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“Am I good enough to take a class?”

When I was a kid, my mom would sign us up for swimming lessons every year right after school got out for summer vacation. For a couple of weeks every summer, if you went down to our town’s public swimming pool in the morning, you would see clumps of maybe six or seven squealing little kids all over the place. They’d all be bobbing up and down and splashing the patient teenagers were were trying to show them how to swim.

If you took swim lessons when you were little, do you remember what the first day was like? It seemed like there was always that one kid who had both his arms and legs firmly wrapped around his mom’s leg, holding on for dear life and shrieking, “But Mommy! I can’t get in the water with the teacher! I don’t know how to swim!!!

Poor little guy.

What does childhood swim lessons have t do with taking a defensive handgun class as an adult? Plenty! It happens often that people will ask me, “Am I good enough to take a class?” Sometimes the person asking the question is truly a beginning shooter. Other times they’ve been shooting for awhile. In either case, they’re concerned because they think they have to reach a certain level of skill before they will benefit from professional firearms instruction.

Like swim lessons for little kids, the purpose of a defensive handgun class for adults is to teach you how to do some things you do not already know how to do. It’s designed to stretch your limits and give you new horizons. The class description is supposed to sound like a challenge! The class should introduce you to new skills and develop your ability to perform skills you have not yet mastered. We don’t hold a class to validate what  you already know, or just to let you show off your shooting for everyone. If you want to do that, you can open your own YouTube channel and have thousands of adoring fans within a week (at least if you dress interestingly enough). We hold a class to teach you how to do things you do not yet know how to do.

Yes, it’s scary to get into the water with the teacher on the first day of swim lessons. But it’s also the only way that frightened little kid will ever learn how to keep his head above water on his own.

7 Responses to “Am I good enough to take a class?”

  1. larryarnold says:

    Perhaps a better question is, “Am I good enough to take this class.”

    A student who has never held a gun or heard the first safety rule needs “Gun 101″ not “Super Advanced Run-n-Gun.”

    But your main point is absolutely valid. I start out beginner classes with three questions:
    1. “How many of you shoot regularly?”
    2. “How many of you have fired a gun sometime in your life?”
    3. “How many of you have squeezed a trigger?”

    For the last question I hold up a laundry squirt bottle with a big trigger. It gets a laugh, and I can say, “So, each of you is starting with some experience.”

  2. Tom Walls says:

    Larry: I like your approach (esp #3).
    Does anyone find this “am I good enough” issue in one gender more than another ?

  3. larryarnold says:

    I find the “I’m too good to need a class” in one gender more than the other.

  4. Dann in Ohio says:

    I agree to some extent… but I’ve also been to some more advanced courses where some folks are clearly beyond their comfort and ability levels… meaning challenging is ok, but skipping three grade levels in school presents other problems…

    Also, I’ve found it helpful to occasionally take some basic and intermediate courses again… especially from other instructors… so I can improve my instruction abilities… learn and evaluate other and new techniques… but I’m not there to show off… and I usually try to humbly and quietly step back to let others get more attention and assistance… as my goals are different…

    Dann in Ohio

  5. GunDiva says:

    My SIL has fallen into this trap. She got a handgun for Christmas a few years ago, along with a gift certificate for training. She’s convinced that she’s not good enough to take the class. I’ve told her that the point of the class is to get better and that some instructors like to have someone with little to no shooting experience, because there are fewer bad habits to correct. I just keep hoping that she’ll eventually go to the training.

    • larryarnold says:

      Can you find her a one-on-one class, where she doesn’t have to worry about other students looking on, and where the instructor can work at her level? Something like NRA First Shots.

      • GunDiva says:

        She doesn’t really want to step out of her comfort zone yet. She needs to get training because she wants it, not because somebody else wants it for her.

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