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  3. #2
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    The major thing I find lacking in much instruction is actual follow through. Instructors will teach and demostrate a particular technique, walk the student through it once, and then move on. In the meantime, the student has gone back to an old habit or has lost the form of the technique, and it never gets corrected...it becomes "just shoot the rounds" or "finish the drill," and the knowledge is never really absorbed by the student. I don't know what you'd call that, but do you see what I'm getting at?
    A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands - love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper - his hands remember the rifle.

  4. #3
    VIP Member Array Kerbouchard's Avatar
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    Adequate break down up of classes.
    Most times Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced don't really cut it...People lie for one thing, and another is my definition of intermediate is probably not the same as your definition.

    Instructors making very broad or general statements, and saying them as fact has annoyed me in the past. For instance when an instructor told me that 9mm were for women and I should carry a .45...I got a refund for that course.

    Dry runs for tactical scenarios like you originally mentioned sounds like a great idea, but it would have to depend on what level of class you were teaching. Which brings me back to my first statement and biggest pet peave about a lot of classes. It seems like no matter what 'level' of course I take, I find myself being completly bored about some aspects and others I feel like they aren't spending enough time on.

    I guess since everybody has such broad experiences and come from vastly different backgrounds, I think I am pretty much stuck with private instruction.
    There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.


    Who is John Galt?

  5. #4
    Senior Member Array Pete Zaria's Avatar
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    I can't offer you much in the way of suggestions about firearms courses. However...

    I teach an intermediate computers course at a local community college, and a fair number of the students are senior citizens. They're a reasonably difficult bunch to work with because some of the students are much more advanced and learn much more quickly than others.

    I've learned that my best tools for monitoring the class's apprehension of a concept is to watch their body language and faces. You can tell when people look confused or are struggling to keep up.

    Also, I always encourage people to ask questions even if it seems like a "dumb" question, and I'll pause to ask if everyone is on the same page every few minutes. If more than one or two people aren't getting it, I'll go over that concept again in more detail. I'm willing to get a bit behind schedule to make sure everyone understands. I don't know if your situation allows you to do that or not.

    When I notice someone falling behind, I try to spend 5 or 10 minutes with them one-on-one after the class if possible, to get them back on the same page as the rest of the class. Having everyone working at the same level makes the teacher's job much easier.

    Adequate break time is also a requirement - people's attention span generally leans out after an hour or so. A 10 minute break every hour helps more than you'd think to keep people on topic.

    With a topic such as firearms, for me personally, the more hands-on learning, the better. I greatly appreciate detailed instruction (the first time or two around anyway, I'd much rather be told what to do in too much detail than not enough), going through things slowly the first time or two, and being given a few exercises to practice. Dry-fire practice routines you could do at home would be excellent.

    I hope some of this is useful to you.

    Pete Zaria.
    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
    - Margaret Mead

    "Booger Hook Off the Bang Switch" - unknown

  6. #5
    Member Array gg12's Avatar
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    While I appreciate that you know the stats of every gun manufactured, I really only care about the one I actually own. I am not going to run out and drop hundreds of dollars to get the gun you recommend (please teach me what I need to know with the equipment I already own).

    While I am quite happy that you and one of the other students in the class reload, have every option on every gun manufactured, are proficient gunsmiths and spend untold hundreds of hours on the range, I really only care about the gun I brought to class (and no thank you I have no desire to re-load nor lighten the trigger nor install a really cool laser sight), could you please give me an equal share of the class time?

    Please dumb down things till I can understand them without telling me point blank "I'm going to dumb this down". Yes I appreciate honesty, but please, sugar coat it just a little.

    Thanks for asking!

  7. #6
    VIP Member Array matiki's Avatar
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    I haven't been able to choose my instructors, they were assigned. That said, there are two things that make me 'turn off' an instructors lesson immediately:

    1.) EGO.

    2.) "Pet" Scenarios (usually a precursory warning of #1).
    "Wise people learn when they can; fools learn when they must." - The Duke of Wellington

  8. #7
    Member Array Linda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by matiki View Post
    2.) "Pet" Scenarios (usually a precursory warning of #1).
    I'm an instructor as well, so I anticipate and look forward to hopefully a lot of responses to this thread. So, please elaborate on this. It's important as instructors that we clearly understand....what is it the student wants?
    Member of the National Rifle Association's Board of Directors
    www.BuckeyeFirearms.org Buckeye Firearms Association Central OH Chair
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  9. #8
    VIP Member Array tns0038's Avatar
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    As in teaching any subject a teacher, must first know the subject, and then know how to communicate there skills.

