3 Cardinal Virtues of Good Firearms Instructors

Good firearms instructors aren’t all that hard to find if you know how to spot a good one.

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Taking on the role of firearms student might be intimidating, but rest assured: it’s intimidating no matter what your level. That’s why it’s so important that Every. Single. Instructor. Continue to be a student on another instructor’s firing line. Here’s how you spot an instructor you want to train with.

Good instructors never stop training

Kathy Jackson of The Cornered Cat knows a thing or two about mindset. While investigating the perspective of a firearms student, she reveals that people often don’t know what they don’t know until they push themselves to learn more. And, there’s always more to learn. Sometimes, students become more advanced learners or even instructors and, at some point, they decide there is no more they can be taught. Those people are dangerous.

Shooting skills are corruptible and perishable. A slight wobble in a solid grip could, with enough “practice,” morph into a really ineffectual grip without a skilled eye applying his or her own best practices to correct it. An instructor’s sloppy re-holster when demonstrating on the line sends the wrong message to his students about re-holstering safely. Every instructor needs to continue to be a student under a variety of good teachers. Anyone who says otherwise has just decided to stop learning and growing as a shooter.

Good instructors understand that practice only reinforces training

Last weekend, I was a student in Karl Rehn’s “Beyond the Basics” class at KR Training. I am always humbled by the opportunity to learn from truly skilled instructors, and to gain a new perspective on training and new techniques that will benefit my students. This class provided ample opportunity for both (as well as helping me figure out that I had developed a bad grip habit that could have really derailed me if Karl hadn’t pointed it out). Karl compares skill development to digging a “hole” in the brain, a sort of a well where you put all the training and practice. These are the skills you’ll revert to when under stress, such as in a defensive situation. The more you practice, the deeper the hole becomes and the more ingrained your shooting skills. For better or worse, when you practice, you’re reinforcing whatever habits you already have. That doesn’t mean you’re improving as a shooter, and it’s disingenuous for an instructor to tell you to practice without telling you what to practice.

Hundreds of round downrange, plus range fees, can get pretty expensive. Spending that money on a couple of hours with a good instructor, however, can help you pinpoint exactly what you need to work on and how to practice most effectively. Sometimes, the exact right practice to reinforce good habits and skills doesn’t even involve range time.

Good instructors are safe instructors

If you don’t have the Four Rules of Gun Safety memorized, post them somewhere in your home so you see them enough that you do. But, that’s not enough. A good instructor spends a good deal of time ensuring that everyone follows the rules, all the time, and then they do the same ad nauseum. If you see an instructor not practicing really annoyingly exaggerated safety habits (H/T April Strong of Holding Strong in Cheyenne, WY), it’s time to find a different instructor. If the teacher doesn’t show respect for the deadly weapons in his or her charge, that’s a failure on the most basic level and points to an overall lack of respect for firearms.

If you’re ever uncomfortable or feel unsafe in a firearms class or on a firing line, don’t be afraid to address it right away, or just leave the area. Your safety trumps any social constraints about rudeness. Be sure you let the instructor or safety officer know why you left or what made you feel unsafe; it’s the only way they’ll have a chance to improve their safety practices for later classes. A good instructor will thank you for bringing it to their attention.

Women’s Shooting League Features Personalized Training Focus

A Girl and A Gun-Temple welcomes new shooters to the League’s signature event, Girls’ Night Out, at 6 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month at Temple Gun Club. Email agirlandaguntemple@gmail.com for more information, or join the group’s Facebook page, Temple TX A Girl and A Gun.

A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League’s new Temple chapter began hosting events in June 2015, with an influx of new members who just can’t wait to learn more about shooting sports and gun safety. Facilitator Becky Dolgener said the launch attracted ladies of all ages and backgrounds who all had very specific reasons for seeking out the group.

“I asked every woman there why she came, and most of them want to learn more about shooting in a safe and supportive environment,” she said. “Luckily, that’s just what A Girl and A Gun is all about.”

