When you want to sign up for shooting lessons, you need to know what to look for in a good firearm instructor. It’s not enough knowing that your instructor is a good shot. In fact, that’s usually a given, so it’s the least of your concerns.
Problem is that unlike plumbers and handymen, there’s no review forum for firearm instructors. That’s why you need to do your homework.
A firearm instructor needs a particular skill set and we’ll set these out for you.
Word of mouth
If someone has rated a firearm instructor highly, this is usually a good starting point. Personal recommendations aren’t an exact science, but they’re way better than internet forum gossip.
However, there are other criteria to consider. Is your instructor an amateur or a professional? What are his/her credentials? Is the range an established enterprise with training courses? And does the instructor or instructors provide a bio listing their credentials, training and qualifications?
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a given. Be aware and ask questions about the range’s safety protocols. Visit the range’s website too to check out what their protocols are. Also look for an instructor who always keeps his/her guns pointed in a safe direction, especially during demonstrations. Unless they’re about to fire, good instructors also keep their fingers off the trigger.
This makes all the difference. There’s nothing quite like an engaging instructor. But at the same time, it’s good if this person is courteous at all times.
Good instructors are flexible. In other words, they usually have several ways of teaching their courses, adapting the content and presentation to the learner(s). And be aware that a good instructor is not a braggart.
Band Of Expertise
Now, expertise is extremely important. Check the credentials and experience of your firearm instructor. Someone with practical experience and years of practising his shooting skills is imperative. Find yourself a specialist that has excelled in precisely what you want to do and you won’t look back.
So now that you know what to look for in a good firearm instructor, set about the task of finding your ideal instructor.
If you’ve already attained that ‘comfort’ level in your shooting abilities, our advice is: to shoot well, step out of your comfort zone.
But why, you may ask? Apart from enhancing performance, there are many other benefits of leaving your comfort zone, according to medical psychologist Dr Oliver Page.
Self-actualisation is a powerful incentive to leave the comfort zone. This allows for personal growth and fulfillment. Next up is developing a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, third is that you develop resilience which will equip you to handle change and ambiguity. And finally, you’ll have more self-efficacy in reaching your shooting goals.
According to chief ranger Geoffrey Coetzee, stepping out of your comfort zone benefits your shooting skills immensely. He said, “With consistent training, you’ll reach the sweet spot of understanding the shooting process, followed by testing and trusting the process. Once you can instinctively discern right from wrong in making an accurate shot, you’ll be in the comfort zone. In most situations when the stress is pumping, you’ll automatically default to your personal comfort zone.”
Pushing the envelope
“Confidence is critical to move away from shooting at lower skill levels and moving towards higher and higher skill levels. Needless to say, to reach this stage you have to be 100% familiar with shooting processes. And the best place for familiarisation is right here on the range!”
Take small steps and then ever larger steps to leave your comfort zone – without throwing caution to the wind. Yes, it certainly won’t happen overnight, but it’ll be so worth it in the end.
“With motivation, discipline and commitment, you can do it!” Geoffrey said. “Move the boundary marker a bit further every time, and in so doing, you’ll step out of your comfort zone. Someone once said about shooting, ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable’.”
For the third year in succession, it was a case of women to the fore on the shooting range. Celebrating Women’s Month, 21 women ranging from novices to professionals attended a weekend of shooting, drills and fun from 5 to 6 August at Marksman’s Nest shooting range near Malmesbury.
Chief ranger Geoffrey Coetzee said, “We were also honoured with a delegation from the NATSHOOT office this year. These ladies are part of a super team that manages the NATSHOOT database.”
All the action
After registration and all the formalities, the group spent a total of seven hours on the shooting range. Starting with fundamentals, they then progressed to micro-precision shooting skills and shotgun developmental shooting among many other modalities.
That night, the whole team embarked on a night shooting session, followed by a night walk. “Night shooting is very technical and not a common skill among law enforcement and private citizens. But we believe that, as a firearm owner, it’s a critical skill to possess. And I must say, the ladies in attendance did extremely well. We commend them for that.”
After so much action, the group settled in for some sustenance and a lovely night around the fire. All in all, the weekend was a roaring success.
“Women generally are more coachable than men. When they’re told how to hold the gun, they hold it that way. When shown to look at the front they do exactly that,” Geoffrey said.
“The number of women hunters, target shooters and gun owners has increased dramatically over the last number of years! And it’s particularly heartening to see so many women taking self-defence handgun training to heart.
“The weekend was proof that you can achieve anything with some commitment and pushing your limits. Well done to all 21 attendees. We’re chuffed that it was a case of women to the fore on the shooting range during Women’s Month.”
Apart from being at one with nature, it’s also a case of skill and precision in hunting. Many of our members are first and foremost hunters. And they all share one fundamental skill: good aim.
Chief ranger Geoffrey Coetzee emphasised that to become a better hunter means improving your shot accuracy. “And the only way to do this is practice, more practice, time and patience. Some of our members are good shots naturally, but others must work at getting good aim. There’s no better place than the shooting range to practice your aim regularly. Start with static targets and then move on to moving targets.”
