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James in MO writes:

I’m always really clear in what I want in my next gun or accessory, but I’ve decided that the next thing I really need to put time and money into is good training. So what do you look for in a defensive firearms instructor or program? Have you gone to any training programs and thought, “I would have avoided this if I knew it would be ______.”?

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  1. Who needs a firearms trainer when we have all these TTAG articles about it.

    If we want more, we can just have John Wayne Taylor write us a “tactical tip of the day.”

    • I think RF said it best in a very recent post. Identify bad guy. Point gun at bad guy, only bad guy. Fire.

      Unless you’re training for the Hans Gruber scenario what else do you need?

        • Nothing at all wrong with it. If a person has the time and money to invest in major training and it’s what they want, go for it.

          But they need to be honest with themselves. Unless they’re in a very high risk occupation the chances that they’ll ever benefit from the training in the real world is practically nil.

          I’m even of the opinion, and it’s just my opinion, that joe average gun carrier on the street might actually be harming his chances in a real world scenario by over training. He gets lost in the Hans Gruber scenario, overthinks the situation and loses to a tweaker with a kitchen knife.

      • I imagine that without training there is a higher likely hood of slackjawed inertia before it clicks that you need to draw and fire. Training helps one react without needing to come to a conclusion first.

      • You’ve never been in a high stress scenario, have you?

        Have you stopped to consider there may be (and many times are) multiple assailants?

        You’re comment is similar to “I have 7 rounds of .45 and I only need one Hehe” -wink wink-

        When S hits the F, your fine motor skills will be non existent. Your vision will zero in on the most immediate threat, and block out nearly everything else. Your heart will beat faster than it ever has before. You won’t be able to breath.

        Anything that you haven’t trained to muscle memory that happens will be out of sheer luck.

        You need to know what to do after engaging the first threat to be able to control yourself and check for other threats and engage them accordingly.

        IF you hit your target, you need to score a CNS, Heart, Lung, or spine shot to stop them. Gut, chest, arm, and leg wounds will do little to nothing to stop them as a threat.

        Please, if you carry a gun, seek out professional training from people who live or have lived by the gun.

        • I have to disagree with you to a degree regarding a few of your points. Tunnel vision is a maybe, and I never experienced it in a firefight, and never heard of anyone I know. I did experience auditory exclusion though. Also muscle memory is a maybe, for example I was a Machine gunner, but during my first pre deployment work up trained with a rifle as a rifleman. In country I got a machine gun and after a year of barely any hands on I could still reload it it, and clear a malfunction under fire without difficulty.

          I do agree, get training.

        • Bill. I have been shot at and shot back. Military and as a citizen. I have been in a few such scenarios. You train for the Hans gruber scenario all you like. But right here at TTAG we have tons of real world incidents where untrained people, including one who had never fired his gun before his dgu, have prevailed when push came to shove.

          Real world you need to safely handle your weapon 24/7. Train to engage with one hand on the gun and the other on the bad guy. It will be close enough to feel his sweat and breath on you. Human blood feels real hot, real hot, when it’s coming from anothers body.

          If he has a buddy that buddy will run like a striped assed ape while you’re killing the first guy.

          But you go ahead and train for Hans Gruber. I’ll train for smokey the crackhead.

        • JWM–we appear to hare similar life’s experiences and if there was a “like” option, your sensible post would get one from me.

          Someone also mentioned “tunnel vision” and in my meager experience, I have gotten tunnel vision 99% of the time when you know you personally (as opposed to your unit taking fire in a general sense) are in a fight for your life. Training will give you techniques to break the tunnel vision more quickly but at least for some moment in time in a real fight for your life, the physiology is no respecter of persons, no matter what their level of training and experience.

  2. “I would have avoided this if I knew it would be ______.”?

    a lot of jabbering and little hands on actual shooting.

    Never take a course hosted other than at a range.

    • I am actually looking at some hands-on instruction (because I don’t get a lot of time at the range and have nobody to really teach me). So since you’re actually an instructor (though not in my area most likely) and looking for feedback, here’s what I’d look for.