Founded in 2010 by Austin-area firearms instructor Julianna Crowder, A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League has grown to more than 85 chapters across the United States with more than 4,300 members. League events include educational clinics, one-on-one coaching from instructor-facilitators, and an emphasis on getting more women involved in shooting sports.

“Local women need a resource for personalized shooting instruction and safety education, both for themselves and for their families,” Dolgener said. “The Temple Chapter of A Girl and A Gun will meet our members where they are; we’re going to start by providing expert instruction in gun safety, safe and effective concealed carry methods, and proper handgun selection.”

But, the group’s offerings don’t stop there. AG&AG members are encouraged to participate in the shooting sports, and Dolgener says the group seeks out learning opportunities for local ladies to learn about sports such as 3-Gun, International Defensive Pistol Association-style shooting matches, steel shooting, skeet, and sporting clays. As the group gears up for the AGAG National Conference in April, the group will focus on foundational clinics such as gun cleaning and maintenance, gear and gun selection, and drawing from holster, maintaining the group’s dedication to safety and education.

A Girl and A Gun-Temple welcomes new shooters to the League’s signature event, Girls’ Night Out, at 6 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month at Temple Gun Club. Email agirlandaguntemple@gmail.com for more information, or join the group’s Facebook page, Temple TX A Girl and A Gun.

3 Low-Cost Ways to Improve Your Shooting

Formal pistol training can get expensive, but here are three ways to improve your shooting that won’t require a second mortgage.

Formal pistol training can get expensive, but a few well-chosen classes and a dedication to both live-fire and dry-fire practice can help shooters at every level improve skills without a huge expense. Here are three ways to improve your shooting that won’t require a second mortgage.

Get Free Training Advice

The mark of a true professional is willingness to share their methodology. But, before you start trolling YouTube and watching lots of derps do it wrong, start reading. Many of the world’s top instructors and champion shooters are also published authors, but buying all those books could get pricey. This is where it pays to find books at your local library. You will find certain reference books you’ll want to purchase for your own library, but reading them first for free will help you figure out which books best suit your goals. Also, some of the best educational material—especially on mindset and gear—is out there for free in blog form. Just make sure you find the best shooting blogs from reputable sources, like the ones we feature in our blogroll.

Print Your Own Targets

A simple “pistol training drills” search online turns up more printable targets than you’ll ever need. Most are free to download and print, so your only expense is printer ink. If you can’t find exactly the target you need for a specific drill, there’s no law that says you can’t make up your own. Use a large piece of cardboard with a small square of masking tape (aim small, miss small). What’s important is to remember that those splatter targets and self-healing spinners might be fun, but they really aren’t necessary for building skills. Set a goal for your target (all hits on a 1-inch square) and then increase distance to increase difficulty.

Surround Yourself with Like-Minded Shooters

You’ve probably heard by now that in five years, you’ll be most like the people you surround yourself with today. Develop friendships with shooters who are more advanced than you are and who are willing to share some pointers. If you’re wanting to participate in a specific sport, join social media groups dedicated to those sports and start asking questions. Find nearby matches and go watch, but don’t stop there; competitive shooters are like missionaries for their sports. Tell them you’re interested in learning more, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’re welcomed into the fold. Plus, it’s always more fun to go shooting with a group of friends than to go it alone.

Learning a new skill on a budget requires some resourcefulness, but it can be done. Maximize your return on investment by starting with some professional training. Remember: if your range time is reinforcing bad habits, all that ammo is going to waste. Make every round count, and train first for more effective practice later.

Prevent Muscle Fatigue and Injury While Training (VIDEO)

Holding your arms out in front of you while shooting a pistol requires lots of muscles working in synchronization, and you need a basic level of fitness to prevent fatigue and injury. We’ve built a workout for that.

Holding your arm out in front of you requires lots of muscles working in synchronization. Add the weight of a pistol and try to hold it steady while you shoot and fight recoil, and you need a basic level of fitness to prevent fatigue and injury. Check out the video below from Destinee of Guns Gear & Fitness to learn more about all the muscles that have to work together when you shoot a pistol. I’ll wait right here.

