Today on Facebook I witnessed two things that caught my attention and caused an emotional response in me. One was the closing announcement of a friend’s training company, and the other was a firearms “instructor” vehemently arguing that a safety on a single-action-only pistol is unnecessary during loaded carry or use.
These two things made me sad. And angry.
For the closing of the friend’s training company, he reported no desire to continue to operate at a loss after several years and wants to enjoy his life in other ways. Which brings up a strong point in my mind, and one I’ve been considering deeply for quite a while now: is the cause enough of a reason to fight through the bullshit AND the lack of prosperity?
In other words, unless you are one of the dozen or so instructors nationwide who can make a living traveling and teaching, you are stuck with the job of literally fighting for clientele. Often, it is the very clientele you are trying to teach that you are fighting with.
The level of apathy about training with a firearm in the wide-open world of gun owners is disheartening. People just see shooting a gun as an isolated task, and an easy one at that. “Just point it and shoot!”, they say. No training needed beyond maybe a concealed carry class taught by some local “expert”.
I can assure you that if you spend enough time in the business, you get a really good read on what the average skill level out there is. Trust me, training is needed. So is practice. It’s not just about shooting, it’s also about dynamic muzzle control and other advanced safety concepts like getting on-line or in front of no-shoots, moving around crowds with a weapon out, dealing with stress and skill/decision making degradation, and so much more.
But “we don’t need that. We’ve been shooting guns with Uncle Buck our whole lives!” Or, “my dad was a marine and taught me how to shoot.” Or, “I was in the military, I know how to shoot” (despite never touching a handgun during their entire military service…) Or, “I’ve been to the police academy and I know everything now.”
Sure you do.
But like I said, spend enough time on police training ranges and public ranges, and you will have an ugly, truthful picture. Most of you can’t shoot worth a shit. You fall apart under stress. You unconsciously muzzle flag yourself and others more times than you’ll ever believe, and you do it when there is no stress involved.
But, as an instructor, you want to help. So, you put your time in and you become extremely proficient because you want to do some good in the community. You want to help fill some gaps in the public knowledge, make some people safer, and maybe make a few bucks in the process.
But being a firearms instructor is not as cool as you thought it would be. You literally have to convince people why they need better skills and safety. And often you are fighting against dug in mindsets. They just know what they think they need to know, and they don’t know what they don’t know.
It’s reminiscent of being a vacuum cleaner salesman in the 80’s.
Salesman: “This baby right here will pick up all of that pet hair and keep on running for many years!”
80’s Housewife: “But it’s expensive, and my current vacuum works just fine.”
Salesman: [vacuums up obvious pet hair and dirt left behind by said current vacuum] “But look at how much it is lacking in pick up power! My model will really do the job and the cost is justified because it will last three times as long.”
80’s Housewife: “But I already have a vacuum…”
This is exactly what I felt like every time I talked to gun store customers about further training. “But I already know how to shoot.”
Nowadays, good portion of your time is spent arguing on social media, so bystanders can be convinced enough to come take advantage of your services. I say “bystanders” because you sure as hell aren’t changing the mind of the asshole trying to argue that the safety on a 1911 is unnecessary.
Day after day, you write good information out and share it. Maybe you make some videos, too. You subsequently put in your time arguing. All this, only to have to cancel classes for low attendance, or teach to half full classes.
Are you doing it for the cause, and is the cause worth your time and effort without sufficient monetary reward? The cost of equipment, range property fees, ammunition spent practicing and honing your craft, your own dollars spent attending other training and becoming a better teacher, these are expensive and time consuming.
Do you do it because you love it? Or is the cause what motivates you?
Now, I’m not bitching. I just taught a sold-out course in Okeechobee FL, and have a pretty much sold-out course coming up next month in Alliance, OH. But I remember the days that I did struggle, and I still have classes that get canceled. I watch other teachers go through it too.
And for those instructors on the grassroots and local level, it’s literally a constant fight for them. Like I said, if you are not one of the dozen or so guys who reached that magical level of national traveling instructor, this is your reality.
(As a side note, even if you do make it national you now work with mostly the same 5,000 students nationwide that support the higher training industry. You see the same faces over and over and the training world becomes an echo chamber that fights evolution with the institutional inbreeding of information that becomes closed loop doctrine and dogma.)
As my friend found out, one day you will have to make the choice. Is the cause worth the continued donation of time, money and effort? He ultimately chose to close his business and go live his very good life in peace and happiness. I support him 100%. But it does remind me how much the firearms instruction business does suck.
It doesn’t suck because it’s not lucrative at all. I’ve made a great living in this business for several years. I’m fortunate. But even when I didn’t make much money at it I made enough to cover my investment and a few goodies.
No, it sucks because people suck. They think they know everything. They can shoot guns, and even hit targets. Why should they give you money to show them something they already know?
It sucks because any monkey can attend an NRA course and be certified as an instructor, and they can carry their myths and falsehoods right into the front of a classroom or range to spew upon the unsuspecting public.
Which segues me into the second thing that made me sad on Facebook, the “safeties are for pussies” guy. He’s an “instructor”. Here’s a guy who is literally teaching people that using the safety on an SAO pistol such as a 1911, which has a short trigger pull that requires significantly less pressure to fire by design, is a “personal preference”.
No jackass. The Smith and Wesson striker fired Shield model that can be purchased with an OPTIONAL safety is a “preference”. That gun was originally designed to be a no-manual-safety, striker fired weapon with redundant built in safeties and a longer, harder trigger pull to fire it. The addition of a safety was a marketing feature to make the untrained feel better.
But you are confused. You think you are not one of the untrained, so you apply that line of thinking to any fucking pistol with a safety. You are going to hurt yourself or someone else. Especially if you are teaching others that it is a “preference” on weapons designed to be carried with a safety engaged.
You claim that the pistol is not “ready for the fight” if the safety is on. Let me tell you bro, if you cannot effectively disengage that thumb safety on a 1911 as you initiate the press-out of your draw stroke, then YOU are not “ready for the fight”. That’s that.
There are plenty of accomplished 1911 shooters who can demonstrate to you that disengaging the safety does NOT slow them down. They will still outshoot you by a wide margin.
So, there you see it first hand, an argument I was dragged into so far as I actually took the time to write about some asshole on the internet and the ignorant shit he posted.
Thus is the life of firearms instructors. Everyone knows everything, the public doesn’t need training, cops are experts with small arms, and instructors can literally make choices on well-developed safety concepts based on “personal preference.”
Don’t forget, since this is the age of “SCIENCE” a lack of “data and evidence” to prove them wrong is magically proof that they are right.
You’re fighting that guy. You’re fighting to get through the myths he put into unknowing minds in the classroom and on the range. You’re fighting to overcome the false confidence transferred from Uncle Buck, who hunted his whole life. You’re fighting to overcome the bad training of police academies of the 70’s and 80’s (and some still today). You’re fighting to overcome the trash information the guy behind the gun store counter pumped into the minds of new gun owners for years on end.
Fighting. Fighting. Fighting.
For half full classes and a few likes on the article you spent time writing.
Godspeed to you my friend. I know you are industrious and will invest your now freed up time into your health, fitness and family, and that is time better spent if you ask me.