The world is awash in instruction and with that comes a parade of instructors. As in all things, some are good, some are less than that.

Specific to firearms: what makes a good instructor? What things should we look for, to determine if someone will be able to teach us or improve us? These are important questions to have answered as we progress down this path toward mastery or even proficiency.


While I won’t commit to these being in order of precedence… this first quality is likely to be the most important: patience.

A good instructor has to have more than a standard dose of this magic. It will keep them with you and engaged through the hardest phases of your learning process. I’ve seen the opposite of this, often in large institutional (read that industrial output) training environments. Students that require a little more time or even a different translation can be abandoned “on the field” because of the requisite effort. As the old saying goes: “Patience is a virtue.” Find an instructor that has the time and the personality to guide you past the rough parts and into: “better.”


The next consideration is: communication. I know a lot of very, very good shooters that can’t translate what they do into a usable, exportable version. If we think about it, an instructor’s job is to convert action to understandable language that the student then synthesizes. That’s how valuable concepts are created.

Skill is important in an instructor, but the ability to make that skill something that you can use is why you are there. Otherwise, you’re just paying someone to perform in front of you and becoming a spectator, not a student.

Knowing the “right side” of what’s being taught is important to me as a student. I want an instructor to be able to explain to me how I interact with the equipment, not just how the equipment functions. It’s often enough to know that the red dot will be there or that the gun will fire when the trigger is pressed. An instructor that can explain (and help me adapt and mitigate) the biomechanical interface… is much more valuable.

Be Calm

This next attribute is near vital: an instructor needs to be calm. It’s odd to have to point this out, but it is unfortunately necessary. The world is flooded with instructors that teach people to be afraid of what they are doing because they lack calm in their instruction. It’s perfectly reasonable to insist on safety in a calming tone. It’s also perfectly reasonable to expect people to react in the opposite manner if you insist on the same thing with underlying tension and fear. An instructor teaches.

Know How We Learn

The final thing we’ll discuss here is training itself. An instructor should know (very well) how humans learn. Consider for a second a person that knows the gun exceptionally well but doesn’t know how a person develops skill.

Now, consider the opposite. We are better off with someone familiar with the way we actually, biologically make ourselves better.

There are many other measurable quantities to consider when hiring an instructor. This short list is a good start but not near exhaustive. The best advice (boiling all of this down) I can give is simple: find someone that can convert concepts to a “language” that you can understand. When you find that, it’s a fast lane to getting better.

Until next time, Train smart.


Author Bio

Duane “Buck” Buckner

After spending 25 years in the USCG, Duane “Buck” Buckner is now the U.S. Director of Training for Aimpoint. The Aimpoint Training Division conducts training courses for military and law enforcement agencies up to the Federal level as well as for the prepared civilian. Buck is widely known for his emphasis on brain psychology as it relates to combat and survival.


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Posted by Duane Buckner, Aimpoint US Director of Training on Feb 7th 2023