Firearms instructor training vs. shooter training: What’s the difference?

Instructor and shooter classes offer different types of training – make sure you know which type of class you’re looking for before you enroll

The PoliceOne Academy features courses on firearms training, tactics and handling, as well as defensive tactics, subject control and de-escalation for law enforcement officers. Complete the courses to improve and retain critical skills to help improve your safety in the field. Visit PoliceOne Academy to learn more and for an online demo. 

There’s a big difference between firearms instructor training classes and classes designed to make you a better shooter.

Instructor training includes tips and tricks on how to diagnose and remediate a shooter, how to better communicate as a trainer, how to build lesson plans, how to write performance objectives, how to manage your range supplies and how to handle the enormous amount of paperwork that comes with being an instructor.

Shooter training is about building you into a better shooter. This includes techniques for more efficient reloads and malfunction clearing. It also includes ways to shoot more accurately, methods for performing faster and smoother transitions between targets, and how to shoot more quickly.

Instructor classes include tips and tricks to help you teach and coach shooters on the range.
Instructor classes include tips and tricks to help you teach and coach shooters on the range. (Photo/Todd Fletcher)

Instructor and shooter classes offer different types of training, so make sure you know which type of class you’re looking for before you enroll.

What a shooter training class teaches

Instructors need to take shooter training. Shooting well quickly and proficient weapon handling are diminishable skills. Running the range is not practicing the craft of shooting well. Shooter training is a lot of fun and generally involves high round counts. We can get psyched for these classes because we know we’re going to be putting a lot of rounds down range in compressed time frames.

We are looking for the ability to transition between targets more accurately and faster and to improve our precision shooting skills while making faster practical combative hits on target.

We might pick up a new and improved way of reloading or clearing malfunctions, but for the most part, we’re going to be polishing our skills under the watchful eye and guidance of another instructor. Chances are good they will see an area we can improve.

Some shooter classes really test your equipment. High round counts determine whether guns and gear are up to professional standards of reliability. Everything, including maintenance programs, will be tested. After completing this type of class, you can look forward to being a much better shooter with improved weapon-handling skills.

What a firearms instructor training class teaches

The problem is that we often expect instructor classes to improve our shooting and weapon-handling skills as would a shooting class. Even though you’ll get quality trigger time during most instructor classes, don’t mislead yourself into thinking you’re going to improve your ability to make practical combative hits on target. It might happen, but chances are you will be disappointed. Good instructor classes aren’t about you…they’re about your shooters.

Don’t get me wrong: instructor classes are about making you a better instructor, so these classes can be about you. If you make an improvement in your own shooting or personal training program, that’s great. However, making you a better instructor is done with the goal of making your officers better at defending themselves, our communities and our loved ones. Ultimately, that should be the reason we became instructors in the first place. Being an instructor is not about you, it’s about your students.

Instructor classes should focus on giving instructors the tools to help shooters prevail in a gunfight. We have no idea when or where that gunfight is going to occur or even what it’s going to look like. This is why we need to prepare our shooters for what will probably be the most intense, stressful, frightening and important day of their lives.

Shooter classes generally result in more rounds down range and focus on your shooting performance. 
Shooter classes generally result in more rounds down range and focus on your shooting performance.  (Photo/Todd Fletcher)

During instructor classes, you can pick up different tips and tricks to help your shooters be successful. You can learn new ways of explaining a concept or technique, and you can get new courses of fire for your shooters. These classes can also teach you improved ways to make your training curriculum more defensible in court. Your ability to write performance objectives, class outlines and to document training through improved records management can be class topics designed to assist you in making your program more secure and defensible. This helps you show your student was well-trained and made the correct decisions based on training records.

Last but certainly not least, you will have the opportunity to network with other instructors from different departments and regions. Don’t underestimate or squander these opportunities. I guarantee that someone has already experienced and solved a problem you are encountering. Why re-invent the wheel? Get to know other instructors. Some of these relationships might also turn into lifelong friendships built on the foundation of your commitment to being professional firearms instructors. You might be surprised by the doors your colleagues can help open for you and your shooters.

Remember your mission

When we sign up for a class, let’s try to remember why we’re there. If it’s a shooter class, it’s mostly for us. If it’s an instructor class, we’re doing it so those we train can prevail and go home to their families.

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