Great Instructors vs. Others
Beau Doboszenski, Owner/Lead Instructor
Originally published January 17th, 2018
Over the Christmas/New Years holiday, I had the time to read a great book on the neuroscience of firearms training called Building Shooters by Dustin Solomon. While it was fairly technical and a bit dry, it was an awesome opportunity for me to compare with what DMT has been teaching - and the methodologies line up surprisingly well - and why this type of training works on a deeper level.
In the coming weeks I'm going to do a video series on some of the major takeaways of this book. Think of it as a "Cliff's Notes" version. And you can pick up a copy of the book yourself if you're interested enough to go in-depth. Here's some info to get you started.
Most people seem to think that firearms training and trainers are holding back some kind of a secret. That from this trainer or that trainer, you can learn the mystical ninja-tastic ways of the gun. Bull.
According to my own experience, and Building Shooters, running the firearm to a very high level is no different than learning how to drive at a high level, or becoming a skilled ballet dancer. You must start with the foundational understanding of the art, build each skill slowly and correctly, piece by piece, and then over weeks, months, and years of practice and refinement, and proper coaching, you'll run that firearm as well as any gun-ninja.
But where to start? You start with knowledge, and you should look to competent experts for that foundational knowledge. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, not really. The trick is to seek out the experts that are not simply good on their own, but good at explaining it to you. That's what really separates out decent instructors from great instructors.
So how do you know if you are dealing with a great instructor? First, watch their students. If the instructor is awesome but the students are all so-so, you don't have a great instructor.
Second, watch how the instructor deals with a student who is having a problem. Great instructors will focus in on the problem, analyze every relevant piece, and then provide a REAL answer to the problem, not some garbage catch-all phrase or wishy-washy language. Let me give you an example.
In developing DMT's precision rifle course, I spent time with four separate instructors: a Navy SEAL sniper, a Special Forces sniper, an older SWAT sniper, and a younger SWAT sniper.
The SEAL was focused on body position and breathing. He didn't spend a lot of time explaining how the rifle should fit the body, aside from properly setting the relief of the optic. When I had a question about body position, he went through each piece from the top of my head to the soles of my shoes. He was competent and thorough in those elements of precision rifle shooting.
The SF sniper was focused on trigger press and follow through. He made sure I knew how my optic functioned completely, how to spot errors in my sight picture and parallax, and when I had questions about setting up a shot, he went through each step of sight alignment and trigger press to ensure I got the best performance possible.
I sought out both of these two snipers personally, and I observed them before I allowed them to train me. The next two I will describe, I met at a course I was sent to for my own learning and growth purposes.
This course was at a training facility in California. I will not be mentioning names as I don't need to stir the pot, but at this particular course I was using an unfamiliar rifle and I was unfamiliar with the training group's methodologies. The lead instructor, a rather famous gun ninja, began the class with an hour and a half long discussion of safety, most of which concerned five rules and examples of where failure to meet the five rules lead to the death of some person or other. Once we finally got into the act of precision shooting, there was a five-minute lesson on function of the rifle, five minutes on the shooting position, and then out to the range where he was going to show us how it was done.
I asked the instructor to go through his body position set up, which he referred to as the "Rip List." He nodded, sure. Then he went and "ripped" through that list in probably 3 seconds. I was holding a notebook, trying to write it down to help me think it through, and I had time to write down one of the six steps. I asked him to repeat it. He did, at the same pace the first time he said it, and then abruptly turned and walked away from me. I still have no idea what his "Rip List" was.
When we got out to shooting, the class was handed over to a younger SWAT sniper. We began zeroing our rifles, looking to achieve as perfect a zero as possible at 100 yards. I started with Match ammo and eventually moved on to Ball ammo as the day wore on, looking to keep my Match ammo for our longer ranged shooting the next day. While I shot the Match ammo, my groupings looked like a single big hole, with sub-minute of angle accuracy. When I switched over to ball ammo, the groups opened up to a 1 to 2" circle at 100 yards. To go from the tight group to the loose group was incredibly frustrating. Being new to precision rifle, I didn't understand what had happened.
I went to the younger SWAT sniper to ask him what was going on, why were my groups opening up? His answer for any question I had was: "You just need to tighten up."
That's not an answer, and it didn't solve the problem. For the rest of the afternoon, I was annoyed and frustrated.
Here's the outcome: There was no way that any of the students in the California class managed to take away the foundations of the material, as the instructors didn't even allow us to write it down. Worse still, when there was actually a problem, at least one of the two instructors had zero competency to fix it. For skills that you wish to learn well, you must seek out the competent people and learn from them. This is universally true across the board, like swimming lessons for example. One of my sons was learning to swim at a place where he was started by an instructor who was new and didn't have the experience and they let my son sink to the bottom of the pool, forcing a rescue, twice in his first lesson. So naturally, he was now petrified of swimming. Fortunately, the next week a different instructor was brought in because the previous instructor was out ill and this guy was phenomenal. My son went from being petrified to swimming on his own in an hour. That is major success in a very short window of time.
By the way, the reason my shots were opening up is that Ball ammo doesn't fly nearly as accurately as Match ammo. My 1" to 2" group at 100 yards were great shots, with Ball ammo. Knowing this kind of foundational information and seeking to solve the real problems, or train you such that they never emerge is what makes DMT so different. We're obsessed with the mastery of the fundamentals, so that when you're ready to advance, your ability to perform the skills critical for surviving a lethal force encounter are hardwired into your brain.
DMT's method also works for experienced shooters. Here’s input from Kevin, who was an airborne infantryman with many hours of training and leading soldiers. This was his insight after just one DMT weekly training class:
"By far one of the best firearms training you can find in MN. Within minutes of arriving I quickly discovered a lot of flaws in my technique and equipment choices...in a basic fundamentals class. I walked away today very humbled and with a lot more knowledge than when I initially walked into the range today. My only regret is that I wished I had taken this course sooner."
Kevin's now one of DMT's advanced students and I'm really excited to see how far he can go.