1) Safety; a class environment is completely different than shooting at a public range and dramatically different than going shooting with a few buddies at a private range - you need to be very switched on and heads up at all times and muzzle awareness becomes extremely important. Handling weapons at the loading bench or behind the firing line is a no go in a class of 10-20 people. Even something as simple as bending down to pick up an empty magazine in a carbine class can cause you to sweep people with your muzzle. In addition the next item on my list can make a huge difference on not only safety but how much you get out of the class;
2) Relax; Take a deep breath and relax - a class is meant to be a fun and enjoyable learning experience with like minded people. It can be a bit stressful at first for someone new to the process but just forcing yourself to calm down and take things slow will do wonders. Often times when students are having a hard time following instructions it is simply because they are stressed out. If you find yourself getting that way just take a deep breath and relax, clear your mind, and then get back into the task at hand with a fresh frame of mind.
3) Equipment; review the equipment list and bring the correct and appropriate equipment for the class. This is critical - if you have questions please email me or the class host. This is not our first rodeo and we will be able to get you squared away. Showing up with the wrong equipment can really hamper your learning experience and is some cases force you to leave early because the class cannot be completed. Simple things like having a suitable belt for a pistol class can be the difference between enjoying the class or suffering thru it.
4) Holsters; a proper holster is critical for a pistol class. Soft nylon holsters like are commonly sold at sporting goods stores are not suitable. I have banned for almost two years now Serpa style (trigger finger paddle release) holsters from my classes - several other instructors and training facilities have done the same. The ONLY exception is for Police officers who are issued it for duty use. I understand many shooters use Serpa holsters on a regular basis with no issues whatsoever. However an open enrollment class environment has its own set of challenges (refer to items 1 & 2) and a trigger finger paddle release holster is asking for trouble. In addition Inside the Waistband (IWB) or appendix carry holsters are NOT suitable for beginner level classes. A shooter needs to develop safe handling and holstering procedures before a more challenging holster is brought into the mix. Once a shooter is competent then he can begin mastering IWB or appendix carry.
5) Electronic hearing protection; Students pay a lot of money to attend a class in order to receive instruction . It makes no sense to use hearing protection designed to eliminate as much sound as possible ( gunfire or range commands from the instructor you paid money to listen too) in a class. Attending the class without electronic ear protection is brain dead; it means you won't be able to follow certain commands or absorb key training points and you are safety hazard to the rest of the class because your not on the same page of music as they are. If your not sure what to buy purchase something inexpensive to get you thru the class then ask during the class what the recommended brands and models are. Another point I like to make is if you use a smartphone then you have no excuse to not have electronic hearing protection - period.
6) Pistols; Double action and compact pistols are too be avoided unless they are a) a duty issued handgun or b) you are a highly skilled shooter wanting to enhance your skillset with a carry gun. For the average shooter both of these types are dramatically more difficult to shoot well and are not suitable for learning the fundamentals with. A much smarter approach is to bring a Glock 17 or Glock 19 to the class, learn the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship, and then begin the process of mastering your CCW handgun. I see this fatal error made with female shooters all the time where the boyfriend or husband helped them pick a small handgun to carry concealed then brings them to a handgun class where they are expected to learn to shoot a pistol that would severely challenge all but the very best handgun shooters. It ends the same way every time ; extreme frustration on the part of the female shooter.
7) Ammo; bring quality ammo that is suitable for the class. Poor quality reloads or 45 ACP + P ammo for use in a compact pistol in a basic pistol class is a recipe for frustration and a waste of time and money. Frankly from an instructors perspective it is virtually impossible to give shooters proper feedback when the pistol doesn't function properly due to poor quality ammo or the shooter is attempting to control recoil that would challenge even expert shooters. Once again this is brain dead and makes me and other students wonder exactly what planet the student is living on.
8) Lube; Some things change, other things remain the same; lack or proper lubrication is still the number one issue I see in every class regardless if I am training Mil, LE, or civilian. Many students have functioning issues with firearms in the class that would simply be fixed with proper lubrication and in some cases proper cleaning. I am puzzled as to why shooters would think that is ok to use their firearm with no lube but yet wouldn't think of driving their car without lube in the engine and transmission. A good rule of thumb is lube the weapon before class and after lunch. Cleaning generally not necessary until the class is over and can be performed at home. At any time in any class feel free to ask me about how and where to lube your weapon as well as my recommended lubricants. I'm more than happy to help you out.
9) Training philosophy ; I am an accuracy oriented instructor who feels you should get something out of every round you fire. My approach is very simple ; no one is going to have to tell you to shoot faster in a gunfight and accurate hits on target are the only guaranteed way to end the fight in your favor. Therefore I believe in learning to shoot accurately first, then develop your speed. Because of this I have a rule of thumb ; at 3 pm or 300 rounds, whichever comes first, the students are mentally exhausted. At that point students have become fatigued from the emphasis on accuracy - noticeably so. Normally in a class I will push them a bit longer until about 4 pm or so with a total of about 350 to 400 rounds expended. This however is entirely dependent on how the class is doing at that given time and if performance has degraded dramatically or I feel safety has become an issue because of fatigue I may cut the class shortly after 3 pm or 300 rds. I always base my instruction and what the students need based on where the students are at that given time. My line is I give you what you need, not necessarily what you want. I'm uniquely qualified to evaluate this and have many years of successfully training military, LE, and civilians to become competent shooters. Unlike others relatively new to open enrollment classes I don't use hype to market myself and claim to know more than anyone else about training. In addition I don't tailor my classes so that someone who has deployed overseas can evaluate my classes and determine if what I am teaching or the round count meets their approval. If you fit in these categories do both of us a favor and skip attending my class. When you show up it is good advice to leave your attitude, and your ego, at home and get your head straight to learn.
I hope this helps clarify and guide potential students in deciding if a class with me make sense. Be safe and I hope to see at the range.