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I get conflicting advice from my go-to gun gurus on just about everything: gun choice, caliber, stance, strategy, you name it. While I take Doug Koenig’s advice about advice to heart, I don’t think he’s right about telling beginning shooters to think for themselves. Given the appalling lack of shooting fundamentals I see every time I bust a cap at AFS, I reckon a newbie should find someone they trust and follow their instruction slavishly—until they become good enough to know whether they’re being mislead. At which point their bad habits are ingrained; relearning them is a mega-bitch (1000 round rule). So WTF do I know? Who’s your go-to gun guru and what do you do that goes against their training?

41 Responses to Question of the Day: Gun Gurus: Who Do You Trust?

  1. When I was a young lad, it was my Dad – a WWII vet & expert marksman with handguns and long guns. His favorite shot was over 1,000 yards with a .30 machine gun against a German mortar spotter.

    Following Dad, the NRA range instructors I had at my summer camps as a boy.

    Now, I read opinions and suggestions, try various things, and keep what works for me. As far as I’m concerned, if it isn’t related to safety, then it’s opinion – and I have my own.

    • My Dad was a WWII Staff Sergeant ( who would have been promoted to Master Sergeant if they did not drop the bomb ) and was a qualified skilled marksman with several weapons. So I leaned heavily on him, my Grandfather ( who was a skilled hunter ) and uncles who were in the Army and also were Sheriff Deputies. I think Jeff Cooper and Massad Ayoob are good. I skim through gun and military magazines and try to pick up on shooting articles and advice. One of the best teachers is practice with a .22 lr rifle and pistol.

  2. None.

    “Gun Guru” I consider to be a false title, in the same thought as the title of “Drug Czar”.
    Much like comparing the Koran & Torah to the Bible, the foundation principles each expert discusses are identical. The foundations on grip, stance, trigger control, and the need for extensive practice haven’t changed since the time of Wyatt Earp.

    Beyond that, its a matter of application. You don’t get better at shooting by logging 1000 posts on TacticalForum.net. When someone has 20,000, 30,000, and more rounds under their belt such people have a VERY good idea what works for them and what doesn’t. Rather than grovel at the feet of the experts, I seek my own path to ballistic enlightenment one 250 round brick of UMC ammo at a time.

    • “Much like comparing the Koran & Torah to the Bible, the foundation principles each expert discusses are identical.”

      Are you trolling religious folks with that sentence?
      ROTFLMAO

      I think you’re right about seeking “ballistic enlightenment” through your own practice. At some point you just have to figure things out for yourself.

  3. Self-styled gurus, rabbis, prophets, cult figures, and their ilk are best avoided. It’s a damn shame that the Euro-American world doesn’t operate gun-fu schools much like East operates hundreds if not thousands of martial arts schools. Let a thousand flowers bloom, er, go boom.

    • I don’t care if it’s a blatant joke. If someone opens a Gunkata school, I’ll buy a lifetime pass. 🙂

  4. I’ve taken classes with Vermont Tactical and Cope Reynolds (Southwest Shooting Authority), and thought that not only did I receive really good instruction, but there was a fair amount of alignment with one another’s teaching.
    One of the guys at my range took an MDTS class up in New Paltz and a lot of what they taught him had significant overlap with what both of them taught me.

    All in all, my advice is: “Keep learning, stay humble, be pragmatic, not dogmatic.”

  5. How many gun guru’s does it take to change a light bulb? Three. One to tell you the Weaver twist is best, one to tell you Isosceles gives a faster bulb change, while the third tells you you bought a sub-optimal brand of bulb.

  6. I’d tend to trust the stuff that comes from places like the AMU. Institutional knowledge honed and refined thru generations of trainees.

  7. In my checkered career I have been privileged to “sit at the feet of masters.” People like Walt Rauch, Jim Cirillo, Jeff Cooper, Ray Chapman, Ken Hackathorn, Brian Enos, Giles and Ed Stock, Ed Head, Sheriff Jim Wilson, Denny Chalker and others have had a profound effect on my beliefs about weapons-craft and self-defense.

    I’ve been lucky enough to visit almost all of the major arms factories in America and many around the world, talking to design engineers, marketers, the men and women running the machines; I’ve been able to sit next to the top gunsmiths in the world and watch them do their magic. I have enough class certificates to fill a normal sized room, with some left over to make paper airplanes.

    At this late date and after however many hundreds of thousands of round, I’m mostly struck by how much I DON’T know. The study of arms is at the same time both a study of history and a study of ourselves, and we are simply journeymen. As my friend and fellow television host Paul Markel says, we are all “students of the gun.”

    Once I year I go back and read akido master George Leonard’s magnificent book, MASTERY. It is a reminder that if we want to walk the hard path, to keep learning, we must be willing to play the fool.

