6 Elements to Improve Your Firearms Classes
This article was written in response to a few different conversations I have had with some other “instructors”. A few of them, I think, are more concerned with living the sexy life of a Firearms Instructor (I’ll let you know when I’m there), than with actually helping others to improve. The cavalier attitude displayed in these conversations was alarming. Here is a short list of some things that we do at every one of our live-fire RTG classes. If you don’t already do these in one form or another, I strongly encourage you to add them to your Standard Procedures.
1. Introductions. This is very important and helps to set the tone of the class. Depending on the nature of the class, with the right type of introduction, you can put everyone at ease, or if it’s your intent, you can put them on edge. It’s really up to you and what you want to accomplish. To start, introduce yourself and let the fellow instructors do likewise. Let each student take a minute to introduce themselves, sharing something that is pertinent to the class at hand. This will also give you one last snap view of the participants and help you to gauge their experience level.
2. Give a brief overview of the class. This will help the students mentally prepare for the day and give realistic expectations. One of the best methods of teaching is to tell what is going to be taught, teach, and then tell what has just been taught. We do this at every class and the overview covers the “tell what is going to be taught” portion.
3. Give the safety brief. This should consist of explaining the range and direction of fire. Is it a 360 degree range or a simple flat range? Where and when to load weapons. What the basic commands of the range will be. We teach civilian, Law Enforcement and military groups. Quite often, each group will use different terminology to mean the same thing. It’s important to use and explain terms at the beginning so everyone understands. Use physical examples. When we say finger off of the trigger, we mean finger out of the trigger guard, up along the side. See picture.
4. Emergency procedures. I was having a conversation with another instructor and he was telling me about a minor accident that happened at one of his classes. He was actually nicked by a small piece of bullet fragment, causing a nice cut. If you shoot long enough, accidents happen. You can be as “SAFE” as you want to be, but accidents will happen. What surprised me was that he had nothing prepared to treat an accident. Finally, someone handed him an old, used snot rag to stop the bleeding. If you are teaching a class, if you are taking a class, if you are around firearms shooting at all, have some kind of trauma kit.
We always have a clearly marked aid bag at all of our classes. Most of our instructors also carry an IFAK on them during classes. To be honest, the thing we use most out of the aid bag are the Hello Kitty Band-Aids (we have to keep them in stock). But we have everything needed to aggressively treat a trauma wound. If you teach a firearms class, you need to have medical training. We almost always have an instructor at our classes who is an 18 Delta, or a Special Operations Combat Medic. The very few times we haven’t had someone with those credentials teaching, the instructors have completed our Shooter First-Aid class. It follows the MARCH protocols as per current US SOCOM guidelines. So, they will know what to do. If you teach and don’t have any medical training, get some now! There are plenty of companies and courses that offer this kind of training. You can always contact us, we would be happy to travel to you to put on Medical training and get you up to standard.
So, now that we have established where the medical equipment will be for the day and identified who will be the primary person to begin treatment in case of an accident, now ask and ID who else has any med training. After that, go over what will happen if there is an accident. I will be the person to treat, or if I’m the one hurt, you will be the one to treat. Everyone else make your weapons safe, get your cell phone, call 911. Inform them that there has been an accident at “name of range”; have them all repeat the name of the range. Have information written out for them to read to the 911 operator. Have someone go to the entrance of the range and wait to direct EMS. Some of the clubs we teach at have an electric security gate with a key card. Show everyone in the class the card. “The card will be in this pocket, as I will be the primary person treating the patient, take the keycard out of this pocket and go unlock the gate and wait there for EMS. Direct them to the range.” As best as you can, think out and plan ahead. That way, if an accident occurs, you won’t just stand there wondering what to do.
5. 4 Laws of Gun Safety. The last thing we do right before the class really begins is review the 4 rules of Gun Safety. They are: The 1st Law –Treat the Gun as if it is Always Loaded! The 2nd Law - Never Point The Gun At Something You Are Not Prepared To Destroy! The 3rd Law - Always Be Sure Of Your Target And What Is Behind It! The 4th Law - Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On The Target!
6. AAR. Make sure to plan for time after all the fun and range time, after the range has been picked up, and conduct an After Action Review of the class. You have already told the class what they were going to learn during the Overview in the beginning. They then spend the bulk of the day learning, the class. Now it’s time to tell them what they learned. Review the day. Mention all the drills or major points covered and emphasize the lessons learned during the day. Have each student comment on something they gained from the class. Ask for feedback, are there any questions? What did you learn? What did you like? What did you not like? Do you have any suggestions to improve the class?
As I was about to begin a flight home, I was sitting in Seat 1B on a small plane. Our Flight attendant, Kelly, began her safety brief. She did about as perfect of a job as I have ever seen. Everything she had to say was important. It was short and to the point, yet she did it in a way that attracted the attention of the passengers who otherwise would have completely ignored what was being said, despite its importance. After the flight, and as I exited the plane, I told her I appreciated her brief. I handed her a Sgt. Stab patch telling her, “As one professional to another, Thank You.” As boring and monotonous as some of this may seem, it still needs to be done at every class. Even during multi-day classes, the safety portions should be covered every day.
In closing, just a few other thoughts and bits of advice. If you’re teaching in anything even remotely organized, have insurance. I am alarmed at the number of “professionals” who don’t have insurance. I am stunned and amazed when in conversation, “training” companies or instructors tell me they don’t have any because they make the students sign a waiver. Yeah, good luck with that being the only thing covering your butt. Have emergency contact information for each student. If you are doing live-fire training at a place that is not used to it, such as a private range or public land, as a courtesy, notify local Law Enforcement and EMS beforehand. You can save yourself a whole lot of grief by this simple courtesy.
We have a great national heritage of the use of Arms. Today, more than ever, we have a wide variety of experienced instructors and shooters who are teaching and sharing. It is important to continue to pass on the lessons learned. Hopefully, this article will help raise the bar and set the standard just a little higher.