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Not sure if this has been posted, but most certainly worth the read. It was written by Paul Howe.

I read a great deal about Instructor Ratings, Tier Instructors and so on. I thought I would simplify and clarify a few points.
Before I start, I would like to state that I have learned something from almost every instructor I have trained under. As a current instructor I continue to learn from other instructors, students and mistakes that I make. I always believe in learning, no matter the source. I may ruffle some feathers with my writings, but it is what it is….
I spent 20 years in the military and 10 in special operations. I spent a total of six-years as an instructor, two at the end of my special ops career and four in the Army as an ROTC instructor. Currently I have been teaching in the civilian sector for 12 years.
There is a ladder or "food chain" in the military as far as tactical units go. Each branch has their own ladder or food chain while Special Operations has theirs. Some say it is determined by funding. No, it is determined by operational capability. In those operational units, they have dedicated instructor assignments that are filled in various ways. Some require a successful tactical tour for several years so new students see an instructor fresh from the fight and who they can have confidence in.
Further, the military and spec ops contracts civilian instructors, LE instructors, former military instructors to teach them just as law enforcement agencies and their tactical teams do. During my time in special ops, I probably trained under at least ten instructors or schools to include "in-house" instructors.
Civilian instructors range from NRA certified to Law Enforcement (traditional and SWAT) to competitive Masters and Grand Master instructors. All have their specialty and place. First, one must understand that shooting is a "technical skill." Civilian instructors are generally brought in to teach a technical aspect and not a tactical.
When in special ops, I probably learned 10-20% from each "World Class" Shooting Instructor class I attended. It was not that I did not pay attention; it is that only certain things they taught applied to my training and missions. The skills they taught had to work when I wore gloves, when I wore light gear, tactical gear, jungle gear, etc. It had to work daytime, nighttime white light and then under NVGs. If the technique or drill did not work in all the areas, I preferred not use it. I needed to keep my tool box simple. Also regards to tactics and gear, he cannot teach me what he has never done or worn.
Discrimination is another key factor in shooting. If the ready position did not allow me to discriminate, it was useless. We must see before we can shoot. Holsters were another factor. We had to be able to use concealed holsters, tactical holsters and sometimes chest mounted holsters. All the fundamentals had to be the same.
The shooting drills they taught had to prepare you for combat and not the weekend match. This means I have to solve one problem at a time, discriminate and do it again and again. Most speed drills do not support this thought process. Problems we ran into over the years were that we taught people to shoot faster than they could discriminate and see. This caused many problems with fratricide and friendly fire. You see speed shooters don't have to discriminate; they may only look for a "brown" target where I have to look at whole person and find both hands and then waist line. In the end, the faster I can see and interpret data, the faster I can service threats. I cannot walk through the stage of a match and "war game" it before I shoot it. I can plan targets, but in my day, I never had a floor plan of any target I hit.
One of the problems I see with organizations is when they place weekend shooters or competitors in charge of shooting and equipment programs. Many times these internal trainers will bring in instructors that will help them personally shoot better for weekend matches and competitions vs. building a solid tactical program for their organization. Also, they will order the latest gadget for shooting instead of keeping it simple. In my day, after Somalia, we had an equipment meeting and wanted larger caliber rifles, enclosed firing pin pistols to address operational problems. Other folks wanted "square" triggers on their 1911's so they could get a supposed consistent trigger pull. They were still in the weekend shooting game thought process and not what was practical or needed for combat. We did not want 1911's because of the exposed firing pin issue and the fact that you had to strip the gun all the way down after getting dusted with one helicopter infil.
If I want to learn combat techniques, I would go to an instructor that had a police or combat background who had shot people.
If I want to learn how to shoot fast and compete, I would go to competitive shooters who win matches.