      The first and foremost thing is I want someone who’s knowledgeable on the subject. They don’t have to know everything, but they have to be a fairly skilled individual (and be able to prove it in some way or another)

      The second thing is a friendly, personable demeanor. It’s a lot easier and makes the lessons a lot more fun if the person you’re dealing with is a pleasant person to deal with. If they’re dry and stoic that can be dealt with. If they’re a totally tacticool operational operator operating operationally and dress in head to toe MOLLE gear, or spend all their time bragging about their time in the Marines, or if they’re just a flat out asshole, it’s going to make things drag and ultimately I’m going to take my money elsewhere.

      Third is a lot of range time. You can explain to me the theory behind this and that all damn day long if you like, but I’m not going to get it unless I actually DO IT. It’s not a slight against people who prefer classroom instruction, I’m just not that type of person. I learn best by doing, so show me, then let me try it. (If you tell me I’m not going to need more than 50 rounds, either this better be a really short lesson or you’re providing ammo)

      Fourth? A reasonable rate. I know quality instruction demands a higher price tag and that’s fine, but please don’t try to rip me off. I work very hard for my money and I’m not one to spend frivolously. And I HATE wasting money.

  3. The method that I use when teaching is the same method that I like to be used when I am taking a class: the instructor shows various techniques, offers the pros and cons of each, what he/she prefers and why, then let the student try them and choice for him/herself.

    I learn best when I understand the why, not just the how.

  4. Balls~ that’s what I seek. An instructor should have the balls to disregard traditional training formats. Best times for me with an instructor have been when I hear-“we can use the text……or we can do what works in real world.”

  5. A few things turn me off:

    1) If I get even an inkling of “YEEEEHAAAWWW!” about an instructor, I’m heading out the door. These are the kind of people who are dangerous because they don’t think safety is a priority.

    2) Tactical operators operating tactically. I’m not looking to join the SEALs, so no, I don’t feel the need to spend every single weekend at the range figuring out how to shoot accurately from every single improvised position imaginable or spend many training hours hammering on the finer points of the rifle to sidearm transition.

    3) Unprofessional political rants. I probably agree with at least some of your points, but I’m there for training, not for you to mouth off about what you heard on Fox news last night.

    4) Boys clubs. There’s a certain amount of this that’s inevitable, but if I’m going for training, likely as not I’d like my wife to come too. For one, it’s more fun that way, and for another, it’s better if we both are on the same page. So the constant stream of sexist comments and a facility that looks like the back room at a frat house after a long weekend are deal-killers.

    • That’s about my list, too.

      I’d add that I have additional issues with instructors who don’t know their guns well, or give out outlandish advice (eg, “never buy a revolver”).

    • I am a former Tactical Operator and Trainer Kyle. Those same things turn me off too. My method is more like Rabbi…I show various techniques, offer the pros and cons of each, what he/she prefers and why, then let the student try them and chose for him/herself. Since I have trained with Seals and Israeli’s I will show some of the methods they teach if the students wish.

      I learn best when I understand the why, not just the how. So I will let the students shoot the way that makes them feel comfortable.

    • These also sound like turn-offs. I wonder how prevalent they are? My wife & I have taken a number of classes the past few years (the only ones not together were a “Ladies Only” basic pistol class for her, and an Appleseed rifle event for me that she couldn’t make). Never run into “safety”, “sexist”, or political rants yet. (Some political comments, yes, but not a significant part of the instruction and usually in response to someone’s question.)

      I do think that some classes involving personal protection should have a “tactical” aspect. After all, you perform in a manner similar to how you’ve trained. That said, it should be noted up front: truth in advertising, so to speak.

      Yet, I’ve heard enough people mention these sorts of stories to wonder how prevalent they are, and whether the prevalency is going down. Are they more common in the “less free” states (we live in a fairly free state)? To what extent, if any, is it age related? (My wife and I are well into our sixth decade of life.) Is it something else?

      • “I do think that some classes involving personal protection should have a “tactical” aspect.”

        The difference for me is “tactical training” vs. “Tactical Training” if you get my drift. It’s one thing to train the way you want to act in an emergency situation; that makes perfect sense. It’s quite another to look down your nose at people unless they’re looking to take your “Super-Dooper A1 Tactical Defense Seminar Series” where you’re expected to show up with every piece of gear south of an M240, or won’t even talk to you unless you want to try rappelling through a window.

