Firearms Training – Information Tidal Wave Versus The Dripping Faucet

Red Fire Hydrant
Firearms Training – Information Tidal Wave Versus The Dripping Faucet

U.S.A.  –-(Ammoland.com)- We have over a hundred million gun owners in the US. When we ask them, self-defense is the most frequent reason given for owning a gun. We’ve also seen the number and diversity of gun owners increase sharply in the last 10 years. Surprisingly, we never saw a similar surge in firearms education. I wonder why?

There are firearms courses available. You can find out about them and read the reviews online. Search through them and you’ll hear this well-worn phrase time and again, ‘I liked the class but it was like drinking from a firehose.’ It is clear from these reviews that the students certainly had an immersive experience.

How much did the student take home with him? Were they educated or were they baptized?

Let’s back up and take a different approach to the entire question. How should we teach firearms safety and self-defense given how people learn? The existing model of firearms training is taken from an itinerant preacher. “The expert” rides into town and lectures for two days. That training experience might be good enough for agency training. For civilians, it certainly is a fun way to check the box that says you had continuing education. The real question is how much, and what, will we remember in a few months.

I’ve been in those classes. While they provided an avalanche of information, I can only drink a cup at a time. Equally important, no one is sure what part of the tidal wave of information ends up in the student’s cup. The instructor knows what he taught, but no one knows what the students actually learned. Too much information simply flowed in one ear and out the other. Too few of the new skills had a chance to soak in and become knowledge.

I think firearms training should be served up one glass at a time, rather than drinking from the hose.

Suppose we test you in a complex exercise a few months after you took the two-day class. In theory, you have new skills. The results are discouraging in practice, but they don’t have to be.

We would never teach children the way we pretend to educate adults. For one, we frequently check the progress that our children are making. Instead of presenting the information in the amounts that adults can assimilate, we flood the adult students with information and then shake our head when they don’t retain all we’ve poured onto them.

Adults certainly have more experience than children, but our ability to learn new things is not that much greater than that of a child. When I train adults in armed self-defense, many of them come to class with no real-world experience at all. They might as well be children.

The good news is that we’ve solved this problem before. If you don’t believe me, then go to your child’s music lessons. Go to their dance and judo lessons. There, we learn through an updated version of the apprentice system. It is a time-tested routine.

  • The instructor reviews the old lesson.
  • The instructor demonstrates something new.
  • The student and instructor train together using both old and new material.
  • The students practice on their own but with supervision.
  • The instructor gives homework and talks about the next lesson.

We’ve refined that method through generations until it models how we learn. That makes me ask the obvious question.

Where is the local firearms safety and self-defense class that meets at 6 pm on Monday and Thursday? I can’t find it.

Adults enjoy learning new things. There are adults in the music, exercise and martial arts classes. Lots of the techniques of armed defense can be taught, and in fact should be taught, using simulated firearms at first. Why hasn’t someone taken the simulator pistols and started teaching a weekly class? Sure, you will go to the range to shoot live ammunition, but that is like the recital that culminates and consolidates earlier practice.

There could be several reasons we don’t see these classes offered to the public. Is the reason rooted in economics and that gun owners won’t pay to learn? The reason could also be rooted in the culture that surrounds armed self-defense. I don’t know, so I’ll ask you.

You have more experience and you know more than I do.  I’m a part-time firearms instructor, but maybe I can learn something new. Am I the only one who is interested in adult education for self-defense?

If you’ve seen classes taught like this then leave a message and let us all learn from you.


Slow FactsAbout Rob Morse

The original article is here.  Rob Morse writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob is an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.

  • 10 thoughts on “Firearms Training – Information Tidal Wave Versus The Dripping Faucet

    1. All great points. My observation on how humans learn, children as well adults, progress through repeated failure. The person learning needs POSITIVE feed back when they fail and instruction on how to make it better. Ever watch a child learn to walk or talk?

    2. As an instructor of over 10 years, I can say I have tried many tactics to attract new students and get them to return for more training and practice. This past year I even offered free help to past students at scheduled weekly practice sessions. The turnout was poor to none. People simply do not put training or practice near the top of their priorities. Once the class is done, they appear to think that one class is all that is needed. As an instructor this is really disappointing. I don’t teach to pay the bills. I teach to help people. Most students simply won’t dedicate the time or resources to training.

      1. As a trainer/instructor/educator/teacher, you must realize at some point, that the teaching curriculum is so much more than goals a, b, and, c. but are more real world oriented. Teach your clients/students that every position that they put themselves into have real consequences. For instance, when you and your family go into a restaurant, be aware of entrances and exits, seating arrangements, or if you go to the airport, it is still your “look around” habits that can save your day. Be aware of your surroundings and know where your exits are located if you need to move quickly. When an instructor teaches a class, teach a, b, and c, but also give real world instruction. Teach your students to hit the target, but then tell them that they must put some real world training to bare, shoot, move, while at the same time, always reminding them that their safety, and those around them, comes first. Put yourself in the gunfight and figure out the “what if’s” before you get to the training class, because there are literally a thousand “what if’s” that have happened. Hopefully, enough inspiration can occur to keep people training to continue their training. Encourage students to compete against themselves.

