Thursday, May 19, 2016

Instructor Tips For Beginners

In the movie “Black Hawk Down” there is an interesting scene. One of the Delta soldiers, SFC Norm 'Hoot' Gibson (Eric Bana) is in the chow hall in Somalia and is approached by Captain Stone (Lucious Mallfoy). Captain Stone chastises Hoot for carrying a hot weapon (loaded and on fire) and reminds him that the safety should be on. Hoot responds by curling his index finger and delivering this line, before walking off, “This is my safety, sir!”
Now I don’t advocate not using safeties. I also know that this is a scene from a movie, but to be honest, I’ve used the line myself.
Shooting instructors are all different. They come from different back grounds and disciplines. The bulk of my training as an arms instructor is from the military. There are instructors out there with law enforcement, hunting, competition, and other backgrounds. So with these differences you will find different ways of teaching. One thing I’ve learned as a shooting student, which I have always considered myself, and as an instructor, is that there are many ways of “doing it right.” Sometimes I don’t understand or agree with other ways or methods of teaching or of shooting, but I always keep an open mind. You’re never too knowledgeable or old to learn. Being stubborn or having pride closes you off to possible better ways and methods. Shooting evolves. Gear and guns change and improve. When I was younger I learned the weaver stance. The Weaver stance is a shooting technique for handguns. It was developed by Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Jack Weaver during freestyle pistol competition in Southern California during the late 1950s. This stance was adapted and taught at Jeff Cooper’s Gunsite Academy for many years. I don’t usually use this stance. I learned to instruct by Jeff Cooper but even when I was trained by him in the 80’s he did not advocate that stance anymore. Things change and we learn. Even the late Jeff Cooper, with all his experience and training, learned.
I’d like to put down on paper my thoughts about the basic shooting tips that I’ve learned and taught over the years. Most of what I will share here is related to defensive shooting. Here are 4 tips.
1. Safety
Learn and practice safety. Each range and instructor may have some variation of the following rules:
1-All guns are loaded. Treat all guns as if they are loaded whether you know they are or not.
2-Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. “Cover” means point. Don’t point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy.
3-Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. That’s where the above line “this is my safety” comes from.
4-Be sure of your target and beyond. Unlike the movies and TV, bullets often go through things and bodies. You are responsible for that round when it leaves your gun. Even if you shoot through the bad guy! You also are responsible for target identification. Never shoot at sounds or shadows. You are not in combat.
5-Never point your gun at me! This is an obviously selfish rule.
These are MY range rules. Not only should you know these rules by heart, you should practice them always. Know your instructors rules and the rules of where you shoot.
2. Mind
Remember first and foremost that shooting starts with your head and ends with your trigger finger. Your mind must assess the situation. You should have the situational awareness to see what is transpiring in front of, and all around, you. Your mind should be able to see, determine what is a threat, and know what is behind the threat, before taking a shot.
Training the mind is extremely important for operating a firearm safely, and using that firearm in the right way. Mind training will include a little “book work” such as law, and operating under high stress. Your instructor should be able to recommend reading and resources.
3. Fundamentals
Learn the basics of shooting correctly. In my opinion this would include, safety rules, grip, trigger press, and sight picture. These are the basics. There are other things but I believe if you can master these, you’ve won most of the war.
4. Practice
Many shooters are not shooters at all. They are just gun owners, or scarier, gun carriers, that took a course or two. I try to emphasize, practice often enough to teach muscle memory. Also know that practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Learn the right way to do things and practice those perfectly. It’s not so much the number of rounds down range, but the number of controlled rounds down range makes the difference. Shooting is a perishable skill.
Failure to train is training to fail.

Shooting is not a difficult skill. If you can master the few fundamentals and practice them shooting will become a skill that stays with you your entire life. Hunting, competition, and self-defense are mostly the same. Learning fundamentals and exercising them. You may never be a Jerry Miculek or Rob Leatham, but you can win that local competition, bag that deer, or be ready to defend you and yours. Shooting can be something you and your spouse may want to do together, or maybe you want to make it a family activity. Learning to shoot right can also be rewarding and may save your life.
Semper Paratus
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