Firearms training: How much 'fixing' is too much?

There are so many problems a shooter can have, but you as the instructor need to find the most important one to focus on


I received an interesting question from an instructor the other day. He wanted to know how much is too much information when trying to coach and/or fix a shooter who is struggling. Good question. Have you ever heard a firearms instructor who was trying to fix a shooter say, “I don’t know... Try bringing your strong foot back.” Feet? Are you kidding me?! Changing a shooter’s feet is the last thing I look at when trying to fix a shooter. Some instructors look to start at the feet and move their way up. I start at the grip and work my way back. Instructors really need to understand the fundamentals of marksmanship, the importance of each and which ones to focus on in training.

First and foremost, identify how much time you have. Then, you need to diagnose the shooter and the issues they are having. There are so many problems a shooter can have, but you as the instructor need to find the most important one to focus on. How much is too much? Anything can be too much for any one shooter, that’s why you need to diagnose quickly and correctly.

Some of the things I look for are:

• Fear — Does the shooter have an obvious aversion to the weapon firing?
• Grip — Does the shooter understand muscular and skeletal support and hand placement?
• Trigger Management — Does the shooter understand the path of the trigger and the tactile sensations involved with firing?
• Sight Alignment & Sight Picture — Does the shooter understand what he/she needs to see?
• Follow Through — Does the shooter understand what it means and how to apply it.

Each of these fundamentals can drastically affect shooting. Notice the intentional failure to mention stance/platform and breathing. I chose these because I believe they are most affective to shooting.

In my mind, there is a hierarchy of understanding that I try to get through to a shooter. Each is important but, to avoid information overload, I try to focus on them in order and in quantities based on the time I have.

Shooters need to understand:

• What it takes to hit. This includes: sight alignment, sight picture, trigger management and follow through.
• How to shoot fast. This involves using solid motor programs for draw and presentation and what a shooter needs to see as the weapon is presented.
• How to get multiple hits fast. This is where grip trigger management and follow through meld. Seeing what you need to see and maybe just a hint of stance/platform.

Right away you can see how there can be information overload for a shooter. I have said for years that, the difference between good shooters and great shooters is just a matter of details. There are many phrases I use to try to get the point across:

• “Move fast, shoot slow.”
• “Bring the gun to the hand.”
• “Keep your head on the gun.”

In fact, there a so many of these phrases that I highly encourage note taking during training sessions, lest become a jumble and lessons get lost in the process.

I’ve had to find myriad ways to get through to shooters to fix them. There is no way to cover all the methods I use to diagnose the problems and the ways I try to fix them in one sitting. You, the reader, probably have some methods of your own. The Chris Cerino Training Group offers a class that I developed based on a demand from instructors and shooters alike. It is called the Diagnostic Firearms Instructor and is three days long. I presented an abbreviated version of it at ILEETA this past year and am presenting the same four hour session at the IALEFI RTC this very weekend (September 25-28) in Bend, Oregon.

Next month I will attempt to put into writing and define some of the methods and techniques I use to diagnose and fix shooters. Seems like I may have to delve into the tactical funnel theory in order to clarify. Oh well, I guess it can wait. Until then, remember...

Those who can, do.
Those who understand, teach.

About the author

Chris Cerino, who has served with Medina (Ohio) Police Department, Federal Air Marshals, and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, is a nationally-known firearms instructor who has been training law enforcement officers and military for more than 10 years. Chris has worked in law enforcement positions for municipal, county, state and federal agencies spanning 19 years. A majority of those years have been spent in tactical and firearms related fields. As the director of training for Chris Cerino Training Group, Cerino remains immersed in the firearms and tactics training culture. Teaching the importance of fundamentals in a “do as I do” fashion has enabled him to be a respected instructor across the country.

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