You Never Know How Many Lives You Will Save…

by: Aaron Cowan
Founder, Sage Dynamics
Pramek FFA Instructor

When I attended my first instructor level course; the class that would allow me to begin training law enforcement officers, I was given a piece of advice I have carried with me ever since.

You will never know how many lives you will save.”

Instructors teach. We facilitate learning by relating to the student whether they be an auditory, visual or a kinesthetic learner. Our goal is to provide the student with the fundamentals, stress inoculation, and help them build their proficiency to a level of unconscious competence. We don’t do this by being the best shooter, or the fastest trigger. We do it by being able to teach.

It seems these days I see a number of high profile instructors gaining fame simply based on what they can do. I see on line videos, professionally filmed DVDs and other social media that shows the world the Instructor…what about the student? There are household names in the world of firearms instruction that focus on themselves and their skill. I see them run drills, clear malfunctions, shoot, move, maneuver, transition and put out quality service.  What I hardly ever see is them teaching others to do the same. I have attended end user classes as a student and watched the same behavior unfold in person. An instructor would give us the BAMF bio on himself, then begin running drill after drill with the class merely as an audience. At the end of the drill we would be given a chance to do it ourselves. A few tips thrown out to students and then he was right back to the one person shooting monologe. I have trained under egos that made the instruction near insufferable and certainly had an effect on what I took away from the class.

My worst experience was under an instructor who would actually slap students in the back of the head if they made a mistake…I’m sorry, but slapping a full grown LEO in the back of the head when he doesn’t muzzle down fast enough for you is just asking for a significant emotional event to befall you. Of course I can say one thing positive about the man; he didn’t force the class to watch him run drill after drill. Instead he just talked about all the real world action he had seen…


And over.


Don’t get me wrong. Instruction requires demonstration. But one shouldn’t confuse demonstration with a performance. Showing a student the how is near meaningless without the why. A particular drill may be high speed, but does it serve a purpose or is it a tool for demonstration only?

This isn’t about bashing other instructors…if I wanted to do that I would name names.

This is about the student.

A training course shouldn’t be a commercial for a product, or an opportunity for an instructor to shoot a few hundred rounds. Its about the process of enabling the student to remember the instruction, understand its purpose, apply it effectively, evaluate their performance and create personal methods to improve performance as opposed to simply memorizing a drill or procedure and replicating it on demand.

We are due the “end result” desire. Students often want to run the gun like a sewing machine, engage multiple targets, do back-flips while throwing tomahawks and hit steel at 50 yards with a 3 second magazine dump…but no one gets there through drills alone; and you certainly cant get there if you paid to be in a shooting audience.

If you are an instructor, you have to put things in context. Humility and the ability to relate to a student’s needs are critical. If you are a student, weigh your desire to shoot like the instructor does with your need to do so. If you can’t pull your instructor aside to help you address a personal learning goal, you may well have wasted your money. As instructors we have to appreciate the reason we are even in business. For my department; my mission is to provide my officers with the skills they need to win gunfights.

When teaching for Sage my goal is exactly the same. Never is it about what I want; its about what the student needs. We as instructors fail our students if all we care about is marketability. If you are in this to get rich, you may never know how many lives you put at risk by failing to teach properly.


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