Fighting Handgun Concepts

“This ain’t free, ya know.”

I was teaching handgun stuff and filming content for our YouTube channel ((3) Defenders USA – YouTube) with friends and students on a range in Arizona this last weekend, running the first of two days.

The bay next to us had another training group teaching their own students. I casually know the main guy. I'd met him about a year or so ago when we both had the same bays next to each other. As is my habit, prior to that training day and before my own students had shown up, I'd walked next door, introduced myself, and met that instructor.
As an aside, none of his expected students had shown up that day and I had room in my class, so I invited him to join us. He did and we began getting to know each other on the range as he unexpectedly went from instructor to student for that full day.

As for checking the bays nearby where I teach, and due to being a rather curious creature, it's always interested in knowing who else is also teaching. If these other instructors are excellent, then I want to go learn from them, but if they are subpar instructors – which is often evident rather quickly – I also want to know who to avoid.
It's also good to stop in and see if there's anything I can be of some help with or if they need extra staples, or targets, or batteries, or whatever. I've been so fortunate on the occasions when I've shown up to teach somewhere after having forgotten some needed thing on the range that occasionally there was some other instructor or training group nearby – complete strangers to me – who were quick to offer help. Those other instructors are always happy to quickly help in the needful moment, and without fail, I've found them to be people I came to greatly respect and some solid friendships have sprung from those moments.
On top of that, I just like people so it's always fun to meet the many great people in the gun and teaching communities.

Well, that's kinda warm and fuzzy but this ain't that story, so back to it.

The main instructor walked by our bay and we both grinned and waved biggly at each other. He was busy, I was busy, so we didn't stop to chat as normal. Later that day, he suddenly showed up while we were shooting near the five-yard line. We grinned at each other again; it was genuine for me, as I really like the guy, and I admire what I know about him, and also find him to be a good instructor for his students. We enthusiastically shook hands, and he told my students they were lucky to be in my class and that he felt I was a fantastic instructor.
It was kind and humbling, and his unexpected compliment was deeply appreciated.

There's a lesson to be learned there. We are technically in competition, both owners of separate training companies yet, he came over of his own accord and was uplifting and kind. Those on the range with me saw his genuineness, and I guarantee he is now one of the people they may also consider as a trainer.
His skill is good, both as a shooter and as a trainer, but I believe that evident genuineness of heart – that someone actually cares as a natural part of their nature – is what helps tip the scales for others when choosing who to go train with.
He didn't come over to promote himself or his training company. He was simply being respectful and kind, and he came across as honestly believing what he said to my people. The goodness within him was on full display…which by itself was confirming he is someone who naturally cares and therefore also likely does a great job in training people.
I was proud for him for being who he is and for unwittingly portraying his goodness to my people.

Throughout the day, I caught a couple glimpses of another instructor with that main guy. I'll presume this second guy to be an assisting instructor, as he seemed young'ish and that's just what my brain settled on.
I noticed he was wearing the golden-glazed, mirror sunglasses, those currently “fashionable” ones that almost look like ski goggles.
He sported what looked like a coiffed handlebar mustache, a la fireman-style, and he had on all the Tacti-cool clothes with the wannabe SWAT guy drop-and-offset holster and tactical gun belt with all the gun stuff.
He walked by our bay a few times, usually staring as he did so. I waved at him twice but no response, so I just kept going with the day.

At the end of the day and after my people had left, I walked over to the next bay just to see what they were doing, to say goodbye, and to see if they needed anything before I headed home to hug the wife and toss around the kids.

They had a group of ladies as students who were all shooting, with the main guy moving between them as he helped tweak small things. I could tell this was a beginning level class of mostly moms and because ladies are smart and moms are extra smart, their targets looked great, evidence of having listened well and giving it their best. No surprise and also evidence that they had a good trainer.

Ski Goggles was standing back away from everyone on the other side of the bay from me, watching everything that was going on. He glanced over at me several times as I stood back a respectful distance while waiting to catch the main guy's attention. I casually waved at Ski Goggles once, but no response and he went back to watching the others on the line. Soon, he was looking at me again, just watching from about five yards away.
I couldn't tell his expression behind the goggle sunglasses, but I sensed me didn't like that I was there. I was about to turn to leave so I didn't annoy Ski Goggles but then saw the main guy turn towards me, so I stepped forward a step or two but then he was asked a question and went back to talking to one of the ladies.

