So this weekend, Tam was kind enough to point us to a yootoob showing off the stunning martial feats of a bunch of disorganized clownshoes calling themselves American Defense Enterprises. The amount of fail and buffoonery in this single video could be blogfodder for weeks, but I’ll try and keep it short. Hopefully this will help y’all avoid dangerous shooting schools in the future.
This video is in a 3 minute nutshell, every caveat and buyer beware you could want to avoid when shopping for professional firearms instruction. ADE aces my trainer bullshit detection checklist:
- Ratings and comments disabled on YouTube videos, no public forum, or dissenting opinions rapidly squashed on a forum by a gang of uncritical nuthuggers.
- Emphasis on who they have supposedly trained, not whom they have trained under. Legitimate trainers are all constantly learning from each other, as our art is an open, collaborative process, not a secret handed down from the mountain by a guru.
- Excessive guru worship, not invented here syndrome.
- Emphasis on guru qualifications, but handwaving the details. So Bill Beasley was supposedly in the special forces in some manner. When? Where? Who served with him? You won’t find out from ADE!
- Poor or nonexistent range safety.
- Non sequitors or ad hominiems defending poor or nonexistent range safety
- Students running team drills with people they have never met before.
- Emphasis on flashy drills and tactics while disregarding the fundamentals of shooting.
But let’s get to that video, shall we?
[Important update! While the original has disappeared down the memory hole, the internets is forever and a new and improved version lives on here!]
1. Drills Are Not Scenarios, And Scenarios Are Not Drills
The first thing that really puzzled the crap out of me (apart from the 30 year old doctrinal stances, more sweeping than a curling match and many other safety violations) was this curious exercise at 1:05.
As you can see, two shooters are standing facing the target, then all at once, the front shooter drops to the ground, both shooters draw their pistols, and they both shoot the target. Disregarding the obvious safety rule fails here (but I’ll come back to it later), I cannot for the life of me figure out what this drill is supposed to teach. If it’s designed to hone a particular skillset, say, shooting a target after getting knocked to the ground, why is the rear shooter there endangering the life of the forward shooter? If it’s to rehearse a tactic, under what conditions would it be a good idea to drop to the deck in front of a close threat?
This kind of doctrinal sloppiness shows up in poorly run schools with insufficiently thought out curriculum, or cribbed from better schools without a fundamental understanding of the material. There is a big difference between shooting drills and shooting a scenario. We repeatedly shoot drills (which are by nature usually unrealistic in context) in order to develop shooting skills. We don’t expect to have to transition to our sidearm 30 times in a row, but the Meltdown drill is still extremely useful for hammering the rifle to pistol transition into shape.
We then put our thinking skills to the test in a scenario, where we attempt to solve a problem with the shooting skills we’ve learned. Scenarios are sometimes roleplayed by other instructors, or have some element of theater to them. We might also rehearse a common tactic that we expect to use in the future. But the point to a scenario is not to repeatedly run through the test until we get it right, but to run through a test to get it wrong, to harshly show what we need to work on.
Approaching firearms training like a grocery list (“Okay, we’ve done page 1, get ready for the falling buddy drill!”) diminishes the utility of both drills and scenarios by reducing them into rote checklisting. When confronted by a lethal threat, you shouldn’t be running through a menu of options that may apply to the situation but reacting to the unfolding, dynamic situation by applying your learned skills. There are no cookie cutter fights, and “training” like you can pigeonhole your opponents and their actions is setting yourself up for failure.
It’s fun to ace a test. However, we don’t go to school to have fun, but rather to learn something. And we learn more by failing than by getting an attaboy and a cool martial arts title.
2. Safety Is Always, Always, Always Important.
The first redoubt bottom feeding “training” outfits retreat to when confronted with their dangerous range practices is to belittle safe shooting rules as being unrealistic “square range” silliness or to mock the critic as cowardly and paranoid. “There aren’t any range rules on the street, kid!” “We run big boys rules here!”
This is a crock of shit, and I will show you why.
Here we have an event from a few years ago. For reasons of either poor training or inadequate attention to detail, a police officer disregards Rule 3 and negligently cranks off a round into the street right in front of a proned out suspect.
