How To Be a Good Student

We want you to get the most out of the training you pay for. Here is some insight from Dave Laird, Owner of Dynamic Combative Solutions.

Make The Decision Today That Training Is Journey, Not A Destination

Whether you have been shooting your entire life or just getting started, you should understand that there is not one class out there you can do, that teaches everything you could or should know in one sitting. Likely you will discover a lot of things you didn’t know, things you weren’t good at and things you need to work on, etc. You will likely have to go home and put in more work to master these things through dry fire and possibly retake the class to ensure your performance has improved. It is never a bad idea to take any class more than once for this reason. Also, be prepared for change. In your first class, you may discover that your equipment and gear choices interfere with what you’re trying to accomplish. This may lead you to get a different holster, gun, ammo, glasses, etc. Now that you have made all of these changes, it would behoove you to take the class again with the new gear to ensure these changes helped you improve. Remember, the mission drives the gear.

If You Don’t Know Where To Start, Start At The Beginning

You don’t know what you don’t know. I’ve encountered many shooters who were “experienced”, perhaps self-taught decided to skip ahead to more advanced classes but struggled to keep up because they were trying to adopt new beginner techniques that they had never previously mastered. Had they started in a class or two before, where these techniques were introduced, they could have adopted these new fundamentals more quickly, gone home, and practiced through dry fire to get better in preparation for the next class that expects these techniques to already be developed. Keep in mind that “muscle memory” requires a minimum of a thousand perfect repetitions. If you have already myelinated another method, it can take thousands of repetitions to make the new method permanent. Change can be difficult, so allow yourself some grace when learning to make the changes you’re looking for. Anything worth doing should be worth taking the time to do it well, intentionally.

Do Your Research On The Company And The Instructor

Price is part of the equation, but you shouldn’t pick a company based on price alone. This one is probably something that frustrates me the most. I live in AZ and we’re a constitutional carry state. We can carry concealed without a permit, though there are benefits to having a CCW. With this change came some terrible byproducts. The first thing to go was the standard of training. Before 2010, our CCW class was state-mandated 16 hrs. of training. 8hrs law and legal and 8 hrs. of basic firearm use. The shooting qualification was simple. 5 rounds from 15 ft and 5 rounds from 30 ft on a silhouette target. You didn’t have to draw from a holster or concealment. When the law changed, the only requirement for instructors was that they had to be NRA Basic Pistol certified and there was no longer any state mandate on what the training needed to consist of. Immediately the standard of training went in the toilet. 2hr classes for $20.00 popped up statewide by individuals who provided no background of their training or experience. This attracted new gun owners who didn’t understand the difference between a two-day 16 hr. class for a piece of paper vs the guy who can give them the same piece of paper in 2 hrs. for $20.00. Many instructors reduced class content, time, and cost to try and compete. I agree with the law. I don’t want Uncle Sam deciding who can and who can’t carry. I also don’t want a standard of shooting that Grandma Betty can’t accomplish that would deny her the ability to exercise her Constitutional rights. What more people need to realize regardless of your state’s standards, having the permit does not equate to having the skills or abilities necessary. I would like to see more gun owners hold themselves and their friends personally accountable. You are capable of doing better, you know it, I know it. Train as if your life depends on it because it does. Don’t settle for a piece of paper and don’t settle for an instructor with no background. I have never regretted the cost of a class. I have taken $50.00 classes up to $1500.00 courses. I have never regretted what I invested in time, travel, ammo, hotels, gas, etc. You get what you pay for.  

How do you determine value? Do the research! Start in your area with local trainers. They likely offer beginner classes in the $100-$200 range. You may have some local trainers in the $300-$500 range. Who are they? What is their background? What are they teaching? Does what they teach reflect their background? I am fine with average joe that teaches basic marksmanship. I am fine with a competition shooter teaching how to shoot multiple targets fast with movement, however, neither of them should be advertising door kicker swat classes. Make sense?

