Qui docet doctores?
“Who teaches the teachers?”
I created a poll in a Facebook group that caters to people who get paid to teach people how to shoot. The question was simple: What did you do before you made firearms training your full-time job, and if firearms training isn’t not your full-time job, what do you do for a living?
The 210 responses I received provided some insight about why firearms training looks the way it does right now. Now keep in mind the group is for firearms instructors in general, which means there are LE-only trainers and the like who responded, but nevertheless, here’s the results.
Almost 45% of the professional firearms trainers who responded have a background in military and law enforcement. This shouldn’t surprise us. Those jobs involve keeping people safe with guns, so yeah, it seems natural to do that in the civilian world.
However, things start to get a little bit wonky when we consider what the military and law enforcement are training for versus the training needs of an armed citizen. I don’t need to call in an airstrike. I don’t need to use fire and movement to overrun an enemy position like a soldier does. I don’t have to pursue meth dealers in a dark alley, and I don’t have to chase down leads on a cold case like the cops do. I have to keep myself and my family safe by staying out of trouble, or by using enough force to stop the threat if that’s not an option. Trainers who think the missions of the cops and the military are somehow relevant to armed citizens are setting themselves and their students up for failure. it’s be like hiring a Formula 1 driver to plow a field. Yes, the tools might look the same (gas, brake, steering wheel), but the objective and the techniques are totally different.
There is another very important thing that separates military and law enforcement training from training for armed citizens. Military and law enforcement HAVE to train with their guns. Armed citizens WANT to train with their guns. That difference in motivation changes everything. The vast majority of military and LE trainers don’t give out homework or do follow up lessons because the classes they teach are administrative checkboxes (“Yep, he shot the qual and scored SuperDuper Shooter”) versus opportunities for improvement. This is not true in the more elite units in both organizations, but it is true for the rank and file. As such, the idea that student want to do even more training off the clock seems a bit… off to people from an LE or .mil background.
Lastly, just over 10 percent of the 204 respondents had ANY background in business, sales or marketing. Now to be fair, an unknown amount of the trainers who responded to this poll work in places like a police department or similar, where you don’t really need to know how to do market research or write a business plan in order to be successful. However, I’d be willing to bet folding money most respondents run small businesses, where such things are absolutely essential to success. There are SCORES of marketing resources out there to help karate schools and other martial arts academies succeed and grow. Is there anything similar for gun schools? Not that I’ve heard of. Whether or not that’s because of a lack of supply or a lack of demand remains to be seen, but if you teach armed citizens and you’re spending more time coming up with live fire drills for your Advanced Carbine III class than you are doing customer engagement and opening up your sales funnel, you probably need to rethink your priorities.
Remember, you are not your target market, and never will be.
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I’ve been a “firearms instructor” to civilians for 35 years. I usually sell myself as teaching beginner/intermediate pistol and action shooting. I’m not an expert and I know my limitations. I’m glad to see that someone has finally pointed up the fact that LEO and Military trainers are not “ipso facto” good trainers for the needs of civilians. I put my head back and roll my eyes every time some one says, Oh well, he’s a cop or in the army, implying that he knows guns, training, and the needs of civilians. Thanks for your on-point article.
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