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Old December 12, 2012, 02:24 PM   #1
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What do you look for in an instructor?

I recently posted an article on the Cornered Cat website about becoming a firearms instructor. You can read the article here:

How to Become a Firearms Instructor

An excerpt, to whet your appetite (read the whole thing!):

The weaknesses of the certification process should seem equally obvious. One brief class cannot possibly give you enough information or experience to become a good instructor on your own. A short weekend (or even a long one) cannot and does not give you the tools you need to develop your own material from sources you yourself understand thoroughly. This is true no matter who offers that piece of paper, and no matter which school or franchise backs it up, or how many years they’ve been doing it. Within such a limited time and constrained format, one class simply cannot provide enough breadth and depth to make those things happen.
In that article, I suggested that a professional defensive firearms instructor should have the equivalent of a college degree in firearms training & use.

I'm posting here looking for a little more feedback. What's your take on this? What do you think are the minimum standards a truly professional defensive firearms instructor should meet?

Kathy Jackson
My personal website: Cornered Cat
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Old December 12, 2012, 08:14 PM   #2
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I tend to favor instructors with some sort of practical experience in what they are teaching, who are well read on the topic, who have attended other instructor's courses, and who can teach in a practical and reasoned manner (e.g. have the understanding of the system and limitations from which they teach). Usually, you only get that through doing some research on the instructor and reviews of their courses.

From the apprentice/certificate lense, I'd like to see someone who was an apprentice and has certificates from outside sources.
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Old December 12, 2012, 08:17 PM   #3
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I think that the most important attribute outside of knowledge of firearms and their employment is patience. The second is calmness.

The major disqualifying attribute is the MACHO attitude which was adopted by most of the instructors which I have met and rejected when searching for an instructor for myself and my wife.
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Old December 13, 2012, 04:08 AM   #4
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Im 100% on Itc

Patience and Calmness - nothing demolishes learning faster than an uptight high strung loud instructor. A good instructor can instill discipline and attention to detail without acting like an ass.

I also need them to have a background just not in the immediate task at hand but well versed in background knowledge - If they arent a Subject Matter Expert (SME) and a student trips him up then not only does he lose credibility the program loses credibility.

And...... They have to be able to perform the task that they are requiring of the student. During the course of instruction I require they demonstrate live fire prior to the students doing the task. Whether it is to engage a target at ten meters SAF or shooting and moving in depth with multiple targets

If they cant do the task then they don't teach live fire - period - they can do didactic in the classroom if that the case.
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Old December 13, 2012, 07:26 PM   #5
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[QUOTE] The weaknesses of the certification process should seem equally obvious. One brief class cannot possibly give you enough information or experience to become a good instructor on your own. A short weekend (or even a long one) cannot and does not give you the tools you need to develop your own material from sources you yourself understand thoroughly. This is true no matter who offers that piece of paper, and no matter which school or franchise backs it up, or how many years they’ve been doing it. Within such a limited time and constrained format, one class simply cannot provide enough breadth and depth to make those things happen. [QUOTE]

I don't have answers, but do have an "Amen" for your observation.

We have a few NRA Trainers in my state who actively solicit students with a promise that they can become NRA-Certified Instructors in a single weekend. And in our state, that's all that's required to teach Concealed Handgun Permit classes (meaning you are supposed to have a solid understanding of lethal force statutes, along with the requisite shooting/teaching expertise).

The "problem" is that these instructors walk out of their weekend sessions convinced that they have just been evaluated and deemed fully qualified. I'm sure some are qualified. But I'm pretty sure many are not.

In my state there is no "apprenticeship" program whereby "new" instructors teach under the guidance of "experienced" instructors. This results in an amazing spectrum of conflicting information being taught.

On the other hand, some states require zero training for open or concealed carry. So maybe we don't have it so bad after all.
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Old December 13, 2012, 08:57 PM   #6
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I look for an instructor who can provide student references/evaluations. I also look for one who details specifically what they intend to teach. If I want to learn to shoot well then I want a shooting class, not a gunfighting class. On the other hand if I want to learn to fight with a pistol then that would be another story. Then I want an instructor with proven credentials specific to that activity...not theory.

An instructor must be able to "teach" not just "present" material. Many people have the knowledge and technical ability required but are unable to teach effectively. A good instructor has to be able to put themselves in the student's shoes and figure out a way to impart the required knowledge to them as an individual. What works for some may not work for others and the instructor has to be able to adapt and bring that student up to speed.

Many ex-military instructors try to teach civilians with the same harsh, intimidating style they used with soldiers. I personally think this is a mistake and few people are willing to pay moderate to large amounts of money to be denegrated by an A type drill instructor.

Granted there are times when the instructor may have to exert control with a student who is getting out of hand but this is much easier to do if the rest of the class has been presented in a calm, even demeanor. This makes the rare instance of necessary "roughness" by the instructor stand out as something different that requires an immediate adjustment by the student.