        Hyperbole aside, you’d be surprised how many instructors can’t work with somebody with reduced physical capabilities (i.e. weaker hands or disabilities) or who doesn’t have lots of firearms experience. I suspect part of this is my location as you suggest. There isn’t enough of a market for training around here to attract many top level instructors. That being said, it’s not that long a drive to Sig Academy in NH, which I’ve heard good things about.

        • This brings me back to the point I keep making about revolvers. For some seniors and people with reduced muscle mass/strength, semi-autos are just jam-o-matics, or these people need someone else to rack the slide for them.

          Not so a revolver.

          Everyone has a right to self-defense, and the best tool for that right just might not be a Glock. I know this comes to some as heresy, but there it is. I’ve said it: A Glock might not be the “perfect” handgun for self-defense for some people.

        • > The difference for me is “tactical training” vs. “Tactical Training” if you get my drift.

          Kyle in CT: OK. I understand what you meant now — and fully agree.

          Dyspeptic Gunsmith: while I agree in principle with your rationale, sometimes the specifics do vary. My mom’s first handgun — recommended her by a “former SF operator” guy at church — was a Ruger LCR. My mom’s arthritic, and she could not pull the trigger. Nor could she handle racking most semi-automatics; even cocking the hammer on a revolver was difficult. She ended up with a .22 Browning Buck Mark for home defense, because that’s what she could handle and use. Some might look down on her choice, but it was what she could handle, and better than the paperweight of something she couldn’t.

          I’m also a basic pistol instructor, as is my wife I think that we’re fairly good instructors — at that level. While we ourselves *take* defensive handgun classes, there are too many instructors in the area that are better at that aspect, and so we don’t teach a defensive class ourselves. Maybe someday, but I’m not going to teach a class if I think I’m not offering the student good value for his money.

    • +100 You pretty much summed up my reluctance to approach any “instruction” beyond what is required by law to get licensed. I have a terminal revulsion for any and all poseurs, of which the gun subculture seems to attract more than its share.

    • I think the optimal training for a CCW holder should focus on handgun training for dealing with potential threats on the street and handgun / long gun training for home defense. This would include basic points like grip, stance, trigger control, sight alignment, being able to rapidly deploy one’s weapon, etc. (Here I’m only addressing things directly related to using the weapon itself, so I’m leaving things like PT or receiving knowledge on the legal aspects of self-defense aside)

      It may include things like shooting from retention and potentially learning some unarmed techniques (e.g. Southnarc’s ECQC course) as a relatively “high-level” training module for the average CCW holder.

      It probably won’t include doing things like one-man room clearing or being really fast in rifle-to-pistol or pistol-to-rifle transitions.

      What comes before all this though are preventative measures and mindset. Not doing stupid things with stupid people at stupid places goes a long way.

  6. Unsafe. I witnessed a local training outfit that had students act as barriers while the shooters ran across them shooting downrange. Muzzles and bodies were crossed by the every student in every drill. I do not recall the trainers emphasizing the use of the safety between “barriers.” Not to mention muzzles were brought up next to the “barriers” heads and fired. If I was a student, I would have complained, walked out and demanded a complete refund.

    • …but the instructors were all decked out in plate carriers with complete load outs and blood type patches so they were P-R-O-F-E-S-S-I-O-N-A-L [/sarcasm]

  7. Never take a class where there is more than 6 or 7 students per instructor. You get a lot more for your money when the instructors have time to actually watch you shoot. When your instructor has 20 students all to himself, he’s more concerned with his profits then with helping you get better.

  8. Yes I have taken training by a firearms instructor that I eventually sort of thought he was an over-compensating douche bag. A person may have insight and a tremendous amount of experience, but if they are poor teachers and present themselves in a poor light, then the educational process is compromised.
    About a year ago I took training from a well know instructor. He is also a reserve deputy with the local sheriffs office. I hate making long stories out of things, so I’m keeping this short. There were multiple incidents during the presentation and course that spelled out small dick syndrome. The one that almost caused me to turn around and walk out, and I would have had I not already paid for the course was at the inside range. He wanted all the shooters to gather around while he demonstrated proper technique for something or other. So here we have a class of intermediate students as this is a DHG 1(Defensive Handgun 1) class and he holds his gun upside down and takes a shot.
    Right then, I had the impression of galactic show off douche bag. It’s highly likely I will never use him as a firearms instructor again. While he is informed and experienced, his style and presentation render him a substandard educator.

