In the firearms world we start out with an understanding safety is a choice and whenever possible we always choose safety. There are times safety is stretched thin and it creates challenges to the curriculum and instruction.
Broad Shoulders Indeed
Firearms are dangerous. There is no way to sugar coat this truth, nor is there a way to downplay this fact. We need to ensure we are doing everything to create the safest training environment possible. It is not as easy as it sounds. Most accidents occur due to negligence. Poor firearms handling, not understanding firearm safety rules or not respecting the firearm’s destructive capacity are common faults with accidents. A hard pill to swallow is the fact these all rest on the shoulders of the instructor. It is our responsibility to work within the safe capacity of the students.
Failure To Adapt
Sometimes it sucks when you advertise an intermediate level class, yet the majority of students are well below the threshold. There are four options you have to manage this situation. You can ask to place them in a more appropriate level class for their skill, but only if you have one maybe two max. You can always dismiss them on the count of safety, but only if they committed an infraction. You can take them off to the side and provide remediation in an effort to bring them up to speed. This works if you have assistant instructors and extra range space to conduct the remediation. If you are instructional agile then you can adjust or scale the curriculum to accommodate the actual class skill level. What ends up happening is the class moves along and the slower students are left to catch up creating the opportunity for higher risks.
Stay In Your Lane
When the troubled students need constant supervision it detracts from the class, from those who actually have the requisite skills. It is often times the best option given the circumstances. What ends up happening is the focus is constantly shifting from one group to another. You realize the one group with the skills are not the focus so you focus on them in an effort to make up lost time. Then you keep looking over to the troubled shooters in an effort to keep an eye on their progress. It is a very challenging situation that again creates the opportunity for greater risk. At a certain point the troubled shooters realize they are holding back the class. With the best of intentions they begin to step outside of their comfort zone and this is where accidents are most likely to happen.
Forward & Controlled Movement
The challenge is to keep the majority of the shooters engaged, the higher end shooters challenged and the lower end shooters supervised. If it sounds exhausting then you would be correct. This is where the instructor agility really shines. It means being able to scale drills for the troubled shooters. You can still have still participate, but only dry fire. You can have the class partner up so their is another set of eyes watching their performance. You can even have them go through with man marking cartridges if available. These are just some accommodations that impact the rest of the class minimally.
In the end, the responsibility for safety is the instructor’s. They must recognize when they ask the student to work outside their safe abilities and be able to adjust, adapt or accommodate.