The Firearms Training Checklist: How to Avoid Mall Ninjas, Gun-Fu Gurus & Other Tactical Clodhoppers

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The Firearms Training Checklist: How to Avoid Mall Ninjas, Gun-Fu Gurus & Other Tactical Clodhoppers

Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Tamara Keel that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 14, Issue 1, January 2017 under the title, “Smart Shopping for Basic Training.” 

So you’ve purchased a handgun for daily carry and taken that first step toward getting some training, be it a state-mandated carry course or perhaps an NRA basic class. Where do you go from there? There are so many options that it can be hard for someone new to the firearms training world to know what to look for or how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

There’s lots of good training available, many different schools of “gun-fu” if you will, and the trick is to not get taken in by the bad stuff. Peter Barrett, another gun writer and friend of mine, once came up with a handy checklist for spotting the charlatans out there. I’ve used it for years, and this column is something of an expansion of that list.

First, give his (or her) social media presence, if any, a critical look-over. Are comments disabled on his YouTube videos? Is the only place to interact with him inside of his own forum where any skepticism or doubtful questions get deleted or flooded by hostile comments from his acolytes? That’s a danger sign.

When looking at his résumé — he does have something like a résumé up, right? — is it just a vague list of who he’s trained, with no mention of who he trained under? The best instructors I know are always out attending classes and trying to learn something new or maybe just looking for new tips or tricks for teaching. I don’t care who an instructor has trained. I want to know who trained him.

Does every technique in the school or class come from within the school or class? Did it all spring straight from the guru’s head? The not-invented-here syndrome can turn an instructor into a self-licking ice cream cone in a hurry. Again, the best instructors I know are constantly and cheerfully stealing good ideas from each other.

Is a lot of emphasis put on vague instructor background qualifications? If an instructor is using his ninja past as an advertising tool, then he owes it to his students to make those claims clear and, within realistic constraints, verifiable. And, really, if an instructor’s gun-fu is strong, he doesn’t necessarily need to have much “secret squirrel” in his past. If you know good stuff and can teach it to me effectively, I don’t care how many helicopters you did or didn’t jump out of with a knife in your teeth.

Look over his promotional photos and videos. Are people clearly and unambiguously breaking the cardinal rules of firearms safety? That should be a big red flag. If these safety violations get brought up online, are they dismissed with mockery or bravado instead of being carefully explained or discussed? That should be a really giant huge red flag.

Team drills. This is a sticky one. Are you planning on attending a class with a friend, loved one or coworker who also carries? There are instructors who offer a variety of classes that will allow the two of you to experience working around each other with drawn guns in simulated real-world scenarios. On the other hand, if you find yourself stacked up on a doorway like an ersatz SWAT team with a bunch of complete strangers, ask yourself what of value you are actually learning (especially if the only qualification you know for sure that they have to be standing there in the stack with you is that their check cleared).

Another clear warning sign is an emphasis on “cool-guy” drills or scenarios without due concern paid to the fundamentals of marksmanship. If everybody’s shooting from rollover prone by lunch on Day 1 and nobody’s been holding you accountable for clean hits, well, you could be dumping those rounds into the berm on your home range all day for a lot less money in tuition, gas and hotel rooms. Advanced shooting is just basic shooting with more time pressure at more difficult targets, maybe with some movement of the target, shooter or both; no trapezes or flaming hoops are really necessary there.

Finally, an item that wasn’t on Peter’s list but which is one that I’ve used for a long time to separate the good, the bad or the just plain ugly: Does the instructor encourage you to seek out training from other instructors? Or does he insist that his gun-fu is the only gun-fu and discourage you from training with outside instructors?

I am of the firm belief that any instructor who doesn’t encourage you to seek out knowledge from as many sources as possible isn’t trying to teach you something; he’s trying to sell you something.

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  • Netpackrat October 26, 2019, 10:05 pm

    But Tamara, what did Suarez ever do to you? 8^)

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