Friday, July 16, 2010

Seeking training?

There's a good article at Pistol-Training.com on getting started in formal firearms training. It covers a variety of topics, such as deciding what your goals are, and has some especially good pointers on selecting instructors.

One point is made regarding class reviews (often called "After Action Reports" online, as though a pistol class were some kind of real-life shootout) from other students:
There is, however, a catch: Whenever you are reading an AAR, be aware that trainers and companies understand the potential marketing value of AAR’s, so don’t necessarily take the AAR at face value. Beware the guy who seems to have trained primarily with one particular trainer or school, as he might be more of a groupie than a customer. The most useful reviews are generally produced by individuals who have a significant training background with a number of different instructors, especially armed professionals who have been at it a while.
Beware the man with one trainer, as he has probably been successfully marketed to.

Just like the conventional punchy-kicky martial arts, there is a tremendous amount of fanboyism and testosterone-by-association in the shooty martial arts. ("Sensei Kliklikbang is an absolute badass, and because I took classes from him, so am I. Wouldn't you like to be a badass, too?")

Additionally, some instructors have rabid cult followings, and many seem to actively encourage this, since it is, at the end of the day, a business, and loyal fanboys are not only repeat customers but also evangelical word-of-mouth advertisements.

Just because an instructor has, or even encourages, groupies doesn't mean they're necessarily a bad instructor, but it's important to take the breadth of someone's training resume into account when reading yet another "my sensei can beat your sensei up" review on the internet.

One immediate turn-off to me is an instructor who has the One True System©®™ and actively discourages pupils from seeking training with other schools or constantly trash-talks other instructors. That's a big ol' red flag in my eyes: It tells me that his business model or his cult of personality is more important to him than is seeing his students become better shooters.

18 comments:

aczarnowski said...

My problem with finding training is instructor calendars. Short of visiting umpteen, usually very bad and usually very sparse, web site calendars every day how does one know a class is even in the area?

And when I do get around to visiting the umpteen websites I invariably discover they were in my neighborhood last week for a last minute class that filled up in about 30 seconds.

I need one of those AI search programs that are ubiquitous in the movies and TV that just work away reading JPEGs of the papers scrolling by like a screen saver. You know, the ones that don't exist yet.

Tam said...

Here in central Indiana we have Sheriff Ken Campbell, who is a national training treasure: He puts out an email list with the schedule of the instructors that will be teaching at his range.

Boat Guy said...

Quite agree about taking AAR's with a grain o'salt, though I've been pretty effusive (I think) about Clint Smith on many fora. Effusive as in "This is the guy I trust to train my Bride."
Been to several other schools (including "old" or "Orange" Gunsite in my day) - I will say that we're investing the time and money to go back to Thunder Ranch.
There are lesser-known treasures like your Sheriff as well as some better-known less-than-treasures; Caveat Emptor

Anonymous said...

"as though a pistol class were some kind of real-life shootout"

That's carbine classes, not pistol.

There is a distinction between instructors and teachers. I have run across two teachers and a host of instructors.

It is important to understand the difference while on your training path.

Shootin' Buddy

EgregiousCharles said...

One reason for instructors to encourage fanboyism is that it helps to learn; it's hard to put in the time and concentration unless you think what you're learning is great.

Anonymous said...

Marketing did you say? Dr. Pizza has no equal.

Anyone else here on the receiving end of FrontSight's relentless barrage of last-chance just-foreclosed never-again free-gun today-only unlimited-lifetime offers? Nothing, including ripping off Marko's essay, is too cheesy for this pizza.

My question is, has anyone here actually used the services of this PR machine? Because it's just so damn funny that I can't really tell if the whole operation is for real or some kind of joke.

One thing for sure, though. Take a look at the montage of pictures of the good doc on his website and tell me Will Ferrell wouldn't be perfect to play Dr. P as the nine kinds of master weapons ninja warrior that I'm sure he really is.

AT

Jinglish said...

AT: I don't buy any of Iggy's bull, but I have an uncle who does. He got a couple of free mini-memberships to give away with his, and he gave one to me, so I've attended a couple of handgun courses. Despite the horribly irritating marketing, the training is actually pretty good, although I can't compare it to that of other schools as I haven't attended any. The instructors were good (our rangemaster was great, and the TA's were a Vegas security officer and a guy who's been an NRA-certified instructor since he was eleven), and I learned a lot.

AM said...

Master of Four Weapons?

Close Combat Tactics?

Just go to an appleseed. It's a great base for any further training. You can't drill the basics enough, cause if you practice the simple things hard, the hard things become simple.

Will said...

AT,

Yeah, the marketing blitz is a bit overwhelming, but he trains a hell of a lot of students. It's pretty amazing to take a class, and see 400+ students at one time. Plus, they never cancel a class, no matter how few students may have signed up for a particular one. When you see trainers cancel a class due to insufficient student attendance, that can be a real deciding factor in where you train. At their first 4 day class, there was 28 handgun, 2 shotgun, and 1 rifle students. When I took a rifle class, there were 4 of us. My shotgun class had 2.

