I was at the range all day Saturday, teaching in the women’s shooting program that our range runs. The program began as a quarterly thing with 20 or so shooters, and has now grown to a monthly event with many more students, many more instructors and a long waiting list.
I was there, and teaching, despite the fact that I’d been sick all week and my throat was raw. It didn’t hurt too much, but when I talked it sounded roughly like someone had stepped on a bullfrog. Oh, well.
One thing I’ve noticed as that as we’ve been doing these clinics, we’ve gotten better at it, and things went much more smoothly this time. I did, however, notice one thing I wanted to talk about today, and it’s a lesson which goes right to the heart of Safely Rule #1.
The lesson is simply this: Just because you’re holding a blue gun, a SIRT pistol, or a gun with a training barrel doesn’t mean you get a free pass on where your muzzle is pointing.
At the clinic, I watched a couple of the new shooter orientation sessions, and there were instructors standing there – with a completely straight and irony-free face – sweeping their students and fellow instructors while talking about the basic gun safety rules. While I know that there’s no possible way you can harm someone with a blue gun – well, unless you throw it at them, perhaps – I still think there are some reasons why this is bad practice for an instructor:
- It’s a poor example of modeling. We teach our students that ALL guns are ALWAYS loaded, and not to point a firearm at something they aren’t willing to destroy. But how can we expect them to learn and internalize this lesson if they don’t see US doing it? “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work any better on the firing line than it does anyplace else. Deliberately pointing a blue gun at someone during a training exercise is one thing; muzzling your students because you’re being careless is something else entirely.
- It conditions you to think the basic safety rules have exceptions. I’ve written about this before, but the fact is that too many instructors behave as though their credential gives them an exemption from the safety rules. This is a recipe for tragedy. The best way I know to make sure you always follow the safety rules is…wait for it…to always follow the safety rules. If you’re used to making mental exceptions to the rules, sooner or later that’s going to come back and bite you.
The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that it’s never the new and inexperienced instructors who behave this way. My personal theory is that it’s those who’ve been doing it a while and haven’t yet had an experience that scared the you-know-what out of them. The enemy of safety is complacency, and if you can’t afford to be complacent around guns, you doubly can’t afford to be complacent around guns and new shooters who don’t yet know enough to keep themselves safe and who will internalize what they see you doing.
Don’t make the mistake of being complacent and careless. Don’t let the words “I thought it would be okay because…” come back to bite you. Instructors don’t get a free pass on the basic gun safety rules; if anything, we should follow them MORE religiously when we’re teaching.
Photo credit: Dave Peck/SLOSA