Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011 Michigan CCW Class Recap

As a Firearms Instructor, it has always been beneficial for me to reflect upon the results of a just completed state of Michigan compliant Concealed Pistol License Class. It is the perfect time to assess what tasks went well, note my observations about the class dynamics, and to evaluate elements that could use improvement. Today, I thought that I would digitally capture some of my thoughts about this past Sunday's class.

Safety Is Most Important In A Firearms Training Class

To begin, safety is always of paramount importance when I teach a Firearms Safety Class. Safety rules were not only stressed to the students in the class but the rules were also demonstrated by myself and my attending Firearms Instructors. To that end, there were no injuries and there were no safety violations. As I like to joke, "We left the gun range with the same number of holes that we walked in with."

As my students learned Sunday, the fundamental firearm safety rules they must know and obey, as safe handgun users, are listed below as the following:

Rule 0: Always Treat Firearms As Loaded
Rule 1: Always Point Firearms In Safe Direction
Rule 2: Always Keep Finger Off Trigger Until Ready To Fire
Rule 3: Always Keep Firearms Unloaded Until Ready For Use
Rule 4: Always Be Sure of Target & What Is Beyond It

Misplaced Support Hand Thumb Dilemma: Tell Or Don't Tell

When showing first-time handlers of firearms how to receive, hold, and aim a handgun, I can usually count on a specific "teach-able moment" to present itself. Generally, at least one student will place his/her support hand thumb behind the slide despite not being told to do so.

Of course, a gun handler with a misplaced thumb runs the risk of the recoil slide "biting" that thumb while firing. I tell folks that if it ever happens to them, it's a mistake they'll never repeat. A "bit" thumb will be felt but it's not fatal. Even still, I wouldn't want this incident to happen on my watch.

During Sunday's class no one misplaced their support hand thumb while conducting our hands-on practical exercises. So, I now have a dilemma: Do I warn them to not do something that they didn't do? After all, if I warn them about it now, they might start thinking about it and do it later now that they have seen it done.

I always tell my students not to misplace that thumb, after I observe someone doing it, so I continued with the practice of informing students not to do something that they didn't do. As luck would have it, a student later misplaced his thumb. The real issue is would he have done that if I didn't tell him not to do it? I'll never know.

Fear Is Another Foe To Conquer

Presumably, most people who enroll in a CPL Class are looking for a specific solution to an ever-growing menace: armed criminals. From my experiences as a Firearms Instructor, it appears that some folks take this class when their fear of being victimized finally overtakes their fear of firearms.

People fear firearms for a number of reasons. All of those justifications are usually false, as most of them are based on untruths, outright lies, and negative experiences. For example, I have had a number people tell me that the reason they had previously feared firearms was because either a criminal or a police officer pointed a firearm at them.

A firearm is just a "thing." All by itself, it is uncapable of doing anything - good or bad. A person should be more concerned with the maturity, education, and character of the person wielding the firearm. As I have heard, "A firearm in the hands of a bad man is a bad thing. However, a firearm in the hands of a good man is no threat to anyone but a bad man."

In last Sunday's class, I had a woman who was about to not partake in the shooting exercise and, as a consequence, not fully complete the class. She had done a fine job of masking her fears during the classroom portion of the training session. However, when she arrived into the shooting stall, the idea of shooting finally became "real" to her.

In any case, we were able to console and comfort her. We successfully convinced her to trust us despite her fears. She shot her target and did well, especially when you consider her initial state of mind. This lady overcame a fear - firearms - to get to where she wanted to be: A safe user of a firearm for personal protection. She succeeded. I am so proud of her bravery. A favorite quote of mine states, "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear."

For the sake of balance, women aren't the only gender for which fears must be overcome. I've had several men, who enrolled in my class, that were afraid. In fact, two classes ago I had a brand new firearms user who stood over 6 feet in height and had to weigh about three hundred pounds; he was a big dude.

Guys have egos. They are taught by society to mask their fears. Many men feel that it is not masculine to ever admit that they are afraid of something. Four weeks ago, I watched this big guy - referenced above - hold an unloaded pistol in his hand, which was shaking so violently that folks in the back row could hear the gun rattle like an infant's toy.

When I asked him to relax, to breathe, and to stop being afraid he proudly and loudly voiced to me that he wasn't afraid. However, the rest of the class chose to believe what they saw - his hands quivering. Men have fears, just as women do. Men are socialized not to admit to them. In this case, getting trained how to safely use a handgun is a very brave thing to do.

Two Sources For Info Is A Good Thing - Even Legal Advice

A month back my lawyer friend - who has taught the legal section for my class every other weekend for the last four+ years - informed me that he was going to Chicago for this past weekend. Thus, I had a choice to make: cancel the class, readjust my class schedule, or find another attorney.

Fortunately for me, I have met a number of criminal defense attorneys over the last few years who are well versed in criminal defense, firearms law, and lethal force. A few, including the attorney who subbed for this past class, I have met for lunch and talked about guns, gun rights, firearms law, and etc.

So, I knew that I had a legal replacement who was qualified and would not hurt my company's reputation and brand. What I didn't know at the time was how well he would be as a presenter. Talking is one thing - Informing and teaching lay people from the stage is different.

My "fill-in" did a bang-up job (pun intended). He was awesome. In fact, he was so good that my two other adjunct Firearms Instructors were engaged in a side discussion all day comparing the styles, abilities, and expertise of both lawyers. Imagine that - three Firearms Instructors evaluating legal talent of two attorneys. Too funny.

Not going to say who, in my opinion, is better. It is an apples-and-oranges comparison. Both are qualified and know the law intimately. So, the requirements for teaching in my class had been more than adequately met by both lawyers. However, both attorneys have unique styles and very different personalities. The gun guys had an interesting debate about the lawyers; we had fun on the sidebar.

When A Couple Shoots Together At The Range, Bet on The Female

In Sunday's class I noticed yet another occurrence of the woman shooting better than her boyfriend. It's not a rare event. In fact, it happens a lot. I have my own pet theory about why it happens.

I believe that many women don't have a handicap that some men have: a huge ego about firearms. Give me a woman, who has never fired a handgun and is not afraid of them, and I can transform her into an accurate shooter right before your very eyes. All false modesty aside, I am an excellent instructor. I'll tell her what to do and she does it without questioning my authority or experience.

A woman will listen to me. In contrast, a man wants to fight with me. Men who have either law enforcement or a military background are the worse. I can't reach them and coach them in the shooting booth because they already know everything despite the misses on their targets.

The woman who out-shot her boyfriend in this past weekend's class, was already a good shooter. Somebody taught her right and she listened. Her boyfriend wasn't an awful shooter; he just wasn't as good as she was.

Always bet on the woman.

Bottom Line:

Last Sunday's class was awesome. There were no accidents and everyone was safe. Because of my actions on that day, there will soon be more armed law-abiding citizens on the streets of metro-Detroit. I am well pleased.
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