Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Training Tips: Selecting a Trainer

Thanks to some personal experiences, observations and general internet silliness I've seen I wanted to throw some tips out there about what to look for in a trainer.  I applaud everyone who seeks out training with his or her firearms in any form.  Whether it be an experienced friend, a training center, or one of the many great trainers that are circulating around the country.  I just caution everyone to be careful about who or where they choose.  I do encourage people to always continue to get more training and education, as it will only help them get better whether it be learning what does or doesn't work for them.  There was a time in my career when I spent lots of time at the shoot house.  I always wanted to sneak my way up on the catwalk to watch other squads run through and I was always asking other folks how they would do certain things.  Some people thought I didn't know what to do, when in reality I was just always curious how everyone else went about their business.  I knew I would gather tidbits that would help me reinforce my techniques with what to do or what not to do.

Most of the courses out there are expensive.  Between the cost of the course, travel, ammunition and lodging if needed, things can get pretty pricey.  So doing your research is a necessary step.  When spending your hard earned cash, one of the more important things I would inquire about is class size.  You're going to pay good money for a trainer, so the instructor to student ratio should be low.  I would recommend a 1:10 ratio with 1:20 being the absolute maximum.  It also depends on the type of instruction going on.  For instance, a basic class may require more one to one time just getting the fundamentals down and corrected.  A more advanced class where you're working barricades or vehicles may not require as much one on one.  Correcting use of cover is a much quicker fix than working with someone on his or her grip.

Another topic is avoiding the "my way or the highway" style of training.  I've been blessed to be around some of the best shooters out there.  Not only competition guys, but guys that lives do and have depended on their abilities on many occasions.  I've always respected the trainers that would take the time to get to know the student's abilities and gauge their teaching off that.  Most of the instructors that I've seen who will try to "funnel" students into one method have little experience other than what they were initially taught.  The basic fundamentals are the same for everyone, but there are different ways to apply those fundamentals.  When working with a student, a good instructor will be able to adapt to whatever works for that particular person.  Whether that be their shooting technique or the instructors teaching methods.  When you get the trainer that insists on doing things one way, that's fine.  Just make sure that works for you and continue to see what's being taught out there so that you can gauge whether that's really it or there are other methods that may fit you better.  One example here is trigger pull/squeeze.  You will find slight differences in what several trainers teach on this topic.  There are several roads to get there, they're just not all the same.

Inquire how the instructor measures success.  Some classes tout how many rounds they fire in a weekend.  For instance, if a handgun only class fires over 800-1,000 rounds in a weekend I would be cautious depending on the instruction.  Pulling the trigger that much isn't going to do you any good unless you have a solid foundation.  I've seen folks brag about how many rounds they shot, which seems silly to me.  I would rather you shoot 20 rounds in a day rather than 200 as long as you get some solid work out of those 20.

If you're looking for a buddy to help you out, just realize that being proficient in a skill doesn't necessarily mean that person can instruct it well.  I've seen some great shooters that aren't able to effectively translate that to another person.  Most will admit it.  I on the other hand believe myself to be a really good teacher, and on some days at the range wish I could shoot as well as I could instruct.  It also takes a certain level of experience to be able to diagnose what someone is doing wrong and knowing how to fix it.

One other thing I would advise is good preparation for training.  Do your research on the equipment you'll need and be sure you're fully prepared whether you have to buy it or borrow it.  Also, unless your purpose for instruction is learning the basics....go to the range prior to the training and get some warm ups in.  Make sure you're able to bring your A game and get the most for your money.

Lastly, despite current tacti-cool trends.....a beard and tattoos does not a good instructor make.  Neither does multicam and velcro.  If you're going with someone who is supposedly a "reputable" trainer, ensure you do your research.  There are plenty of people out there claiming to be something they're not.  Along those lines, don't think you need a military or Special Forces guy to teach you marksmanship or tactics.  Plenty of folks that fall into that category need help as well.  I probably missed some good tips, so feel free to leave some comments on other things that would help those out seeking training.