Saturday, April 4, 2009

Range Report - Working with Trainees

Today I went up the range to help the Training Officer with the trainees.

I got there at 1pm, the trainees started to arrive soon afterwards. The training sessions start at 2pm but Les (the Training Officer) likes them there by 1.30pm to get them all kitted out and organised.

My gun club runs the training courses continually with participants able to start at any time. The course is nominally twelve weeks. Therefore, in any class you have a range of skills and experience. Today we had two newbies and two guys who will be doing their "safety test" in a couple of weeks. There were 11 trainees in total (one of whom was female).

I basically stood around and helped patch targets, told trainees to keep their finger off the trigger, or tuck in the their t-shirts or similar.

The two guys who will be doing their safety course in a couple of weeks were learning range commands today and doing the RO work. So apart from ROing one of them I didn't even have to do that. Basically, I was just a backup for them and Les.

We work with the trainees on one of the back ranges for most of the time and then once the "normal" squads finish shooting the courses of fire we take the trainees out there and run them through a stage or two.

The first stage we went to was quite a complex one - with two disappearing targets. I was surprised by the number of trainees who managed to get hits on both targets. There were a few "fingers on triggers" and barrel direction issues, but nothing too serious.

The second stage we shot was in a small range and with lots of walls. It was quite tight in places and they had built some of the rooms with roofs - which didn't suit the taller guys at all (one banged their head when trying to patch a target - much to everyones' amusement), he managed to shoot the course without injuring himself further. We did have one trainee turn completely up-range while doing a reload. The RO and Les were onto him pretty quickly.

At the end the guys shot off the rest of their ammo (in a line) and one of the guys (a newbie) got a hot case down his top ... I had to grab the gun as he was more concerned about getting the brass out than controlling his barrel direction.

Unfortunately, I can't help next weekend, but I'll be back the weekend after as I really enjoyed myself today.


Jerry The Geek said...

I am impressed by your strength of character and by your courage.

Apparently the training regimen in which you have chosen to assist as a volunteer accepts shooters who are complete tyros, as well as experienced shooters.

I've probably shared some of your experiences, as the shooting club (in OREGON, USA) originally accepted complete tyros in the "INTRODUCTION TO IPSC" class which I undertook to lead last Summer.

My first class, I had 13 students and no helpers. Somewhere around 40% of the students had no experience, either with the pistol they chose to bring to the class or with shooting pistols in general. Note that the purpose was to prepare them for competition, not to teach them basic skills

Among the more rewarding moments were:
* attempting to convince a new shooter that it was A Bad Idea to use a grip which placed his thumb directly behind the slide of his semi-automatic pistol, which could easily result in damage or involuntary incidental removal of his thumb from his hand. He chose not to listen to me.

* a shooter, when instructed to set his safety ON before holstering, declared "there is no safety on this pistol" I pointed out that the safety was obviously positioned on the left side of the pistol, just above the grip. His response: "Huh, I never noticed that". He had earlier described himself as an "experienced pistol shooter".

* After the class ended, I joined a married couple who had taken the class. While examining her pistol at the Safety Table, and after I had determined that the pistol was unloaded, I demonstrated several different ways to grip the pistol, then handed it to her to try the variety of ways to basically hold the pistol.

Her first move was to grip pistol in one hand then swivel to her left to make a conversational point ... not incidentally pointing the pistol directly at my belly. I calmly asked her to point the pistol in a safe direction, which she did, and I then wiped the perspiration from my forehead.

Note that the gentleman with the personally unsafe grip attended a single match; we haven't seen hi in the ensuing 8 months. The other two students never attended a match.

This volunteerism which you describe is not without peril, and part of the reason is that you can never assume that your student is a constant practitioner of safe gun-handling. Again, I applaud your courage and dedication, but I fear for your well-being because the circumstances are now well administered.

Since my earliest experience, the Club Representative has assumed the responsibility of discussing their experience with all prospective students. If they have a pistol which is new to them, and with which they are unfamiliar, the schedules the to take an "Introduction to Pistol Shooting" before he allows them to take my Introductory course to certify them for competition.

Of course I get a few "Leakers", and I deal with their lack of experience (and lack of respect for the lethality of their weapons) as best I can.

Still, I encourage you to ask your home range / pistol club to seriously consider pre-vetting your students, and split the absolute tyros off to take an "Introduction to Safe Gun-handling" (or some similarly intentioned, if not similarly described) class so they can learn to be SAFE before they learn to be PROFICIENT.

You can see the complete adventures of Jerry the Geek and Safe Gunhandling at

Julie said...

Jerry thanks for your comments and input - much appreciated.

I will discuss alternative training strategies with the club when i've been there a bit longer. I'm still a bit of a 'new face' and don't really want to step on toes at this stage, but I do agree with what you say.