Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Essay On Firearms Instruction Terminology

It often amuses me when I hear some of the terminology used by shooters and firearms enthusiasts. Self titled operators today (there is one of the most amusing terms of all), as did the gun gurus of the past, come up with new, or at least differing, firearms and shooting related terms on a fairly regular basis. Some actually think the terms they use to be new and also think that the words they use nowadays are more fitting firearms nomenclature than words used for many years in the past.

One of the most controversial subjects among shooters and those who give instruction in their endeavor to shoot or teach to shoot is how to describe exactly what one does to manipulate a trigger to fire a gun. To some you squeeze the trigger. This term has fallen in and out of grace for as long as I can remember, not so much due to any fault with using it as much as to the fault associated with instructors who were, for whatever reason, able to properly convey to shooters what they meant by it. If explained properly, trigger squeeze would be easily understood, by the vast majority of reasonably intelligent competent shooters if not all of them, as an action taken almost exclusively with their trigger finger on the trigger alone and that said action is not the same as using your while hand to squeeze the juice out of a lemon. Note, I said fairly intelligent shooters and I mean that most sincerely. Then again, in order to convey what exactly is meant by trigger squeeze one would have to be a fairly intelligent and competent instructor. When an instructor fails in that regard, he or she basically winds up not understanding the terminology being used or how it was meant to be used and then often creates (or uses) what he believes to be a more fitting term. Yet, the term now in vogue is being used to describe the same thing that the instructor was trying to teach before. Somehow, merely because a term was changed, some instructors wrongly believe that the concept will be more easily understood by shooters if only because it was more easily understood by the instructor.

Thus, trigger pull became trigger squeeze which became trigger press and even in some small number of cases trigger operation or trigger manipulation. I have heard them all and it makes me chuckle a silent little bit of laughter when I hear Operators, or modern day firearms instructor / shooters telling folks why the term they use is better than the ones previously used or currently used by others. Sooner or later the trend goes full circle and while you may not believe it now, trigger pull and trigger 
squeeze will be popular again with an instructor who currently uses trigger press. The thing is, the term does not matter nearly as much as the detailed description of what is being taught.

The fact of the matter is that when an instructor uses any such term to describe the action applied to a trigger by a person shooting a firearm, the instructor often assumes, because he understands what meaning it conveys for him, that the term is so simple as to be self explanatory. In truth - that usually is not the case. The reality of semantics is that any given word can and virtually does have more than one correct meaning. Additionally, any word can also have other incorrect meanings to those whose mastery of vocabulary might not be the best. Not one person whom I have ever witnessed, in a classroom full of students being taught about shooting, ever pulled out a dictionary or list of firearms nomenclature to look up the term "trigger squeeze" while the instructor was talking about it. In fact, not one student that I have ever instructed, or seen getting instruction, has asked what was meant by the terms: trigger squeeze, trigger pull or trigger press while in the classroom. Some few have asked, while out on the range, when an instructor is getting on their backsides for not getting it right but those have been very few indeed. It takes a good, fairly intelligent and competent instructor to realize when a shooter has not understood what was meant by such term and then to fully explain it to the all of the shooters present without further confusing the issue and to ensure the students have understood it.

While it may help in individual situations with individual shooters, or even with large groups of shooters to use what seems to be better terminology, changing the term to another set of words is not necessarily the answer. Why not? Well because the new words that an instructor uses, to describe the exact same action a shooter takes on the trigger to fire a gun, may also be interpreted or understood differently by different shooters in different settings. The trick to getting the shooter to understand what has to be done is not to be found in the use of different yet tantamount words but is to be found within a proper an comprehendible description of the action. Sure, using a word better understood by more than fewer people will help but the most important things for a firearms instructor to do to make himself understood is to first completely understand the concept he is attempting to teach, then becoming proficient in its application, then being able to describe the process to student shooters in easily understood descriptive language while giving a good practical demonstration of it and finally to guide the shooters through practical exercises until they too become proficient in it. 

Yet some instructors do it otherwise but otherwise is not always good. It is not good practice to stand in the front of a classroom, especially one full of new students, and pontificate on the effectiveness of your chosen terminology while lambasting that of others. Nor is it a good idea for instructors to argue or mock one another, in front of students, about which terms are best especially in a classroom full of new shooters. They very likely already are confused enough without the instructors adding to their confusion. Likewise, for an instructor to pompously boast the term other instructors use is of the age of dinosaurs while the ones he uses are new and cutting edge is pure arrogance and while it does wonders for the instructor's ego it is counterproductive when it comes to the benefits the student should be getting out of the instruction.  

I am not saying that all instructors need to use the same terms to describe the same things. In fact, if one term seems more easily understood by the slowest dolt in a particular class of shooters being taught, then go ahead and use it but make darned certain to describe exactly what you mean by it and to tell them which other terms they may hear that mean the same thing. That way, anyone who has half a brain will understand, the next time they hear another instructor call it something else, that it is the same thing each of you are talking about and thus will not be confused by the change in terminology from instructor to instructor. Whether or not you want to explain why you use one term instead of another is up to you but do it with respect for other instructors and the terms they use. You may already understand that this applies to almost every aspect of being a firearms instructor but if you did not here it is for you in print - instruct not with arrogance as a know-it-all but with the requisite respect and understanding that others do it in other ways just as others understand it in other ways. You will be a much better firearms instructor for if you do so.

As for which term I prefer to describe the action one takes on a trigger to fire a gun, I like trigger pull the best. I often refer to the trigger finger as the booger picker and there is a reason for that more so that just saying it jokingly. You see, when someone, anyone, picks their nose they perform a lot of actions with their booger picker. They insert, then probe, then scrape, maybe even twist and squeeze or press but ultimately what they do is pull the booger out of their nose with that finger. Go ahead, next time in the privacy of wherever you find yourself, try it. Yes, actually pick your nose and pull one out. The curling back or pulling action, that you almost invariably will perform with your booger picker, while picking your nose is virtually identical to what you should be doing when squeezing, pressing, manipulating, operating and or pulling the trigger. Of course, there will be some who see and understand that differently, who actually do it differently when picking their noses. Some will insert their finger and twist and then pull their finger straight out with their prize much as a corkscrew pulls a cork out of the mouth of a wine bottle. Again, the trick to teaching the concept is to use a relative term, then fully describe it and demonstrate what you mean by it. If you do that, while showing respect for any student(s) who may not understand or who interpret your meaning differently than what you were trying to convey, you will be a better instructor and will make your students better shooters.

All the best,
Glenn B

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