What Makes A Good Instructor?

There are those who believe—especially in the firearms industry—that a good instructor should be able to demonstrate on demand any technique they teach at a level equal to or above their students. You may have heard of instructors that refuse to shoot in front of their class, stating their skills are on an entirely different level and such a demonstration would serve no purpose. Yeah, that sounds bogus to me as well. But at the same time I think it’s more important that instructors know how to teach a skill than it is for them to be able to do it.

Nadia Comaneci was the first female gymnast to score a perfect 10 at the 1976 Olympics at the age of 14. She was coached by Bela Karolyi, a middle-aged man who later went on to coach Mary Lou Retton, who scored a perfect 10 at the 1984 Olympics. Do you think Bela could do either of those record setting routines, much less as well as Nadia or Mary Lou? Obviously not, but his gift was bringing out the best in his students. I’m sure most (if not all) NFL coaches find themselves in a similar position.

So where does that leave us? I think a good firearm instructor needs to be able to demonstrate to their students a basic level of competency. This helps foster trust in the students that their instructor is knowledgeable in the craft and someone to learn from. However the key is an instructor’s ability to teach students, correct mistakes and improve their skill. Are students engaged and listening during classroom lectures? Is everyone practicing firearm safety on the range? Can the instructor identify bad habits and teach corrective behavior? Or is their level of competence limited to saying, “You’re anticipating recoil. Stop doing that.”

Before you take a class, ask your instructor about their background and how many years they've been teaching. Is that background relevant to what you're seeking to learn? I once mentioned to a student that I am a law enforcement rifle instructor, and he asked if I could teach him long range rifle shooting. I declined saying my background is in close range (100 yards and in) patrol rifle techniques. Even instructors are not masters of everything.

Speaking of which, I firmly believe instructors are students as well and should continue to take classes themselves. Ask your prospective instructor what classes they've taken recently. Tactics and techniques continue to evolve, and if they've been teaching the same thing for the past 20 years, is it still as relevant today as it was back then? And if they get defensive about the questions you're asking them, maybe they have too much ego invested in themselves to be a good teacher.

I invite you to take a class with Gun Kraft, or consider private instruction. Let us help you advance your skills and abilities as you enjoy the freedom of responsible firearm ownership and use.

January, 2014