Beware the Helpful Fool

It is Monday, and today we hurt some feels.

Hat tip to Armed.Asian on IG for the excellent meme.

I became a ‘Certified Firearms Instructor’ at the tender age of 21. I will tell you now, that I certainly didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had carried a handgun for a whopping 2 months at that period in time, and I became certified.

Eight weeks an expert. Certified.

Granted, I was a particular brand of gun geek who had followed gun topics from the days that the XM8 was absolutely going to replace the M4/M16. I had sat in both Team Leader and Squad Leader billets with the Marines and helped lead training as warranted from those slots, learning those slots from combat vets. So I wasn’t quite as green as your average 21 y/o, but I was at best Olive Drab green.

But I was certified.

And, objectively speaking, I was able to deliver a good course for concealed carry and received good reviews. Two factors contributed to the success. I’ve since taught thousands of students and continue to pride myself on delivering a good program. But my program today is tempered by experience and continuing education, I was set up for success and took the open doors whenever possible. I refused to sit idle when I could improve, it caused more than one raised eyebrow.

Success as ‘Certified’ came because,

First.) I worked with a good instructor with much greater experience on this specific, and fairly simple, topic.

The Second.) These courses are PowerPoints put together by others, not developed by the junior ‘Certified Instructor’. It is a canned course, it gets its flair and extra value from how objectively good the instructor is and what they add to the canned course, but the course itself is a condensed curriculum to meet minimum state requirements and nothing much more.

In the grand scheme of things, CCW course requirements are agreeing to the license’s Terms of Service (State Laws) and time requirements. Developing firm firearms handling skills are not a requirement of these courses, many of these courses use less than 100 rounds to “train” during the single day. This equates to a familiarization period of instruction combined with some manner of state mandated course that meets a written requirement. It is neither exhaustive or comprehensive, it is a minimum terms of service and some FAQ/Best Practices items.

These courses are simpler than LEO minimum requirements, which are also not exhaustive as many state/department qualifications can demonstrate. They are balancing the state’s desire to indemnify themselves from liability through licensing while maintaining a licensing requirement the public is likely to comply with because it isn’t unduly expensive or time constraining. Convenience is very influential on compliance. CCW course are rarely good training in a skills development sense, they are required training.

‘Certified’ = I paid the fee and can read the slides

Now that I’ve rustled plenty of jimmies and will receive angry email responses from people who didn’t bother to read this far,

This is not a dig against any good or popular local instructor running run-of-the-mill CCW programs, it probably means those folk already exceed the standard of ‘Certified’ by bringing more knowledge and/or a good teaching demeanor to these basics. Exceeding a standard is always preferred.

Now let’s take a look at the title picture again.

This gentleman is relying on not one, but two near valueless certificates to credential themselves. The second being retirement age police officer. The comment is barely literate, which could be forgivable if the information was objectively worth the data it took to make the comment, but it isn’t. It is a disaster of misinformation and actively dangerous practices.

The astounding amount of failure contained in one paragraph demonstrates the very core definition of “Fuddlore” and it is using a fallacious appeal to expertise, based upon him having pieces of paper declaring him the expert and has ‘years-on-the-job’ in place of hours developing this specific expertise.

In “20+ years as a police officer” I am sure he is fairly competent as a police officer in his given jurisdiction type, but that is not a firearms expert. That is public interaction, traffic, domestic interactions, criminal arrests, and whatever else his actual job entailed. This does not a ballistics and firearm expert make.

But what else do you put on your resume? Especially when your client base has little to no reference to see if your experience makes for expertise? What if you don’t even realize where you actually stand in expertise compared to where you ‘think’ you are? The factory worker with 30 years in a plant is almost certainly very good at their daily tasks, this does not make them an expert on the product they build or able to speak on the final product in the way the engineer or designer could. It doesn’t preclude them from being an expert, but it in and of itself does not confer expertise. We’re getting fairly nuanced here so let me get back to addressing the derp above.

This instructor is literally giving advice on the first round in a shotgun being IN CASE YOU SHOOT THE WRONG PERSON. Because that is what you want to say aloud in a court judging when you shoot someone, that the round you loaded and shot at someone first was specifically because you planned to get it wrong. I could bet he’s the type that says you should toss your flashlight away to distract the bad guy, or that the sound of a racking shotgun is ‘intimidating’ so you won’t have to shoot someone, or many other Fuddlore anecdotal pieces of anti-wisdom. They are stupid, assumptive, and only sound ‘good’ because nobody is bothering to critically tear them apart to find the flaws… Kinda like gun control, funny enough.

The instructor then denigrates the AR-15, assuredly because he doesn’t understand the AR-15, as complicated and something you’d “best expect to train a lot with,” as if the shotgun isn’t? Okay there, Two-Blast Biden.

Actively disregarding the magnitude of data we have on just how good the AR is to conform to his preconception that the shotgun is better. No intellectual honesty to examine if, perhaps, he has a bias towards the gun he understands, and his own untried and unsupported plan of action with only a hypothetical anecdote to support it.

These type of ‘instructors’ are almost universally the worst informed, and yet most assured of their own “knowledge.” They are dangerous. Look up Dunning-Krueger.

It is up to other instructors, more so than the public who have a much poorer base of reference, to censure the Fuddlore where we can and explain why. We can, sadly, usually anticipate the ‘instructor’ becoming defensive of their own biases (I know I have, nobody and I do mean nobody likes being told their baby is ugly), but to continue improving the knowledge base within the firearms community we must slowly smoother the old Fuddways with the reason and logic of the knew ones.

Example: A police department issues stock Colt LE6920 model AR-15’s for patrol, therefore they must be good. Right?

Yes, the LE6920 is a good rifle. But we have no basis for knowing how good any given officer is with that rifle and institutional biases, inertia, and resistance to looking ‘too tactical’ often means that departments do not add common sense equipment like red dot and lights to these or allow officers to provide there own from approved lists. The preconceived notions of image, or budget, or too much work, prevent a logical and well supported gear decision.

These are similar biases that inexperienced instructors project, those who tend to stick with what they feel because they are the instructor/in charge and what they know best (regardless of how limited that experience is) because that is what they know for certain.

Public: With any instruction, with any basic course, and especially with any concealed carry course complying with state requirements, realize it is a very very baseline introduction to topics that take many hours to develop on their own individual lines of information development. Because of the abbreviated nature of topics covered in timeframes allowed, and commercially viable, it can only be introductions.

Instructors: It is incumbent upon instructors to complete continuing education, and it is something they must do on their own time with almost no governing guidance from a professional body. That is the great variance among instructors, who else they have trained with. Instructors with basic certifications, maintained by fee, who do not seek continuing education are common and have comparatively little to offer beyond whatever PowerPoint they are ‘certified’ to teach.

Instructors with those certifications who do seek continuing education are doing themselves and their students better by continuously improving their product.

My own first instructor, the man who certified me, put it succinctly. The sign of a good instructor is a good thief. They know and can recognize what is valuable and continuously add to their base. The sign of the best instructors are properly accrediting where things were developed and where they picked them up from.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.