Keep an Open Mind!

by Rich Verdi
This article originally appeared in the IALEFI Journal

As anyone who has been in this business for any length of time is aware, Firearms Instructors can be a very stubborn lot. For those instructors lucky enough to have the final word on equipment selection, all have settled on their favorite pistol, load, holster, etc. and those choices provide the fuel for endless debates whenever more than one instructor is present. Generally these opinions do no harm, after all the instructor who is confident in the choices he has made for his troops will often transmit that confidence to them.

It is not, however, unusual for these opinions to become at the least distracting and annoying and at the worst downright harmful. I once had the experience of walking into the classroom at a police academy just in time to watch a Firearms Instructor tell each student who had been issued a SIG-Sauer pistol that they are armed with a piece of junk! Two things immediately came to mind as I listened to this nonsense. First, that this instructor has no business being anywhere near recruits who are at the most impressionable point of their careers and will soon be taking to the street believing their pistols are pieces of junk. Second, that this “Firearms Instructor” is not particularly well versed in what is supposed to be his field of expertise. While many instructors and shooters may not like the control layout of the SIG-Sauer pistols (no, I am not among them) any gun person with the least amount of sense is aware that the SIGs are fine pistols.

At an IALEFI RTC (regional training conference) held here on the East Coast a few years back, I was fortunate enough to take a class given by now retired Lt. Dave Spaulding of the Montgomery County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Department. Lt. Spaulding made a point of showing the glaring differences between a “Firearms Instructor” and a “Range Officer.” Lt. Spaulding went on to say that anyone can stand on the range, monitor safety violations and score targets. It takes a far higher level of skill to teach, to train, to be a “Firearms Instructor.” If we truly endeavor to be well rounded teachers it is essential that all this “my gun is better than your gun” or “my bullet is bigger than your bullet” nonsense goes south.

For the purposes of these equipment discussions we would probably agree that we can eliminate most of the cheaper, second rate firearms manufacturers and concentrate on those firearms made by the established names in the firearms trade. When we discuss these firearms our question is not so much which one is “best” … it is which one best fits our needs and training ideologies. For example, let’s say you have decided that on safe carry is the mode you prefer to utilize, perhaps for weapon retention reasons. That may mean a pistol that comes off safe quickly and smoothly as well as one which is accurate, well made and reliable. For that situation the Beretta 92 Series or the new manual safety M&P’s may fill all of your needs. Does this mean that the SIGs, Glocks, S&W’s Etc. are no good? Certainly not, these are fine pistols that may not work for you. Do you want a traditional DA/SA with no manual safety? SIG may be the way to go. DAO ? Smith and Wesson does a great job with those. DAO with a manual safety, maybe an H&K USP. These are all fine pistols that fulfill different missions and different training ideologies.

As well rounded Firearms Instructors we need to be familiar with all the weapons systems produced by the major manufacturers and be able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each. A more appropriate comment for the “Range Officer” we discussed earlier might have been, “The SIG-Sauer is an excellent pistol and while I find that the operating levers are somewhat difficult for me to manipulate, we will teach you how to use them efficiently.

We owe it to our students to be able to instill a sense of confidence in the equipment that they carry to save their lives in a lethal encounter. We cannot truly call ourselves “Firearms Instructors” until we have mastered that ability.

Keep an open mind!


About the author: Rich Verdi is a former Police Sergeant, having retired after nearly 21 years with a municipal police agency in N.J. Rich served as a Patrol Officer, Patrol Supervisor, E.S.U. member and Team Leader and prior to his retirement, he was the department’s Training Officer and Rangemaster. He has been a member of IALEFI 1989 instructing at numerous training conferences and is currently serving as a member of the IALEFI Board of Directors. He is a NJ State certified Rangemaster and a member of the NJ Attorney General’s Firearms Advisory Board.