  9. I haven’t taken his class yet, and I know he has a lot of haters, but what he said about his course makes me think that for the money, you can’t get more value for $500 than the two day Fighting Pistol class at Tactical response. What makes me want to attend this class is what James Yeager says about it. Bring at least 750 rounds of ammo and we teach you the drills you need to be able to train on your own.
    There are $1,000 one day courses that say you need 300 rounds. That classroom session better be mind blowing.

  10. Things I look for in a program:

    Frequent bio breaks. Young peeps will not understand this. Old guys are already nodding their heads.

    Personal, hands-on instruction. If I want to go back to a classroom I’ll finish my LLM instead.

    Real life training. I don’t want to know how to recapture Mosul or become a member of the Hostage Rescue Team. I just want to be better able save myself and my property in realistic civilian scenarios — scoot, shoot and protect my loot. Ya dig?

    Expense. If the training costs more than my law degree, I’m not interested.

  11. I just started teaching after decades of being a student. I want to come at teaching firearms from another angle, so these comments are great. In a course I helped teach the other day, I spent a lot of time watching the students, and they responded exactly how I would respond as a student. Do not rush the class. No lectures without lots of props and humor. Add a lot of break time for socializing. More range time…or SIRT gun time if the range costs are too steep in your area. Oh, and instructors should not rely on the student having a decent firearm. This last week, one guy brought a Russian Tokarev that barely worked, and another brought what was essentially a pocket sized hand cannon.

  12. An Instructor Hmmm
    Someone that can talk to me. While the guy who can improve the skills of seal team 6 is a great instructor. Using him would be a waste of resources for us both. I need the guy who can meet me at my skill level and help me with my needs. Someone who can help me realize what my needs are and develop a plan to resolve them.

    • I just read your comment after my post. Absolutely. No tacticool, although that may be fun. Seriously, I want someone to do something I cannot do unless I surround myself with video cameras. I want them to watch me shoot and point out all my bad habits that I hypocritically tell others not to do. And if they know of a technique I do not know about, I want them to tell me about it. I figure there is always more to learn.

  13. Someone that doesn’t try to train my “bad habits” out of me. I shoot a pistol very well, and I don’t need someone bitching about my stance, and or grip. I’m up for trying something different, but if it doesn’t feel good, or work in MY mind, just drop it, and continue on with the course.

  14. My $0.02:
    1. Reputation Among Peers. When I started training and was looking for the right instructor, I asked around for who the *other* local instructors, LEO’s, security companies, Tx Nat’l Guard, etc., recommended (i.e., who do *they* train with . . . and anyone who says they don’t need to train any more is probably suspect).
    2. Actual combat experience with the weapon being taught. Sorry, but IMO IDPA experience and NRA certifications aren’t enough, especially when there are instructors out there who have been through plenty of actual gunfights (and have experience teaching other people who have too).
    3. Court experience as expert witness. OK, I’m a trial lawyer, so that colors my thinking somewhat. But someone who has testified as an expert witness in a contested matter on defensive firearms use, proper use of force, etc., has already had the other side check out his background, and poseurs usually don’t do too well under cross examination.
    4. Attitude. Does the instructor seem to be more of a salesman or an instructor? How seriously does he/she take range safety? Are they more interested in telling you how much they know or teaching you?
    5. Round count. How many rounds will you actually put downrange in the class? If it’s a practical class, you need to be spending most of the time practicing under instruction / supervision, not listening to lectures (IMO).
    6. Class size. For a practical class, being in a class with 8-10 students per instructor is a lot better than ones with twice that (or more).
    Bottom line: there are many excellent instructors out there. Do your homework and you can find them.

    • Sadly, that instructor has passed away. His name was Jim Cirillo. He was a member of the NYPD “Stake Out Squad” and he had been in 17 gunfights in his career.

      Cirillo also did expert witness testimony as well as instruction.

      I count myself fortunate to have taken a couple of courses from Jim. He preached “what works, works” and to not get caught up in the details of his gun, your gun, etc, but surviving the gunfight. That’s what counted, in his opinion. Particulars of guns, techniques, etc were secondary. Great instructor, even better jokester and quick-wit. Some of his tales of how gunfights actually played out were both funny and head-shaking. He was fond of also saying that “all these plans, all this analysis of how things are going to happen… is often just useless. In my experience there was no script once the shooting started.”