This is of course an inexcusable violation of the rules, and I’m glad that everyone walked away. But what’s interesting to me is that for a few seconds the officer is completely and utterly bewildered and has no earthly idea what just happened. She finally recovers and holsters her pistol, but for a few heartbeats, she might as well have been tasered or flashbanged. If the suspect had not been equally surprised, he had plenty of time to jump up and disarm her. That single moment of carelessness nearly turned a routine arrest into a tragedy, and not directly because of the bullet she unexpectedly launched, but due to her reaction to it..
If you’re in a hostile confrontation and unintentionally fire a round, or even worse, fire a round while disregarding your muzzle direction and drill a family member, friend, or uninvolved innocent, do you think you’ll be able to recover from the shock and confusion before your opponents act on your hesitation?
The Four Rules aren’t just for practice or the range. They’re even more important in a self defense situation because the stakes are so much higher. Your safe gun handling means the difference between life and death, not just for the people downrange of you, but for yourself as well. Legitimate trainers understand this and will begin instruction by emphasizing safety and enforce safe habits throughout the class. Frauds won’t let a little matter like range safety get in the way of puffing up into Billy Badass.
3. Quadruple Decker Stack of Failburger.
Receiving instruction in superficially cool but ultimately irrelevant skill sets is one of the biggest clues that you’ve crossed the border into mall ninja territory from the land of sensible. There are many reasons for instructors to run their students through drills such as stack and entry, Australian peels, bounding and other fancy team drills, none of them good. Some schools, insecure in the quality of their instruction, ratchet up the coolness arms race in search of prominence. Or the forbidden fruit turns into irresistible marketing (“We teach you the ninja skills others won’t!”).
Now, I’m not going to blanket condemn the teaching of civilians whatever skills they want. A person may reasonably expect to fight in a building, and the techniques of pie slicing, and light and space management used in house clearing might come in handy. Why shouldn’t someone want to engage in training with friends or family he expects to be around a lot? But these are specialized concerns and when you find yourself being pitched these goods in the marketing for a fundamental level shooting class, alarm bells should go off.
When instructors use team tactics to increase the cool level of a class, you can be quite sure that you will be instructed wrong and probably dangerously, because the point of the exercise for the instructors is the cool, not the team tactics. You’re being sold the sizzle when you’re seeking the steak. Ask yourself, self, why am I rehearsing this with people I’ve never seen before and will likely never see again?
Postlude: The Big Problem.
I believe my readership is more firearms savvy than the average dude who ends up filling out a 4473. I say this not to brag, but to point out that while you and I and pretty much everyone who’s commented at Tam’s aren’t likely to be fooled by ADE’s antics, the videos are slickly produced and look cool to the uninitiated and clearly have entrapped more than a few suckers.
The firearms instruction business has gone from one school in the Arizona desert to hundreds of independent instructors all over the country. This is both wonderful and terrible, since while you no longer have to travel across the country to seek training, you now risk choosing the wrong school and not only learning the wrong things in the wrong way, but potentially putting your life in danger!
So how are we to separate the legitimate teachers from the hucksters? And more importantly, how is the newbie supposed to even know that he has to beware of fraud? While you and I can immediately recognize ADE as being dangerous incompetents, to someone new to the whole gun thing, ADE and Gabe Suarez and Front Sight look pretty much the same as legitimate schools.
An industry certification process would probably help, but I think that like every other consumer good or service, ultimately those who know have to speak loud and long and spread the word about what is good and what is bad. As we see dangerous, fraudulent, stupid asshats like ADE and others pop up, we need to call them out on it. The fight against idiocy is one of constant vigilance, not a single decisive battle.
Bonus! General WTFery:
Mmmm yeah, honey, work that business. Come to pdb. I’ll clear your malfunction.
Put that thing away. I said PUT THAT THING AWAY. Why are you holding it there? PUT IT AWAY. (He didn’t put it away).
Fix your grip. I said FIX YOUR GRIP. FIX YOUR GRIP GODDAMNIT. (She didn’t fix her grip).
Yes, everybody is shooting here. I mean, at this point, why not?
What, are those ninja knives? Are you kidding me? Weren’t you just holding a gun? Wait, but… Jesus, forget it, just fuck off.