    Absorb what is useful!

    Michael B

    • Michael,
      Same here-the more I know, the more I truly realize that in the entire scheme of things I know very little. I just try to be open-minded and to learn at least one new helpful thing each day!
      Thanks-John K. Benfield, III

  8. Perhaps Mr. Koenig should’ve said “do your own research” rather than “think for yourself.” Although I support doing both and they’re not mutually exclusive concepts.

    I typically read Massad Ayoob. He’s an intelligent, thoughtful guy who is well versed in the whens, whys and hows of defensive shooting. I also like him because he doesn’t throw other responsible gun owners under the bus and has done a lot to get state governments to recognize our rights. I don’t really do anything that goes against his training advice but that’s not because I have some printed out list of his rules that I slavishly follow or anything like that.

    Somewhat unrelated to the question, but one thing that has annoyed me lately is that some of the so-called gurus that post here have blamed OCers for open carry being banned in CA rather than blaming the tyrants who wrote the ban and put it in place.

    It smacks of a deficiency of reasoning skills at best and a masochistic, pitiful personality flaw at worst. I will not indulge or support someone like that no matter how useful their training courses or advice may be.

    I won’t give my hard earned money to someone who basically says: “Look what you did! If only hadn’t practiced something which I wouldn’t practice anyway, master wouldn’t have seen it and banned it! Shame on you!”

    • I agree with your OC comments. CA is a different beast. It was going to be banned anyway, if the OC’ers did anything wrong it was discussing legal/political strategy on open forums where Anthony Portintino’s staff could read them and craft a stronger bill. Gun rights victories in CA come from the court room. If those gentlemen that think so highly of their own opinion cared so much about CA’s gun right situation, I can send them a link to the Cal Guns Foundation’s donation page.

    • “lately is that some of the so-called gurus that post here have blamed OCers for open carry being banned in CA rather than blaming the tyrants who wrote the ban and put it in place.”

      I credit the fools running around without a plan. All proud of themselves, “look at me, I got a gun.” Zero concept of the obvious consequences of their actions.

      Didn’t take a crystal ball to figure the future of that mindless exhibitionist behaviour.

      • Fools running around without a plan? What fools? What plan should these fools have had? Elaborate.

        And again, I’m seeing that nasty blame the victim mentality arising.

        Answer the following questions for me, if you would. Others are free to chime in too.

        1. Do you believe in collective punishment?

        2. Do you believe that collective punishment of citizens for exercising their rights is just in what is nominally a “free society?”

        3. Should we all prohibit ourselves from exercising a right so the lawmakers don’t see us exercising it, remember they forgot to ban that one, and then ban it? Self-imposed self-denial of rights so the state doesn’t deny us it, essentially?

        4. Should we blame the person(s) who exercised the right in the open for the right being banned by the lawmakers? Why not blame the lawmakers themselves?

      • fools running around without a plan

        Yeah, they should be ashamed of themselves for exercising their legal rights. What would happen if everyone suddenly decided to exercise their rights? It would be chaos. What’s next — free speech? Assembly? Never. Not in California. No way.

        • “Fools running around without a plan? What fools? What plan should these fools have had? Elaborate.”

          Something better than what they were doing. We all saw how that worked out.

          “4. Should we blame the person(s) who exercised the right in the open for the right being banned by the lawmakers? Why not blame the lawmakers themselves?”

          Pour boiling water on your hand and blame the water. It was predictable.

          “What would happen if everyone suddenly decided to exercise their rights? It would be chaos. What’s next — free speech? Assembly? Never. Not in California. No way.”

          Fine, go ahead and ignore the predictable result of foolishness.

          One thing you guys forget, they did not have the right to open carry, it was just legal. If the were really serious they would have OC’d loaded guns instead of wimping out with unloaded gun.

        • Unloaded open carry was what was legal in CA, genius. No one was “wimping out” by avoiding a felony weapons charge.

          “Something better than what they were doing. We all saw how that worked out. ”

          That’s an outstanding strategy. Email Gene Hoffman and Don Kilmer right now and bless them with your legal/political acumen. AB144 will HELP CA gun owners win Perunta v SD County on appeal. Loose a battle, win a war.

        • “Unloaded open carry was what was legal in CA, genius.”
          WAS being the key word.
          BTW, I was born, raised and lived in CA for over 50 yrs. I think I have a clue.
          “No one was “wimping out” by avoiding a felony weapons charge.”
          Fair enough, all they wanted to do is be an annoyance, got that.

          “Something better than what they were doing. We all saw how that worked out. ”

          “That’s an outstanding strategy. Email Gene Hoffman and Don Kilmer right now and bless them with your legal/political acumen. AB144 will HELP CA gun owners win Perunta v SD County on appeal. Loose a battle, win a war.”