Both trainers will get you to a certain level of proficiency. One will take you on a course that will save your life. The other will take you on a course that will help you win a match. One has combat mindset, one had match mindset. They are two different animals.
Matches will help you control stress, channelize anxiety and nervous energy, so will combat operations. I have shot in both, both are different stresses. Combat will help you control your fear. This fear cannot be replicated in a match.
Equipment is different for both of the above instructors. One uses downloaded ammo and special guns. The other may wear gloves, vests, helmets or patrol belts and level II/III holsters. I need to learn one stance that will work for tactical gear, patrol gear, civilian, etc. This equipment has to be able to work in jungle, arctic and desert environments along with urban settings.
If an IPSC or IDPA national champion cannot show me one stance that will work with a jungle rig, urban rig or low vis uniform, the information is not very useful to me. If he cannot tell me how gloves will affect my shooting or how to best draw from or wear a tactical holster, I am not getting what I need. If he cannot tell me how to best fit my vest, my mag pouches, my aid kit, breaching tools, I am only getting part of the solutions I need. This is where a tactical instructor can fill the void.
I shot IPSC for a couple of years and it helped with my draw, presentation, multiple shots and multiple targets. It did not help me with use of cover, tactical movement, tactical thinking, discrimination, etc. In the end, I moved to tactical training only. My simple shooting systems needed to encompass all these aspect and not just one narrow bandwidth of shooting a pistol. I cannot promote speed over safety or proper discrimination or proper use of cover.
Problem solving is different for competition and combat. Matches are geared to shoot as fast as you can with minimal use of cover. Combat shooting should teach maximum use of cover and solving one problem at a time.
I have watched many an instructor come from the special ops community that was an exceptional shooter and individual service member. Some could teach, some could not. Some could entertain and that kept students happy, some had no personality and drove students away. The ones that are successful had stair-stepped programs that were structured and defined. They are in the business for the long haul and not a quick buck. They have a passion for their profession and focus on the basics and not just the fad of the week. Find out which ones stress safety and discrimination in your quest.
As for styles and different teaching methodologies and tactics, all will vary a bit and I think that is great. If you learn Kung Fu, or Tae Kwon Do or Karate and the system helps you stay alive on the street, it is a good system. If you do minor tweaks from the dojo to the street to enhance the system, this is also good.
In the end, most combat instructors did their job as a chosen profession which means that they dedicated their life to their profession. They did not get a reserve job on a police department so they could pad their resume to teach.
Further, next time you are at a match, conduct a poll as to how many combat vets, LE or Mil shoot matches. What I mean by combat vets is those who have actually pulled the trigger on another human being. Once you have taken a life, you might realize that IPSC or IPDA is a train that you might not want to ride for one reason or another.
Finally, use IDPA and IPSC as a training vehicle to make you a more technically proficient shooter. But know the difference between tactical and technical.
If you wanted to be a fighter pilot, go to war, shoot down other planes and blow up ground targets, I would look at two ways to get there.
I could go to a school with pilots who may have trained for combat but were never actually there and put gun cameras and lasers on modified planes and worked in controlled air space and ran drills and scenarios they thought applied to combat.
Or I could go to a school ran by pilots who had shot down other planes, blown up ground targets and geared your training to do just that.
In the end, which one would you choose if your life was on the line?
Paul Howe
Owner/Lead Instructor of CSAT-Combat Shooting and Tactics
Former Special Operations Operator and Instructor
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Paul Howe is a high-risk training instructor that served 20 years in the US Army, ten of those in Special Operations. He served as a Tactical Team Leader in multiple combat operations and Senior firearms Instructor while assigned to a tier-one unit of US Army Special Operations. During his service and since his retirement he has become one of the most sought after experts on close quarters combat and law enforcement/military small arms weapons and tactics in the world.
Learn more about Paul at http://www.combatshootingandtactics.com/
 

