Are we as instructors effectively shooting ourselves in the foot?
Are we alienating shooters and potential new shooters by forgetting the core values of respect and being polite?
I was recently involved in a conversation with a popular nationally known instructor. He said that it is his "job to chastise people" when they have made the wrong decision. The wrong thing in this case was choosing not to carry a striker-fired pistol without being able to justify it with a "valid" (to him) reason.
The shooter's reason for carrying something "antiquated"?
It was the platform that he had been carrying for decades and it was second nature to him.
The instructor then went on to chide him about how he had the luxury of carrying something that was less than optimal and that not everyone does.
I replied that choosing a firearm platform is a very personal decision and that each person needs to do their own research, shoot a variety, and then make a decision on their own. The instructor said that my comment was dangerous and implied that it could get someone killed (!) He then went on to say that he was going to make an "example" out of our exchange -- Good so was I.
This type of elitism reminds me of my first motorcycle course before I had even touched a bike. On the first day the instructor said that his goal was to get most of us new riders to FAIL. (That's a way to encourage new riders and instill confidence!)
He also said throughout the course that BMW made the only good bikes and was very vocal about putting other brands down. He was so successful as an instructor to fail people that he failed 9 (including me) out of the 10 of us!
I didn't ride another motorcycle for almost a decade when I finally decided to retake the class. I passed it without issue and commute on it daily (well, not today when it is close to freezing outside). My point is that first experience almost caused me never to ride a motorcycle again.
A week or so ago a young lady came to me to talk about her recent shooting class. She was afraid of firearms, but wanted to get over her fear. Unfortunately, it didn't fare much better than my first motorcycle class.
She explained to the instructor that she had never fired a firearm or even been around firearms being fired. She told him how afraid she was to even be on the range.
I don't know if it was an attempt to break her fear, or just a bizarre policy, after the training portion the class went to the range and the instructor without warning or explanation proceeded to load a 40 caliber pistol and fire off grounds rapidly. This did not even sit well with the nearby RSO who rushed over to get him to stop and tell him that it was in poor form. If you scare the RSO, then you are not doing it right.
Needless to say, this scared her to death and she found herself trembling for the rest of the class wanting to leave. The instructor was successful in making her never want to visit a public shooting range again.
She did not give up though and she asked for some 1-1 range time. I was able to take her to a private range and introduce her into different types of pistols and calibers so that she could find what she was comfortable with. We found that she is comfortable with 22 pistols and steel frame 38 special revolvers.
She was so excited about shooting that she even posted a video of herself on her Facebook page!
That in my opinion is the instructors job – teaching safety and making shooting enjoyable. Our goal is to preserve and continue the shooting sports not discourage it. I am glad that it did not take her a decade to retry.
I welcome your thoughts.