Being in the military or law enforcement alone is not enough for me to say that they are competent or qualified for “teaching”. What was their job? Where did they learn to “teach”? How long have they been in business? How many reviews do they have”? What do the reviews say? To give you an idea of review content. I have been teaching for over 10 years for other companies, but I have only recently started my own company and have instructed approx. 3200 students in our first year. We received 100% 5-star reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp during that time. I only tell you this so you can see a base average. If a guy has been in business for 10+ years, you should see 500+ reviews. You may have a new company only in business for a year that has 10-25 reviews, but they speak volumes. The content of the review is important. Granted I love it when a student tells folks they had fun or enjoyed my instructor’s personality, but they should reflect “what they learned”. The whole point of taking a class is to learn and to improve. If the reviews talk about fun and personalities only, how can you possibly determine knowledge transfer? If the student reviews reflect what they learned and the changes they have made based on what they learned, this speaks volumes!!! You’re paying to learn.

Read The Description

Ok, this is a personal pet peeve. Many students show up to class unprepared or expecting the wrong thing because they failed to read the course description. The description should list course goals, equipment needed, length, location, and round count. Course goals are important so that you have a measurable obtainable objective. I’m more lenient on equipment but that’s because I would rather students bring what they use, whether it’s a small gun, crappy holster, whatever, so they can discover and learn the difficulties first hand, safely, under close supervision. I find most students make modifications to their current method or borrow our readily available equipment to push through and learn or reschedule for a future class with their proper gear later. This has worked best for me, but you don’t want to travel, rent hotels and show up only to be rejected at the door for not having the proper tools and equipment. Which can happen with some companies. A lot of times students or instructors loan the gear needed to save the student, but now you’re using someone else’s stuff that you are not familiar with. What if you break it? Just food for thought. Don’t be that student, come prepared.

Length of class. 4-8hrs is pretty standard for basic classes because they cover some pretty simple topics with tons of repetitions of the same simple things to jump-start the myelination process.  As you get into 2-3 day classes, you should expect to cover a TON of information. These classes are going to typically be more relaxed, slower and allow a lot of social interaction to cover a wide variety of topics like the application of the fundamentals to complex scenarios. The shorter classes are typically faster-paced and focused on specific skills. The description should help you decern what to expect from the content at that time. Because of the time standards, the instructor at some point will have to decide who can continue and who needs to go home and practice more so he doesn’t hold the rest of the class back from achieving the course objectives. Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew, have a physical limitation, or a gear and equipment issue that can’t be resolved and we can slow the class content for the rest of the students, and that’s not fair to them. If you’re pulled aside and spoken to, don’t let this defeat you. This should motivate you to get better. This is typically avoided by reading the course description to ensure you have the skills and equipment required to be successful.

Location. The further away from the training the more you should ensure that you’re ready for the class. Again, you don’t want to travel all that way to be turned away. Is it indoors or outdoors? What’s the weather going to be like that day. Indoor training can likely be restrictive for space and movement, noisier, smellier but better control on the weather.

Be On Time

Weeks and months went into the planning and preparation for not only the company but also your fellow students to attend. Safety is usually the first thing that gets covered and is of the most value. If you miss the safety brief, there’s a good chance you will likely not be allowed to proceed, and most companies don’t allow rescheduling. When you purchase a seat in a class, you are blocking someone else from taking that seat. If you reschedule, you now block another seat for another student and the company will never recover that loss. Be respectful of everyone’s time. Be where you say you’re going to be when you say you’re going to be there.

Be Prepared To Learn

Take every class with an open mind to try new things. Genuinely do it. Some things may feel weird, uncomfortable, you may feel fatigued. You are likely using new muscle groups or doing things at different angles. But keep an open mind and stay positive. I still attend training with other companies regularly and sometimes it’s not the technique but the explanation that makes comprehension of the intent or purpose confusing; but as you attempt the new technique, over time it may become clearer and you can make a conscious decision to keep this new method or throw it way but at least you may have a clearer understanding of what is trying to be accomplished. I have experienced this many times and it has proven to be immensely valuable to me as an instructor when teaching students. When they ask me “why” someone teaches a certain method, I have a clearer understanding and allow them to use the method that makes more sense to them. For instance, I don’t care how you load your magazine. Did you load it? Done! Time to move on. You demonstrated that skill. Whether you used a Uplula or loaded it using your thumbs or fingers doesn’t matter to me.