I stopped and Ski Goggles stared for a beat and then said, “This ain't free, you know.” I sensed a small undercurrent of annoyance and chiding in the tone and of how the words were said, and immediately put my hands up apologetically and started backing away as I said, “Hey, I apologize.”
I'd certainly not meant to annoy or pester anyone but even at that moment I thought, “Seriously?”.

In that exact moment, the main guy turned, saw me, gave me a big ‘ole grin and came over. A couple of the ladies glanced back, and I told them their targets looked great and that they had a good trainer. One smiled and went back to whatever she was doing as the main guy and I exchanged a few pleasantries.
Ski Goggles just stood there and watched, with that handlebar mustache twitching slightly back and forth on both sides.

Here's the point to all of this:

Instructors, be kind to people who might come up to see what you are doing. You don't have to let them interfere, but kindness, or a respectful attitude that is genuine, is a thing.
You may gain a customer…even a friend…and may even help them save life simply because you took a moment to be kind and not try to appear the gruff, tough guy or girl so they trusted you to train them and then they use those skills you imparted…all started simply because you were kind.

Instructors, get rid of your cool mirrored or extra dark sunglasses. Your students need to see your eyes. They need to see your expressions and your own thoughts emanating from your eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and you should be willing to and want to show your students your soul.
They will learn better from you, and they will trust in you more, and there will not be a visual barrier between you and your students.

Instructors, if you are teaching a beginning level class for normal, everyday people, there is no need to show up all kitted out for war. There is no need to look like a NinjaNavySEALSWATcop; save that for when you are training the tactical types. Instead, dress the part and look the part that you want to grow within your students.
If teaching a class for budding civilian defenders, as this class clearly was, ascribe to the “Gray Man” principle and ditch the cool guy 5.11's and SWAT gun belts. Concealed and non-gun'ish looking is much gooder and far more realistic to the overall goals of the students' lives and intentions.

Instructors, have a curiosity of others….of your students, of their goals, of their lives, and of others who just happen to show up.
***** Case in point: A gentleman who happened to be walking by my bay earlier that day saw what we were doing, and he stood back and watched at a distance. We were actually doing some pretty cool stuff beyond just doing easy shooting and I could see how it would be intriguing to anyone who was curious…or just bored while sitting around at the range.
As is my habit, I waved the guy over. It surprised him and he appeared hesitant, as if he was worried he would be chewed out for watching our secret squirrel stuff without permission.
Instead, when he got over to us, I asked if he wanted to watch from safely nearby and that he had all the permission needed to laugh at us when we'd screw it up, or that he could learn for a little bit and just have some fun watching. He smiled big and said he'd love to watch.
He hung back safely nearby and had a great time. At one point, I saw him video'ing me as I demo'ed some shooting, and he later Air Dropped that video over to me.
He hung out for about fifteen minutes, and I occasionally chatted with him, and the others just treated him like one of us for the short time he was there. I watched him laughing at the lame jokes a few times, and at times he appeared thoughtful at what was being taught.
He later came up, shook my hand, expressed his gratitude and that he'd learned stuff and enjoyed it. He also got my website information and told me that it was such good training that he was absolutely going to sign up for an upcoming class soon.

As the legendary Tom Givens of Rangemaster often says, there's really nothing new in the gun training world. Someone somewhere else has already been doing whatever it is possibly decades or even a century before us and what we teach ain't some secret.
Treating our material as trademarked that ONLY paying attendees can see a little bit of is both pretentious and indicative of other deeper issues.
Just be respectful and kind out there, to strangers, to our students, and to each other. We instructors owe it to our profession to portray the positive side of both our craft and of humanity.

Over and out.

Adam Winch
Founder, Defenders USA

2 Responses

  1. Adam – Great article and very well said on several fronts. I like your thoughts on dressing or gearing to the class and students’ level and your thoughts and observations about working around other instructors was superb. I work with a great team of instructors at Tri-County Gun Club, one of which is Lisa Stiers, our Senior RSO. She speaks very highly of you and I can see why. I look forward to your class here in August and in the meantime I look forward to reading more of your posts and checking out your YouTube channel.

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