What makes a good firearms instructor?

What makes a good firearms instructor?

     At Alaska Krav Maga & Fitness in Fairbanks, this is a topic I get asked quite frequently so I would like to address it. There are many different folks out there offering some sort of firearms training, among other things. So how do we choose a good one, spot a bad one, and get the most we can for our hard-earned dollar.


     First are credentials. This isn't the end all be all of an individual, but it may be good clue. Several firearm instructors have good training and education behind them, and this is good, however it doesn't mean that they will be a good teacher. Research their backgrounds and check references, comments from students etc.


     Second, be sure that their goals/ideals match yours. If I have a group of military folks or security contractors, I will focus on certain things involving carbine training development, small unit tactics etc. If I have Joe Q Public citizen with a concealed carry permit, I will focus more on handgun work, use of force continuum, de-escalation techniques etc. Not only does the content have to be correct but the context as well.


      Do they know their own material? How are they supposed to pass along knowledge if they don't know or believe in what they are presenting?  They should be passionate about what they do, this may sound cliché, but they need to have an active interest in what they are doing. That interest should be in passing along their knowledge, not their scars and truly be involved in your development.


     Do they take time to build a relationship with you? Folks learn differently and at different speeds. Has your instructor taken the time to know you enough to make sure that the information is being understood? I can say something to someone, and they may not completely understand. However, another instructor can say almost the same words (although slightly different and with different mechanics) and the student understands. This is ok and the goal should be for the student to understand and feel confident that you are actively interested in their development.


      Shooters v. Problem solvers: as we get older, we should be getting smarter. Shooting is easy and can be taught to anyone. Problem solving is a whole different ball game. It should be the bed rock of concealed carry education.  Not all situations are black and white. There are several factors to consider legally. Your instructor should be making you think as you are engaging in exercises. Self-defense situations are fast paced and violent, however one little detail missed can lead to legal consequences. 


     Doers v. Teachers v. Entertainers:  many can do, many can entertain, teaching however is an art form in itself. I would like to think my instructor would have mastered many aspects of their craft. It doesn't mean that they know how to pass that knowledge well or at all. Entertainers can ease the environment (especially for nervous new comers) however if they don't control it or use it in excess, students will lose faith in them. If I want to be entertained, I will surf the Internet.


      Are they clear, concise and easy to understand?  Most instructors come from one of 3 backgrounds (military, police or competition shooting) so they may have terms or jargon related to those fields.  This is part of the "know the audience" concept that most instructors should be surveying. I have had drill instructors yelling, screaming and kicking dirt on me.  Doesn't mean that is the way a mother of 2 will respond or react like I did. Remember the goal is make sure that you are learning. They are not there to lecture you or speak over you but to guide you to be the best you that you can be.


      Have they taken time to continuously learn themselves? I attend several classes a year. This keeps things fresh and keeps me moving forward. Most of us in the instructor world teach similar things. There isn't a large amount of different ideas or concepts in the firearm industry. I do need to learn how to be a good teacher. So, I try to attend instructor development courses as often as I can. Your instructor should do the same.


Train hard and smart.


Rick (AKM Staff)

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