As a firearms instructor, first and foremost, you need to know your students.
You will want to know their experience level and what type of student they are. Some of them might be timid. Some might be open-minded student, while others are close-minded student. Everyone will be different. Knowing your students will help tailor your training style.
The next tip is a big one…. Wait for it… it’s patience. Yes, patience will almost always benefit you as much as your student, no matter what type of student they are.
At the beginning of each firearms training class, I try to set the tone of the training experience. I give an introduction, explain safety rules, and state that nobody knows everything. I emphasize to have the mindset to always be a student and keep an open mind. Theories and how we train have changed over the years, so we have to keep up and never stop learning. No one technique is the best with every situation, and different techniques should be tried.
When it comes to the shooting range, have the student only load one round in the firearm as a safety precaution. Watch the student instead of their target. If a student is having a difficult time, I will point out all the positive things they are doing, and then try to correct the student in a positive way. This helps build confidence.
If the student is doing multiple things wrong, try to correct only one thing at a time and let them shoot. You don’t want to overwhelm them with all the fundamentals at once. Safety violations should be handled in a similar fashion. Try to avoid embarrassing the student but be strict in a positive way. Small improvements in the student’s accuracy can be used to reinforce their confidence.
Let them shoot! The more a student shoots, the more they learn. Try to keep it fun. If a student is following all the fundamentals and still shows no improvement in accuracy, it could be the firearm. In this case, try a different gun. Many beginner students bring their own gun that does not fit them well. If accuracy improves after changing guns, then you are on the right path. If you do not see a noticeable improvement, some students may benefit more in a 1-on-1 training session.
So, remember the following: know your student, have patience, set the tone of the class early, correct one issue at a time, be positive, let them shoot, and keep it fun. Keeping instruction fun for a new student will increase the chances the student comes back to further advance their training. Having a poor experience could cause a beginner to shy away, and they may never seek training again. Properly trained students are safer students, and we all want safe and responsible gun owners.
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