Shooting strong-hand-only puts particular strain on the muscles of your strong arm, but do an experiment next time you dry-fire or go to the range: get into a good, two-handed shooting stance and take note of what doesn’t feel comfortable. Your weak-hand wrist should be locked out–does that give you a forearm twinge if you hold it for more than a couple of magazines? If you shoot a revolver, there’s actually a thing called “revolver finger,” and even the pros get it. At some point in your shooting, those tiny muscles in your trigger finger that are expected to do all the hard work just…quit…working. Annnd, you’re done shooting for the day.

Gear Check

Start by selecting the firearms that fit your hand, your hand strength and your upper-body strength. Gradually strengthen your body to prevent concussive and repetitive-motion injuries using some basic moves that focus on the muscles you use while shooting. Adjust it to your own needs and fitness level by adding or subtracting reps and weight, and be mindful of existing injuries or limitations. Add cardio, core, and lower body work for a complete fitness regimen. Get help from a certified trainer if you’re unsure how to proceed, and always consult with your doctor before you start a new workout routine. That’s especially important if you’re nursing an injury.

Warm-Up: 25 Arm Circles, 25 Arm Crosses, 25 Wrist Circles (Repeat 2X) Dynamic stretching is the way to warm up cold muscles without risking injury. Make big movements that involve your chest, back, and core, feet directly under your hips. Complete arm circles to warm up the shoulders, then swing the arms wide and “give yourself a hug” to complete arm crosses. Wrist circles warm the forearms and get them ready to work. Speed up the movements as you get warmer, and you’ll get a little cardio warm-up, as well. Do this every time you’re going out to shoot.

Chest, Back: (with dumbbells or canned goods) 25 Chest Flys (on the floor, elbows slightly bent, straight arms going up and back down), 25 Bent-Over Upright Rows. Repeat two times or until your muscles won’t work anymore and are shaky; that’s called muscle failure, and it means you’re pushing your limits and getting stronger.

Stretch It Out: (Goal is to ultimately hold each stretch—no bouncing—for 30 seconds) Extend arms straight back, thumbs up to stretch the pectoral muscles; bend at the waist and round the back to stretch back muscles, slowly rolling up one vertebrae at a time until standing. Roll the shoulders back to complete the stretch, and don’t forget deep breaths to oxygenate and help stretch the back and chest.

Shoulders, Biceps: (with dumbbells, arms as straight as possible) 15 Front Raises, 15 Side Raises, 15 Overhead Presses. Repeat two times or until failure.

Stretch It Out: Put one arm straight out in front of you, then grab it with your other hand above the elbow. Pull it across your chest and hold the stretch. Repeat on the other side. Turn your head to look over each shoulder to increase the stretch.

Forearms: (with dumbbells) Seated, place your forearms on top of your thighs with weights in-hand. Bend your wrists only as you roll the weights up and down for one movement. For greater grip strength, relax your fingers slowly and allow the dumbbell to roll just to the fingertips, keeping them curled to keep from dropping it. Bring the weight back up into your palm by curling your fingers, then lifting your hands to work the wrists and forearms. Complete 10 reps, then stretch by pushing each hand as far back as possible toward the elbow and as far down as possible, without pain. This exercise will help prevent repetitive-motion injuries such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Repeat two times, and increase reps as it gets easier.

Triceps: (with dumbbells) 15 triceps kickbacks (one or both arms), 15 overhead triceps extensions. Repeat two times.

Stretch It Out: Bend each arm at the elbow and try to touch your upper back while keeping gentle traction on your triceps with the opposite hand. Stretch both arms.

Kick It Up a Notch: Complete this workout, adding weight and reps as you get stronger, every other day. Keep your core engaged and tight. On off days, gentle cardio such as walking is your best bet for improving endurance.

Alternative: Walk while carrying weights, pumping arms the whole time.

