Periodically on the web (whether on Facebook groups or internet forums) someone asks the dreaded question: “Anyone know a good [various-firearm-topic] instructor around here?” (It is just as much fun as when someone on a gun forum/facebook group asks “What gun should I buy?“)
…after which tons of people chime in with their favorite local guy. Often, said chiming includes comments like “class was fantastic,” “learned so much,” “best instructor around,” “an awesome instructor who cares about his students needs,” and “they’re good people and know their stuff.”
The question is, why are you trusting these people’s opinions? Do you know them? Are they knowledgeable about the topic, enough to be able to tell the difference between a good instructor and a bad one? Have they had previous classes to compare to this new one?
Or is their opinion based merely on the fact that they enjoyed the class, or that it seemed really high-speed/low-drag, and it was cool? Or that the instructor was really nice and personable? He/she was convincing? They had a really good line of talk?
How do you know that what you learned in the class was decent? Was correct? Was relevant?
Lately I’ve seen several unrelated people (I assume unrelated?) tout firearms training classes for a local group that is known to be unsafe. Not merely slightly unsafe, but “not wearing shooting glasses while standing in front of the line as people are shooting” unsafe.
Actual “people pointing guns at each other’s heads in the classroom during dryfire practice” unsafe.
People are saying “These were great classes, the instructors are really knowledgeable, great material, learned a ton!” about these classes–and I think that from a safety perspective it is the worst class I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what was taught in terms of technique (though from some of the shooting stances shown in their website’s photo gallery, I’m thinking they don’t teach anything well) but if it was on par with their safety training, I expect that their students will be missing the target by miles and shooting each other every time they are at the range.
If a person has nothing to compare it to, if they have no prior experience or information basis–then their opinion really doesn’t tell you anything other than whether or not the class was fun and they liked the instructor.
While those things are important, what is MORE important is whether or not the class curriculum, and the ability for the students to learn the curriculum, was any good. Was it realistic? Correct? Based on facts, not opinion? Taught in such a way that the student could internalize the knowledge and retain (and perform) the techniques?
“He teaches a great CCW class—I learned so much about shooting!”
…really? In Nebraska, at least, what you should learn MOST in the state-required CCW class is about the LAW, specifically regarding use of force. The class itself only covers the most basic elements of actual shooting technique–and if you only spend 6 hours on the whole class, you don’t have time to teach much more shooting technique than the basics if you want to do a good job covering the curriculum you are required to teach.
So the person may have enjoyed the class, and learned a ton of stuff–but was it the material they were supposed to learn? Was it the material they actually paid to learn?
When asking other people for opinions regarding instructors, take pretty much everything with a SERIOUS grain of salt. (Or more. Like “the Dead Sea” more.) You should pay most attention to people who have experience in classes of this type, with experience and information about the topic being taught.
The following picture was used as part of a slideshow on the CNN website about teachers who were taking CCW classes to potentially be armed in the classroom.
Considering the grip she is using, would any knowledgeable shooter think that the class she just took was any good? Obviously not. But I’d bet (considering this was her idea of a good pose for a picture after the class) that she’d say it was a great class.
You shouldn’t pay attention to people who gush “It was great! I loved it!” because WHO KNOWS what that opinion is based upon.
And, of course, my personal favorite: “This class was taught by the best instructor in the area!” Really? You’ve taken classes with every instructor in the area? You actually have the basis for that comparison? Have you even taken more than one class?
People who say stuff like that? Please stop, at least until you have enough knowledge to make a comparison to a class that had a good curriculum and was competently taught.
People who are reading stuff like that? You are going to want to disregard those, and look for after-action reports or class evaluations from people who actually know what they are talking about.