    Besides being knowledgeable, a good firearms instructor must be patient, understanding, and most importantly use positive motivation.

    A good instructor would evaluate the student’s current skill level, and then offer recommendations on technique, to improve the student’s skills.

    Then give the student time, to practice and accomplish the new refined technique, before moving on to more advanced skills.

    Sure, you might call that one on one instruction, but that’s the way I learned.

  10. #9
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    The question reminds me of instructor training I received many, many years ago. The subject was consulting but I think the advice was relevant.

    Use the old vaudeville approach. Tell them what you are going to do. Do it. Then tell them what you did.

  11. #10
    VIP Member Array matiki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Linda View Post
    I'm an instructor as well, so I anticipate and look forward to hopefully a lot of responses to this thread. So, please elaborate on this. It's important as instructors that we clearly understand....what is it the student wants?
    Pet Scenarios -

    An "impossible" scenario where the instructors favorite tactic (usually one they've invented) is the only answer.

    For example: "You're surrounded by four men, each five feet from you. Three have knives, one has a gun. What do you do?"

    Some of the young guys thought it was cool. So they stayed for the class.
    "Wise people learn when they can; fools learn when they must." - The Duke of Wellington

  12. #11
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    I want confidence but not cockiness, a sense of being and accomplishment but not an attitude of "I-know-it-all-you-know-nothing."

    I think it says a lot about an instructor when he can come into a room and give off a presence of respect and knowledge without automatically trying to show off or start bashing some gun/holster/ammo/training technique.

    I also think it says a lot about a good instructor when he gives you a chance to prove yourself before automatically assuming all of his students (or some of them) don't know anything and he is better than them.

    I've stood in front of instructors and listened to them bash 1911s and leather holsters and standard hollow point ammunition and IWB mode of carry. All the while they are loosing credibility because I'm carrying a 1911 loaded with regular hollow-points in a leather IWB. It works for me and that's what's important.

    A good instructor realizes that what works for him is not the cookie-cutter recipe for every single person out there.

    On the same token I think it's important that an instructor be gently able to alert a student to an unsafe practice.

    For instance, while I was working range duty, a young man who had his permit for only a week or so, came to our range to do some target shooting with his new Glock.

    While he was waiting for a lane to open up he was asking me about holsters.

    He mentioned to me that he had been carrying in a vertical IWB at the small of his back.

    He showed me his set up and it instantly alarmed me. The position of his gun in proportion to his dominant hand would require him to sweep his entire abdomen and pelvic area while drawing his gun.

    I took one of our dummy blue guns and asked him to demonstrate his draw and when he did I stopped him mid draw and asked him to pay special attention to where the muzzle was pointing.

    At first it seemed to confuse him as I don't think he understood the gravity of such a draw but when I pointed it out to him he started to understand.

    I suggested a couple other holsters that he could carry in the same location and eliminate the safety issue of sweeping his own body to present his firearm.

    We became pretty good acquaintances and it was a joy to see him in practicing often and even better when he came up to show me his new carry rig that didn't cause such a safety concern.

    I tried very hard not to undermine his choice of carry method, just tried to give him a better way to accomplish what he wanted.

    It's always a delicate issue to point out to someone that how/what/where/in what manner they are carrying can be UNSAFE but it should certainly be addressed.

    Telling someone they should carry in a Kydex holster as opposed to leather is a PREFERENCE, not a safety issue and is minimal and probably doesn't need to be overdone. There is a time for speaking your preferences because what you have found, as an instructor and with your experience, may be useful to someone else in the class, but it's not the only way of doing things and those who don't or can't follow your preferences to the letter should not be treated like idiots because of it.

    Also, when lecturing on what type/make/model of gun one should carry, don't put so much emphasis on what they get as much as making sure they test what they get.

    It should be emphasized that a good carry gun is not a particular XYZ brand, but rather one that is reliable, accurate and comfortable.

    If the gun is a bad choice they should find out because they have gone out and tested it thoroughly and seen that it poorly functions, not because their instructor said it was junk. Conversely, you don't want a student to pick up the instructor's recommended XYZ gun and carry it with confidence without testing it because their instructor said it was the greatest gun in the world and they would never experience any problems with it.

    Brands that are known to be problematic can be mentioned but instead of telling them, "Just go home and throw it in the fire," encourage them to take it out and put it through an extensive test with the ammo they intend to carry in it and to honestly look at the gun from a trust-you-life-with-it point of view. If they say they have done this then great, they got one of the good ones.