      This included things like shooting an assailant in the face at point-blank range… only to have the guy get up five minutes later. The bullet had hit his cheekbone and travelled around his skull, under his scalp but outside his skull, only dazing him. Jim said he was scared witless – thought the guy came back from the dead. Turns out that a .38 special to the face might not leave a guy quite so dead. As he said, unpredictable things happened once the shooting started.

      • I read his book. Smart, tough man. Crying shame he survived so many wild fights to be taken out in a car. His opinion and training I would value.

      • Fortunately, the guy I describe is still among the living (Steve Smith of Asgard Natonal Training Group), but from your description of Mr. Cirillo I suspect he and Steve would have gotten along fabulously.
        Doing a two-day handgun class with Steve this weekend (I try to do this class every year) — can’t wait!

  15. One last comment from me. I train at Frontsight. I think the training there is the best in the business. I became a Life member after taking my first course, it’s that good. I know that a lot of guys like Gunsight and other places and that’s fine but you might at least look at the website and make your own judgement.

    • Mike–in my little training school, my other instructors and I try to attend at least one course each 6 months put on by someone else as our philosophy, apparently different from some others, is that regardless of your experience/skill if you have a student’s mindset, one can always take home at least one thing (good or bad) that will further their progression–I use that word purposely since I don’t believe anyone has it all and can learn no more. Anyone like that. I try to stay away from even if they are a secret squirrel (real or imagined).

      We have attended a good number of courses at FS and once you separate the sales pitches of the “energetic” founder from the actual training, and have a willingness to be open to learn, the training is good (by that I mean safe and competent/professional instructors) especially in the advanced courses after you DG in the basic ones.

      One thing I especially like (and judging by some of the previous comments, others do as well) is that all instructors there from range master to line coach have to be ready to perform a demonstration of a particular drill on call without any “warm up” that from what I have seen is almost always letter perfect in form and marksmanship. Many other courses, some by big names or someone who uses their super-super secret role in some 3 letter agency for creds, never have an instructor shoot in front of students.

      The place gets a lot of digs from people who attend the basic course (bad instructor student ratio, not challenging enough–although many critics don’t say if they got a DG–too static and linear etc.).

      These would be valid observations for an advanced course but one has to remember one of the missions of the school is to spread the Gospel of defensive use of a firearm to the masses so that each basic class (required to move to more advanced) has the full gamut of shooters–from a couple in their 70s who have never even touched a firearm to others who have a high level of skill.

  16. Call me picky, but I need my instructors to be able to rock the hell out of whatever platform they are teaching.

    Folks like Frank Proctor, Travis Haley, Ron Avery, etc are monsters on guns, then I’ll listen to them on technique.

    For actual combatives, it takes an actual resume doing whatever it is they’re teaching. I don’t need Cory & Erika to tell me why I need a stippled Glock that I can rack on my belt in case my hands are bloody or disabled, but I’ll listen to an ex warfighter on how to run a rifle. Concealed Carry is tougher, since neither war fighter nor policeman really differentiates themselves from gunstore gurus. Not really sure how to pick an instructor in that regard.

    • I don’t think I need to pay someone to teach me how to conceal and access my handgun. That is something that you need to practice yourself. Dry practice getting your gun into the fight from whatever garment you are wearing that day.
      Take the draw stroke, presentation, stance, grip, trigger control, recoil management, footwork, failure clearing, speed and accuracy drills and everything they teach you regarding the gun once you clear Kydex, then develop your own carry and garment clearing skill.

      • Very sensible post, especially in reference to malfunction clearances that very few people in my experience even think about much less practice. For example, in terms of street reality, you should be able to clear a Type III (doublefeed) in no more than 4 seconds.

        Of course if you carry a wheel gun this isn’t an issue–everything is a trade off though in that a semi (other than a 1911 etc.) usually has more round capacity than the revolver.

        Your other great point is the importance of dry practice. Once you are trained in the basics of the aspects of gun handling you rightly list, dry practice is the key to honing your skills to raise the probability you will prevail in an encounter where you can legally use lethal force. The only thing I would add would be that dry practice needs to be as PERFECT as you can possibly make it.

        The thing we see most often is students want to go fast before they can do it perfectly every time. For the most part speed comes with smoothing out the presentation (or other gun handling like malfunction clearances) rather than trying to just speed up their movements.

