JEFF GONZALES ON DEALING WITH THE STRUGGLING SHOOTER
FTA co-founder Jeff Gonzales is a decorated former SEAL who participated in combat missions in Central and South American, former instructor at the Naval Special Warfare Center, and a respected firearms trainer. I have known Jeff for many years and hosted his Trident Concepts Team Tactics course in 2003. I was sufficiently impressed to the point that I wrote an article on the course that appeared in the January 2004 issue of “SWAT Magazine”.
I ran into Jeff during the 2019 SHOT Show in Las Vegas and took advantage of the opportunity to pick his brain on a subject that every defensive firearms instructor has probably dealt with: How can a firearms instructor best deal with a struggling shooter?
Jeff’s initial response was direct and to the point. Instructors should prepare in advance and be prepared to deal with a struggling shooter in every class. He clearly sets out the topics that will be covered and the level of proficiency required to successfully complete the class at the time of enrollment. He also noted that it was not uncommon for students to believe that their skill level was significantly greater than it actually is only to find out during the class that it was not. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for nearly every student in an occasional intermediate or advanced-level class to struggle. Rather than make drastic changes to the class curriculum, Jeff will either increase par times, decrease distances, or adjust the target size in order to not only ensure that the students still see significant improvement in their skills but finish the course with positive attitudes.
What about the one or two shooters that are struggling to keep up with the rest of the class? It goes without saying that a student that represents a legitimate safety risk to not only him or herself and possibly others must be tactfully removed. But what about the student that is overwhelmed by the drills, is unable to keep up, or is struggling with basic gunhandling and defensive marksmanship skills? Jeff’s recommendation was to have an assistant instructor take that student offline and work with them one-on-one if the range setup permits. The student can be permitted to return to the line if they can catch up with the rest of the class. He stated that the student should always be removed from the line in a tactful manner and not be shamed. If the student simply can’t complete the course requirements, Jeff recommends that the student be removed from the class and graciously informed that if they want to pay for and complete a basic course in the future, they are welcome to retake the current course at no additional cost.
Firearm instructors should remember that no student comes to a class intending to fail. Firearms training is not only about making money, it is also about doing all we can to prepare another person for a possible life-or-death situation that will not only impact the student’s life but also their loved ones and those who may be dependent upon them.
Steve is a long-time defensive weapons and instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (www.ptgtrainingllc.com).