The Golden Age of Self-Defense Training
The gun market is exploding. So are the options for self-defense and safety training. Firearms training has grown in availability and quality. To give you some perspective, dedicated civilian firearms training only started 40 years ago. Training and the gun culture are changing every day!
This is a bid deal. Owning a gun is now considered an ordinary activity. Over two thirds of adults want to live in neighborhoods where firearms are allowed. Roughly one out of 19 adults has a concealed carry license. Concealed carry is allowed in almost every state. One out of three homes across the US has at least one gun. Americans buy about a million guns a month.
Those are a lot of people to teach about firearms.
Firearms instruction and training really has evolved. The days are long past when someone handed you a gun and told you to go out back and teach yourself to shoot. Today we have a gun to fit each person, each purpose, and each budget. We are entering the golden age of firearms instruction that is equally wide and deep.
Instructors today know their material in depth. They take continuing education courses and most instructors have sampled a number of different training schools before they instruct. This pays real dividends for the student. First, today’s instructors have standards of professional practice to safely run a range. Second, today’s instructors have a well stocked bag of tricks. This is invaluable when the first training method doesn’t connect with the student. What works for you might not work for me. Instructors need several approaches to teach the same skill.
We talked about the people, but what about training facilities? We have multi-million dollar gun ranges that are dedicated to civilian training and shooting. These ranges are well monitored, well lit, and environmentally clean. Best of all, they are accessible to the man off the street for a few dollars an hour.
The best innovations in instruction are small and personal.
That covers the big and flashy stuff, but I think the best innovations in instruction are small and personal. Let’s hear it for electronic shooting ear muffs. Active earphones made instruction much more enjoyable for both the student and the instructor. Electronic muffs and ear plugs allow students and instructors to hear everything going on around them while providing excellent noise protection at the same time. Active muffs let the student hear the instructor without the instructor yelling in their face. (It may seem a small point, but having someone yell in your face was always irritating even if you were wearing earplugs.) These ear muffs allow a student to relax and know he is will hear the instructor and range safety officer. Active muffs also allow the instructor to run a safer range.
That is only the beginning. Our elementary school classrooms replaced the mimeograph machine with the PowerPoint projector and wide screen display. Firearms instruction changed as well. Today, any instructor can teach with engaging materials. Compared to the other changes, the changes in audio-visual materials are almost trivial.
This is where instruction enters the information age. Firearms training has gone beyond a canned PowerPoint presentation with one-size-fits-all instruction. Today, an experienced instructor can customize the course materials and training exercises for different classes. You have a different relationship with a gun if you’re a new student or old shot. Even if the entire class has the same experience level, a group of students have different interests if they are teachers, pilots, taxi drivers or home school moms. We are close to having massive open online courses for firearms instruction.. and that is a very good thing. Customized training is now commonplace rather than being the exceptional service only offered to the rich. The evidence is right in our pocket.
Today our cell phone can become a shot timer by downloading a free app. Many instructors take video with their cell phone to show student what they are doing right and wrong. Only a few years ago, that same training experience required expensive and dedicated high-speed cameras. In addition, most instructors have their own inert firearm models (red guns) dedicated for instruction.
The tools of instruction have gotten cheaper and the learning experience has gotten richer for the student.
Most instructors also have a laser simulator pistol. (So do many dedicated students!) These training aids let the student practice grip, trigger control, sight alignment and trigger reset. They give the student instant feedback about the fundamentals of sighted and unsighted fire without a small explosion going off inches from the student’s face. Today we can record and grade a simulated firing exercise on our lap top. These new tools have done as much for shooting as flight simulators have done for pilot training!
You are right that a training aid isn’t a live weapon. Often the simulated tools are better! Just like at the gym, customized exercises let us focus on specific aspects of shooting. The well stocked tool bag could include air-soft guns, laser simulators, pellet guns, suppressed 22s, and guns with laser and reflex sights. I’ve never seen an instructor bring all that to a class, but each tool has its place. In combination, they allow students to learn faster.
There is a down side. Sure, we ask people to take training. The down side is we couldn’t handle the demand if shooters really listened to that good advice. Every instructor would have to teach every weekend if only one gun owner out of ten took one a class this year. We simply don’t have the instructors ready to teach the other 90 percent of gun owners.
The solution is simple. Take a new shooter to the range.. and take a class with them. Maybe you should become instructors.