A training program is different than training…
As a firearms instructor I consider myself a mentor or guide and I believe a great amount of thought should go into creating and implementing a firearms training course. If you are an experienced shooter or an instructor, the ability to shoot is not often the problem. Sharing your experience or knowledge often is. It is not just the physical action of shooting, but the organization, logistics, safety and small details required to successfully run a course. Setting up drills is easy. My intent is to provide you some guidance on how to begin and what subjects you need to consider. If you look online for how to build a firearms training course, you will see a plethora of “courses of fire”, drills or target schemes and little or nothing on why, how and if you should set it up. The targets are a training aid and not the focus of instruction. Four main points should be considered to provide a well-organized class or range day. Use this as a guide and starting point.
First you need to understand and be proficient in the subject. You must be able to explain information and answer questions about the skills you are teaching, as well as properly demonstrate them. Especially with firearms, instructors are expected to show that they are capable of executing the skills. If you are afraid to demonstrate a drill because you may “mess up” then you may be missing more than just the target. I personally have messed up more than once on a demonstration. I do not set the conditions in my favor to make myself look good. I demonstrate exactly what I want them to do. I explain to the students that even after 25 years I still have a bad day and they will to. Practice beforehand if you are new to teaching so nervousness does not get the better of you. If you screw up, own it. Do not make excuses. Study the material the night before, research and make sure your information, technique or skill is up to date. I will cover a few teaching points later on in detail.
You need to understand what the firearms training course is for. Define its scope and objectives. Set up a lesson plan with distinct goals. Who is the intended audience? Are the students’ beginner shooters, experienced law enforcement, military or competitors? Build a timeline that is realistic and allows you time for breaks and questions. Many times instructors start off with a large elaborate plan with too many training objectives and the point of the class itself gets lost in the process. Having a well thought out timeline allows you to pace the training objectives. I am a firm believer that keeping to the basics and practicing over and over fosters a client who can adapt to new situations quickly.
Third, make sure you coordinate the training area. Make sure that the range facility can support your plan, targets and angles of fire. How does your course of fire affect other shooting bays? Believe it or not, many instructors seem to think bullets magically stop once they go near a target, and have little knowledge of ballistics. A 9mm round can travel a mile under the right conditions and a .223 round twice that. If your range does not have strict regulations and lateral limits posted, then coordinate with the facilities Range Safety Officer (RSO) or Range Master and other shooting bays before going live. You, as a firearms instructor/RSO should ensure your evolution is safe as well as confirm that the training facility can support your objectives. If you can organize for other staff members to set up the range while you teach a class, even better. Having the clients stand around unoccupied while you set up targets or training aids wastes time and makes you seem un-organized. Additionally, not much can start the day off bad if the classroom is not set up or your computer is not working. Give yourself extra time before class to set up your computer, dry erase board or other teaching aids. Always wait on the clients rather than have them waiting on you. Create a checklist with all required equipment, a range set up schematic and outline to refer too. Know what materials you need prior and have them available or order them.
Fourth, You need to have a well thought out safety plan and range safety brief. I have attended too many competitions with short, quick, very general safety briefs. Even worse half the competitors are barely paying attention and more concerned with getting ready. I always read the printed safety brief verbatim at the start of each live fire training day, period. No one out ranks “Captain Safety” and bad things do happen, so having a plan is a necessity. Have a first aid kit appropriate to deal with potential injuries, as well as minor cuts and scrapes. Have trained medical staff on hand and an emergency action plan in place. Take the extra 5 minutes and do it right, include everyone who will be on the range and ensure you brief any stragglers or late additions. Do not assume experienced shooters cannot make mistakes. Your clients should not feel like they are being treated as novices, but that you care about all their safety. Make sure that all staff as well as clients know what to do in the case of emergency.
Some tips below may help you in building your own firearms training course:
– Always have a “what’s in it for me”. Explain what the student is supposed to learn and why.
– Explain the concept, demonstrate it and have them practice, and then do it.
– No more than 1 hour of lecture with out a 5 minute break and keep lecture time down to the least amount possible, keep “Death by Power Point “ to a minimum.
– Keep explanations short and to the point on the firing line, I am terrible at this as I love explaining things, so if your long winded, you better at least be entertaining!
– Know when you have reached a point of diminishing returns. Sometimes more is better and sometimes more is just more.
– Greet each student and remember their name, have them express their goals and expectations for the training.
– Provide meaningful input on their progress and have them provide an evaluation of your performance.
– Break down the critical skill you are teaching (Trigger control, Manipulation, etc.) and teach that to the audience.
– Set realistic goals for that skill and who need to apply it.
– Keep it simple.
– Make sure that your training aids and target scheme support your drill.
– Be realistic with your time line and do not over load the clients with drills.
– How does the drill itself support or demonstrate the critical skill?
– How many rounds are required to learn the skill?
– What targets are required to learn the skill?
– Does the targetry require rehearsal to function? (Movers, turners)
– What other training aids do you need, such as timers or safety cones?
– Does the targets or drill meet the range safety requirements?
– Always practice the course of fire yourself, make sure there is a purpose and not just “cool”. Make sure your students can accomplish the task.
– Know the minimum safe distance for steel targets.
– The NRA has many courses of fire, lesson plans and outlines already made, and are a great place to start if you don’t want to start from scratch. Vet online or YouTube drills a bit before you incorporate them, and ensure you can do, and understand the point of the drill before you teach it. Save drills or classes you have taken from other courses, but ensure they are appropriate the level of client.
– If you think you have an idea in the shooting community that is original, you probably haven’t done enough research. More then likely someone in the industry not only tried it, they probably wrote a article or a book on it – and you can leverage those experiences for free!
– Research what your teaching! Learn who has done it before, why and how the basics became the basics.
– Always be a student of what you are teaching, you are never too good to learn something new.
With some good preparation, a little practice, research and a good plan, you can build and host your own firearms training course. You are teaching a valuable and relevant skill to people who may need it to defend themselves. You may be the first introduction to firearms training for some, and instilling good habits and a life long respect for safety will positively affect the training community.
~ Aegis Academy Staff
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