Confessions of a training instructor

We have all been in class with “That Guy.” Admit it: odds are you have likely been “That Guy” at some point in your career. There are as many types of “That Guy” as there are people: the guy who shows up to class without the right equipment...

We have all been in class with “That Guy.” Admit it: odds are you have likely been “That Guy” at some point in your career. There are as many types of “That Guy” as there are people: the guy who shows up to class without the right equipment, inferior ammo that fails to function, inferior equipment that he swears is “just as good,” and the guy that knows everything about everything and wants to argue with the instructor. Worse is the other version — the guy who doesn’t have a backbone and changes opinions with the wind. I have learned to accept and work around “That Guy.” But what if the instructor is “That Guy”?

Every good instructor lives in fear of being “That Guy,” worrying that he or she has misinstructed on something in the program that results in a student or bystander getting hurt. When small, bad things creep into a program, they are usually brought about by a desire for efficiency, as a result of ignorance or comfort, or due to ego. Let’s take a look at examples of each.

Efficiency can be brought about by good intentions. I’ll share with you how I screwed up in the name of efficiency. One day at my former agency one of my deputies and I were having lunch. About a year prior she had been involved in a shooting that included her trainee and ultimately ended in a SWAT call out. As we were sitting there, she decided to talk to me about it. Her trainee went to the front door of the house, the bad guy came out with a weapon, she drew and fired one round and then decocked and holstered her handgun. She realized then that her gun was no longer in her hand and had to draw again.

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as soon as she said it. I knew why she did that ... it was because of me. You see, we only had our deputies at the range for a limited amount of time. I wanted to get as much training done in the time I had. So, for example, when doing failure drills I would call the course of fire, give an up command and as soon as they had completed the course, I did not put enough emphasis on completing a good scan and taking time to holster up. I pushed them to get ready for the next drill. I was focused on drawing and shooting — not on finishing the fight. I had failed them.

I called for a meeting with the rest of the range staff and fell on the sword. Once the issue was in the open we found that I was not the only one who had failed in this regard. We immediately made changes to our program to rectify our deficiency. Thank God no one was ever hurt because of this, but I know range masters who cannot say the same. Time constraints or keeping a clean range are no excuse for teaching your troops bad habits.

Old faithful

Being ignorant regarding your subject matter, or staying stuck due to comfort can lead to problems in training programs. I once worked with a range master who introduced himself as a Tactical firearms instructor. If you knew him you would know he was a great guy, but there was nothing tactical about him. He had stopped learning a decade ago. Even after being sent to an outstanding instructor class he returned and continued teaching the same old things. It became an issue with our troops who naturally compared range masters and realized they were no longer progressing under his instruction.

His problem was ignorance. He was ignorant to the fact that he had become outdated, and his teaching techniques, tactics and procedures were no longer in line with the way things were done. His interests in shooting were no longer complementary to law enforcement, and he only gave lip service to the issue. I have met several instructors who fall into this same category. Some are lazy and some just don’t want to step out of their comfort zone. New range masters have this issue but they grow out of it. This is why I encourage my shooters to train with a wide variety of known tier one instructors to get a foundation and knowledge base, so they can evaluate other instructors and their programs.

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