    When talking about ammo and calibers be sure to give your students correct info.

    I'm so tired of hearing such fairy-tales about this "magic caliber" or "the best ammunition" by instructors with nothing to back it up but personal opinion or stories they heard from their best friend's grandpa's brother's uncle's mother who tested it in Guam.

    Your training technique is probably a good one, something you have agonized over and prepared and modified and tested and have seen it successfully work for many students, but it's not the only one.

    I respect instructors who say upfront, "This is how I'm going to teach you. I have found it works best for my students and this is why. I understand you may have a background in something else. You can choose my way or you can continue doing it your way. As long as it's safe, I don't care. This is just another tool in the tool box and if it works for you I'm not going to try to force my method down your throat and confuse you. As long as there are no safety concerns, let's move on."

    Bravo to the instructor who has enough humility to realize they are not the begin all and end all of teaching techniques and there will be students who practice another technique and do it well.

    In some cases (and I've seen this personally) the technique that a student has learned works very well for one or two applications but when introducing things like speed reloads or tactical reloads or moving and drawing and shooting they see that their method may be in error and they adapt to the technique being taught because they see it's superiority in more complex tactical scenarios.

    Even better still is when an instructor can use the technique the student is using and help them adapt it to fit the current task safely.

    For instance if someone carries their spare mag on the same side they carry their gun. They have a certain technique that has worked well for them but they start to have problems when doing tactical reloads. Instead of the instructor going over and saying, "See, I told you so." He said, "Here, for you, why don't you try this...."

    If you can't change the student's mind, at least try to work with them to get the best results out of the method they are choosing.

    Another thing I have to mention is sexism. Instructors who think that because there's a girl in the class it automatically means she needs the most instructing make me want to hurl. A good instructor treats everyone the same and expects them to perform equally and only after seeing evidence of something different on the firing line does he start to narrow his teaching to a particular student male OR female.

    Okay, this is a much longer post than I was expecting but something that really is important to me when it comes to instructors. I've had some GREAT instructors and it's been so easy for me to trust them and accept what they are saying because they have no agenda. They simply do want to help me be the best I can be.

    Then again, I've had and seen some very BAD instructors and it makes me cringe to see what they are forcing down some of their more naive student's throats.

    And some of the best classes I have been in do exit surveys or cards. They ask what the student has learned and if there is any way the instructor can improve (either via a final live classroom session or a comment card).

    As you said, the best instructors are students first and are continuously tying to better themselves to better their students.

  13. #12
    VIP Member Array Kerbouchard's Avatar
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    I'll also add 'multiple, reactive targets'. I have taken a few classes where we shoot at paper targets and see who can make the smallest holes. I'm pretty good at that.

    Well, I went to Reborn's range this last weekend and he has a setup for multiple steel targets with a shot timer. I was fairly humbled, but it was great practice, and it was the most fun I've had at a range in a long time.

    It also reinforced how important shot placement was...especially with a 9mm. And while it's not by any means a combat scenario, there are people watching you and you are trying to beat the best time, so there is some pressure...Anyway, it was a lot of fun and it's a lot easier to learn when you are having fun.
    There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.


    Who is John Galt?

  14. #13
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    I want a person who is patient, knowledgeable and most of all... experienced.

    I want an instructor who can teach me what he or she knows will work, not what he or she thinks should work and is current with all the latest training.

    I want an instructor who is in love with firearms instruction, not making a buck.

    Thank God, that's the kind of instructor I have.
    ALWAYS carry! - NEVER tell!

    "A superior Operator is best defined as someone who uses his superior
    judgement to keep himself out of situations that would require a display of his
    superior skills."

  15. #14
    Distinguished Member Array Reborn's Avatar
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    Well, I went to Reborn's range this last weekend and he has a setup for multiple steel targets with a shot timer. I was fairly humbled, but it was great practice, and it was the most fun I've had at a range in a long time.QUOTE]

    Thanks, I glad you enjoyed it.
    Psalms 144:1
    Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.
    Senior Instructor for Tactical and Defensive of Texas
    Retired LEO
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  16. #15
    VIP Member Array Ridgeline's Avatar
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    As Reborn said, thanks for coming down, and thanks for the kind words. We are glad you have a good time. Remember Could Be Today!
    "Eternity is Too Long to be Wrong"

    Texas CHL Instructor & Holder & Utah CFP Instructor
    NRA Instructor & Life Member
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    Christian, Heterosexual, Pro-2A, Pro-Life, Conservative, Common Sense American

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