5 Firearms instructor red flags

With many people this year getting firearms as gifts and over 7 million gun owners entering the sport, a lot of people are going to be seeking out training in 2021. If you are, here are 5 Firearms Instructor Red Flags. These aren’t presented in order of severity, just the order they were written in.

5. Doesn’t own a blue/inert training gun
If your instructor doesn’t have a blue gun (or other inert gun) they’re not really taking this seriously. The point of blue guns is they allow the instructor to show techniques while orienting the muzzle in a direction that wouldn’t be safe if it was a live gun. Blue guns exist entirely to allow us to train realistically without having to worry about muzzling people. They’re also cheap, seeing as I bought a trainer this morning on Amazon for like 15 bucks.

4. Doesn’t have a medical/comms plan
This might not seem like a big deal at first, but the reason why it’s one of the 5 Firearms Instructor Red Flags is because training with guns is an inherently dangerous activity. If your instructor doesn’t have a plan for how to deal with an accident on the range, that’s a pretty big red flag. In a lot of classes I’ve been to, the lead instructor will designate a primary and secondary medical responder, and a primary and secondary communication responder. These four people can’t intermix either; so your primary medical guy can’t be your secondary communications responder.

3. Isn’t clear about their resume
This is important because it informs what the instructor is qualified to teach. For example, when I start my classes I’m very clear that I’m an Air Force firearms instructor, a Master class IDPA shooter, and that I’ve taken professional training from multiple reputable instructors, as an example. I also reinforce what I’m not: a face-shooting ninja running around killing dudes while wearing NODs. This is important because it helps me stay in my lane and also creates the right expectation with students. If I say “I’m here to teach you how to get a revolver out of the holster quickly” my background supports that. It doesn’t support “I’m here to teach you how to do a solo clear of an occupied structure.”

2. Doesn’t use objective standards
This drives me nuts. Objective standards are how we measure improvement, and if you’re not measuring improvement you’re just turning money into smoke and noise, and there are cheaper ways to do that than taking shooting classes. Objective standards can be something as simple as using a scored B8 target at the start of class and doing it again at the end of class. It can be as complex and difficult as the FAST Test or the MSP Black Belt standards, but regardless of what the objective standard is, an instructor that doesn’t use them is definitely committing one of the 5 Firearms Instructor Red Flags.

1. Doesn’t demo
This one is my biggest pet peeve, although of the 5 Firearms Instructor Red Flags it’s not the most dangerous. The most dangerous is #4 – lack of a medical plan, but this one is the most likely to get me annoyed. A good instructor must be able to demonstrate the skill he or she is attempting to teach. This is essential to the adult learning process. You tell someone what you want them to do, then you show them how to do it, then you have them perform it. That’s adult learning 101 for physical/athletic tasks. This again doesn’t mean your instructor needs to be a super ninja, but if they want you to draw from concealment, they need to be able to demonstrate how.

If your instructor commits one of the 5 Firearms Instructor Red Flags, I would be concerned, especially if it’s the medical one. If they break 2 of them, I wouldn’t take another class from that person and wouldn’t recommend them to a friend. Three or more? There’s a 50% chance I’d leave the class period. Life’s too short to waste on bad training.