Keep an Open Mind!

Keep an Open Mind!

by Rich Verdi
This article originally appeared in the IALEFI Journal

As anyone who has been in this business for any length of time is aware, Firearms Instructors can be a very stubborn lot. For those instructors lucky enough to have the final word on equipment selection, all have settled on their favorite pistol, load, holster, etc. and those choices provide the fuel for endless debates whenever more than one instructor is present. Generally these opinions do no harm, after all the instructor who is confident in the choices he has made for his troops will often transmit that confidence to them.

It is not, however, unusual for these opinions to become at the least distracting and annoying and at the worst downright harmful. I once had the experience of walking into the classroom at a police academy just in time to watch a Firearms Instructor tell each student who had been issued a SIG-Sauer pistol that they are armed with a piece of junk! Two things immediately came to mind as I listened to this nonsense. First, that this instructor has no business being anywhere near recruits who are at the most impressionable point of their careers and will soon be taking to the street believing their pistols are pieces of junk. Second, that this “Firearms Instructor” is not particularly well versed in what is supposed to be his field of expertise. While many instructors and shooters may not like the control layout of the SIG-Sauer pistols (no, I am not among them) any gun person with the least amount of sense is aware that the SIGs are fine pistols.

At an IALEFI RTC (regional training conference) held here on the East Coast a few years back, I was fortunate enough to take a class given by now retired Lt. Dave Spaulding of the Montgomery County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Department. Lt. Spaulding made a point of showing the glaring differences between a “Firearms Instructor” and a “Range Officer.” Lt. Spaulding went on to say that anyone can stand on the range, monitor safety violations and score targets. It takes a far higher level of skill to teach, to train, to be a “Firearms Instructor.” If we truly endeavor to be well rounded teachers it is essential that all this “my gun is better than your gun” or “my bullet is bigger than your bullet” nonsense goes south.

For the purposes of these equipment discussions we would probably agree that we can eliminate most of the cheaper, second rate firearms manufacturers and concentrate on those firearms made by the established names in the firearms trade. When we discuss these firearms our question is not so much which one is “best” … it is which one best fits our needs and training ideologies. For example, let’s say you have decided that on safe carry is the mode you prefer to utilize, perhaps for weapon retention reasons. That may mean a pistol that comes off safe quickly and smoothly as well as one which is accurate, well made and reliable. For that situation the Beretta 92 Series or the new manual safety M&P’s may fill all of your needs. Does this mean that the SIGs, Glocks, S&W’s Etc. are no good? Certainly not, these are fine pistols that may not work for you. Do you want a traditional DA/SA with no manual safety? SIG may be the way to go. DAO? Smith and Wesson does a great job with those. DAO with a manual safety, maybe an H&K USP. These are all fine pistols that fulfill different missions and different training ideologies.

As well rounded Firearms Instructors we need to be familiar with all the weapons systems produced by the major manufacturers and be able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each. A more appropriate comment for the “Range Officer” we discussed earlier might have been, “The SIG-Sauer is an excellent pistol and while I find that the operating levers are somewhat difficult for me to manipulate, we will teach you how to use them efficiently.

We owe it to our students to be able to instill a sense of confidence in the equipment that they carry to save their lives in a lethal encounter. We cannot truly call ourselves “Firearms Instructors” until we have mastered that ability.

Keep an open mind!

About the author: Rich Verdi is a former Police Sergeant, having retired after nearly 21 years with a municipal police agency in N.J. Rich served as a Patrol Officer, Patrol Supervisor, E.S.U. member and Team Leader and prior to his retirement, he was the department’s Training Officer and Rangemaster. He has been a member of IALEFI 1989 instructing at numerous training conferences and is currently serving as a member of the IALEFI Board of Directors. He is a NJ State certified Rangemaster and a member of the NJ Attorney General’s Firearms Advisory Board. 

Laser Sighting Systems as Training Aids

by Rich Verdi
This article originally appeared in the IALEFI Journal in Spring/Summer 2005

Within the firearms instruction community, there are very few issues quite as controversial as laser sighting systems. Yeah, we have 9mm –v- .45ACP and we have Beretta –v- Sig and there can be some spirited discourse on these issues, but bring up laser sights and things will get very quiet … for about five seconds. Most instructors come down clearly on one side or the other of the laser debate. Some absolutely dismiss them as gimmicks, gadgets, “no real place in the serious shooter’s inventory.” Others come down on the advocate side, finding (as I do) that laser sighting systems have a very real place in our tool box. The laser sighting system debate, though, is not what I’m looking to talk about in this article.

