Tactical Buzzwords to watch for
by Caleb Giddings

We’ve been discussing Derp-Based Training for the past week or so on Gun Nuts, because it’s important to recognize silliness and bad ideas within our own community. Obviously, getting good firearms training isn’t something that everyone is going to do, but if you do choose to get training there are things you can do to make sure that you’re getting quality instruction.

Good firearms techniques should be based on Three Pillars of Radness: Demonstrate, Measure, and Refine. What that means is that your instructor should be capable of demonstrating the techniques he’s teaching. That doesn’t mean they have to demonstrate every single drill, but they should be able to demonstrate the skills they’re imparting to you. For example, if we’re working on revolver reloads, a good instructor should be able to demonstrate the different methods of revo reloads and explain each one. He doesn’t need then to demonstrate a 1-reload-2 drill, which is used for the “Measure” part of training.

Measuring the skill means using an objective standard. How do we do that? Group sizes and timers. Here’s an objective drill: “5 shots with no time limit, all shots must be within the 2 inch circle at 5 yards.” Or for timed skills such as the draw: “draw and fire two shots from the holster at an 8 inch circle with a par time of 2 seconds. Repeat 5x for a total of 10 rounds, you must have 9/10 in the 8 inch circle to pass.” Now, the inverse of this is that not all drills need to necessarily be that detailed, but a good class should use some kind of objective standard to measure performance and improvement. It doesn’t matter if it’s the FAST Drill, El Pres, or the Humbler. If you’re not measuring performance, you’re just fooling yourself.

Finally, refine. Every class I’ve ever gone to, regardless of whether I’ve been the top gun or middle of the pack, the instructors have offered refinements on my technique. “Try doing this differently to get result x” means they’re working to refine my performance on the objective metrics they use to measure performance. Now, refinement is the only pillar that also involves the shooter keeping an open mind. However, if you’ve picked your training class smartly based on the first two pillars, you’re probably in a good position to learn something from the class you’re attending.

Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

  • The instructor prefaces various drills with “in most real gunfights” or the phrase “in the streets”
  • If the instructor dismisses shooters with advanced skill as “gamers”
  • No use of objective, measurable standards, and bases everything on “feelings”

Remember, the goal of training is to get better. If your class or instructor isn’t providing you an objective way to measure that improvement, than they’re not worth spending your money on. I’ve taken classes from all kinds of different instructors; tactical guys to USPSA Grandmasters and everything in between. Every single one of them provided objective measures of skill, and as a result I’ve benefited from every class I took.

If I had to condense this class into a single rule of thumb, it would be this: “If you class/instructor doesn’t use a timer to measure performance, they’re not worth it.”