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Thread: Are Classes the Only Way to Become Proficient?

  1. #1
    Hammertime
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    Are Classes the Only Way to Become Proficient?

    Obviously by the way I phrase the title, I don't think it is true. There are lots of ways to proficiency in firearms and I think the self taught model can be just as good or even better than attending classes.

    In general around PF, there is a tendency to push classes on folks. I don't think that is necessarily wrong, but I don't think they are necessary at all.

    I guess a lot comes from what sort of learner you are. For me: I have always learned from books and self testing on most topics and found lectures sort of a big waste of time.

    In this era of information on the web plus video I don't think there has ever been an easier time to be an auto didact. And I think it is probably more efficient though that is probably debateable.

    Firearms are consequential, but basic gun handling and marksmanship is not a difficult skill to learn.

    If you want to learn defense tactics, I think a course is probably more useful, but there is also an awful lot of written material out there going back hundreds of years if you look.

    If you want to learn competition shooting there is also plenty of information available.

    I think much more important than any in person class is: interest in the topic, the willingness to do the reading, and probably most importantly, the willingness to put in the practice and the necessary feedback cycle of push til you fail, analyze the failure, correct the flaws and try again.

    I have taken a few classes and invariably I am bugged by the massive amounts of wasted time.

    Anyhoo: discuss
    @GJM

  2. #2
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    For many, this is like asking if you can teach yourself to play the piano or the violin, both pursuits that share much with pistol proficiency. Of course, you can. However, the learning curve will be long, difficult and frustrating. Especially now, with ammo as scarce and valuable as it is, wasting a lot of it in trial and error seems foolish. I was largely self taught in my youth, then went to Gunsite in the late 1970's and discovered I had wasted a railroad car of ammunition trying all the different techniques I had read about in shooting books from the 1940's through 1960's, which were current at the time. having a qualified instructor watch you will discover errors and tweaks it might take the shooter much longer to discover on his own, if ever.

    Like you, I detest wasted time in class. Choose your trainer wisely and avoid that. As always, YMMV.

  3. #3
    Hammertime
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Givens View Post
    Like you, I detest wasted time in class. Choose your trainer wisely and avoid that. As always, YMMV.
    Thank you for the reply and please take no offense at my lack of enthusiasm for in person training (I actually have read and gifted your Concealed Carry book which is excellent). For classes personally, you and Gabe White are on the short list of ones I want to make happen some day.

  4. #4
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    I guess it depends upon your definition of proficient.

    Can you learn to make the gun go bang on your own? Sure. Can you hit a target? Sure. Can you hit a small target at speed and distance on demand. Well.... maybe not.

    You don't see many athletes that are purely self taught. Even those at the peak levels of development typically have a coach and often several.

    I'll give you that some classes may be more ballistic masturbation or role play, but there is no replacement for a knowledgeable coach personally observing your actions and performance and providing direct feedback.

    Classes can be very valuable but if a group setting is not your thing, I'd find an instructor and curriculum that meet your desired goals and invest in instruction.

    There is definitely a certain level of inate skill that can make someone a good/better shooter, athlete, singer, actor, etc. But good coaching can help you meet or exceed your goals faster and more fully while helping to avoid pitfalls and bad habits along the way.

  5. #5
    Member Trooper224's Avatar
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    The short answer is, "no".

    Strangely enough, there was a time when classes weren't a thing. Many of us were self taught and got pretty good at it. While I think training opportunities are great and should be taken advantage of whenever possible, the view that one can't learn to shoot without having one's hand held is simply a fallacy, one often promoted by trainers strangely enough.
    We may lose or we may win, but we will never be hear again.......

  6. #6
    Site Supporter ST911's Avatar
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    A class may not be essential, but quality teaching is. Teaching and instruction comes in many forms. Continued mentoring almost never gets the attention it deserves, nor does real testing and accountability. A cohort of learners working together has advantages, but that doesn't necessitate a gathered simultaneous experience ("class").

