How To Pick an Instructor

Originally posted August 10, 2009

First of all, the term instructor is over used almost as much as ‘operator’. In reality, you need someone who can TEACH, not just instruct or tell you to do a drill. None the less, instructor is the term most used in this business because it sounds better than teacher.

What to look for in an instructor:

1. Experience in the subject - Don’t assume that just because someone has had a gun on their side for 20 years they know what they’re doing. 20 years the wrong way doesn’t equal 6 months the right way. What is experience anyway? In my mind, and especially in today’s world, experience is doing, for real, whatever said subject is. For example, why would you pay good money for a carbine instructor who has never engaged another human with a carbine? We’re dealing with life and death here. So, would you let a nurse perform open-heart surgery on your loved one? How about a CQB class from someone who has never even entered a room to face another man with a gun, let alone a man who is shooting back? Remember too, that just because someone is from a high speed unit, that doesn’t give them carte blanche to teach every tactical subject or mean that they’ve even done it 'for real’ themselves.

2. Performance - This one is simple. If a shooting instructor doesn’t demo each and every drill, somethings wrong. If your unit is wearing a duty rig, and the instructor is wearing an open top, or the team shoots Glock 17s and the instructor has to shoot his 'match’ gun, you just wasted money. When you’re looking for some training be aware that videos are sometimes deceiving. Yeah, he’s going fast, but is he getting 'A’ zone hits? or just hitting the silhouette in general?

3. Teaching ability - Can the instructor actually get his point across? Or can he just shoot real well? If you’re getting yelled at for anything other than safety, that’s a sure fire indicator that the instructor has no idea how to correct problems. Ask around, and find out how people like the instructor you’re thinking of using. The multiple tactical forums on the net (like are a wealth of info.

What to be wary of:

1. controversial background, or lack of background - For some reason, a lot of folks think that if you’ve been to Afghanistan or Iraq as a civilian independent contractor for a government agency that you can teach any subject dealing with warfare. This is the farthest thing from the truth. A “contractor” who has multiple deployments to Iraq for a PSD job IS NOT a master class shooter or an authority on CQB, sniping, or breaching. A good number of people jumped on the contractor train post 9/11. Where were they beforehand? My estimate is that it takes about 5 to 7 years of military service in a combat unit (obviously SO units will have more experience because of money and overall mission statement), and another 3 to 4 years of professional shooting/instructing experience to be competent enough to teach at a level that will benefit all those involved.

2. tactics geared toward an instructor’s “style” - some people do things just to be differnet, or to benefit their own products. Keep an eye out for this. There is probably a reason that not everyone endorses gear specific tactics.

3. My way or the highway - if someone has limited experience, but that experience has had good results, it will be hard for them to accept or change to new or more proven methods. Make sure the instructor you pick is up-to-date with tactics.

The types of instructors:

1. A good one

2. The regurgitation instructor- one who has no experience in the subject but has landed the job. He is smart enough to know this and eventually can repeat, verbatim, a debrief that an experienced instructor gave before. Super dangerous, because he’ll sooner or later think he actually knows something.

3. The smoke and mirror instructor - one who has a little experience but a good personality, and could sell water to a fish. Generally takes on the persona or teaching style of an instructor who’s school he has been to in the past. Can generally critique and debrief some major points beacuse he has Google.

The bottom line- spend cheap, pay twice.