Monday Rant: Mc’Tacti-Schools


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(Pictured, Kurt Sipmann / Photograph by Keith Sipmann)

Have you noticed the number of “tactical training schools” that have popped up out of no-where recently? This all reminds me of the mid-nineties when the mixed martial arts craze started to happen. Dojo’s started popping up on every corner, and anyone and everyone was enrolling in class to learn the arts. I like to call those Mc’Dojos, because they were everywhere like a popular fast-food joint. I suppose the same can also be said about Yoga studios today, as it’s the new fad for many. The point is, “tactical training schools” are springing up in large numbers and not all are created equal.

Many of these “tactical training schools” are taught by “qualified” personnel from military or law enforcement backgrounds. But some others, are taught by wanna-be’s or people with made-up backgrounds to impress the unwary customer. I get people asking me, “where should I go to get trained on how to shoot a firearm” frequently. And honestly, it’s nearly a full time job on keeping up with all of the available schools and trainers out there, so it’s really no wonder why people have to ask for help.

So, how do you pick a trainer or training company to teach you? Hopefully the following list, in no special order of precedence, will help guide you in the right direction.

  1. Do your homework up front, before you pay or register for a class. Know all you can about the company you choose and its instructors before attending a session. Google check for reviews of the class and its instructors. If they are claiming to be a SEAL, Green Beret, Ranger or anything else from the Spec Ops community, know that it will be fairly easy to verify online. There are several groups (e.g. Veriseal) that will be able to verify a fellow Special Operators service background. Some of the fakers out there have fooled a lot of knowledgeable people (e.g. SOFREP.org Article), so don’t take it too hard if you get duped into taking a course by one of these jokers. The various Special Operations groups form a very tight-nit community and they take pride in policing their own ranks; so this is a good place to start if your having any doubts.
  2. What are they really teaching you? If the prospective school or company primarily teaches law-enforcement and military personnel; is what they normally teach really transferable to a civilian? Are they teaching you more than simple point-and-shoot techniques? Do they believe in the basics? Maybe they go way beyond the norm, for the more advanced shooter,  by going into the bio-mechanics of shooting like some trainers do. As cool and high-speed as it sounds, do you really need to know how to conduct Maritime Assault Operations or learn how to properly shoot through a car windshield as a novice shooter or as a civilian? Let me be clear, I’m not knocking this training if you can find it useful, but you really have to first self-access what you anticipate taking away from the training before enrolling. There is no point in spending $600-800 on a three day class (not including travel, ammo, etc.) to only take away disappointment and an empty wallet. Think smart by training right.
  3. Look for unbiased student testimonials. Listen,  just because someone has a Special Operations background doesn’t mean they are inherently going to be a great civilian instructor. Teaching an adult learner takes some finesse and serious soft-skills, otherwise those tidbits of tactical know-how will bounce off your brain like sun rays to a mirror. It’s important to seek out what others think, so you’ll want to check out Social media pages and blogs (like this one) as they are a great place to seek out opinions. People will pretty much post anything and everything that they think about someone behind the cover of the anonymous internet shield.  So again, go to the companies YouTube Channel or Facebook fan page and see whats being said about them and also take note as to how they respond to the critics. Do they care enough about their reputation that they respond back to their past students criticism or do they pass it off without a care? How dedicated they are and how they treat customers, both present and past, may be a good indicator as to whether or not you should take one of their classes.
  4. What do they specialize in? Does this “school” also moonlight as a private security company, consulting firm, or a weapons manufacturer? Companies that are too involved in every aspect of the tactical community may or may not be the best choice – it all really depends on the type of training you’re looking for. Some may say that companies who do double-duty as security firms are better suited to test their teachings by putting their practice into action. Others might say it takes time away from being with students. Personally, I feel if you try to master everything you eventually become the master of nothing. This happens all the time in the normal workforce (meaning the non-tactical community), so it shouldn’t be much different here. Bottom line is, if the company you’re looking into has obvious identity issues, you might want to seek training elsewhere.
  5. Do they have their own training facility? Why is this important? Well, if you are a training company (primarily) you should probably have a full scale, fully functional training facility and range either on site, or available to use. Again, this goes along with #4, if they don’t have the physical means to train effectively, how can they honestly call themselves a true training company?
  6. Who is teaching? Does the school have their own dedicated and qualified instructional staff or do they contract someone else to teach their classes for them? If they contract people to come in and teach, it may be better (and possibly cheaper) to just go directly to the contracted instructor rather than go through the middle-man company. It might also be a good idea to ensure the instructors are actually qualified. Going back to #1, depending on what they claim makes them qualified, there are resources out their to check out. Many instructors are NRA certified, which can be researched more by going to http://training.nra.org. But, before getting all excited that your instructor has a NRA certificate, think about how someone gets to be NRA certified. They pay a fee, attend a short workshop and fill out paperwork. So, does NRA certification really mean much to you? You decide for yourself.
  7. Ask questions. Don’t be so caught up in the excitement of training that you forget to ask questions. Some of these training companies are run by VIPs or celebs (within their respective industries) and many students neglect to ask whats being taught exactly and who the training is recommended for. There is no point in becoming a fan-boy, just to train with a semi-celeb. Sure its cool to post photos of you with them on Facebook to impress all your friends, but seriously, take it from me…they’re all are human just like the rest of us. They have daily lives, families, bills, stress and they make errors just like you and I. My point is, don’t get caught in the weeds; ask questions before enrolling to make sure that you are doing the right thing, etc.

This is in no way intended to be complete check list to follow, but instead it’s intended to get you thinking correctly about selecting an tactical instructor or company. Feel free to add your own recommendation in the comments field below as well.

Stay alert, stay alive.


Keith Sipmann is a US Army Veteran, SOCON Training Operations Manager, Certified MCCCD Adjunct Faculty, Freelance Photographer, Firearms/Survival Enthusiast, Writer for Western Shooting Journal Magazine and Publisher and Chief Editor of TheBallisticBlog.com.
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