There was a discussion going on in one of the NRA groups I participate it that started out on the topic of the instructor finding that a student had a new gun along with 50 rounds of ammunition in the classroom. To say this is a NO NO in a NRA class is an understatement. As it was for the coursework this instructor was teaching – which WAS NOT a NRA class, he just wanted to discuss how fellow instructors handled a substantial breech of course rules. He got a solid set of answers and then . . . as these discussions are warrant to do . . . we started down the “rabbit hole” of side discussions . . . finally getting to the point of chatting about instructors that run their coursework “hot”. “Alice?? Alice??”
So let’s chat about “hot” coursework and what it means to YOU. I want to do this from two different points of view . . . the Instructor’s POV and then the student’s POV.
From the Instructor’s POV
Running a course that permits a “hot range” is a significant “step up” from NRA coursework. As the instructor, you need to have an honest heart-to-heart with yourself. Most instructors I know are a couple levels past “Type A” personalities. Honestly, that’s a necessary trait for a weapons instructor – but it needs to be tempered with a substantial dose of reality as well. Let’s start out with some basic questions . . .
Do you run “hot”? As you read this post, can you reach out with your dominant hand and draw a loaded weapon to defend yourself? If not – the specific answer to why not can be very telling. Are you more comfortable with a weapon on your hip . . . or with it in the safe? What percentage of the time do you carry? Do you carry everywhere you can or only when you “feel the need”? My point here is that if YOU do not carry a loaded weapon with you every minute it’s possible . . . how can you teach that skillset to someone else? If you don’t find innate value in living your life as an armed citizen, why would your students?
Are you “intimate” with your weapon . . . hell, are you “familial” with it? Do you know how it feels, how it functions, how to “love it”, clear it, use it . . . without a thought, a hesitation, a doubt . . .? Again, if you are not, if you can not . . . how on earth are you going to possible teach a student to truly become an armed citizen?
If you put a round through your femoral artery . . . are you going to die?? Think on that one just a bit . . . Tomorrow, when you go to the range all by yourself . . . and the 1 in a 1,000,000 accident happens and you press the trigger during a draw driving a round through your femoral artery . . . are you going to die? Now, multiply this absolute worst case by the number of students you intend to run on your “hot” range . . . and ponder that just a bit. Bottom line – get trained, have a BOK in the center of your back . . . before you take a single step towards the range again.
Are the 4-Rules a part of your DNA . . . or simply something you preach in the safety of the classroom? Do you cringe every time you see improper weapon discipline onscreen? Do you place your finger outside the trigger guard . . . when you pick up your battery powered drill??
How come?? Why on earth do you want to teach a live fire course with a “hot” range to begin with? Answers like: “Well, it’s just the next step!” . . . or . . . “The NRA doesn’t offer anything else after PPOTH!” . . . or something similar are NOT A FRICKING REASON TO BEGIN TEACHING MORE ADVANCED COURSEWORK. You simply must have a deep seated passion to want to lead an individual to a higher level of being able to defend themselves and their families. And you must do this by example, by life style – not just by running a course.
Do you know how to develop a course? To lead a less experienced shooter to a higher skill level? What are the steps . . . how do you get them there? This whole part falls under a general topic called “Methods of Instruction”. The NRA teaches this via their Basic Instructor Training course . . . yet there is much past that. How much time to you study how to teach? How much actual teaching (outside of the basic NRA courses) have you done? Again, if you can’t teach the skillset you are looking to convey . . . if you can’t outline the steps to get them “from here to there” . . . please, start there before you hit the live fire range.
How about personal range time? One of my personal hot buttons is making sure instructors shoot the first drill on the range. I know, it’s a little thing, but the point is to demonstrate the drill and help instill confidence in you, as the instructor. That said, you simply must keep your individual skills sharp. Perfect . . . no, sharp . . . shouldn’t we all be doing that?
Finally, have you evaluated the risks . . . ALL the risks? You come home dead because of some flagrant range violation. This would actually be GOOD news, because it’d be YOU that was dead and would no longer be concerned with the fallout. Your family may well still bear the brunt of your stupidity. On the other hand, you may be sucking air just fine while a student is taken away in a ZipLoc. I want you to ponder long and hard the affect that would have on your life. I’m not slapping this paragraph together to install doubts in you (if it is you should NOT think of offering a course at all . . . of any kind), but to make sure you understand the seriousness of the topic. Lives depend on everyone doing everything absolutely correctly . . . every frickin’ draw and trigger press!
So, if you’re done reading this so far – and you look in the mirror and still feel the drive and confidence you did 10 minutes ago . . . you are probably as ready as you ever will be. Keep your head in the game, be safe, fill any “holes” you may have . . . and be the best teacher you know how to be.
From a Student’s POV
“Hot” ranges offer the student a taste of “real life” should the whole world go sideways in a really big way. The only reason to ever draw your loaded weapon from your holster during your everyday life is that you’re about to die . . . period! There simply is no other reason what so ever. (OK, going to a safe area to clear your weapon for cleaning . . . ) What “hot” courses do is to allow you to simulate, on the square range, how you typically lead your life – with a loaded weapon on your hip. Honestly, it shouldn’t “feel” different. Your actions shouldn’t be radically different either, holstered until you execute the drill. You can easily top off a magazine without drawing your weapon and magazines in your carriers are just . . . empty magazines – fill them.
Where things can go sideways is simply lack of focus, especially as the day wears on and you become fatigued, dehydrated or just plain run out of gas. At that point you do actually become dangerous – not because of the loaded gun, but because of your diminished physical abilities. You instructor and his/her RSO should be watching you for this. Many “hot” courses work with a shooting partner where you shoot drills in rotation – take care of your partner.
You too should be responsible for your own safety. If you shoot yourself in the femoral artery . . . are you going to die?? Your instructor and their RSOs will have BOKs . . . but if you are on your home range . . . do you? Do you know how to use them? If not – fill that hole YESTURDAY!!!
You MUST be disciplined enough to handle your weapon safely each and every time you touch it. There are no excuses, no short cuts, no quick answers . . . only being safe every time you touch your weapon. Follow all range rules and commands IMMEDIATELY. Period. You place everyone in danger otherwise. Nuff said!
When you are about to take a course – any weapons course for that matter – check out the instructor. The Internet is a great tool and it’s impossible to hide in today’s training world. Research the instructor, read reviews of their coursework . . . do your research. And, if an instructor is reluctant to pass on references if asked . . . perhaps there’s a reason – keep lookin’ for an instructor that’s forthcoming – they are out there.
Finally, realize that if you carry . . . your life is “hot”. Coursework on “hot” ranges are typically more advanced courses teaching you skills that may well be life saving . . . don’t avoid them . . . learn from them.