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Yeah,

Paul is a great instructor and person.

This post is so true in many ways. This is why Trace Armory Group is doing so well.

First off the students understand what we provide and so do Scott and I. We do not provide a service that only works some of the time.

John
 

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Yeah,

Paul is a great instructor and person.

This post is so true in many ways. This is why Trace Armory Group is doing so well.

First off the students understand what we provide and so do Scott and I. We do not provide a service that only works some of the time.

John
So for new shooters, do you recommend starting with "technical" and once sound on those areas, graduate to the "tactical" realm? And you recommend "tactical" training for home/self defense purposes? Please keep in mind I'm new to the hobby and have only limited range time. I'm truly curious as to what instructors think is the "best" way for new shooters to learn how to handle their chosen carry gun(s) and defend themselves against a threat.
 

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What a great question!!

I would tell you that you need to Learn how to shoot first. Once you know how to shoot, the environment you put marksmanship in will work.

People do not understand that shooting is a skillset. This skillset works every time in all situations if you do not muck up.

John
 

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What a great question!!

I would tell you that you need to Learn how to shoot first. Once you know how to shoot, the environment you put marksmanship in will work.

People do not understand that shooting is a skillset. This skillset works every time in all situations if you do not muck up.

John
You nailed it John
Shooting fundamentals should be automatic, programmed, controlled by your subconscious mind. This leaves your conscious mind free to make tactical decisions.
I tend to disregard anything a trainer says when the first thing they tell you is how competition will get you killed. This usually comes form the embarrassment of having their butts handed to them at a local match.
 

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What a great question!!

I would tell you that you need to Learn how to shoot first. Once you know how to shoot, the environment you put marksmanship in will work.

People do not understand that shooting is a skillset. This skillset works every time in all situations if you do not muck up.

John
Bingo. Before someone gets into specific types of advanced shooting, they need to cover the basics. This may seem remedial, but that covers weapons disassembly/reassembly (immediate/remedial action drills can be covered here), shooting stances (standing, kneeling, prone), target acquisition, the 4 shooting fundamentals, and lastly, target engagement. Each one builds off the previous, like building blocks. Once someone firmly grasps and demonstrates these basic tenants of rifle marksmanship should a more advanced school of carbine employment, whether that be precision/distance, urban/CQB, self/home defense, be sought after.

Speaking of which, John, is there another precision rifle course on the menu?
 

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Yeah soon,

We will take that to a different topic.

The big issue with competition (not range 37 Infidel league) is the focus of speed, shooting and the act of balancing both for score.

I understand where Paul is coming from. I think a deeper look in to IDPA as a example needs to be done. The idea, and the principle of the sport is sound. But if I was to move as fast as some of the guys I see shooting at IDPA in a war zone I would not be here to talk to you right now because I wold be DEAD.

Now will shooting a USPSA or IDPA or 3gun or service rifle, and even bullseye aid you in self defense? YES they all help, because you are learning how to problem solve with a bang stick in one or two hands. That is always good, but do not let your leg stick out to far behind cover, do not attempt a hasty sling in a gun fight, and do not try to place your support hand in your pocket when shooting thugs.

Get my drift?

John
 

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What a great question!!

I would tell you that you need to Learn how to shoot first. Once you know how to shoot, the environment you put marksmanship in will work.

People do not understand that shooting is a skillset. This skillset works every time in all situations if you do not muck up.

John
That's the information I was looking for. I've been working on trigger control, breathing techniques, hold, etc... With the understanding that once those become 'second nature', then I can introduce other elements such as stance, movement, etc.

I appreciate the knowledge. Thanks John.
 

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With my background, one thing in the article really stood out for me:

Once you have taken a life, you might realize that IPSC or IPDA is a train that you might not want to ride for one reason or another.

I'm not trying to offend any competition shooters here, this is just my opinion based on this article. One reason I guess I haven't really gotten into shooting matches is because I can't wrap my mind around a timed event. Sure, I have no problem with perfecting technique and scoring good hits, but rushing from point A to point B without the mindset of rounds coming back at you really does not strike me as something I would fully enjoy. I'm sure I could have some fun with it, shooting, moving, etc, but I feel a match might always be missing some elements of shooting that I've become accustomed to.
 

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Shooting in competitions is vital to get people out of the linear only shooting mindset that most shooting ranges force people into. It's like practicing for a golf tournament by strictly going to a driving range.

I have no illusions that running a match has made me a trained tactical killing machine. On the contrary they show a novice shooter just how inherently clumsy and slow they are. I had never tried to reload while moving, shoot multiple targets at various distances, transition between carbine and pistol, and countless other things.

