There is nothing more frustrating or unsafe than chaos in a firearm training class. When you have eight to 16 people of various skill levels doing their own thing it can be a recipe for disaster.
Ultimately, it’s up to the instructor to maintain safety, discipline and a productive learning environment. But here’s what you can do to stay safe and get the most out of your class.
The Art of Listening
A training class should be fun, but you can’t multitask. At best, you can “switch task,” moving from one task to another. If you’re not fully engaged in one task, you might jump to another task at the exact wrong time.
There’s nothing more dangerous than a high risk live fire exercise performed by people who aren’t fully paying attention. Folks who’d rather load magazines, play with their gear or even socialize when they should be focusing entirely on an assigned task.
Schmoozers and fiddlers put themselves and their classmates at risk. So don’t be either and listen closely to your teacher’s instructions.
Don’t feel like you have to be an “operator.” Move slowly, deliberately and sequentially in all things. But above all remember that firearms are a serious business. Listening is a serious business. Safety and learning demand that you take them both seriously.
Position yourself for success
Firearms instructors often provide important information to a group based on an individual’s question or performance. To learn from this technique, remember that it’s not all about you. You can learn a great deal from watching others and appreciating a simple idea: there but for the grace of God go I.
But first you have to be there.
If you can’t hear your firearms instructor, move closer and/or tell them to speak up. By the same token, If your instructor’s demonstrating a skill, move to the best position you can to observe.
As Mrs. Incredible would say, when you’re in a firearms class it’s time to engage.
Realize that you don’t know
We say it all the time (I even put it on the gear list): bring an open mind to any firearms training class.
When people are mentally closed off, they fail to evolve. They end up having to listen to a re-brief or make the same corrections. Simply put, if you’re closed off to new ideas, techniques and strategies, don’t bother showing up. You’re just wasting your time and money.
No matter how much you know about a subject, remind yourself that you don’t know what you don’t know. And you can’t know everything.
Even if you’re familiar with a topic, keep an eye out and an ear open for a new twist. If you learn one new thing in a firearms class, it will be time well spent. It may even save your life.
Mind your manners
Some students feel compelled to constantly interrupt a teacher. Not to learn something new, but to establish their own expertise and/or dominance in the situation.
Don’t be that guy (and yes it’s mostly guys). Needless interruptions disturb the flow of the class, making it difficult for anyone to learn.
There are good firearms instructors and there are bad firearms instructors. But you can always walk away with something valuable from just about any class — provided you come to that class with an open mind and a positive attitude, ready to listen and learn.
Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.