Tag Archives: SHERIFF JIM WILSON

SKILLS: 4 Things Shooting Instructors Do That Drive Students Nuts

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There’s good and bad firearms training instruction, and it’s all about the instructor/student relationship. The Sheriff writes this one to offer some insight for those on the instructor-side of the equation… READ MORE.

Driven crazy

SOURCE: NRA Family
by Sheriff Jim Wilson

A while back I did a piece on the things that students do to give defensive instructors gray hair. Well, my friends, that knife cuts both ways. An instructor can easily ruin a class for his students. Being a good shot or a gunfight survivor does not automatically qualify a person to be a good instructor. If that instructor lacks basic teaching skills, a student may learn very little and be very disappointed with the class. Here are some of the common errors that instructors make.

ONE: FAILURE TO THOROUGHLY EXPLAIN…
Some instructors think that it makes them sound authoritative when they use tactical terms such as OODA Loop, EDC and Watch Your Six, to name a few. There is nothing wrong with those terms as long as an instructor takes the time to explain them instead of assuming that his students actually know what he means. It’s never a mistake to just use common English, although some High Speed/Low Drag instructors haven’t figured that out yet. I know of one instance when an instructor finished the morning lecture only to have a student ask, “What is a muzzle?” While some may chuckle at this, it is a legitimate question and indicates that the instructor and the students were not operating on the same information level.

TWO: TOO MANY WAR STORIES…
Now I love a good war story, but the fact is that too many instructors use war stories to impress the students with the instructor’s experience. A few war stories aren’t bad, as long as they are used to illustrate certain important points that the teacher is trying to get across. I know of one instructor who loves to show a video of himself killing a man during a police action. There’s no point to the video except to have the class see him do it. “Unnecessary” and “tasteless” are two descriptive words that come to mind.

THREE: EXPECTING TOO MUCH OF THE STUDENTS…
Students in a defensive class should be challenged to learn and perform tasks that often put them outside of their comfort zone. A good defensive teacher knows when the class is ready to try something new and when they are not. One must have a good handle on the basics of defensive shooting before moving along to learn other skills. Knowing when to safely push a student into something new is one of the marks of a good defensive teacher.

FOUR: FAILURE TO MAINTAIN A SAFE RANGE & TEACHING ENVIRONMENT…
Some instructors run a hot range (guns are always loaded) and others do not, preferring to have guns unloaded except during actual firing. Neither one is less safe than the other, as long as everyone understands the safety rules and adheres to them.

A safety lecture should be the start of every defensive class. Students should be reminded of the required safety rules throughout the class. More importantly, the safety rules should be strictly enforced at all times.

There is never a good reason for firearms to ever be pointed at students, instructors or range assistants. Nor is there ever a good reason for students, or anyone else, to be downrange when guns are being fired. I know of these things being done at some schools in the past, and my only hope is that this no longer occurs. I can’t imagine what kind of defensive instructor would allow this sort of thing to happen.

Editor’s Note: Looking for training? Check out classes from certified NRA Instructors here and here.

A good defensive school and a good defensive instructor should be all about the students. The instructor should be as good at his teaching skills as he is at his shooting skills. His job is not to be cool; his job is to help people learn. In short, his job is to save lives. Fortunately, we are blessed with a large number of defensive instructor/teachers who fully understand this important fact.

SKILLS: Sheriff’s Tips: What’s Your Stance?

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Sheriff Jim Wilson shares some recollections and history on development of the pistol shooting stance, and, most importantly, puts it all into perspective for today’s modern world. Keep reading…

by Jim Wilson
Source: NRA American Rifleman
Images courtesy Gunsite.com

The first experience that I had with a two-handed shooting stance was the isosceles stance as taught by the FBI at our police academy. The shooter stood erect and shot with both arms extended and elbows locked. This was also the same stance that we used in department qualifications and PPC matches.

Jim Wilson

This stance worked pretty well as long as we were firing .38 Spl. wadcutter ammo out of our revolvers. Where it got weak was when we were trying to make multiple hits with .357 Mag. ammo, or even .38 Spl. +P. We simply could not do a good job of managing the extra recoil of the fighting ammunition.

Isosceles stance
Isosceles Stance.

It was this same need to manage recoil when firing more than one shot that caused Jack Weaver, a California peace officer, to develop a slightly different technique. Weaver bent his elbows and made sure that his support elbow was pointed down towards the ground. He also exerted an isometric hold on the pistol, pushing forward with his shooting hand and pulling back with his support hand. Using this technique, Weaver’s arms absorbed most of the recoil and made the gun more manageable under rapid fire. Col. Jeff Cooper quickly noticed that Weaver’s technique was helping him to win quite a few matches and incorporated it into the Modern Technique of the Pistol.

Weaver Stance
Weaver Stance.

For quite some time, a healthy argument ensued as to which technique was really the best to use in actual gunfights. The Weaver camp often suggested that the Isosceles was best used in target shooting, while the Isosceles crowd quickly pointed to the number of actual gunfights won by people using the Isosceles method. As it turns out, what the arms are doing may not be nearly as important as what the rest of the body is doing.

The defensive shooter should use an athletic body position. He should be squared to his target. The feet should be about shoulder width apart, with the support foot just slightly ahead of the strong-side foot. By that I mean that the ball of the support foot should be about even with the tip of the toes on the strong-side foot. The knees should be slightly bent and the shooter’s weight should be on the balls of his feet. The shoulders should be slightly forward of the feet.

In this kind of position, the shooter can manage the pistol’s recoil better. And it also puts the shooter in a good physical stance that allows him to move quickly in just about any direction. And, depending upon body size, the shooter may adjust this position a bit in order to be most effective.

Whether one shoots with both arms straight or arms bent, he or she can exert a firm grip on his pistol and somewhat of an isometric, push-pull, hold. The key is to be in an aggressive, athletic body stance without getting into a crouch. As Richard Mann puts it, “Do it like you are killing snakes!” A firm stance and a firm grip are what is needed to manage recoil and allow for multiple, accurate hits.

Many of us older shooters well remember the magazine articles by Col. Cooper and Massad Ayoob as they argued back and forth on the merits of the Weaver vs. the Isosceles. I am told that, later in life, Col. Cooper made the statement that he wished he hadn’t made such as issue of the two stances. Whichever one a person chooses to use, his success will be noted in his ability to deliver quick, accurate shots with full-power defensive ammunition.

It may even be that a good defensive shooter should be well versed in both techniques. Depending upon the available cover, whether he is shooting over or around something, and the angle in which he may have to deliver his shots (we can’t always plant our feet and assume a classic stance when under a surprise attack) one or the other technique might work best.

I have come to the conclusion that arguing the Weaver vs. the Isosceles is about as productive as arguing .45 vs. 9 mm. I have better ways to spend my time and the guys who want to argue these issues might spend their time more productively in good training and practice.