Firearms Training: “Lights, Camera, Action!”

[T]he use of videos to supplement your firearms training...can be useful in demonstrating basic and advanced techniques because they can focus on a single aspect and let you observe how to properly perform the step from several different angles. It is often much easier to understand complex concepts visually than it is to have them explained to you with words or in writing. The disadvantages of training videos are that you are not an active participant and you do not have the opportunity to ask questions of the instructor while you view the video. Still, I feel they do have their place.

The biggest challenge with firearms training videos is determining their quality and value in advance. It seems that just about anyone can film and then market a training video. Typical prices are $20-$50 each. However, a lot of them are not worth that much when it comes to training value. I have purchased several training videos only to find they contained little that I could use — often as little as 15-20 seconds of new/useful information out of an hour or more of video instruction. Perhaps the greatest disappointment I’ve experienced is with one of the NRA’s training videos — the one they developed for their Personal Protection Outside the Home course. It shows individuals going through the NRA’s procedure for drawing a pistol from a holster or holster-purse, but little else. This is in contrast to the video they put together for their Personal Protection in the Home course which is packed full of useful information that supports the curriculum and that I use to add variety to my instruction when I present the course to student. It has “chapter” breaks that are useful in jumping right to the section that I want to use when teaching the course. The video for the NRA Basic Pistol course is also full of useful information, but lacks the “chapter” breaks that align with the course outline so it is more difficult to supplement classroom instruction.

Some of the best videos that I have seen are those featuring Dave Spaulding. He does an excellent job in explaining things, especially to entry-level shooters. I found Dave’s video on Combative Pistolcraft Essentials to be an excellent refresher after having taken his basic pistol class in person. It helps me remember his key points and how to perform the steps he advocates when I am not able to get to the range as often. The series of Internet videos that he has done for Ruger are also excellent in explaining specific aspects of shooting.

Rob Pincus is featured in a bunch of videos that he does for the Personal Defense Network and others. He has also been featured on several television programs. Some of his videos are very good; others not so much. The best ones are those that demonstrate different range drills that you might want to try. Rob does have an excellent short video on the value of video training—what it can do and what it cannot do for you. You should check it out on the Internet at:

I should note that one of the biggest advantages of the videos produced by both Dave Spaulding and Rob Pincus is that they both offer training courses here in Ohio so you can not only see their videos but also get hands-on training from them.

The Thunder Ranch videos that Clint Smith produces are not quite as good, but do contain useful information. My only complaint about them is that Clint uses a “cookie cutter” approach so there is a lot of redundant information between them. Also, his speaking style is somewhat monotone and thus your mind can drift while viewing them. His videos feature him explaining things a lot but not that much explanation during the range demonstrations that he does.

While viewing videos featuring firearms instructors explaining various aspects of shooting, another use of video may be even more valuable. You can use video equipment to film yourself while you practice your shooting. Playing the video back will enable you to observe yourself and see whether you are performing the steps correctly or not—doing this can highlight things you are not even aware that you are doing.

There are some very small video cameras available today that you can wear while you go through a course of fire. Depending on where you position such a camera on your body, they can come close to seeing just what you see — the primary difference being it is difficult to position such a camera to see your gun’s sights the same as you do with your own eyes and sights yourself.

So, there is a place for video in firearms training. You just need to set your expectations so you can maximize their value, but also recognize what their limitations are.

The most important thing, though, is to get training!

Gary Evens is an NRA-Certified Instructor and Range Safety Officer.

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