The Cornered Cat
The Parade of the Dancing Bears

Really enjoying all the feedback on my How to Become a Firearms Instructor article. There’s so much more to say and to think about with this topic. What makes a good instructor? What credentials should a firearms trainer have? What kind of background? What isn’t necessary?

Today, I offer another perspective. This one’s about Driving Dogs and Dancing Bears. Go read The Parade of the Dancing Bears.

Bonus: includes quotes from AGirl and a hilarious video from Tamara. How cool is that?

3 Responses to The Parade of the Dancing Bears

  1. wkeller says:

    I think the sweep of the term “Dancing Bear” is much broader than you may think.

    Over the past year there have typically been more women coming to my classes than men. I believe that this is partly due (blatant sexist remark follows) to women, in general, being more “in tune” with their surroundings. And these women are beginning to feel uncomfortable – leaning towards fearful for their safety. Guys just bull their way through to “I’m a guy, ain’t nutin’ gonna scare me” kind of attitude. Women seem to feel the beginnings of the wheels coming off – and they beginning to consider self-protection.

    In Iowa there is a minimal requirement for a carry permit – some type of “safe gun handling” course – that requires no range time – from either a certified instructor or one with law enforcement training. Just a tad above Constitutional Carry.

    The minimal course I teach is the NRA Basic Pistol course and I require a course “qualification” at the end on the range. This is exceeds all Iowa requirements to receive a carry permit.

    It is at this point that I notice men and women “merge” in their attitudes on additional training. Those that are actually serious about learning the craft will take our Defensive Pistol I & II courses. Those who simply wanted a permit will buy their gun (usually a cute little automatic al-la LCR/LCP), throw it in their purse or pocket and off they go – never considering additional training. I’d say about 40% take additional training, the rest stop at the basic pistol course, hit the range once a year and pray they never need their weapon. (I believe this is equally true for men and women.)

    So I see this as NOT a woman vs. man issue – I believe it’s an educational issue in defining and explaining the true need for more/annual/consistent training. Both need to understand that intro courses are just that – intro and the skillset needed to use their weapon in self-dense takes much more than a 4 or 8 hour one day course. And while both men and women “hear” the words during the basic course – at the end of the day they fail to actually hear the need for additional training.

    That is a question I work on all the time and would be interested to know how you and the other instructors reading your posts approach it. What is your “marketing” process for moving students towards more training??

  2. mgutterres says:

    Great read. In direct response to “what makes a good instructor?” A good instructor is someone who can make learning fun. One of the best teachers I ever had was an engineering professor at the University of California, Davis who displayed such a love for the subject matter, that he actually made a generally boring topic fun and interesting. I have had so many – many dry firearms instructors that just droned on and on. No doubt it was important information, but the delivery was terrible.

    “What credentials should a firearms trainer have?” When I started all of this (teaching) many years ago, I got all of the NRA Instructor Certifications, and they do add a bit of credibility, but truth be told, they are not all that difficult to obtain. Consequently, I am not as interested in credentials as I am in what an individual has to offer in terms of information. There are a million different trainers out there, everyone has something they can offer in terms of information. One of the best pieces of advice that has stuck with me for years and years came from a Bakersfield City cop who simply said, “don’t be in a hurry to die,” when referring to clearing a building.

    “What kind of background?” The greatest background issue is are they safe? There are a great deal of “high speed – low drag” and “big boy” trainers coming out of the woodwork who are doing things that are inherently unsafe in the name of “realism” or some other such nonsense. My idol, Scotty Reitz of ITTS in LA, has trained literally tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of individuals and has a flawless safety record. Safety trumps everything else in terms of background.

    “What isn’t necessary?” That’s a tough one because I really do believe that you can learn something from everyone, even if it’s just what not to do. I don’t think a long career in law enforcement or the military is necessary, especially because I am a civilian and the LE/M rules of engagement are vastly different than what is expected of me in the eyes of the law.

    In response to wkeller above who asks, “What is your ‘marketing’ process for moving students towards more training?” I help run the woman’s program at our local range. When we started in 2004 we had 40 women all year, this year we trained 336 (over 1400 since 2004). This is attributed to many things, but mostly word of mouth and offering students what they want in terms of classes. Course descriptions are here: I apologize in advance if posting a link is a no no, but all the pertinent information is there and I promise it’s not a porn site, and I swear I’m not a bot.

    We’ve tried flyers at the gun shops and clubs, but the thing that keeps them coming back for more is a monthly reminder, sent to an email address they provided, about a week prior to each class.

  3. larryarnold says:

    “I had only been shooting a short time and wasn’t very skilled when people pushed and pushed me to become an instructor.”

    It would be a dream come true if I could look out at one of my classes and spot a bright, enthusiastic, 20-something woman with fifty years of shooting experience and thirty years as an educator, who was looking for something to do in her copious spare time. It wouldn’t hurt if she was photogenic. But so far, I haven’t found any of those.

    So instead I look for someone who knows as much about shooting as I did 30 years ago when I first got my NRA certification, and who may not know much at all about teaching.

    All you absolutely have to know about guns to teach a beginning shooter is safety and enough about shooting to stay one step ahead. Oh, and how to answer a question with, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back with you.” Most real instructor certification courses (particularly NRA) will teach you basic methods of instruction. The rest you can learn, and the best way to really learn how to do something is to teach someone else to do it.

    Kathy already covered the learning to shoot/teach steps.

    So what am I seeing if I encourage you to be an instructor?
    Someone who will lay down her gun to help the person next to her, even if only to say, “I support you. You can do this.”
    Someone who will listen to what students are saying, even if they can’t say it.
    Someone with the patience to go over it one more time.
    Someone whose eyes light up when someone else succeeds.
    Someone who will learn something from everyone they teach.
    Someone who always wants the next class to be better than the last one.
    Someone who looks forward to every class and thinks, “This is more fun than shooting!”

    Because that you can’t learn.

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