Relevance and role models: what your instructor wears may be a bad influence on how you train.

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A few weeks back I saw a picture of a self-identified defensive shooting instructor which bothered me. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but something about it gnawed at my subconscious. I know the fellow only by what he’s written (and by his association with a much better-known trainer), so it isn’t anything that would stem from a personality conflict, and yet the feeling remained.

It finally hit me the other day: in the picture this fellow is wearing what is apparently his ‘normal’ complement of two autoloading pistols, both carried appendix style — one for the strong hand, one for the weak hand. Of course he had the requisite spare magazines and folding knife clipped in a pocket.

What’s wrong with that? It’s a free country and people should be allowed to carry whatever they want on their person. I agree wholeheartedly. The problem I have is role modeling, and it’s one that I’ve become increasingly concerned with over the past few years.

Many instructors (and I’d say all of those with any reputation), to include yours truly, live the instructor lifestyle: we spend a lot of time around guns and shooting ranges. What we wear, what we can get away with wearing, is not what most of the people reading this blog can wear on a daily basis.

When you live on a shooting range you get to dress casually as a matter of course. Oh, there is the occasional donning of more ‘dressy’ apparel for an event, but such things are few and far between (and the ‘gunny’ is usually cut some slack for having a suit that is not of the highest quality nor properly fitted. In corporate America, he’d probably be relegated to the mailroom in the basement.)

Contrast this with what most people wear to their jobs everyday. I don’t know many who can get away with wearing the untucked polo shirts that are all the rage amongst the appendix-carry crowd, let alone the IDPA vests and other accoutrement that a lot of folks in this industry wear on a constant basis.

In my own family we have a state legislator, a couple of bird Colonels, an MD, a DDS, a couple of RNs, a media anchor,  a speech pathologist, and assorted other professionals — none of whom could even remotely adopt the kind of weaponry and the style of carry that the majority of trainers wear on a daily basis. My nephew could possibly get away with wearing an unbuttoned tropical shirt over a colorful t-shirt, but only because he works for a company famous for producing such tropical shirts. The rest of my family? Not a chance. My wife’s family? No. My huge extended family (over 30 first cousins on my mother’s side alone)? Less than a handful could. My neighbors? Not in their jobs. In fact, almost no one I know outside of the shooting industry could; their lifestyles, jobs, or environments just won’t permit it.

This is important because students tend to emulate their teachers, adopting not just their techniques but also their weapons and dress. The problem comes when they spend their weekends training with what I call ‘guru gear’ (I ought to trademark that) but switch to their actual daily carry equipment at the beginning of their week.

Training with ultra-fast appendix carry of a high-capacity autoloader on the weekend, but defaulting to a ‘J’-frame in a pocket holster during the week, is not training in context: in the manner in which something will be used. Training courses are too often set up to reward the use of specific equipment, the equipment which unsurprisingly the instructor carries, which gives the student a false sense of their abilities with the equipment they usually tote.

Walking around a range and showing students the kind of gear they can’t carry, in a manner that they can’t in their workday lives, isn’t encouraging them to train in context. Doing so tends to influence them, through aspirational psychology, to train with gear that is different than what they’ll actually be relying on come Monday morning.

I’m not sure that’s terribly responsible, and it’s why the picture — which could be of most instructors — bothers me.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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