Learning to Shoot from an "Expert?" Do Your Homework First!

Self-proclaimed know-it-alls should be avoided like the plague when learning the fundamentals of firearms and gun safety.

by posted on May 20, 2024
Rao Expert Live Ammo 2

Have you ever attended a meeting, presentation, or listened to a speaker who was a self-proclaimed expert on a particular subject matter? Worse yet is if you, as a listener in the audience, have advanced knowledge of that subject matter and know the speaker is completely off-topic, off track, or just plain giving wrong information. It affects your overall opinion of the speaker, and will often turn you off completely from listening to his or her message. 

I have been around firearms and the safe handling of them my entire adult life. Not only is my career teaching people how to be safe with firearms while enjoying recreational shooting sports and hunting, but the rest of my world also revolves around firearms safety. I am also an NRA Training Counselor, which means I teach others about firearm safety and certify Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun Instructors. Even with my background, I have never called myself an “expert,” but rather a well-informed student!

The word “expert,” to me, indicates the end or top level of an achievement. I believe there is always room for more education, knowledge, learning and opportunities to be trained by others. Whether with my own family or with the public at the shooting range, or even during one of my Basic NRA Firearms classes, I always take something away from that experience. I am open-minded and encourage others to share their thoughts, questions, comments, and suggestions with me so there is always room for improvement. Improvement in the way I teach, improvement in delivering a better message or explanation of a topic, and improvement in my own shooting skills and hunting. I tell class members that their class is better than the last but unfortunately, the next class will be better than theirs!

A good example of this is when I was invited to an event designed to introduce women to shooting. The event was a meet and greet of likeminded women comprised of current shooters as well as women who have never touched a firearm. This sounded like the perfect event for my interest.

On the day of the event, several women who owned businesses that catered to women in the outdoors set up booths. We soon assembled into an auditorium for the welcome remarks by the sponsors and organizers. Everything so far was very exciting and welcoming to women who were very unfamiliar, inexperienced and overwhelmed—even a little frightened by the thought of handling firearms.

After about an hour of wonderful comments and excitement of learning about firearms and having an opportunity to go to the range and try different firearms, everyone was all smiles. A short time later we gathered back in the auditorium for a seminar from a “firearms expert.” This is when things got interesting …

I immediately noticed unattended firearms on various tables. With decades of training in firearm safety and handling under my belt, I ensure that all firearms used in my classes are under the direct control and supervision of either myself or a co-instructor. Firearms are never passed around the classroom without my direct supervision.

So I became alarmed as I noticed other firearm safety violations, such as muzzles not being pointed in a safe direction. I even saw some curious ladies handling the firearms—even pulling the trigger! Thankfully all of the firearms were unloaded and clear, but did those ladies know that? No! They had not been taught NRA’s 3 Gun Safety Rules. All firearms (even those we know are unloaded) must always be treated as if they are loaded.

This “expert” then passed additional unloaded firearms out among the women. She continually waved the muzzle around the auditorium, repeatedly sweeping students. The action of her firearm was also closed, and she never verified that the gun was empty and safe, free from ammunition. This “expert” then committed another major safety violation. She passed out live ammunition throughout the auditorium while the attendees were still handling firearms. It was clear this self-proclaimed expert on guns had never taken an NRA gun safety course. Many women who knew better actually got up and walked out of the presentation.

While I believe that classes that violate the safety rules to this extent are rare, it is a great reminder that if you are going to invest time and money into an event, workshop, or training, do your homework and research your presenters. Learn a little bit about them and their credentials so you can be assured you’re getting solid information. If a workshop, seminar, or speaker is purported to be that great, he or she should have some type of accreditation either through their company, a website, social media, or testimonials from other students.

When teaching new shooters, the instructor needs to follow the NRA’s curriculum. New shooters must first learn the basics, which include terminology, the three rules of gun safety, and the fundamentals of shooting. These basics are the foundation to being a better marksman and a more proficient shooter. Once you’ve established the basics and have laid your fundamental foundation, the next steps are to grow in your training. It does not matter what your goal is, whether it is recreational shooting, competition, hunting, or getting into the tactical and self-defense mindset, it is critical that you first learn the basics.

If you are not trained the proper way from the beginning, you are building on bad habits and improper form which will ultimately be a disadvantage in whichever shooting activities you choose to pursue. Proper training will give you much more confidence as you are successfully building upon your skill set. Learning the right way from the beginning will ensure a positive experience and more successful confidence in your own abilities. Just remember to always beware of the “Expert!”

 

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