During this year it has become obvious we are seeing an influx of new firearm owners. A lot of folks within the industry are quick to provide advice, most of which is based on good intentions.
It’s About Me
However, what I have learned in interacting with a large majority of new firearm owners is it is about me, my expectations. In an effort to be more approachable I have lowered my expectations for pretty much everyone. Not because I was worried about the outcome, but because I wanted to ensure the best experience for the new firearm owner. I did not want my bias to emerge and potentially jade them from continued investment in this new skill set. In other words, if I lowered my expectation and assumed everyone had an empty cup it made the interaction and experience more positive. Thereby introducing to them a fun activity they may wish to explore.
Filling the Proverbial Cup
All too often we in the training and shooting world are quick to judge. Partly because there is a safety component. Once you can manage the safety component you are left to manage the learning experience in a genuine manner. Meaning, it is all about them. You now have a preconceived notion their cup is empty and can go about the proper pouring to fill their cup. When you can do this, it makes their experience more enjoyable. As a new firearm owner they have plenty of concerns. They are already anxious about the activity, potentially very anxious. They may have their own preconceived notions you have to manage, potentially good and or bad. They may even be their own worst enemy and an obstruction to learning. The experience can be so nerve racking they literally shut down.
Trust, But Verify
I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. When I engage with someone in dialogue to assess their skill I believe in a trust, but verify approach. I will give them the benefit of the doubt up to the point it either is a safety consideration or a barrier to learning. If either of those are triggered, then we have to evaluate which one and take the appropriate action. Most of the time for the student it is in the form of not knowing. The new firearm owner does not know what they don’t know so it is difficult, even unfair to entrust them with so much responsibility at first. They must be guided, mentored in this approach and when they are having a positive experience it provides a better learning environment.
Throw A Wider Net
There will always be those who exaggerate their skill for a variety of reasons. To be honest, I don’t care. I don’t care why they may have been a bit grandiose. I have come to use my intuition and experience to help navigate these waters. Most of the time it has to do with not wanting to look as if they don’t know. My approach in this situation is to deliver the subject in broader terms, using the building block system most of us rely on as the excuse to revisit or remediate. It works flawlessly when I do. I mean it provides the opportunity for the new firearm owner to acknowledge the lack of skill or knowledge without looking bad in front of their peers. Reviews are a strong method for reaching all kinds of students. Students who may truly know the material, but absence has created a gap too difficult to navigate on their own. Reviews will sometimes be the bridge. Other times, the review can be the opportunity to verify and advance. If there is no need to remediate, then time is precious and progress should be the priority.
In this new time period, the instructor community will need to adjust their thought process and teaching methods to engage with the fastest growing demographic. Otherwise, regardless of your reputation you will fail to reach a large group of new students.