Monday, June 15, 2015

Review - NRA BP Instructor Course 6-6-7-2015


REMEDIATION:  the act or process of remedying <remediation of reading problems>

This most recent NRA Basic Pistol Instructor course provided a bit more of an “opportunity” for learning/teaching than most I’ve conducted in the past. It offered an opportunity to work with a couple students to “remediate” their marksmanship with a handgun and it gave them the opportunity to experience the process on a firsthand, personal basis.

I always offer the BIT when I teach the NRA Basic Pistol course. In this case only one of the students required that – and I will teach it one-on-one if need be, but one of the other candidates came for a review and to offer a bit of support to the new candidate – and the remaining came early afternoon to round things out. It worked well.

This particular candidate was pretty interesting from a background POV. A former grunt, Blackwater operator and State Department firearms trainer in Iraq he was a unique candidate. He’d been a contractor in Iraq for the past 7 years with the State Department and had decided that it was time to return to the US and his family for good. Personally, I think it was a good choice.

His shooting skills with a pistol were exceptional shooting the first two qual targets cold from 45ft with a Glock 19. Not too shabby. And, his teaching skills were well developed as well. What he was missing was the concepts taught in the BIT coursework. As I’ve said many times – you’d think things would flow faster with a BIT class size of one or two, you’d be wrong. The material is the material and it takes what it takes. Honestly, I’ve never finished up in the 6 hours, it usually pushes a bit past that. It did here as well but for the new candidate – even with his 7 years of teaching firearms use, manipulation and care in a relatively hostile environment – you could see lights going off as we worked through BIT. That part of the NRA Instructor training program is, hands down, the most valuable part of the entirely curriculum IMNSHO.

The remaining candidates that returned for all/part of BIT also discovered they heard new things this time through as well. I always attended the BIT if it was taught by the TC when I took a new instructor course. We all present the material from our own experience, with our own selection of words. There is a great deal of value in the sitting through the BIT course whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Once BIT was complete and lunch was eaten we went through the pre-course qualification. It is a fairly simple evaluation with one exception. So, we worked through loading and unloading a revolver and semiautomatic pistol. Then we worked through clearing drills. And finally – the shooting test. Here things slipped off the rails for a couple students. The qualifying course of fire is to fire 10 rounds at a 9” diameter target from 45 feet. They must do this twice. You get 3 points per round for a total of 60 points. Passing is 48/60 or 80% It means you can shoot a total of “down 4” over both targets.

In keeping with my policy of shooting the drills first I posted a qual target and shot the drill with my carry Glock 17. I only shot the first target and was 1 down at the end of the drill. Again, the purpose of this is NOT to show off but rather to take a bit of the edge off of the process, show that you can be successful, to demonstrate I’m not asking them to do something I can’t and – finally – to keep myself honest with ME. If you, as an instructor, do not make this part of your process – I’d encourage you to consider it.

Finally, all 4 hit the range. I always begin these sessions with a basic “by the numbers” shooting drill. Yes, I know it’s the qualification round. Yes, I should be able to assume they know how to shoot a pistol. I get it. But I don’t know these things about them. So I will typically run them through around 50 rounds or so for evaluation and correction of things I want to make damn sure they know how to do before they begin to teach a Basic Pistol course. Then, once I’ve watch them shoot, made suggestions and corrections, we step back and shoot the final qualification targets.

The result? The contractor, as I said, cleared the two qual targets without dropping a single round with his carry Glock 19.

The rest didn’t fare so well. All had filled out the pre-course qualification questionnaire. All had read, and were clear, of the shooting requirement. But it was painfully obvious they had spent little time on the range. At this point it was obvious we weren’t going to “fix things” quickly so I ended the range trip and headed back to the classroom.

There are two paths forward at this point. Eject them from the class . . . or remediate their shooting skills. These guys have taken – and are – Basic Rifle and Shotgun instructors. Passing those qualification courses was easy for them because they shoot rifle and shotgun. They are not avid pistol shooters. That said, I was also confident that with an afternoon on the range, we could work through the issues. So, the plan was made to have a remediation range trip a week later and hold off submitting the course for 7 days. With that settled we plunged into the BP Instructor coursework.

I gotta say, these guys clicked like few groups do. They formulated good presentations, were clear, deliberate and made great use of the NRA material. The rest of Saturday and Sunday really flew by. By the last presentations, they very well developed and presented with as little as 3 to 5 minutes preparation. It was fun to watch!

The final exam was taken, corrected and scored with all candidates easily passing. Of course there was the little item of “remediation” remaining. That was cleared for all but one yesterday.

It has been my experience that all elements of a qualification round come into play when things go sideways. From just plain being nervous to working out foundational components – any one thing can send things off the rails. For me I always start very close to the target, but with a very small target – and work on stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through. If the shooter can successfully accomplish this – moving back becomes much less of an issue.

For a short range target I am fond of a common “Sticky Note”. They’re about 2-inches square and provide a good starting point for a shooter at about the 9-foot mark. So that is where we started. We worked through about 20 rounds “by command” – “Drive” (out to the target), “Touch” (the trigger with the end 1/3 for your finger pad) and “Press” (the trigger smoothly to the rear of the firearm). As I said, it’s ALWAYS about the fundamentals. The final “hurdle” to work through was the trigger press. It must be smooth. It must be straight back. It must be consistent from shot to shot. And then magic happens.

Once I was happy with the “by command” results at 9 feet we worked back to 21 feet, then 30 feet and finally 45 feet. By that time it became apparent that trigger press was that component that required a bit of polish.

Finally, we shot our qualification drills – both shooters in this case passed easily. One could not return for the day so we will set a date prior to my next BP Instructor course to get this work done.

So what’s the point – why not just chuck them from the course? It’s simple really, why waste a good and enthusiastic instructor because of a single component that needs work? Take the time, put in the work and fix the problem – it’s that simple. And, as an added bonus – they, the candidate, get a firsthand experience of how they can work one of their future students through this process as well. A win all the way round!

My suggestion – take the time with a student, be willing to remediate that part of their skill set that’s not working. If you’re willing to put in the time, I’m confident they will as well. I see that as our job as instructors. Not just to take the “gravy” students – but to take all comers and insure that they learn the skills we are teaching them.

If we don’t, who will?

Congrats to Colby, Heath, Garry and Don

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