    3. All the above: check. Repetition is key to retaining anything. l’m as guilty as any else who for a number of reasons for no follow through on practicing the skills l was taught. The range is a 45 minute drive one-way and l go about every 6 weeks and often take a guest. Usually that means shooting but not practicing. It was expensive for the trainings l took but l own the responsibility for not getting myself out to practice. I was told l would learn 10 skills but honestly retained about 3. It was a lot to take in and it was all verbal and hands on with live fire taking half the time of the session. Well, l loved it and would go through most of it again if it weren’t for the time and cost.

    4. One comment about the video portion of the basic NRA course. I have not taken it so this is based on my experience with disaster training in the American Red Cross. When everything was classroom I often had 20-25 students per week, we had great cross talk with each other. They came away with a fair amount of the knowledge presented embedded AND they continued to volunteer. Then someone made the decision to move all of the beginning courses to an online format and the volunteer hours dropped tremendously, to the point that it is hard to get people enough to cover a disaster. Adults just DO NOT want online courses. They want the give and take of a classroom. A good instructor can answer questions when the student is having problems and a prerecorded program cannot. The live class still has a lot going for it.

    5. The short explanation for this situation is in the current culture and focus of education and training, which is check the box and get the certificate, (or T-shirt?).

    6. As an instructor I have observed that time-constrained adults make decisions regarding how much time they can/will commit to this process. Often it is even difficult to get them to complete the online Phase I of the NRA basic pistol blended course. I’m having to resort to the original format, with everything taught in class. That;s unfortunate. I do segregate the live fire portion to other sesions. In that portion I do not take more than two students to the range at a time, and spent an hour and a half to two hours with each duo. Lots of hands on training. It consumes a great deal of time but I consider it essential. Three additional points: First, we are no longer a linear culture; we’re visual. I supplement the printer material with video clips. Show them the clip of the guy looking down the barrel of a hang fire rifle that detonates, and they get the point in a deeper way. Second, teaching guys is way different from teaching gals. Different brains, different learning processes. This is particularly true of range sessions. Third, I invite and encourage students to give me a call when they want to come back to the range to practice. Those with a higher level of interest and commitment take me up on the offer. Informl training then continues, and the author’s point about review/introduce new mterial/practice, practice, practice.pertains. That means we become mentors more than mere instructors. Not financially viable you say? Maybe true. But I’m not primarily money-motivated. I also interested in that part of George Mason’s malitia definition that adds the qualifier, “trained at arms.” People will continue to engage and learn if their initial formal exosure is AN EMOTIONALLY POSITIVE EXPERIENCE. If I can provide that, good things often follow.

    7. Adult education summed up in one short article. Well done, sir.

      Far too many times I’ve seen poor course design–just as you described it. And then, to compound the mistaken belief that the instruction was good/had value, the evaluation is done at the end of the course. That yields nothing of value except how popular the instructor was.

      Education 101: At 6 weeks after the course approximately 2/3rds of what was learned will be lost unless it is used. (At 12 weeks you won’t remember where you put the binder with your notes.) True learning happens if the objectives are clearly defined, what is learned is repeated and built upon, and used.

    8. The free market implies that demand will spur supply. I’ve been witness to gun owners who are provided absolutely free (no charge for service) training who stumble through the 2 1/2 hours and don’t practice between sessions and need another dose of the same lesson next trip to the range. Methinks it’s more like entertainment to them. There is very little demand for serious training on a regular basis, hence, very little such training offered. Many folk don’t want to “get good,” they just want to “be good,” …in their own minds.

    9. Cost, time, and perceived value, I believe are some of the factors. Would you go to a class that says in 4-8 hours you will learn one or two things and we will meet back in a week to see your progress, review these points and teach you another? I don’t believe most people have time for that. They are more likely to go to a class that states it will teach many things in that same one-half to full day, regardless of how much he/she learns in that session.

      If there are course materials, even if one doesn’t learn everything that day, one willing to learn will have the experience from the class and a resource to use to continue learning. I read a lot from many sources and occasionally watch training videos, as well as go to the range about once per month – the vast majority of firearm owners rarely even go to the range to practice, let alone dry-fire or any other practice. The idea of a weekly class would never happen for them.

      Two other factors are distance to/time needed to get to where training is held and cost of the training. If they won’t even go to the range because of those two factors, they will not be willing to spend it on a training class.

      I am taking the NRA Basic Pistol Instructor class next month. I will be spending two nights in a motel because of the distance it is from my home. That’s an issue with many training classes, they are regional and not local. Where I live the closest range is at least 15 minutes away when there is no traffic, the next closest is a good half-hour away.

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