No matter where an instructor comes down on the laser issue, I am hard pressed to find any that, after being exposed to their merits, dismisses them as an essential training aid. I have used laser sights full time for about two years now and have found that even if we disregard the “street” benefits of them, we cannot disregard their value to us as instructors. So what can the laser do for you on the range? Glad you asked…

The first area that I find myself using my lasers regularly in is diagnostics. The laser cuts my problem student diagnostic time dramatically, allowing me to pinpoint the issue and deal with it. The student doesn’t get as frustrated, Rich doesn’t get as frustrated, and everyone wins. So how do we use it? Let’s say we have student A, who is having difficulty qualifying, an accuracy problem if you will. We are trying to diagnose a fundamental shooting error that is causing him to miss, not tactics or “style.” In all likelihood, we are dealing with either a sight or trigger issue and finding out which one and making it clear to the student can be difficult.

What I do in this case is set the student up with a laser equipped pistol, show them how to activate the laser and then leave it off. They are then instructed to press the pistol to the target, acquire their sight picture, and when they are happy with, activate the laser. It is important to tell them beforehand not to move the laser once they activate it, you and the student need to see the error. If the laser is centered on the target then our problem lies elsewhere, if not then we have a sight alignment issue.

I then instruct the student to adjust so that the laser is centered and look at the sights again. If the laser is centered in the target then the sights are properly aligned and the student can see what that is supposed to look like. If the sight picture was not the issue then we can begin all the standard drills to improve a shooter’s trigger press. The difference here is that with the laser both the student and the instructor can immediately see when the shooter moves the sights off the target prior to firing. My usual drill is to work with students a bit on trigger control and then send them off by themselves to dry fire a bit. Their goal is to put the laser in the center of the target and then move the trigger to the rear without the laser leaving the target. They very quickly get the idea of what this is supposed to feel like. Another version of this is to adjust the laser a foot or so below the actual point of impact/aim. This allows the instructor to “see” the student’s sight picture before the student presses the trigger, but prevents the student from using the laser as a reference.

The second area that I find the laser to be of tremendous value in is doing demonstrations. I try, whenever possible, to demonstrate virtually everything that I am teaching. On the range, my live laser-equipped pistol allows students to get instant feedback on muzzle direction as it relates to ready positions, presentation, movement across multiple targets, recoil control, etc. Particularly when the class involves rapid manipulation of the pistol, things often happen so quickly that the students may not fully grasp the technique because it is difficult to follow the gun. With the laser they can see and understand exactly what you’re doing. In the classroom or on the range in a situation that doesn’t call for live fire (i.e. facing the class!) I use a laser-equipped blue gun to show many of these same things. I can demonstrate various shooting positions and more importantly movement around students with complete safety (remember I said blue gun) while still allowing the student to see exactly where the gun is pointed. Doing safety demonstrations similarly has more impact with the laser. We have all taught the laser rule forever, but it is so much more significant when you take a student and say “see what you just did?” and then imitate it using a laser blue gun and show the laser crossing them or someone else on the range.

The third area involves training groups of officers who may be working together in any capacity. It is often difficult to catch a “muzzling” incident because they happen so quickly. Even if you do catch it, the officer may not have which makes your admonishment seem arbitrary. With laser-equipped blue guns there is no question, we all saw the dot cover your partner and that simply isn’t acceptable. We can then show them how to do it without muzzling another officer.

The last training use involves giving the student immediate feedback on how well or how badly he is using cover. Again using a laser-equipped blue gun, we can allow the student to move through the training environment while the instructor engages him with his laser blue gun. In very short order the student will see how to make adjustments to his use of cover in order to minimize exposure.

So, if you still find yourself resisting laser sighting systems (yeah, who needs progress anyhow, that Model 10 is just fine!) then at least try one for training. I am firmly convinced that every Firearms Instructor can benefit greatly from having a laser sight available when they are teaching. Frankly, I wouldn’t do a class without mine. Who knows, you just might find yourself (gasp) carrying it on the street!

About the author: Rich Verdi is a former Police Sergeant, having retired after nearly 21 years with a municipal police agency in N.J. Rich served as a Patrol Officer, Patrol Supervisor, E.S.U. member and Team Leader and prior to his retirement, he was the department’s Training Officer and Rangemaster. He has been a member of IALEFI 1989 instructing at numerous training conferences and is currently serving as a member of the IALEFI Board of Directors. He is a NJ State certified Rangemaster and a member of the NJ Attorney General’s Firearms Advisory Board. 

