By: James Yeager
I would like to pass along some information that might make your tuition at your next firearms training class go further. This is directed toward tactical training but will most likely apply to other areas of instruction as well. The motivation for this article is watching students go through the same evolution as I did and wishing they didn’t have to climb the same costly, time consuming, frustrating, ladder.
I remember my very first training class. It was very exciting and a little scary. Who were the other pistoleros? Would they laugh at me? Would they be safe? I wondered how complete the school equipment list would be and if I should have brought other things. I asked myself several times “Am I good enough to even take this course?” There were many things going through my mind as the class began.
I know now that many first time students think that same thing prior to signing up. Many have even confided in me they had to work the courage up to even ask about taking the class. I have also found the opposite to be true in some cases. I have seen many people who think that professional training has nothing to offer them.
My first class, like with many other students, held the highest amount of information I would ever take from one lesson. Why? Because shooting isn't too complex and after you get the fundamentals and technique there isn't a lot left. No matter how "high speed" a class is advertised as it is still applying all of those basic things you learned at the first class.
I have been instructing for a while now (since 1996) and I still take multiple classes each year to keep up with the current "high speed" techniques, which as I said, aren't that new or that high speed. I like shooting and training or I wouldn’t be in this business. Being an Instructor has made me a better student. I have learned from the other side of the firing line what makes a class flow more smoothly. I am going to give you my opinions on what will make you learn more in a training environment and get the most for your money.
The Golden Rule is to have an OPEN MIND. Go to every class with the opinion you know nothing. Push all of your previous training to the side and do the class EXACTLY like the Instructor tells you. Even if the Instructor tells you to do something that is alien or never worked for you in the past. I was taught the isosceles stance four times before I realized it is the best for me. I paid money and then didn’t listen. I now look back at all of the money I wasted on training before I learned this concept. If you can’t honestly receive instruction with an open mind save your money and stay home.
Another problem for shooters with self confidence issues is changing techniques mid-class. The fact is that your groups might open up as you work to perfect the new method. This is a natural thing but 99.9% of us won't do it because we don't want to look bad in front of the other Ninjas. So we keep on pluggin' away with our inferior methods because they “feel better”. If you change the way you shoot you will most likely have a short period of feeling awkward about the new technique. Classes are not competitions. Stay with the new method a while before you give up on it. It just might pay off.
Nobody wants to take a “basic” level class. Everyone wants an "advanced" class because they are above anything else. I hate to be the one who breaks it to you but they are all pretty much the same. Sure advanced classes are different but not too much.
Take basic classes. They contain a lot of very good information. I have taken many basic classes and I learned a lot from every single one of them. I have found that less than 10% of shooters have a firm grasp on shooting fundamentals and yet 90% think they shouldn’t be demoted to anything less than an advanced class. That means there is a 9 out of 10 chance you are that guy. Don't turn your nose up at lower level classes.
If you think you know more than the instructor I advise you to keep quiet. It is his class and if you want to teach you should start your own school. I did. What you shouldn't do is interrupt him; it is disruptive to the entire class. If you have a valid point to make wait for a break in the lecture, he will want to hear it. Please don't tutor other students. They didn’t pay to hear your opinions.
After you take a class you must practice the things you learned. Getting new skills at a class and practicing is kind of like buying a new car and making payments. After you make enough payments the car is yours. If you do your dry practice weapons manipulations and go to the range and "make payments" enough times the new skills will be yours. Skip a few payments and they get repossessed. I have taken many classes with guys who take training all of the time. At the beginning of every class they have to be shown the basics of how to shoot and they slow the class down. Take time between classes and ingrain those new techniques. IDPA and IPSC are great places to build skill and confidence.
No matter how good your favorite school may be you have to train at different places. If your school tells you to never do "this" go find a school that says to always do it. Go to as many different types of learning environments as possible. Go to schools run by ex-military, police, champion shooters and learn something from all the different outlooks to be well rounded. Most schools sell more pistol classes than all others combined. Learn to use those long guns, hands, knives and other tools too.
Show up for class on time and be prepared to stay. I have been to schools that you "trained" 5 hours out of the 8 and yet others where you where begging for a break. Things you are likely to need are an open mind, good firearms, lunch, quality ammo (this is not to time to skimp), a quality holster and magazine pouch, plenty of preloaded magazines, wrap around eye protection, hearing protection (electronic if possible), weather appropriate clothing, hat with brim, sun block, bug spray, knee and elbow pads (?), plenty of drinking water (Camelbak is my recommendation), and finally pen and paper for notes. Pack any needed medications in your bag. It is perfectly acceptable to call the school ahead of time and get advice on the needed gear for the class if it is not listed or is vague on their website. Many times this can save you from buying too much gear, or worse, the wrong gear.
Get plenty of sleep, don’t get drunk the night before class, and come to learn with an open mind and you will get the most for your training dollar!