I was asked what we do at Apex Arms to make our classes safe for the students and staff.
It is a great question because other than word of mouth advertising it is hard to know how good or safe an instructor actually is until you see them in action.
At Apex Arms we employ multiple methods to maximize safety and minimize risk.
In no particular order I submit the following number 1 rules that we follow:
1) There is NO accessible live ammo in the training room – it shall be locked away and out of reach. Even the staff. All handling of firearms is with empty and verified (repeatedly over one hundred times per classroom session just to bring home the point to the students). On the range, ammo is accounted for and closely monitored, depending on several experiential factors, e.g. age, experience, and maturity of the students.
1) The firearm safety rules shall be read, reviewed, understood, discussed, demonstrated, followed, and repeated several times throughout the class in the training room and at the range. By staff and students alike. Throughout the day all present will repeatedly demonstrate the same rules in all handling sessions. We only have one day together so we must do everything we can in this time to start new habits and fix old ones.
1) Use an actual curriculum to ensure consistency, quality, and depth of subject matter. We use the NRA basic and personal protection curriculum as well as the USCCA Self Defense curriculums. Why? Track record, depth of subject matter, quality assurance, and pride of instruction. We feel that if you trust us to teach you something then you ought to get your time and moneys’ worth. We take this seriously and maintain continuing education and we hope you do too. Know-it-all Bubbas NOR SuperCops work at Apex Arms.
1) The universal firearms safety rules are an interesting bunch (worth another article or chapter) and include the following (abbreviated): all guns are loaded, muzzle control, finger away from trigger, backstop awareness. The fact is, that guns are inanimate objects and by themselves cannot hurt anyone. If someone understands these four simple rules and violates one, they negligently create an exponentially more dangerous situation. If someone waived a gun past you the danger level escalates again exponentially and if they had their finger on the trigger while doing so, well, you get the idea. The point is, if you never violate these four rules you greatly minimize risk – you have to violate two or more rules before someone gets shot. A deeper understanding of this is the heart of gun safety instruction and avoidance of being shot with an “I thought it was unloaded” gun.
1) Concerning old habits – we must highlight them so we can then fix them. This requires extra vigilance on staff to be in the ‘right place at the right time’ to expect what the student does not expect. An example might be that if a student has little experience, the instructor must be in position at every moment to use hands, arms, etc. to physically prevent that student from turning on the range and losing momentary control of where the barrel is pointing – this takes experience and knowhow. It must be handled with professionalism and strength yet not intimidating and scary to the NEWBs. You will notice that experienced instructors stand in very specific places and positions near shooters to protect everyone.
1) Low student to teacher ratios – you cannot be in more than one place at one time and we prefer to be within an arm length of the student’s firearms. This is why when we exceed 3:1 we begin to split into groups and or bring in assistant staff.
1) Have the maturity to say no or stop the range. I have had to do this and although difficult was the right thing to do. Nobody’s ego or schedule is more important than safety on a range. Everyone is tasked with yelling “stop” or “cease fire” when they see safety concerns, but it is the staff who is responsible here.
1) Understand the physical dynamics of the firearms and the students – the students don’t know that anyone can handle the gun. TV and movies have taught everyone that girls cannot handle shotguns and large caliber guns – hogwash! Proper physical technique and starting off small is the key to success.
1) Use experienced staff. Apex Arms currently has on call staff with years of experience. Each is at least NRA certified instructors, NRA Assistants, NRA Range Safety Officer certified, US Concealed Carry Affiliated Instructors, AZ POST (law enforcement) Range Masters, AZ and UT state firearms instructors for Armed Security and CWP, and US Army Range Instructors. This allows us to utilize talent and a mixed group of personalities to handle more situations than the competition.
1) Understand the student and their perspective. If we know that a student is having emotional issues (victims of violent attacks, lifelong fear of guns, etc.) we have ways of dealing with that, be it a private class, a pre-class, or individualized training. We are not therapists, but we understand that some folks jump in the pool and other have to wade in the shallows first.
At Apex Arms, we understand that most people who take our classes fit into one of two categories. They seem to be very, very, very new to guns – perhaps they received a gift or bought one recently and want a basic class. Or they have lots of experience with rifles but little experience in the self-defense area of the handgun shooting sports, like a lifetime hunter who wants his CWP (concealed weapons permit). Both students generally have to concentrate on some new concepts and overcome pre-conceived ideas about guns in this environment. We are dedicated to making sure that every student learns something new and important, starts down the path of achieving their goals, and learns that they weren’t as safe before and will be safer in the future.