Certifications, while helpful and nice to have, don't tell me much more about an instructor's ability to teach...only that they attended a class and passed it. I instruct. I don't teach gunfighting because I've never had to fight anything except targets in competition...challenging though they may be, they are just targets. I teach defensive shooting skills and had instructor certifications from several sources in the past. It became too cumbersome, for several reasons, to keep all the certifications current but I'm still the same instructor I was when I had them. I proudly provide references for prospective students and ask for evaluations after every class even though I don't teach for a fee any more and only teach friends, family and interested club members these days...age is starting to slow me down
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Old December 13, 2012, 09:53 PM   #7
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The downside of references is that it doesn't tell you how much the references know-- you can get a good reference from someone who had a good time.

I don't think any amount of education will make a good instructor.

The NRA's certification system reminds me of a Ponzi scheme without the benefit for first tier investments.

One of the drawbacks of a class-based instructor education system is that it has the capacity to produce firearms instructors who can't shoot.

For my money, I'd say that firearms instruction is a skill and a trade, and can only reasonably be taught as such.

So I'd advocate an apprenticeship, and I'd say four to five years.
"Huh?" --Jammer Six, 1998
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Old December 13, 2012, 10:19 PM   #8
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--Experience/Resume/Qualifications (documented, and this would include reputation)
--Skill/Ability to transfer knowledge (demonstrated)
--Integrity and Modesty (more difficult to quantify, but if you have some experience and ability to evaluate people...not all that difficult to recognize)
--Patience (demonstrated)

The ability to instruct is a special skill, and somewhat transcendant...if you are a good instructor pilot and a competent shooter, you will probably be a better-than-average firearms instructor. If you have a decent grasp of algebra and Plane Geometry, you will be a pretty good Math teacher, even if you have never stepped inside a classroom (other than as a student).

All those people who say that "those that can, do...and those that can't, teach"? I am not a teacher or instructor of any kind, except in the most informal definition of the word...but I have known a bunch of individuals who were excellent "do-ers" and at the same time, very competent instructors.
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Old December 13, 2012, 10:34 PM   #9
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Largely agree with what has already been posted.

I'll add a few cents to the thread.

A firearms insutructor should have education, experience and training on the subject matter he is teaching. Meaning, a war hardened vet has not really gained any experience at carrying concealled. Nor has he had to operate as an individual (most of the time). Likewise, someone who has not seen combat should not be teaching assualt tactics.

Next, the instructor should be a teacher. A good teacher evaluates the student to determine their method of learning. Identifies fears, hesitation and lack of attention that might be a liability. A good teacher understands the human/firearm interaction and has the tools to bring about the proper techniques. Some of the best shooters can not teach.

The instructor must have a passion for the subject and a deep care for the student. The VAST majority have a deep care for the $. Coupled here is that the instructor is a lifelong student. Learning from others, changes in teachnology and techniques.
Good Shooting, MarkCO
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Old December 15, 2012, 01:05 PM   #10
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So simple, yet so complex...

I think the main thing I look for in an instructor is solid self confidence, without even a trace of arrogance.

I want an instructor who knows how to teach a physical skillset, and that can be a lot to ask. Any number of people can teach an academic subject where all they have to do is stand and deliver information at the head of a classroom. On the flat range that won't work. A good instructor can demonstrate whatever skill is being taught, can do it left handed, right handed, with any make or model of firearm likely to show up on the line, and can show alternatives that will work for shooters whose handicaps prevent them from doing it the normal way.

A good instructor is totally observant always puts safety first.

A good instructor is a consummate diagnostician, who can see where a given student's problems arise, and can quickly offer multiple practical fixes.

If an instructor has a "my way or the highway" attitude, I'll take the highway.

A good instructor knows that the fundamentals come first, and that an expert is one who always performs the fundamentals well.

A good instructor has a sense of humor.

A good instructor understands pressure and its effects on students, and knows how to build pressure gradually on the flat range as students progress by adding ever more demanding drills.

I spent the biggest part of my professional career working in the schoolhouse where Special Forces soldiers are trained. The first thing that happened when I went to work there - at least it was way back when - was that you were sent to ITC, the Instructor Training Course. You got taught how to teach the Army way. "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em." Every one of us had that in common no matter where we came from or what we were doing.

What I learned over the years as I worked there was what a deep mastery of both the skill at hand as well as the art of successfully teaching a practical skill could do. Imagine a successful Special Forces soldier, who is (well, was anyway) essentially nothing but a glorified schoolteacher. Imagine that soldier spending 20 years or so doing the job at increasingly higher rank with increasing responsibility. Then consider that soldier retiring and going back to work as a civilian instructor, teaching new generations of SF soldiers that skill - for another 20 years. That's the depth of mastery of both the subject and the art of teaching I got to witness first hand for over a decade. Not just in small arms but commo, engineering/demo, field medicine, intel, HALO, language and everything else.

NOT to say that it takes 40 years to get to be a decent instructor - but it DOES take time. And the most impressive thing I saw with SF soldiers was their ability to be either 100% teacher or 100% student, and to transition between the two at the drop of a hat as circumstances required. Any good instructor is first and foremost a perpetual student. No one ever knows it all, and as one of my personal favorite instructors says, "The state of the art is a moving target."

Mindset - Skillset - Toolset. In that order!

Attitude and skill will get you through times of no gear, better than gear will get you through times of no attitude and no skill.
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Old December 16, 2012, 10:22 AM   #11
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Closed because of set of totally irrelevant posts.

Pax will review.

NRA, TSRA, IDPA, NTI, Polite Soc. - Aux Armes, Citoyens
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