I do one of these for the family each year . . . the Keller Family in review. What did each member do, what did our married kid’s families do . . . just a way to bring all our friends upI like writing the “Christmas Letter”, it’s a time of reflection, a way to connect with friends and a way to remember that life goes fast and that if you don’t slow down and savor it, participate in it . . . those opportunities are lost forever.
In that same spirit, I want to spin through the firearms training part of my life and share with you folks that take the time to read my musings (thank you, very much) how the year meant and what it means as both an instructor and a student.
Why even post this? Well, as I said, it helps me personally as a “check” on just where I am in the scheme of things. Am I moving forward, stagnating or falling back. I’d encourage you – whether simply a shooter, student or both a student and instructor – take some time and write (yes, write the damn thing down) a year in review for yourself. It’s a way to hold yourself accountable, to look over your own shoulder and evaluate your life as a shooter, student and instructor. It’s easy to tell yourself stories in the quiet of the evening while sipping an adult beverage in your favorite recliner. Stories don’t help you grow.
As for why this post should have any meaning for you, it probably won’t other than to serve as an example on how to do such a thing. But, I hope you find value in one example of how one shooter and instructor spent their year. Who knows . . . drop a note/comment/email and let me know what you think.
I’m going to break this into four different categories – coursework I taught, course work I took, range trips and finally blog posts. So let’s take a walk down memory lane.
The “shooter” side of my life is not how I make a living and I suppose that is reflected in the number of courses I teach in a year. This year I taught 12 courses for a total of 156 hours of instructor time. I’ve reviewed many on the blog but here’s the list.
1/8-10/2016 NRA BIT and BP Instructor 24 hr
2/6/2016 NAPSI FDP 8 hr
2/20/2016 NRA RSO 8 hr
4/2/2016 NAPSI FDP 8 hr
4/9/2016 BBGun Rangemaster 6 hr
4/15/2016 NRA BIT and BR Instructor 24 hr
4/30 – 5/1/2016 NRA BS Instructor 16 hr
5/14/2016 NRA RSO 8 hr
6/28/2016 NAPSI FDP 8 hr
9/22-25/2016 NAPSI MOI & FDP Instructor 32 hr
10/19/2016 NASPSI FDP 8 hr
12/7/2016 NRA BP Phase II 6 hr
As you can see it’s a fairly broad mix of subjects. What a list like this means to an instructor is that you are in front of students practicing your craft . . . firearms instruction. Whether it’s a BBGun Rangemaster course for scouters or a NAPSI Foundations of Defensive Pistol, you are refining your abilities as an instructor, working on the skill of transferring your knowledge to new shooters or instructors. As instructors – THIS – this right here is your most important goal – to teach. Like shooting, it’s a perishable skill. If you don’t teach, you forget the words, the flow, the goals . . . you diminish as an instructor. What’s not shown in the hours listed is the prep work. I probably spend 4 or more hours per course taught simply reviewing my lesson plans, rolling through the power points if there are any, reviewing the instructor manual, reading old course AARs . . . because students expect our best . . . they deserve our best . . . and that simply takes time and effort.
One special course I helped teach was the NAPSI Methods of Instruction (MOI) and the Foundations of Defensive Pistol (FDP) Instructor Development Course. It was our first of what hopefully will be many more in the future. We are having our NAPSI Development Conference the end of February – our IDC courses for the year will the listed after that. That AAR is posted on the blog if you’re interested.
Take a look at the number of courses you taught, read your AARs, be honest with yourself . . . and then look forward to next year and see how many ways you can improve as an instructor.
We’ve had this conversation before. You MUST take some type of coursework every year. Whether it is instructor development or coursework offered by other instructors – your own individual learning simply must be a priority every year. This year I took 4 separate courses for a total of 72 hours of coursework.
