No. No, they don’t. Not necessarily. (I’m sure this post will make me some friends.)
There are an amazing number of people out there who fervently believe that just because an individual is former/current military or former/current law enforcement, that not only are they expert with firearms (both handguns and long guns, apparently), but A) they know good, solid citizen self-defense tactics and skills, and B) they can teach said tactics and skills.
You know what? Not only are A and B not necessarily true (matter of fact, most of the time those are not true), but the basic premise of “expert with firearms” isn’t remotely true either.
This isn’t saying that no military and law enforcement folks are good shooters—there are a number of mil/leo people who are outstanding shooters of all types. However, this is completely separate from saying that being mil/leo automatically means one is expert with firearms.
Are most military/leo better than the average gun owner? Probably, up to a point. That isn’t because military/leo firearms training is that fantastic, it is because the vast majority of gun owners aren’t shooters—they merely own guns, and play around with them every once in awhile. As such, it is a very low bar to get over, to say that anyone is better than the majority of gun owners.
This doesn’t make mil/leo folks expert. Sure, Bob Vogel, Ted Puente, Shannon Smith, Frank Proctor, Pat Mac can all shoot at an incredibly high level. And yet, if you grabbed your local law enforcement department and closest military company, and had them demonstrate their pistol skills (and their rifle skills), “expert” is not the conclusion you would reach. (Heck, local departments sometimes have numerous members who have difficulty qualifying each year–and the NE LEO Firearms Qualification is amazingly easy.)
Matter of fact, “safe” is not necessarily the conclusion you would reach, either. That isn’t a failure of the mil/leo individuals–it is a failure of the way they are trained. When they don’t get to handle a firearm except when on the line, when they aren’t trusted with a loaded firearm except when given specific range commands, when they aren’t given the funds and facilities to actually practice—and most of all, when the instructors aren’t training them in safe gun handling (merely safe range practice, which is something very different), then of course they really don’t know safe firearms handling.
Military or Law Enforcement experience does not equate to shooting skills, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they know how to teach said skills. They might be able to shoot better than the average gun owner—but if you are actually going to a class to learn how to shoot better, then you aren’t an average gun owner, and you certainly don’t want to be taught by one. And when given a choice of firearms training, making your decision based on whether or not the instructor is current/former LEO or military really isn’t relevant, especially if your goal is learning shooting skills and citizen self-defense tactics. (If your goal is learning military shooting techniques, that is a different story.)
Police officers have VERY different tactical priorities compared to normal citizens. Military folks have VERY different rules of engagement compared to normal citizens. And if you think that having an LEO/MIL background means they automatically know everything about guns—-you should get yourself to a shooting course taught by someone who really DOES know how to shoot.
I’ve shot with a number of police/military folks. Of them, most are perhaps slightly better than your average gun owner if I’m feeling generous—but much worse than your average USPSA shooter. Not all of them, of course—we have a couple of outstanding local shooters who are military or LEO. BUT…..most military/LEO that I’ve seen who ARE good at it are only good because of the extra time and training they put into it themselves.
It certainly wasn’t due to their LEO/military training. And that is completely separate from someone’s ability to actually TEACH the subject.
So sure, like most people I prefer to have an instructor that has experience in the situations that they are attempting to prepare me for—but that preference is a distant third compared to first being solidly competent in technique, and secondly being able to transfer that technique to me via teaching. (And since most military and LEO folks don’t have experience in citizen self-defense situations and tactics, their experience, while related, really isn’t the same anyway.)
This post brought to you by recent experience with a couple of local instructors who are former military/LEO, one of whom demonstrates frightening levels of not-safe-ness in class, the other of which pontificates incorrectly about “what really happens” by “expert sourcing”* his “facts” (i.e. his opinions are actually facts, because he says so, even in the face of actual research data).
They both charge about twice what I do for classes. [sigh] And people take these classes, presumably because they don’t know any better. And continually talk about how they are great instructors because of all their military and law enforcement experience.
*Thanks to Ben Stoeger for the “expert sourcing” phrase.