        Again, good post!

        • Smooth is fast. I find that when I pull my concealment garment out of the way and reach for my gun and get a perfect grip on it by being very deliberate, I am able to draw and get on target as fast as possible. When I rush the clearing and gripping stage, usually it slows down the entire process. I tell myself “go in slow, come out fast”. Here is an example of slowing things down. That’s me drawing from concealment with a retention holster and a snapped closed pocket. This was the first take and I was going to speed up for following videos but the range officer told my wife to stop filming as I was not supposed to be drawing on the range. I just wanted to get the gun out without a hang up so I went slow but when I look back at it, I got the shot off in 2 seconds.

  17. 1) Emphatic and uncompromising focus on safety, and decades of flawless safety records to back it up.
    2) Actual real world experience, so they can back up their teachings with instances where their own lives depended on it.
    3) A clear & practical philosophy on gunfighting is given, not teaching trends or showing off the latest gear.
    4) Wide variety of instructors with experience in many different sectors of L.E. and military roles.
    5) A legion of loyal, returning students who sing the praises of the instructor. Cops and soldiers who pay out of their own pocket for the advanced training.

    If it sounds like I’m talking specifically about Scotty Reitz at ITTS, then you win a case of beer. Just finished Shotgun 2 in the cold rain late last night, and still enjoying the bruises on my thumb this afternoon. I’d take a class in Lawn Darts if Uncle Scotty was teaching it.

    • Actually, it sounds like you are describing Steve Smith of Asgard National Training Group. Doing a 2-day practical handgun course with him and eight of my friends (including Jon Wayne Taylor) this weekend. FYI, per-student cost for a two day course with Steve is usually under $300 plus BYO ammo and food . . . which would be a bargain at twice the price.

  18. The majority of my searching for training is to refer new people for their CHL. As such, I look for quick, cheap, and not too much of a statist (won’t screw people up too badly with incorrect information about Ohio law and the nature of rights).

  19. I happen to be a defensive (not “tacticool”–no drop holsters, “contractor look” etc.) firearms instructor and run a small training company in north Georgia on our own outdoor ranges.

    I find the comments to this piece very helpful and the serious ones (as best I can tell different from others, some of which I thought were hysterically funny) I take to heart.

    Some comments will be the subject of our in-house staff training as we do believe we are never as good as we can be and getting outside perspectives is one way to prompt us to do better in one way or the other.

    Keep ‘ em coming!

  20. 1 – Search for Navy SEAL firearms instructor…
    2 – Cross reference that with list of Phoney Navy SEAL of the week…

  21. Don’t get me started! I try to avoid instructors who:
    > Dress and act like a special operator, whether they have been one or not.
    > Talk and act like a drill instructor, whether they have been one or not.
    > Say, “this/that is crap” about every piece of equipment they don’t own themselves.
    > Are semi-auto experts only and can’t teach the revolver.
    > Yell at people about anything that is not an immediate range safety issue.
    > Preach that the ONLY way to really learn to shoot is to participate in combat shooting competitions.
    > Don’t care whether people actually enjoy the classes they teach.
    > Are content that someone finished a class with no better skills than when they started.
    > Are not well organized. Classes should start and end on time and everyone should know what to bring.
    > Don’t have good basic instructional skills.
    > Get flummoxed by the technology they are using in the class, be it a projector, a laptop, etc.
    > Let you get all the way to the range before informing you that the class is cancelled.
    > Act goofy toward attractive female students in the class.

  22. As a firearms instructor all of this is interesting to me. I can make a list of things I don’t like for sure

    My biggest pet peeve from other instructors is loyalty to a caliber and brand and to them any other choice is worthless.

    Also a lack of patience and a ‘get the class done’ attitude. For example a lady in her 60s came to me never firing a gun in her life. We did the class with everyone else and after they left me and her spent 3 hours together until she could load an automatic, and a revolver, and was comfortable firing both. Two days lady she called and I went to a gun store with her because she was intimidated by the ‘clerks’ there and their opinions.

    Instructors also need to be adaptible, at least for some things. I teach one on one classes at all kinds of odd hours, (6 am to 9am why not) (7pm to 9pm and range time the next day, sure) and I don’t charge a different rate.