Take Notes

Typically every class allows for breaks about every hour or so. This is an excellent time to take notes on what you have been working on. Things that were said that stood out. Ask questions for clarification. What do you like so far? What needs improvement? What wasn’t made clear? This will help later during the feedback process for both you and the instructor.

Give Honest Feedback

Reviews and word of mouth are of the most benefit for me personally. I am not a fan of social media and it’s still something I am working on. I don’t like being the star of my company. I realize the importance of social media but I am typically a very private person. At the end of class is when the instructor should review what was learned, get everyone’s take on their individual experience, should give you direct feedback on what you can work on. This can be done in an open dialog or it can be more one on one, but the instructor needs feedback as much as you do. What did you like? What can be done better? etc. This will help them get better at providing direction and hone their method of instruction. BE HONEST. I learn as much from my students in every class as the students learn from me. We find new ways to do things all the time. I love discoveries like this because it helps me be more patient and or more useful to my next class. After so many years, this mostly applies to students with physical disabilities but even in my early years, I remember taking my student’s suggestions to heart and put new methods into practice to ensure our classes were smoother and more effective. Anyone not asking for or getting feedback isn’t growing, period. I don’t like to blasting someone online. I will typically speak to them directly about my grievances or send them an email. Most of this depends on the heart and nature of the instructor. I have had some good and bad courses, but I never withhold my feedback. Trust me when I say I deliver my opinion. I train and certify dozens of instructors each year for the NRA. One of my closing speeches to them is about feedback. “If 9 out of 10 students have a problem, the problem is you. If 1 out of 10 had an issue it is likely them, however, what can you learn from their feedback to improve what you do to reduce the likelihood of encountering it again? “

Tell Someone

Honest feedback is life or death for many small-time instructors. If you were impressed with the class, don’t make excuses, take the time to share your experience online and with family and friends. This will help them immensely in their growth and help keep that quality instruction in your area. You may not be able to afford training again for 6 months to a year and you’re going to want that company to be there when you’re ready.

Be Diversified

Take training from multiple sources. One of the reasons I have recruited and trained multiple instructors to be part of my organization is to provide a variety of knowledge and experience. No one can be the best at everything. I didn’t want to limit my company to one thing taught by one person. The most common question from a student after a class is “where do I go from here”? I have no problem recommending other competent and qualified instructors in my area to send you to the best in that category. Keep this in mind when seeking instruction for your personal development. It is entirely possible to outgrow the instructor you started with. If you feel as though your growth is slowing, start looking for the next level.

Never Quit

It’s easy to let things like your daily life, work, family, and friends consume us. I have 7 kids, so I know a thing or two about a thing or two. If you feel like you’re the bee’s knees on your strong side, start from the beginning on your non-dominant side. You would be surprised at the value of this. This forces even the most experienced shooter to slow way down and start from scratch, re-evaluating everything on their weak side. I know students that slammed their hand in a car door that had to live with their hand in a cast for months and learn to do everything on their weak side. I have an instructor that severed his tendon opening a box with a knife that still doesn’t have full function. Think about becoming an instructor. But don’t get certified with big dreams of starting your own company and getting rich, you will fail. Start apprenticing with a local company you know and trust. There is a ton you need to learn on the business side of this house as well as being effective at helping diagnose students that you simply can’t learn and won’t learn without actual real-world experience first. Teaching others adds so much to your depth of knowledge and helps you grow as an individual. But teaching requires a lot of patience and understanding which is why having a team is so valuable to your success and your students.