Class Supply List:

What You Need to Bring to Your First Class

by Bob Margolis

So you’re going to take a handgun course. Congratulations for taking the initiative to become better trained. You’re already ahead of 95% of your fellow shooters.

To get the most out of your training, you need to bring the proper gear to your session. Having the right gear with you will make your experience better, and make your training most effective.

I’ll break things down into three categories: Clothing, Gun Gear, and Accessories.


In general, bring clothing that will suit you twenty degrees warmer or cooler than what you think the temperature will be. If you are taking a class in the winter at an indoor range, don’t assume that it’s heated. Even if it is heated, it could still be uncomfortably cold if you are not dressed for it. It’s also important to wear clothing that you can draw your weapon from easily. If you are taking a concealed carry class, you will need a concealment garment. Tactical vests also have lots of pockets and places to store magazines and extra ammo. For cold weather, companies like Nike and Under Armor make tight fitting garments that go under your regular clothes and will help keep you warm. They don’t add much bulk and still allow you to move freely. If it’s cold, bring a very warm coat that you can wear when you are not on the firing line.

Pants or shorts should have plenty of pockets for magazines, ammo etc. Jeans work fine but a cargo pant will work better.

Wear a hat with a brim to lessen the chance for any flying brass to hit you in the face.

Wear comfortable shoes that you can move well in. You don’t need “tactical” boots, but a sturdy shoe or sneaker is helpful. Avoid anything with open toes.

Gun Gear

Most training facilities will let you know what is appropriate for gun calibers. Typically, .380 Auto to .45 ACP and everything in between. If you are a new shooter, bring a gun that is in good condition and functions properly. It’s best to know the gun you are bringing also. If you borrow a gun with external safeties you should know how to operate them. If you are left handed, be sure that any external safety is ambidextrous. For many reasons, simple is better. Semi-Automatic guns like Glocks, Smith & Wesson M&P’s and Springfield XD’s usually don’t have external safeties that you will have to operate during your class. Don’t be afraid to bring a revolver either. If you’re going to carry a revolver or keep one in the home for protection, that’s what you should train with. Wheel guns are real guns!

Night sights are very helpful if you’re doing low light shooting.

A backup gun is highly recommended if you have one. If anything goes wrong with your gun, you can switch out and keep on going.


Bring enough ammo each day for at least what you are told you will shoot. Most classes list the maximum number of rounds that you will need. That’s a safe number to have with you. All ammunition should be factory new and meet the specification of the school. Avoid reloads, which are often not permitted by schools. Also check with your school to see if they restrict velocity etc. Some indoor ranges only allow ammo up to a certain velocity. Many schools require jacketed ammo. You don’t need the high priced personal defense ammo for class. The least expensive good quality jacketed (FMJ-style) ammo will suit you fine.

Magazines will be critical for your class. As a general rule, you should have at least three magazines with you. If your state allows high-capacity magazines, even better. A weak side double magazine pouch is helpful. If you don’t have that, those cargo pants will come in handy. If you’re shooting a revolver, you should have at least two strong side mounted speed loaders.


If your class will cover any low-light shooting, a good quality tactical flashlight will be important. A flashlight is not something you should skimp on; get a light that has a momentary on switch and a bright light. Weapons mounted lights are nice but if you don’t have a holster that will hold the gun and the light, your will be better off with a hand held light.


Holsters are a very personal item. For most classes, a shooting side outside the waistband holster is preferred. A sturdy holster that was made specifically for your gun is preferred, but there are many more generic holsters that offer a reasonable fit. It’s important that your holster be sturdy and fit your gun well.

If you want to use an inside the waistband holster or any other type of holster, you should check with your school for their rules. Most likely, anything that is not waist mounted on the shooting side will not be allowed. Cross draw or shoulder holsters frequently are not allowed, as the muzzle will either cross your body or someone else on the line.

You will need a sturdy belt. There are many “instructor” belts out there that are reinforced and will do a really nice job of holding your holster in place perfectly. (They are for you, not just your instructor!) In any instance, your belt needs to be reinforced or double stitched.

Protective Gear

Eye protection is critical when shooting anything. It’s even more critical when on the line with many people. Wrap-around glasses are preferred, as they will also lessen the opportunity for hot brass to get stuck against your face. If you are shooting outside, pay attention to the light conditions that you will face and wear appropriate eye wear.

Ear protection is also a personal choice. The best way to block sound for shooting is with earmuffs that go over your ears. Some people prefer to wear earplugs. Electronic earmuffs will help you to hear instructions and verbal communication while still blocking the sound of fire. They are on the expensive side, but if your shoot often are a worthwhile investment.