I sent a friends fiancée to the first class they held, a two day affair. Couldn't talk her into going to the four day. I think they had 10 students, and maybe half were assistants standing in as students to fine tune the training syllabus. Anyway, she came back raving about the training, and lamenting that she had not done the 4 day, as she had enjoyed it so much. She took my friends' Officers .45, but didn't like it, so Chuck Taylor loaned her his Glock 23 for the balance of the class.

Regarding class reviews by students who have multiple schools under their belts:
I attended that first 4 day class, in the handgun group. Turns out my friend and I were the only ones that had not attended other schools (he was former Army and current Air Force). And there was a female SF cop who only had the academy training. Last day, at lunch, someone asked if anyone had trained at other schools. A virtual roll call of all the schools/trainers I had seen mentioned in the gun magazines was tossed out by the others. So, someone asked where would they be training in the future? They ALL responded: right here! I took that as a vote of confidence in the training.

Will said...

BTW, that is an excellent primer on how to navigate the confusing world of gun training. It would make a good handout sheet for those thinking about doing it.

Tam said...

AM,

"Just go to an appleseed."

Not sure that learning how to use a loop sling and finding my natural point of aim is all that relevant to repelling boarders with a pistol at <5 yards.

Horses for courses, and so forth. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Will. Yeah, I was being a little tongue in cheek there...I know FrontSight is real and pretty big; I just think Piazza's persona and the huckster marketing give the whole outfit an air of Crazy Al's Giant Discount Appliance Warehouse, though I'm sure the individual instructors are quite capable.

This however, seems to reinforce one of Tam's points pretty well:

Will: "Last day (at FrontSight), at lunch, someone asked if anyone had trained at other schools. A virtual roll call of all the schools/trainers I had seen mentioned in the gun magazines was tossed out by the others. So, someone asked where would they be training in the future? They ALL responded: right here!"

Tam: "Just because an instructor has, or even encourages, groupies doesn't mean they're necessarily a bad instructor, but it's important to take the breadth of someone's training resume into account when reading yet another "my sensei can beat your sensei up" review on the internet..."

Not saying you or any of those taking those classes and making those statements are groupies, Will; just that in the midst of the experience one's comparative judgement might be altered.

Because I for one can think of two or three "senseis" that I'd think could beat the crap out of the Pizza any day. Not to say that necessarily makes them better instructors, or "teachers" as SB says, and yeah I think there's a distinction, though I'm not so sure the old saw "those who can't, teach" applies quite so much in shooting. I for one prefer that those who would teach me could beat me.

AT

Will said...

AT,

Much as he and Chuck ignore each other now, the early school literature, and conversations, point to the syllabus as being Taylors creation. I don't see any major changes, which is testament to its soundness, and a willingness to not mess with success, even to satisfy an ego. Kudos for that.

From what I've seen and heard, passing the tests to qualify for that "4 Weapons..." is no simple, or cheap, matter. That takes some serious effort to accomplish. That he bothered to do it indicates he felt he needed to get to a very high level of competence with smallarms. Chuck came up with that, and then had to work at it himself to reach that level of expertise, and he was already teaching the use of those weapons to elite military forces and police around the world.

Not to say I'm totally satisfied with the school. I don't agree with everything that has happened there, and some of what they teach. My guess is that he has to continue increasing the number of Family Members to make it work financially. I have a two digit member number, and it has climbed over 12k now. The membership was originally so he could buy the land in NV. (the school was originally going to be in No. CA, but the enviro-wackos threatened to sue the county that had already given the ok for the range- bummer)

perlhaqr said...

I just got back (off the plane two hours ago) from taking a class with Randy Cain. I dunno that I'd say I'm a fanboy, but my groups at the end of the three days were a lot smaller than the beginning of the three days. :)

Of course, I only went because my girlfriend dragged me along. Still, I think it was a worthwhile expenditure of 5 days of my life.

Diesel said...

Some of us gravitate to certain trainers because a)what they teach works when used in the real world b)they don't stay stagnant when technology changes; i.e. they incoroporate new technology into their TTP c)they are willing to entertain other ways to do things, as long as it works

And no, Appleseed is not viable self defense training, unless your opponent will be a 300 meter NRA bullseye, and you have time to don the shooting leathers, loop up, and find your natural POA.
Even the Marines don't consider KD range training adequate for 2 way range applications, and they were hold outs for a long time.

Tam said...

Diesel,

"Some of us gravitate to certain trainers because a)what they teach works when used in the real world b)they don't stay stagnant when technology changes; i.e. they incoroporate new technology into their TTP c)they are willing to entertain other ways to do things, as long as it works"

Why, of course. Don't we all?

Only ignorant n00bs go to those other guys. ;)

ZerCool said...

[...]Truer words are rarely spoken.[..]

Geodkyt said...

Tam,

I'm surprised you missed teh Intarwebz QOTD in the link:

You’ve been dragged to some movie about some effeminate looking “vampires” battling similarly effeminate looking “werewolves” by the lady of the house and possibly also the young ladies of the house. So after suffering through over two hours of sheer torture without suck-starting your concealed handgun to end the pain, . . .

WV - "perti" Compliments from Tam's hometown. {grin}