It’s All About the Student

A shooting range is not a stage, nor is it a podium.

posted on April 27, 2024
Sheriff Jim Wilson

We were working a media event, shooting a very nice, small, semi-automatic pistol. At close range, something like 5 yards, one of the writers was grouping his shots well to the left of center. I started to explain to him that guns with small grips could easily shift in our hands if we didn't have a firm hold on them. This fellow quickly informed me that he was an expert and certainly knew how to shoot a gun properly.

I was about to make a reference to bovine fecal matter when the range officer stepped in and very diplomatically pointed out that we had extra guns and he would get another gun for this particular expert to shoot. And, wouldn’t you know it, this gun turned out to be printing way to the left, too!  Our writer/gun expert didn’t ever actually apologize but he did hush and devote his time to improving his grip on small pistols. More importantly, he ended up having a good time in the class and shooting well.

Often, many students come to a class with preconceived ideas, many of them wrong, and also have a fear that they will not shoot well and thus be looked down upon. How we, as instructors, handle the initial class sessions for the new student can have a direct impact on how much the student actually learns and how successful they are.

It is important for the instructor to remember that it is all about the student. Ultimately, a class is not judged on how cool we are but, rather, on how well the students perform and improve. For this reason, it is important to create a relaxed atmosphere while still focusing on safety and the learning process. It might be a really good idea to make it a point to compliment any improvement in marksmanship and gun handling, however small the improvement might be. It also would help the learning process to not only demonstrate a certain procedure, but also explain why that procedure is important.

In the end, I look back on the instructors that I have admired and appreciated and realize that they were focused on the student and finding ways to help him learn and improve. All students are not the same, and a smart instructor finds a way, possibly a different way, to reach the individual. When that is our focus, it is amazing how many students we can reach and help to improve their skills. In the end, it is all about the student.


Taurus TX22
Taurus TX22

First Look: Enhanced Taurus TX22 Pistol

New features include an improved trigger and an optional optics cut on the slide.

First Look: Mission First Tactical Pro Series Holsters

Secure your firearm and light with a magnet inside an AIWB holster.

First Look: GForce RPX9 Pistol

A new pistol that's compatible with many standard accessories for the Glock G19.

The Easier Route...The Safer Route

The road to success might be a bit longer than it needs to be.

First Look: New Looks for the FightLite SCR

Blend in with the terrain while standing out from the crowd.

Magpul’s Silver Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, a rubber pull for rifle magazines started it all for an industry giant.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.