    But to me this is a non profitable hobby so who knows

  23. How about the instructor who works at my local club behind the bar, who muzzled my 9 year old son and I continuously while extolling the virtues of his 1911 brand of choice? I saw him drop the mag and clear it, but still it was rude as hell. After about 20 seconds my son looked up at me and I knew he was a great kid, he was having the same queasy “let’s get out of here” feeling.

    He’s a senior member of the club, and I had just joined.

  24. Holy… crap… There is so much fail in some of these comments I don’t know where to start… Tell you what, you guys who say you don’t need training go do 2 minutes of force on force, then let’s talk.

    My advice–stay away from the locals working out of a gun shop or range. If you are serious about learning how to win the fight, go take a class from Suarez International and you’ll never go anywhere else.

  25. As someone that both teaches and receives hundreds of hours of varied training annually, I’ve found that the most important element missing from the majority of firearms training is context.

    Standing at 7 yards and making a fist-sized group high-center-chest is great and all, but that is one of those fundamental skills that anybody putting basic effort into their concealed carry lifestyle should be able to achieve – right alongside a fluid drawstroke that can be accomplished one-handed (and either-handed).

    From there, defensive courses contextualized in reality must feature living, breathing targets with training weapons (sim guns, nok knives, etc) actively trying to kill you (while also not wanting to be killed themselves), which, at least most of the time, should not be instructor that just taught you what to do – as they have much vested interest in feeding you exactly what you just practiced.

    The vast majority of “gun guys” who felt hand to hand skills were unnecessary were absolutely destroyed in force on force by other students (with boxing gloves) whose instructions varied between “approach this guy, talk to him, and attack if he gives you an opening” to “approach this guy, talk to him, act a little shady, but leave if he gives you any resistance”.

    The gun guys generally got beaten to death by Mr. Boxing Gloves because they attempted to initiate a drawstroke at one yard to threat, as a response to a sucker punch to the face, which was immediately followed by fouling their drawstroke, and a swift repeated cross to the face. These aren’t boxing champions. or choreographed drills, just other students playing low-trained criminal actors, who are aware that putting fist-to-face and hand-on-gun might work in not getting them shot.

    After experiencing a humbling failure in some aspect of training, many gun guys shot and killed the harmless individual in the second scenario from 5 – 10 yards out(where the firearms skill set practiced in a sterile environment would likely work), just because he was walking and talking a little funny, even though the actor meant no ill intent – which is not a legally justifiable use of force in any court of law that I’m aware of, especially with no weapon present. Plenty of benign people can act somewhat unexpectedly, whether that’s because they’ve got headphones on under their hoodie, because they’ve got a developmental disorder, or because they’re just drunk – most would agree that shooting those individuals dead is not a winning legal strategy.

    This concept of an attack initiated to the surprise of one party is definitely the way things work in reality, but is missing from the majority of firearms training.

    Most also skip addressing the knife, which is a much deadlier weapon when both are holstered/sheathed inside of three yards. The really bad classes are the ones that suggest using the knife to get to your gun from a position of someone mounted on you and beating your face. Always bring a knife to a gun fight at zero yards.

    Multiple attackers are also very rarely present, and the techniques taught in the vast majority of gun, knife, and hand-to-hand courses lack this aspect of reality, where criminals tend to not work solo. Crackheads may be addicts, but they’re not stupid, and tend to realize that working with a crackhead friend increases their odds of success, and decreases their odds of personal injury.

    There are plenty of great instructors out there, but I feel as if everyone that carries a handgun for self-defense absolutely must take the following three courses…

    1. A reputable pistol course that will teach your 7 yard shooting, as well as containing the one-handed drawstroke/malfunction clearances, and other such intermediate handgun manipulation skills.

    2. A reputable medical course from someone that can effectively teach scenario-based tourniquet application, as well as use of chest seals, gauze, and other basic medical equipment. There needs to be a medical lecture explaining what to look for, how to look for it, and how to identify specific types of injuries. There needs to be a contextual understanding of gun fights in that good tactics can bad medicine (people still shooting at you are a more pressing issue than a friendly that’s been shot). Patching holes is just as important as being able to make them.

    3. ECQC from Shivworks. This is singularly the most comprehensive personal defense course I’ve ever had the humbling experience of taking. It will very quickly weed out the weak points in your current training base. Perhaps TTAG could interview the main man over there? He’ll definitely articulate most of the previously mentioned flawed training concepts much better than I.