          Well gosh, they never decided to open their master plan for the rest of us, would have been nice.

          If it works out, another example of nothing beats blind luck.

      • “I credit the whores running around in skimpy skirts. All proud of themselves, “look at me, I’m sexy” Zero concept of the obvious consequences of their actions.

        Didn’t take a crystal ball to figure the future of that mindless exhibitionist behaviour.”

        All those rape victims only have themselves to blame. That was the obvious outcome of leaving the house without their hijabs. Douchebag.

  9. Larry Vickers, Ken Hackathorn, Massad Ayoob and Clint Smith are pretty much the go to guys I watch are read. Guys that put out inflammatory videos, irregardless of their knowledge, are a bit off putting. I like the discussions on this blog and give the opinions of the authors and commentors credence.

    Mostly I seek council of my friends are active in shooting.

  10. My favorites are (alpha order) Massad Ayoob, Ed Head, and Clint Smith, mostly for their ability to impart their knowledge with excellent written and verbal skills (with the latter showcased on TV or videos). I have not had the good fortune to spend time with any one of them, but I hope to one day.

    I will also pay attention to any knowledgeable, reasonable and rational trigger presser who knows something I don’t and is patient enough to explain it to me. I thank the unnamed many along the way whom have done just that.

    • I watched Ed Head teach some incredibly stupid room-clearing techniques on one of those self-defense TV shows. I was really shocked, and it makes me wonder if some of these so-called self-defense gurus have a clue.

      • Wow, that surprises me. What is different about the way you teach room clearing that Mr. Head got wrong?

      • There are only two ways to Clear a room: If they’ve got bucks, hook them up to a Super Mark VII E-Meter and audit them ’till their bank account squeaks. No bucks? Two bricks of C4, a cap and a Timex. They don’t deserve auditing.

  11. Pat Rogers, Louis Awerbuck, and Bill Dreeland are the people who probably have taught me the most. There are a lot of other good people out there. Nobody at Gunsite has ever taught me something that I later decided was stupid or clearly wrong. There are some some very good people locally too. Heck, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a class and not learned something useful (and I’m not including “never take a class from this jerk again” lessons – though I’ve learned one or two of those too).

  12. It needs to be yourself. You need to be able to depend on your own judgement.

    Read lots of material, sift through the information and determine what makes sense and what doesn’t.

    It’s part of being independent.

    Experts are not always right. And sometimes (just sometimes) stupid people actually have some valuable information.

  13. I trust my own senses and experience. If I could train with anyone in the world today, I’d pick Mas Ayoob. Whether he would want to or not, I think he’d be a great teacher. I’d love to train with Fairbairn and Sykes, but they’re, y’know, kinda dead.

  14. Honestly, I’d be interested in learning what this guy has to say. I’m a believer in the school of hard knocks.

  15. Actually, one of the best gun gurus was a stupid little paper back pamphlet or book that Remington used to publish for teaching beginning children about shooting a .22 rifle and gun safety. This pamphlet was published in the 1960s and actually was very instructive for me as a child.

  16. Sarcasm aside, I like the approach of Kyle Defoor. Just don’t buy the clothes he pushes unless you already paid for the chalet in Verbier. And it’s not true that William Fairbairn is dead. He lives in the hearts of his devotees, a man before his time, and in a 1911 with the thumb safety disabled. Read “Shoot to Live With the One-Handed Gun” and tell me with a straight face that he wasn’t The Man that changed Defensives for good. He faced Chinese gangs in Shanghai hundreds of times. Put that in your Cooper and smoke it.

  17. I am all about measurement and documentation when it comes to instructor selection.

    1) How well does my instructor shoot? Where/how was this documented? What rating, against what standard? What year?

    2) What have the instructor’s students achieved? Success in real incidents? matches? instructing others?

    3) Professional development? Is the instructor still improving his/her own skills, learning/evaluating new techniques, or still teaching lesson plans from 1982?

    A handful of names/schools that measure up very well against these criteria: Tom Givens & his staff at Rangemaster, Michael Seeklander & Mike Brown at US Shooting Academy, Greg Hamilton & John Holschen of InSights Training, Max Michel & Travis Tomasie of Double Impact Training, John Benner and his staff at Tactical Defense Institute. Their programs are professional, the instructors highly skilled in historical and current techniques, and many of their students are top shooters and instructors from other schools.

    Many of those names fall outside the big two groups of trainers most often listed, which are “Guys connected with Gunsite and IPSC in the early 80s, a.k.a. gunwriters and friends of gunwriters” and “Names you Know Because of Controversy and Relentless Self Promotion”.

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