Always: Drink an ounce of water each day, per pound of body weight.

Source: Beth Moses, personal trainer.

The 3 Cardinal Rules of Dry-Fire Practice

Here are three things you must do every time you dry-fire your unloaded pistol to improve your marksmanship during live fire.

Dry-fire practice is done with an unloaded gun. Check it for open and clear, check and double check that the magazine is empty, and manually clear the chamber before you start. Make sure there’s no live ammo in the same room. Then, treat the weapon like it’s loaded and don’t point it at anyone (even yourself) or anything you’re not willing to destroy. Do not cut corners with safety during dry fire.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Industry experts are all over the place when it comes to dry fire. Some say do it all the time, others say keep your practice real with live fire, and then there are those who argue that you should buy snap caps to prevent damage to the firing pin. We’re not getting into that part of it today. Instead, if you’re into dry-fire practice, here are three things you must do every time you dry-fire your unloaded pistol to improve your marksmanship during live fire.

1. Take It Into Slow-Mo

Slowing down your movements requires that you think about what you’re doing, and any time you’re facing accuracy issues, going into slow-mo can help you pay attention to every little detail so you can correct deficiencies. Start with your foundation (stance), your balance (weight slightly forward), and finally, your draw (from concealment or holster). Going into slow motion with your drawstroke should help you identify any deficiencies, such as sweeping your non-dominant hand or, in the case of drawing from concealment, sweeping to your rear or sides. Stay mindful of every single aspect of your stance, balance, and drawstroke, and don’t practice the draw until you’ve corrected safety and technique issues repetitively. It’s true that practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. Commit each and every little movement to muscle memory.

2. Focus on Sight Picture

Once you’ve established eye dominance and determined what your next-step shooting goals are (speed or accuracy), it’s time to perfect your sight picture. The act of drawing your firearm should always end when you come to an acceptable sight picture. Well, let’s call it an “accurate” sight picture (ASP). When you’re drawing for practice, if you don’t end your draw with an ASP, you’re wasting your time. It doesn’t matter how fast you get if you can’t accurately hit a target after you draw. Get that front sight in focus, target and rear sights blurred, with every draw. Commit that to muscle memory with lots of repetition, paying close attention to proper stance and grip. If you find any of your fundamentals suffering, slow it way down and start over. There’s no need to speed up until you’re drawing flawlessly in slow-mo.

3. “Trouble-Shoot” Trigger Control

Once you’ve come to an ASP without safety or technical errors and you’re happy with your speed, add in a slow-motion dry fire. You can employ snap caps or spent cartridges if you’re worried about wear and tear on your firing pin. You can also balance a spent casing or a penny on your front sight as you maintain your sight picture and complete the trigger pull. If the casing falls, check your grip and finger placement and practice slowly until you can keep the muzzle stable enough to keep the casing from falling. Practice that trigger pull perfectly until you’re ready to add in drawing to ASP, and start the entire movement over again in slow motion. Speed will come with muscle memory, but that takes daily practice.

Perfect practice.

Texas Personal Firearms Training instructors use dry-fire for their own training and practice regimens. Contact us today to customize your training program so you can improve your accuracy and speed in just 15 minutes a day.

Former Anti-Gunner Now CEO of International Women’s Shooting League

A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League CEO Robyn Sandoval shares her story in the viral article, Discoveries of an Anti-Gunner: My Conversion to the Other Side.

CEDAR PARK, TX–A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League has, in less than a decade, revolutionized the shooting sports industry and shattered the glass ceiling that had previously marginalized women shooters. CEO Robyn Sandoval recently shared her own story of transformation, and won the Internet. Read Robyn’s Discoveries of an Anti-Gunner: My Conversion to the Other Side, and see intelligent firearms discussion in action.

Ready to learn more about guns? Join the Temple Chapter of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League for Girls’ Night Out the first Tuesday of each month. Find us on Facebook to get event notices and learn about nearby firearms education and training, and keep your focus on improving your skills as you train for real life.