Don’t underestimate the importance of holding your gun properly. Fact is, you might be caught off-guard by how powerfully the firearm recoils after being fired. Proper gun holding entails resting the rifle stock firmly on your shoulders. Reason being, this controls the force of the bullet being fired somewhat. And as for the trigger, squeeze it tightly while using the force on your wrist and fingers too.
Importantly, to be a good hunter, you also need to have a steady hand and sharp eye. “But most crucially, it’s also a matter of minutes of angles equal to 1/60th degrees, known as MOA. Just remember, one minute equals 1/60th degrees in an angle.
You may think that 1/60th of a degree seems too small. “However, with bullets going so fast and furiously, calculating minutes can make a huge difference. The simple explanation is: MOA helps you measure the bullet drop,” Geoffrey said.
The simple math formula to calculate for bullet drop is: Target distance (metres) / (divide by) 100 = mm per 1 MOA at that distance.
The equipment imperative
You’ll thank your stars when you invest in the right rifle and scope. And that doesn’t necessarily mean expensive equipment. Our rangers will gladly advise on the best out there.
Before buying, read the reviews and check for weight, grip and overall feel. In terms of the scope, do get one that’s versatile in providing a good view from various ranges.
Geoffrey said, “Practice controlling your breathing. Hold your breath while aiming and while taking a shot. When aiming down, take slow and deep breaths so that your heart rate doesn’t get too affected. It’s especially important to control your breathing before pulling the trigger. That has a lot to do with shooting accuracy.”
Study and practice the above and soon you’ll have skill and precision in hunting.
Alarmingly, lower- and middle-income individuals are now kidnapping targets in South Africa. This is according to an article in Business Tech earlier this month. “Kidnapping for ransom and extortion is increasing in South Africa … organised kidnapping syndicates … have expanded their focus beyond high-profile executives,” the article reads.
The South African Police Service’s (SAPS) latest quarterly stats show that kidnappings increased by 10.2% year-on-year from 3,306 cases in Q1 2022 to 3,641 in Q1 2023. But it’s said that the number soon could double because often people don’t report kidnapping incidents to the SAPS.
This could well spell a crisis, said Geoffrey Coetzee, chief ranger at Marksman’s Nest shooting range. Due to the low- and middle-income victim profile, the ransom amounts demanded are lower. And the reason could be because of the tough economic climate.
Geoffrey said, “This once again highlights the fact that it pays to enroll for a self-defence course. Apart from life-saving self-defence skills, the course also teaches situational awareness, how to stay calm under pressure and mental preparedness. All these are vitally important in crisis situations such as a kidnapping.
Business Tech quotes Hermanus van der Linde, CEO of IntegriSure Brokers, “Kidnappings have become a prevalent source of income for syndicates. They prey on individuals who have access to cash. In most instances, the victim has been profiled as to their worth or the family’s worth. Thus the kidnappers ask for an amount they know they can get.”
Furthermore, the article notes that typically, “the victim is held hostage for roughly a week before any communication is made” for a ransom. At this point, the family is so desperate that they pay whatever is asked.”
According to Van der Linde, “Syndicates have come to realise that low-income earners make for easy targets and don’t draw media attention.”
So, the long and short of it is, lower- and middle-income individuals are now kidnapping targets in South Africa. Therefore, be smart and equip yourself with self-defence skills at a reputable shooting range. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.
Remember, only survival matters in an active shooter situation.
Let’s hope that none of us ever find ourselves in this nightmare scenario. You might be at a mall, a concert or enjoying a day in the park. And all of a sudden, there are gunshots reverberating.
“Running or hiding are by far the best options,” said Marksman’s Nest chief ranger Geoffrey Coetzee. “This is as important as the ‘stop, drop and roll’ instructions in the event of a fire.
“In a situation where seconds matter, freezing is by far the worst thing you can do. Your first thought should be to find an exit strategy. Make use of any viable exit nearby – and pronto.”
Geoffrey said that once again, this is where a firearm self-defence course is invaluable. “One of the prime things we teach our learners is situational awareness. So, if someone has this self-defence training, it’ll be ingrained in their mindset to always scout out their surroundings.”
Whether you’re in a movie theatre, school building, park or mall, familiarise yourself with the surroundings. Look out for all the exits, including emergency exits. If you have a feeling that something is awry, trust your instincts. And if something or someone looks suspicious, report what you see and leave immediately.
When trying to escape a mall for instance, don’t faff around trying to retain your shopping, Geoffrey advised. “Turf it. However, if you can, assist people who need help escaping to the nearest exit. But don’t move anyone who’s already wounded. Importantly, when running, keep your hands visible so that law enforcement officers don’t confuse you with an active shooter. Always follow direction from police.”
“If the police aren’t already on the scene, call the nearest SAPS once you’re safe and out of harm’s way.”
If you can’t run, the next best option is hiding. Look out for safe spots that are out of view and provide protection from bullets. If you’re in an enclosed space, turn off the lights, close and lock the door, and block the door with heavy furniture.
Because it’s a dead give-away, silence your phone and stay calm.
Only survival matters in an active shooter situation. For this reason, you simply can’t go wrong by signing up for self-defence training to learn the necessary skills.