Two Gun Trainers, Three Opinions; or, One Gun Trainer, Two Schools?

Yesterday I concluded my post by raising the question of whether there is an essential core of systematic knowledge or set of professional norms that are widely agreed upon by defensive firearms trainers. I don’t think so, and the failed attempt to establish an Association of Defensive Firearms Instructors as a professional association may suggest the impossibility of coming to any such agreement.

Of course, DISAGREEMENT can be a good or a bad thing for a community. From my time as a sociologist of religion, I am reminded of two different lessons from Jewish folk wisdom.

First is the quip, “Ask two Jews, get three opinions.” The positive interpretation of this highlights the creative potential of being open to different points of view and embracing civil debate. This stance may apply to gun trainers as well as they consider different approaches, test equipment and techniques through trial and error, and push themselves and others to advance the field. It’s an anti-dogmatic approach reminiscent of Rob Pincus’s “Respectful Irreverence.” or the Civilian Gunfighter blog’s recent warning to “Beware the Echo Chamber.”

But today we seem to be all about the Echo Chambers, reinforced by our homophilous social networks, old media narrowcasting, and new (social) media bubbles.

Which leads to the second bit of Jewish folk wisdom, an anecdote about a Jew discovered living alone on a desert island who has built two synagogues. Asked why, he says, “In one I pray, in the other I would never set foot.” It is not hard to imagine a gun trainer on a deserted island building two gun schools for this same reason. Here the difference emphasized is more contentious than creative. It suggests a dogmatic closing off to other points of view rather than an opening up to them. And because the gun training industry is an industry (that is, an economic enterprise), the specter of a financial incentive to create differentiation (even without difference) between one’s own products and another’s is always looming.

Of course, one of the lessons from these two bits of folk wisdom is that both of these tendencies exist within the same Jewish community. So too can they both be found in the defensive firearms community.

The question I can’t answer is whether one or the other predominates.


  1. In my experience, it depends on which two trainers we are looking at. Some certainly take a “my way or no way” approach, while other are much more collegial. Locally, the best of the CHL schools get along and sepak well of one another. There are some who see it differently, though.

    I have trained with a number of instructors over the years and am myself an NRA certified pistol and shotgun instructor as well as a retired LE firearms instructor. I took courses throughout my career with a variety of instructors. I never had the privilege of training with any of the big names in the industry, but learned from them in books and videos. There was some conflict, but the basics were all pretty much the same.

    When I instructed – on the range and in the classroom, where I taught courses other than firearms – I told my students that if they had another idea on something, to share it. If it made sense and wasn’t something we’d tried before and found wanting, we could explore it. But not all instructors have that approach.

    So, I don’t have a difinitive answer either.


  2. The social psychologists who created Terror Management Theory talk about people creating cultures as a means of dealing with the ‘terror of death. The groups of people


    • Wrong #$%&& button….the existence of people with different values shows people their views may be wrong since both groups cannot be right so they need to handle the existence of the other group by demeaning it etc. People who carry guns around sure sound like people dealing with the thought of death. Thanks for the interesting post.


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