My point is this, competitive shooting is wonderful for teaching the fundamentals of shooting, exposing shooters to dynamic scenarios, and showing weaknesses in form. That, and they are just plain flat out fun.

They are not intended to turn the average joe into billybadass operator. There are those, like the above poster, who don't want to lose their "killer tactical edge" by shooting in a "game" and that's cool. But for those whose only shooting options are linear indoor ranges and competitive shooting, the dynamic courses win the day.
 

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Shooting in competitions is vital to get people out of the linear only shooting mindset that most shooting ranges force people into. It's like practicing for a golf tournament by strictly going to a driving range.
I can definitely respect that.

I had never tried to reload while moving, shoot multiple targets at various distances, transition between carbine and pistol, and countless other things.
Some of these things are actions people can practice at home. Although, the rifle to pistol transition in the military is generally suggested as a "last resort" if the primary weapon system should fail. I have no experience how a shooting match incorporates the pistol.

They are not intended to turn the average joe into billybadass operator. There are those, like the above poster, who don't want to lose their "killer tactical edge" by shooting in a "game" and that's cool. But for those whose only shooting options are linear indoor ranges and competitive shooting, the dynamic courses win the day.
I didn't intend to make it sound like I was belittling the significance of a shooting match. and I'm no Special Ops dude;just an infantryman but I put more emphasis on the shooting aspect of my job than most.

I am retiring soon (medically, not career ended) because my 10 years in the Army has taken a huge toll on my body, so getting into shooting matches may be the only way I retain some of what I've learned. Again, not trying to offend anyone who does shoot matches; not being able to remain a shooter for the military after the new year has made me somewhat bitter.
 

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Here's my take:

Competitive shooting is about shooting. It isn't about combat. Thinking that shooting competitively will turn you into an operator is wrong, as most who have been there will tell you, there is a lot more to combat than shooting.

However, shooting competitively will make you a better shooter. It does add an element of stress, and it does teach you a lot of weapon manipulation, how to shoot from awkward positions, and other things that you will not get shooting on a static range.

Some will say that the best shooters only shoot so well because they run race gear. In my experience that is not true. Bob Vogel runs a box stock Glock 34 with different sights, and a little polishing on the trigger bar, and he's one of the best shooters in the world (also an LEO).

I would encourage everyone not to knock it until you have tried it. If you try competitive shooting, and dislike it, so be it, but I bet you will like it, and feel that it makes you better.
 

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Plain and simple. A C class USPSA shooter can out perform 90% of gun owners who have never competed.
There is no training or practice method that can simulate performing under stress, adrenaline etc. like shooting in competition.

Who would you rather face in a gun fight, the guy that can shoot a 5 second el pres clean or the guy that passed his BLET with flying colors but can't do an el pres under 10?

Tactical training is extremely valuable. It teaches skills that competition does not. However, it does not hold a candle to shooting that monthly match for making you better at actually using your gun.
 

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Bingo. Before someone gets into specific types of advanced shooting, they need to cover the basics.
Correct. Unfortunately many people don't want to hear this and want to immediately jump into clearing buildings, combat rolling over cars, etc while they are unable to complete simple marksmanship tasks . While its fun to learn those topics, those people are better served spending time on the square honing their skills and buikding themselves to the point where they can be good instead of just looking good. This is the reason we have certain training requirements in place for our specialty classes

When it comes to competition versus tactical trainers you have to be wary of people in both camps. You can run into extremely gifted guys in both areas just as quick as you can run into guys that are there solely for ballistic masturbation.
 

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However, it does not hold a candle to shooting that monthly match for making you better at actually using your gun.
First, tactical training doesn't have to be devoid of competive events within it. We routinely use shoot offs as a means of adding pressure to students in order to test their understanding of a topic and to see how well they perform.

Second, simply shooting in a monthly match doesnt mean you will always get better at shooting. It's your personal practice between matches (and classes) that makes you a better shooter
 
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