Professional Firearms Trainers CAN Be “Glock Guys”

…..Or “SIG guys”, or “Smith & Wesson guys”, or “XD guys”, or “Ruger guys”, or some kind of combination of all or some of the above.

Let me explain. I recently read an article titled, “…Pro Firearms Trainers are Not ‘Glock Guys’…”

In the article, the author made a few points that, as a “Pro Trainer” (Defensive Firearms Instructor), – someone to whom people pay money in exchange for the sharing of my opinions, viewpoints, knowledge, and skills – I happen to disagree with. Primarily, I am referring to his implication that the “pro trainer” has an obligation to essentially condone less than optimal gear choices made by his or her students, because, presumably, all choices are equally valid.

As a paid professional, my obligation to my students isn’t to coddle them. It isn’t to use words or actions that are designed to do nothing more than make them “feel good” about a poor choice in gear or sub-par performance level of skill. Rather, it is my obligation to use every shred of knowledge and skill that I possess to help them improve their decision-making skills and physical abilities.

The reality is, as a “Pro Trainer”, especially one with a specific focus on the defensive application of firearms, I *SHOULD* have some personal preferences in gear, be it holsters and other carry devices, belts, types of sights, ammunition types and calibers, all the way to specific action types of firearms, specific features of firearms, specific materials firearms are manufactured from, manufacturing processes themselves, and yes, even specific makes and models of those firearms. And every single aspect of those preferences should be rooted in sound, articulable concepts and ideas that are research based. In other words, my reason for having my given preferences shouldn’t just be “because”. Nor should it be, “…because that’s what instructor X, Y, or Z recommends…” or “…because that’s what SEAL Team 6 uses…”.

A student is paying me for my expertise. He or she is paying me due to the very fact that I *DO* have strong, articulable, research-based opinions. And I have an obligation to continually research and study the basis for those strongly held beliefs and evolve as new, more relevant and accurate information and data comes along. My job is to teach my students what I believe are the *BEST* skills and the *BEST* choices in gear. My job isn’t to treat lesser skill or gear choices as if they are equal all for the sake of sparing a student’s feelings.

Now there are a number of points in the article that I do agree with the author on. For example, I agree that a “Pro Trainer” does need to be well-versed and proficient in the operation of a wide variety of arms. In an open enrollment class, students can (and do) show up with any number of different firearm makes and models. I believe it’s imperative that an instructor has the knowledge and skill to operate a large cross section of the type of arms his or her students are likely to show up with both safely and efficiently. Ultimately, even if a student’s choice in gear or firearm doesn’t completely meet the instructor’s preferred criteria, he or she still needs to be able to teach the student how to use it in the most safe and efficient manner. And ideally, if the instructor has truly done a good job in his or her research when forming the basis for his or her preferences, the student will ultimately see the logic in the instructor’s reasoning and realize that his or her chosen gear is, indeed, less than optimal.

It’s similar when the instructor is dealing with armed professionals. Most law enforcement officers are issued specific firearms and gear by their agencies. Whether or not that gear meets the preferred criteria of the instructor is mostly irrelevant. The instructor has a responsibility to provide safe, competent instruction in its use regardless, which means he or she has an obligation to be both familiar and competent in operating and utilizing said gear.

One additional point of agreement that I feel is worth mentioning is in maintaining a high level of professionalism even when the student shows up with what you consider to be less than optimal gear. It is quite possible to articulate a strongly held belief without being a dick. Belittling or ridiculing a student because of the gear he or she brought to class is the sign of a rank amateur, and it’s a guaranteed way to make sure the student shuts down and never listens to another word you say.

In closing, I think it’s a mistake to suggest that a “Pro Trainer” shouldn’t or wouldn’t have some very strong preferences in regards to the gear and firearms he or she feels are most ideally suited for the role of armed personal defense. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that if a “Pro Trainer” hasn’t developed some very strong gear and firearm preferences during his or her tenure as a “Pro Trainer”, he or she probably isn’t ready to wear that title after all. Still, the true professional has an obligation to his or her students to be well versed in the use/operation of the most common types of gear and firearms those students are likely to show up to class with, and to teach the safest, most efficient use of that gear. And there is also an obligation to maintain a professional demeanor when interacting with students regardless of the gear they show up to class with. At the end of the day, nobody benefits if high quality learning isn’t taking place.

As always, stay safe!

Chris Shoffner

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