Show Me The Money – Pitfalls of Gun Training as a Commercial Product

My previous post on Bob Keller’s and Lee Williams’s views of contemporary gun training did not capture everything they said in response to the questions I sent them (on Episode 46 of the Think, Aim, Fire podcast, 27 September 2018), . One line of commentary I found particularly interesting had to do with the ways in which profit motives can distort or degrade the gun training. After all, gun trainers are in business to make money and training courses are the primary product they sell, including (by his own admission) Bob Keller (see Gamut Resolutions website).

As a reminder, Keller argues for a combat proven approach to training that focuses on the constants of gunfighting. The post-9/11 essence of gun training is spending time on a square range mastering the basic techniques that apply in every gunfight: getting the gun up, getting sight picture, and pulling the trigger.

And yet, he and Williams are pessimistic that the gun training industry as a whole will make this shift with them. Williams maintains that, on the civilian side, “the biggest problems is a lot of instructors feel they need to be entertainers.” This is a constant, before and after 9/11, according to Keller. Trainers ask themselves: “What can I do cool to get students to enroll in my class?” Why? Because they “are doing it pretty much just for the money and not for the training.”

Consequently, Keller doesn’t think there will be a post-9/11 shift in civilian gun training because “most of them [trainers] are in it for the money, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to entertain you.”

Keller’s back-to-basics approach is based in experience in actual gunfights and yet, he observes, many of his peers who have the same operational experience do not train in this manner. Instead, they are “getting wrapped up in the whole wooing the customer thing, with the fancy drills and the running around doing the GI Joe stuff. Some of the guys that do have experience are teaching that stuff but it’s because they know that’s what sells.”

Why does scenario-based and other wasteful forms of training sell? According to Keller, because many gun training consumers WANT edu-trainment. “A lot of people that are paying money, that’s what they want to do,” he recognizes. “Yeah they want to get better at shooting, but when it really comes down to it they are doing it for an entertaining weekend. They want to play GI Joe for a weekend.”

Memed on Pintrest by CommandoKeith from The Dark Side of Training | A New Series by Instructor Zero on YouTube

In the end, Keller adopts a nonjudgmental posture toward his fellow gun trainers and those who buy their services:

“I get it. For someone’s that never been in the military and always wanted to, I get why they want to go get kit-ed up and do an exciting weekend. I don’t fault them for that at all. I just don’t do that. I want to make money, yes, but my biggest thing and what I’ve always said and I won’t go back on is I do it to help people be better shooters and save their lives someday if that situation ever happens.”

Podcast host Williams doesn’t reserve judgement, though, when he concludes, “Let that be a warning to you listeners. If you go to a training class and there’s monkey bars and a zip line, you’ve picked the wrong instructor.”

Doing his best Seinfeld “not that there’s anything wrong with that” impression, Keller adds: “Unless that’s what you want to do for the weekend.”


  1. Checked out the Think, Aim, Fire podcast. I was aware of Lee Williams via Mark Walter’s Armed American Radio program. Some good stuff, some dogmatic. I totally agree with Keller’s emphasis on the basic shooting skills rather than the theatrics. I did find it interesting that Keller criticizes scenario training saying you can’t train for EVERY scenario therefore scenario training is not useful. Maybe he doesn’t know about developing brain maps and decreasing novelty by exposure to a variety of different situations. Then, in episode 11 both Williams and Keller are totally enthralled with the Top Shot Experience scenario based training facility in Sarasota, FL. Though it has entertainment aspects, the benefits to anyone who wants to avail themselves of such training cannot be dismissed out of hand. Applying real brain science rather than pseudo science to gun fighting is not a bad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt like the memes are a bit hyperbolic. Most of the training I’ve seen advertised in my market (and definitely the training I attended) was more conflict avoidance and combat focused. There never was any weird screaming, spay bottles, monkey bars, etc. All of the instructors advertise some combination of many years of police and military experience.

    In the age of the internet it’s easy to see one or two instances of things and then make assumptions about the frequency of them. This feels like one of those times. For sure it makes for an “interesting” pod cast and meme generator. Could one find this kind of “edutainment” out there somewhere? I’m sure one could. Is it common in the training community? I don’t think so.


    • Very astute commentary, I must say. I have heard many people in the gun training industry criticize “edu-trainment” but no one has an idea the overall distribution of gun training classes. Karl Rehn has argued that any advanced classes at all only address “the one percent,” so to divide that 1% into people taking “serious” classes vs. “edu-trainment” does it even matter?


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