I recently received an email from a woman who had been put off by her first shooting lesson. She had been visiting the range for a while and enjoyed a little plinking with her girl friends, but had decided it was time to get more serious. A local female instructor had been recommended and seemed nice when they met prior to the lesson.
However, once they were in the class room and even more-so in the range, the instructor turned from the friendly girl next door to a strict, almost scary teacher. The emailer said that the instructor created analogies and images that were too graphic and barely smiled or showed any warmth as she taught. This was her question to me: you always say gun people are so nice, and I agree, but from my experience, the nice ends as soon as the instruction begins. Is there a reason why?
This idea puzzled me momenterilly as I thought back to all the beginner classes and instructors I’ve met and watched. Each had a different style. Some used a military/law enforcement approached, using the same terminology and definitions, some balanced the civilian mindset with the seriousness of the topics better than others. I remember once peeking in on a long time instructor who rattled off the safety rules in a highly humorous way, while demonstrating what NOT to do. I watched his class giggle and then repeat the behavior in the range. There was something that hadn’t sunk in.
Therefore my response to this dissatisfied beginner was two fold. I repeated to her the fun I have at the range and all the nice people to meet in the shooting sports, but then I changed gears. “I think the reason you saw a 180 in your instructor, is because guns can’t be taken too seriously.” I’m sure this wasn’t exactly what she wanted to hear but I think it is a solid explanation for what she observed. Instructors want you to enjoy their classes and retain as much of the information as possible, but they must stress some of the most important details, even if they sound harsh or frightening. Some instructors do a better job of balancing the technical information with the soft fuzzy, but most become stone faced when they begin talking about the safety rules.
Maybe this was not the right instructor for this emailer, or maybe she was being overly sensitive and didn’t realize why certain things in the class were structured thusly. No matter the reason, I hope she can respect that teachers face a very difficult balancing, with their list of tasks. Maybe good instructors should offer their insights to one another, in order to make all of them better.