The negative stigma of teaching basic firearm classes needs to change. On top of that, taking a basic firearm class should not have a negative stigma attached no matter your skill level.

Qualified for the basics

Before everyone starts foaming at the mouth let’s address a few facts. There are more “basic” students than there will ever be advanced. The “tacticool” crowd makes up an infantile percentage of our industry, yet look at how firearms classes are marketed. These days, there is a push from students and instructors to be advanced. As if teaching the basics is not cool. A confession on my part, I spent the majority of my instructing career teaching the top tier students from all walks of life. I honestly placed a lower priority on the basics. With limited training time I focused on those students with the understanding there were plenty of other instructors who could handle the basic workload. The truth; there is not. Not because there isn’t enough instructors, but because there isn’t enough qualified instructors to teach basic classes.

Shallow, but honest

Because I made my living traveling, teaching the shorter basic classes was less profitable. I know that seems shallow, but like others I have a business to run. I would be remiss if I didn’t make smart business decisions. When I did run the occasional basic classes I found myself challenged as an instructor. Not because I wasn’t challenged with the advanced students, but because there were assumptions I could no longer make at the basic level. This and a few other reasons are why I don’t believe it is wise for a “new” instructor to start at a basic level. Of paramount importance is the ability to manage a safe training environment.

Herding wet cats

Managing a safe training environment is not something you can truly learn in a class. You can learn protocol and policies, but it really does take experience to understand the lurking dangers. I have posted several blogs relating to students and instructors lately. Partly because we are in the middle of an instructor selection process. The main reason though, is I am keenly aware of what is lacking in the basic firearms instructor pool. I remember reading an article from an individual who conducts training, but who I do not consider an instructor. They commented how if the instructor was not comfortable with a certain technique or piece of gear maybe they shouldn’t be instructing. That comment screamed how ill prepared that individual was and how they were not able to see the big picture.

Same, but different

Teaching a basic class is a lot like teaching an advanced CQB course. The students will see one thing, but the instructors must see so much more. As a new student thrust into a new environment safety is always at risk. When we set up a live fire run and specifically target placement you have to consider, what the student will do as planned, unplanned and catastrophic. It is mind numbing when you go through target placement and all the variables, but failure to go to this length can result in an unsafe shot. It is not the student’s responsibility to recognize the unsafe shot. They trust their instructor to have their safety in mind. In a basic firearms class you have a similar scenario. Albeit, less dynamic there is still the requirement to think through each evolution and the planned response, unplanned response and a catastrophic response.

The burden of command

The student must feel comfortable and trust the instructor not only will teach them, but keep them safe. New students are typically nervous, sometimes even fearful and your job is to ensure they can manage their anxiety in a positive manner all while learning a new skill. You have to set a standard on acceptable behavior and then enforce the standards. You have to understand as a new student there will be times they really don’t know what they are doing and before the do something unsafe recognize and intercept it before it happens. You cannot allow the firing line to run amuck, you need to have a firm, yet gentle command over everything that happens withing your sphere of control. You have to accept it is rarely the student’s fault. If they failed to understand the instructions, didn’t know what to do or are doing their own thing it is your fault, the instructors.

Are you up to the task

The hardest part to convey to a new instructor is the consequences for failing in their duties. If they cannot recognize what is at stake or have a blase attitude regarding what’s at stake they are not ready to teach this subject. Their students are relying on them to be prepared for what will be their worse day ever. The worry for an instructor should be did I do everything I could to prepare the student. Did I reach each one as best as I could. When you have the first conversation with a student who survived a gunfight you better be ready because it will change your life.

Nobody said it would be easy, but there are literally thousands of new students everyday who need the best instruction possible. You don’t send new students to unseasoned instructors, you send new students to the best instructors.

13 thoughts on “Are You a Basic Instructor

  1. Willie Cantu says:

    Great article Jeff! Having observed your instruction & knowing you personally, you “talk the talk” because you’ve “walked the walk”…. I’ve not only learned tactics from you but instructor tips I use today. I’ve always said that so-called advanced tactics & shooting are nothing more than the basics on steroids. The problem with the “basics” is that most students believe they’re beyond that level unless they’re new recruits. Any instruction I do that appears advanced has my idea of basics emphasis.

  2. Mike Sedgwick says:

    You are so right. I teach basic skills. That’s it. Now I was a police officers many years ago. But, I no longer practice those skills to keep them “duty sharp.” Most of my students are Scouts with an adult leader thrown in from time to time. Therefore my focus is safety , respect and responsibility. My thought is give them a good solid base so that down the road should they choose, advanced training will come easier.

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      That is great strategy. Safety, operation and marksmanship are skill sets that transcend skill level. You can never know too much about these subjects.

  3. Buel Mcdonald says:

    It takes good instruction to be a good instructor. Practice what you instruct and instruct the way you practice. You cannot instruct properly if you’re not practicing properly!

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