    Plenty of other worthwhile cross-disciplinary courses out there, but I felt that this particular one deserved special mention.

    Just my few cents on the matter.


  26. I like a trainer who strives to understand my personal – peculiar – objective; and, then, does his best to give me the training that fits that objective.
    I, like most of us, am not training to be a gun-fighter, cop or anything remotely close to that. So, the best tactics and techniques won’t serve my purposes. I wouldn’t practice them to the level that they would be available to me in the remote case that I would need them.
    An example. I have decided that I’m comfortable carrying a single-action semi-auto in Condition 2. (This is almost an un-heard-of practice.) My most qualified instructor – nationally renowned – advised me against this practice and in favor of using a safety in a double-action or striker. I appreciate his advice; yet, I remain unconvinced.
    My local instructor understood where I was coming from and aided me by recommending and practicing a draw-from-pocket holster cocking the hammer in my pocket. His advice didn’t sacrifice safety and it fit my personal tastes and objectives.
    So far, I’ve only had a couple of unfortunate experiences with trainers. I learned, notwithstanding, but would never return to these guys. My sense is that they were wrapped-up in their own egos more-so than the objectives of the training.

    • Have you tested your carry method in force on force? That is the crucible in which all things are proved or disproved. You may find that those experts you chose not to listen to had good reason to give you such advice…

      The good news is that the odds are in your favor–you will probably go your whole life and never suffer the consequences of wrong choices. Fortuitous outcomes reinforce bad tactics.

      The bad news is that if your choices are ever tested, the consequences of a bad choice are huge and irreversible.

      • You are absolutely correct!
        Now, what do I do about it?
        I know I’m not going to invest the hours of training to become proficient. A man’s got to know his limitations. I certainly encourage anyone to reach as far has s/he can.
        Most people do nothing at all. I’ve decided to carry a pocket pistol. That may save me in some situations, but certainly not all. Certainly not as many as others willing to train to another level or two or three above me.
        Do you recommend that I revert to not carrying at all?
        Do you recommend that I move to AZ and OC? I wouldn’t mind OCing with a double-action / striker action.
        I am grateful to all my instructors for everything they have taught me. I thought long and hard about the advice to not carry in Condition 2. I decided that, for me, I’m a lot more comfortable carrying in Condition 2 than Condition 1. I’m prepared to give-up the 3/4 second in presentation.
        Seems like you missed the central point in my remark.

        • I understand where you’re coming from–every person who chooses to carry a gun goes through some form of a common evolution in their thought process, mindset, carry method, etc. I also started with a .380 in the pocket. Then I upgraded to an M&P Compact. Now I regularly carry a full-size M&P 9mm with two extra magazines to go with it, and a 9mm S&W Shield in my pocket for backup. I’ll probably add a fixed knife to that soon. Why did I change? I experimented, talked to others who are farther down the road than me, discovered I could carry more than I thought comfortably, and I am driven to become a better martial artist and warrior every day.

          That may not be you, and that’s ok. My point is that your pocket pistol may be sufficient, or it may be nothing better than a security blanket. What you may think is nothing more than 3/4 of a second may actually turn into you fumbling and losing your gun, or enough time the fight is over before you engage. You won’t know that until you test it, and you can’t really test something without adding some stress to simulate reality.

  27. Never had a firearms instructor or class on actual shooting skills. Shot with the likes of Todd Jarret, Larry Vickers and Kyle Lamb back in the day. Had great friends who showed me ropes early on in IPSC. Found a LR shooting mentor at local range who has been doing the LR thing for 40 years. Experience, experience, experience. Seen a lot folks asking $600 or more to yell at you while you shoot at cardboard silhouettes and call it instruction. For me to plunk down my hard earned money I want to see local, state, area, and or national championships on their CV. A CIB wouldn’t hurt either.

  28. What I never want to experience again is a weekend with a well-known instructor who, although his knowledge was vast and the material was good, was a complete s.o.b. the entire time. Being talked down to and hearing the f-bomb every single sentence, although there were several women in the class, made it a toxic weekend. When I spend over $1500 on fees, gas, hotel, food & ammo I want an atmosphere conducive to learning where I’m free to ask any questions without being made to feel like an idiot. So, instructors, respect your students as they are there to learn and have made the effort to become better trained.


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