    There is also the distinction between "mastery" and lesser levels of learning and proficiency. The former is a journey over time, the latter what you'd expect after a "class."
    الدهون القاع الفتيات لك جعل العالم هزاز جولة الذهاب

  7. #7
    Site Supporter CCT125US's Avatar
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    Part of it is knowing what "good" looks like. Showing up to class won't make you any better than spending time at the gravel pit making noise. However, it could be argued that a student who forks over money, for fees, ammo, travel, etc. has more skin in the game and exhibits a deeper desire to get better. For me, I've had the opportunity to train with TLG twice, Bob Vogel, and Ken Hackathorn. You couldn't pay me to train with Ken again. TLG's methods just clicked with me, and Vogel was fantastic from a competitive perspective.

    What the student applies after class determines alot. It's that inner desire for constant improvement and measurement.
    SWYNTS
    Just because it "feels good", doesn't mean it's best.

  8. #8
    Unreconstructed Moylan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc_Glock View Post
    I have taken a few classes and invariably I am bugged by the massive amounts of wasted time.
    I went to a pretty good class last month. Brief classroom intro then head to range: when we get out to the range, everyone starts loading magazines. I think this has happened at every class I've ever been to. I'm always amazed. Like, you guys didn't realize you could load mags ahead of time? We got an hour dinner break. I'm here to learn stuff. I brought food, like the class description told me to. Give me twenty minutes and then let's get back to work. If the instructor can't teach while I eat, that's fine with me. He deserves a break, too. But I like working meals during classes if possible.

    Many instructors don't pay quite enough attention to time management. And I've been to a few classes where they paid far too little. One class last summer was admittedly incredibly hot, but we spent so long on break, sitting in the shade, listening to war stories that I cannot say I got my money's worth from the class. I know the instructor was trying to keep us safe from heat injury, but to me it felt truly excessive. I don't like stuff to get all about the money, but the going rate for a one-day class is anywhere from $150-$250 or more...I want a full day's instruction for that kind of cash.

    Still, at the good classes the useful material always more than compensates for whatever less good stuff there is.
    Last edited by Moylan; 02-08-2021 at 03:41 PM.
    O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason.

  9. #9
    I'd add that no, classes aren't the only way, but . . .

    Often, people learning on their own just don't know what they don't know. Said another way, they don't know when they're doing something wrong, and can very easily practice something enough that they become very proficient in doing the wrong thing, making it tougher to correct.

    I've seen this a lot in fly casting. Even when people can see their casting isn't going well, sometimes they can't figure out why. This is sometimes the case after watching videos, reading books, etc. Corrections are, or can be, needed at any level, from beginner to master.

    That said, not every instructor in every activity is qualified to, or capable of, diagnosing a problem, especially as one gains proficiency.

    Group lessons can be fine, probably more so for beginner- and intermediate-level shooters. Class size can matter, though, even with beginners. Individual attention can be necessary at any level. And not everybody can afford one-on-one or small group instruction.

    All that said, I'll still say "No, classes aren't the only way". There are plenty of tips and techniques that can be picked up with individual searching.

    But if you can't figure out that tailing loop in your cast, that slice in your swing, etc., a class (or individual instruction) might be the ticket.

  10. #10
    Unreconstructed Moylan's Avatar
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    As someone newish to pistol training, I think the main value of instruction is simply having an expert watching me. I can get information from books or from videos or whatever. But the books and videos can't say "no, you're doing that wrong" or "here, try this instead" or whatever. I can only pay attention to so many things at once. Very few things, actually. A good instructor can see 1000 things at once, and something I might have no idea I'm doing (or not doing) he can spot and get me to notice. How, exactly, that will work in practice depends on what level the student is at. Basic level students are going to need reminding about basics--like trigger discipline and muzzle discipline. As is well-known, once the novice's attention is off basic gun handling and on something else (unloading the gun, or dealing with a malfunction), basic gun handling goes right out the window. An instructor better be on his toes here. Higher level students will make different mistakes, and get corrected in different ways. What we think we're doing isn't necessarily what we actually are doing. Videoing ourselves can help, I expect (I don't do it), but the instructor can still often see things we can't see, even if they're right in front of our eyes.

    More important than this shooting stuff, though, doing classes on tactics and scenarios has been incredibly instructive for me, and there's no way to do it alone. Force on force particularly has been, for me, by far the most valuable training I've done.
    O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason.

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