6/24-25/2016 Gunsite 150 24 hr
8/20/2016 CFS 1-day pistol 8 hr
11/21-22/2016 Patrol Rifle 24 hr
11/29-30/2016 AR-15 Armorer Course 16 hr
Three of these courses have AARs posted. And, just as an aside – let’s spend a few minutes on AARs – After Action Reports. There is tremendous value in conducting a brief AAR at the end of each class. What did your students think, do they have remaining questions, how do they evaluate you, what went well, what didn’t. Then, take an hour or so and do your own. I’m a notebook kinda guy. I have them going back to the late 60s. They let me focus, store data, learn from my mistakes and remember those really good ideas that slip away when I promise myself that “I’ll remember that!!” If this isn’t a habit you’ve build, I gently suggest that you start.
I did not post an AAR for the CFS just because I ran out of time in August and September. It’s been a busy year!
The other things students should look for is that you – as an instructor and shooter – are still growing. Taking a single Basic Pistol Instructor course does little to make you a competent and skilled instructor or shooter. And how can you expect a student to come to you to learn . . . if you have stopped learning.
As the saying goes . . . “Shooting is a perishable skill!” Yes, yes it is. If you aren’t regularly visiting the range, your skillset is diminishing. Period. My usual pitch to students is that in January they buy 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Plan to shoot once a month and use 100 rounds per trip. Given that “stuff happens” this approach would guarantee at least 10 range trips. I see that as a minimum . . . but it’s not a bad starting point.
I also harp on the phrase “practice with purpose”. Range trips are not about making holes but rather about honing and refine skills. And – these too should be documented. That little smartphone in your pocket is a great place to start along with a Sharpie. Date the target, display the round count, the hit count, the percentage of hits, define the drill you’re working on, add that to the little notebook you’re going to start carrying in your range bag and then photograph your finished targets at the end of each drill. You are doing a couple things with this. First, you are giving yourself increments on the measuring stick to see how you are doing as a shooter. And second, you are providing proof that you diligently practice your craft should the unspeakable happen and you are involved in a lethal shooting.
For me this year I expended around 2,000 9mm rounds and about 1,800 .223 rounds in coursework. Add another 1,000 of each on range trips . . . it’s been a good year on the range.
I fancy myself a “Blogger” and an “Author”. In 2016 I posted 32 articles to my blog including this one. Honestly, my most blogger measurements I’m a piker! But, I post with a purpose. My blog is specifically for the “new and inexperienced” shooter. I don’t want my teaching to be limited strictly to the classroom. I want to provide one more alternative to new shooters to learn new information and to hear an alternative opinion. So I blog. I also want to have a way for prospective students to see if they want to take coursework from me. I’m fairly clear in my thoughts and opinions and the blog is yet another way for a student to evaluate me.
This is also a way for you to broaden your reach as both an instructor and as a marketer for your training company. For my blog I use blogspot.com. I also use Facebook. Both have value in their own way. I would suggest that you will find value in sharing your thoughts, ideas in experiences with your students and prospective students. Give it a try for a year and see what you think.
On the “Author” front I was nicely surprised to begin receiving quarterly royalty checks for my “Just the Basics” book this year. Honestly, it was just kinda hanging out there – out of sight, out of mind when I get a report of upcoming payments. Cool! For those kind enough to purchase the book, thank you. And for the instructors that have started to use it as a reference for their students, the publisher will sell it to you for 50% off the $16.95 retail price. If you have written your own coursework and are looking for a book to provide – give me a look-see.
And, for 2017 . . . “Just the Basics – the AR Platform”. The publisher is pretty excited, now all I need to do is to roll the puppy out. I plan on releasing it chapter by chapter on the blog so stay tuned if you have interest.
So, that’s a wrap for the year. 290 hours for training and writing. As I said, I’m a piker compared to many who do this for a living. But, I’m happy with what I’ve done and turned out and looking forward to what 2017 has to offer.
A bit late but . . . Merry Christmas folks! And I wish you all nothing but the best in the New Year!