I receive much of my firearms training through KR Training. After obtaining my NRA Instructors Certification, I figured I ought to get some “internship” experience, so on March 7th I volunteered to assist with classes. There were three classes being held: first was Basic Pistol 1, then Defensive Pistol Skills, and finally AT-1A Low Light Shooting. I’ve taken all of these classes as a student, but yesterday was my first time as an instructor. It’s certainly different being on “the other side”, and not just in the obvious “not a student but a teacher” sort of way.
What I’d like to talk about tho are not just my personal impressions and feeling from during and after the day’s events, but also some tips for folks that take classes (at KR Training or anywhere, and not even just firearms) and how they can get the most out of the classes.
First, let me state that overall the classes weren’t too bad. The students were of a wide variety: men and women, young and old, racially diverse, various walks of life (I say this for those that believe gun folks are only white male rednecks), and certainly different levels of knowledge, skills, and experience. People came to learn, and I’d like to believe they walked out of there all a little smarter and a little wiser. Hopefully they’ll take whatever they got from the courses they took and practice those skills, work to master them, and then come back for further training. Learning never stops.
Before you come to class, make sure you know what gear you need for the class. If the class description talks about drawing from a holster, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll need a holster. If it’s talking about drawing from concealment, it’s reasonable to assume the holster ought to be one that can be concealed. You also should make sure you have a way to conceal (e.g. large shirt, vest, coat, etc.). If you have a concealed handgun license and are coming to work more within that paradigm, it’s best to come equiped and dressed in the manner in which you carry. If you’re not sure what’s right or if what you have is right or if you need to get something else, ask well before the class starts (maybe when you first sign up). Certainly class time can be used to help you learn about gear and such things, and likely you will learn through your own choices, what the instructor teaches, observing the gear of others and how well it works for them, and so on. But if class time has to be taken to get gear right, that takes time away from the class, which is time away from you learning about other things.
If you must obtain (new) gear prior to the start of class, ensure you are familiar with it and that it’s set up and working right for you before you come to class. This would include your firearm. Ensure it’s running and working well and you know how to operate it. This of course doesn’t hold for beginner classes, like Basic Pistol 1. But if you’re beyond BP1 then you likely own your own gun and some gear to go with it, thus you’ll be better served if you know how to use it correctly. All firearms and most all gear come with some sort of instruction manual — read it. If it didn’t come with one, contact the manufacturer and ask for one, then read it.
Class is certainly an appropriate place to learn about gear, and you may even find that your choice of gear isn’t working out. If this is the case, don’t consider it an ego-blow but a learning experience. I mean, if you’re coming to these classes to learn how to use a firearm to defend your life, while yes equipment is last on the priorities of survival, it’s still important. Don’t use crappy gear. Be willing to seek out good gear. If the instructor is opinionated about what gear is good and what isn’t good, realize that there’s a lot of experience and knowledge behind that. For me, just watching the wide variety of guns at the various classes I’ve attended and seeing how many “fancy” guns just don’t run well, jam, malfunction, slow down the class, cause problems, inhibit the operator from learning (well, they learn something just not necessarily the class curriculum)…. realize that the instructor knowledge on gear tends to be informed.
Take time to do your homework before class. Ask questions of those who know.
Hopefully you brought lots of magazines and something to carry them in on the line (e.g. magazine holsters). If you’re not on the line, be refilling those magazines. Filling magazines was the single most time-consuming part of class, so the more you use your downtime to keep magazines filled, the less overall downtime there is, the more time for learning useful stuff.
Take it slow and easy. You’re going to have nerves. I remember how nervous I was when I took these classes, and I saw numerous people that were nervous. Realize it’s natural, you’re not the only one, and if you’re nervous that’s generally a good sign because it likely means that you care about your performance and want to do well. But don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Yes, often the drills need to be run fast, but don’t run so fast that speed is your primary concern. You’re here to learn new things, no one expects you to be mastering those drills right out the gate. Go faster than a snail’s pace, but don’t just go for blazing speed. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Work to be smooth, even if you only go 75% speed. Work to be correct and learn the techniques correctly. Speed will come later.
There will be information overload. If you want to bring a little notepad and pen to keep in your back pocket to jot brief notes down, feel free to do this if it helps you retain information. Do check with the range officer(s) before you do this, in case there might be any safety policy to mind. Don’t worry if you forget something. You’ll retain more than you think, and if on the drive home you go over it in your head, if you get up the next day and practice and run through it, and work on it all in the days following, that will help with retention. If you forget something or aren’t clear, drop an email to the instructors and ask. And nothing says you can’t take the class again if you think that would help.
For me, this was the biggest thing. I’ve never had a loaded gun pointed at me so many times. It’s an experience. No one did it out of malice, it was usually out of a lack of awareness, a brief lapse, or flat out negligence. Now the total beginners you can’t blame because they don’t know any better — they are beginners, they are learning. But anyone else….
The only time your gun should be out and/or your hands touching it is because an instructor called you up to the line and told you to do so. Otherwise, the gun should remain in whatever safe manner and location, e.g. a holster.
I don’t care what version of gun safety rules you want to follow, such as Jeff Cooper’s:
- All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. For those that insist this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60% of inadvertent discharges.
- Identify your target and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything you have not postively identified.
Or the NRA’s version:
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
I don’t care which is your mantra, make it your mantra. Anyone can pick up a gun and shoot it, but what separates the skilled gun handler from the rest is what they do when they are not shooting. It’s that “off the line” gun handling skill that will take you further. I mean, all the “tacti-cool” knowledge in the world doesn’t mean squat if you end up shooting someone innocent (including yourself) due to negligent gun handling.
Overall, I enjoyed the day. I’ve come to realize one of my gifts is teaching, so this works well for me. I’ll be back… both as a teacher, and a student.
Updated: A gun safety rant.