Most arguments or disagreements I see these days can be resolved with an understanding of the mission first. By understanding your mission, it helps to streamline supporting topics such as what type of training do you need as well as the equipment.
What is your why
Now this puts the responsibility on the individual to clearly understand their mission. Yes, I get it, you are not in the military or law enforcement. It doesn’t matter, in this context I’m referencing what you are trying to accomplish with a firearm, but you could use this rationale with just about anything. As it relates to firearms training, what are you trying to accomplish; do you want to be a competitive shooter, are you looking to purchase your first firearm, do you need specialized training to augment your mission or are you more interested in being well rounded. These are but a few examples of helping to define your mission. To further extrapolate let’s talk about someone who is looking to purchase their first firearm and wants to ensure they are going to be safe and proficient. At no time does it do the new shooter any good as an instructor to try to get them to perform ninja rolls or knife hand strikes with their pistol. It is completely inappropriate, but it does look sexy and people particularly new to the industry will look at this type of training and falsely assume it is what they need.
A whole can of what you don’t need
There is no point in trying to up-sale someone on a product they either don’t need or don’t understand, yet it is very common. Instead the new shooter would be better off with a program that ramps up, establishing a solid foundation for them to continue their progression towards becoming a highly competent and capable shooter. The ugly truth is what they need is the furtherest thing from sexy, it is basics. As the new shooter you want to make sure you are being exposed to safe training first and foremost. Safe in the sense the instructor is capable of managing live fire evolutions as well as mitigating the risks associated. You want to make sure there are appropriate safeguards in place to prevent accidents, but also measures in place for if an accident does occur.
More than a feeling
The most difficult part of this process for the new shooter to understand is the curriculum; how well it is designed and managed. This is the part I find the most difficult for a new shooter to recognize and understand. If you have an understanding of how curriculum is developed or knowledge of adult learning methods then you may be able to discuss it further to get a warm and fuzzy. Without that and you are left with very little to help guide you through this process. Some will say, ask them about their experience. On the surface that seems like a good idea, but the smart new shooter will ask them about their teaching experience. The next most important question to ask is how does the new shooter recognize they have improved. Is it a feeling or is it something more tangible. If you guess tangible, such as standards then you guessed correctly.
The proof is in progress
Merely completing a class is not the best way of measuring progress. In fact, it is a horrible method of gauging your skill. Self administered tests are a great idea, but are they appropriate for your level and skill, more importantly how do you recognize progress. Without observable, measurable and repeatable performance standards you really have no way of knowing if you are getting better other than “I think so”. When placed on the correct path towards developing into a safe and competent shooter these are the two most important points left out of so many conversations I see these days.
It doesn’t matter how popular you may perceive an instructor, what really matters is how well they get you from point a to point b. If you have no idea what these two points are in reality then it really doesn’t matter what kind of training you receive.
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." Socrates, Classical Greek Philosopher.