Range Bag

If you are driving to your class, you probably have the luxury or a large range bag that will hold everything. If you are traveling by plane or with friends and have limited space, a smaller range bag may be more appropriate. Take along everything that you think you might need in your range bag. Cleaning supplies, tools etc.

Don’t forget a pen and notepad. Most likely, there will be some classroom time and you need to be able to make notes.


Many schools don’t have food available on site. You should plan on bringing everything that you will want or need to eat or drink each day. If it’s warm weather, sports drinks are helpful along with plenty of plain water. Fruit is a good quick energy boost when you feel you need one. An apple will give you more energy than a cup of coffee, and it will do it quicker. Bring quick snacks like dried fruits, nuts and trail mix.

Each night before your class, drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest. If you drink alcohol the night before, limit your intake to half of what you would normally drink. Get up early and have a good breakfast. You will need all of your energy to focus and shoot your best.

Air Travel

If you are flying to a school, you will need to take some extra care with your guns. First, check your airlines website, as they will have the most up-to-date information there. As a general rule, you will need to do one of two things; lock your gun(s) in a hard-sided suitcase or place your guns in a locked case inside your soft-sided suitcase. If you choose the later, you can use the plastic cases that your guns came in, if they lock or you can purchase a locking case for your gun(s). On a recent trip, I chose to purchase a couple of the “In-Car-Gun-Safe” by I got mine at Cabela’s. They lock with a key, are very slim and compact and are completely metal for protection. You will need to go to the ticket counter and let them know that you are traveling with locked, unloaded firearms. They will have you fill out a form that will be placed in your suitcase close to the firearms. Then you can lock the outside of your suitcase again. It’s really very simple. Any ammunition you are traveling with must be kept in separate packages from the firearms, but it can be in the same suitcase. Ammo is heavy and you may want to consider buying it at your destination. Look around though, schools will often sell ammo for higher prices than you can buy it locally.

Finally, when you get back home, or to your hotel…shower off all of that gunshot residue and get a great rest! You’ve earned it.

.22 Training Pistols: Pros & Cons

by Todd Louis Green

Using a .22lr pistol as a training aid is nothing new. Conversion kits for 1911-pattern guns have been around for a very long time. In the revolver world, rimfire equivalents to full size duty guns go back even further. A major resurgence of .22 training has come about in response to the 2009 ammunition shortage. SIG-Sauer and other companies now offer factory OEM conversion kits for their most popular pistols. Other companies opt for a dedicated training gun like the upcoming S&W M&P pistol in .22lr or the well established Ruger 22/45.

The twenty-two can certainly be a beneficial tool. A .22 pistol eliminates most of the recoil and blast that can be so intimidating to beginners. For more experienced shooters, the substantially lower price of .22lr ammunition often provides the means for more live fire practice than one might be able to afford with centerfire 9mm, .45 Auto, etc. There are also times and places where a .22 — especially a suppressed .22 — can be used but larger, more powerful, louder pistols might not.

The important thing to keep in mind when practicing with a .22-cal equivalent to your normal pistol is that the .22 has essentially no recoil. Ten year old children can easily tame the kick and muzzle rise of most .22lr pistols. From a training perspective, what this means is that the .22 is not suitable for any training that focuses on the speed of firing multiple shots at a single target. Do not trick yourself into believing otherwise.

Far too many people sacrifice grip and proper sight tracking while simply going spasmodic on the trigger of a twenty-two. Then they falsely believe they can shoot a serious duty or carry gun faster, as well. Instead, that person has started to form bad habits that will actually diminish his speed when handling a centerfire pistol.

Skills you can work on effectively with a .22 equivalent to your normal pistol:

  • marksmanship
  • strong- and weak-hand only shooting
  • draw stroke
  • reloads
  • transitions
  • judgmental shooting
  • shooting on the move… With SOM, the line between good .22 training and bad .22 training is definitely easy to cross. But like transition drills, SOM training can benefit from a .22 in terms of learning how to move your feet and position your body for a stable shooting platform on the move.

Skills you should not practice with a .22lr handgun:

  • recoil management
  • sight tracking
  • rapid multiple shots on a single target
  • failure drills

Also, the more similarity between your .22 trainer and your standard pistol the more beneficial certain drills will be. While you can get marksmanship benefit from shooting almost anything, having the same trigger system and sights (or better yet, the same identical trigger and sights) will obviously translate into more direct skill building. A heel magazine release and single stack magazine is not giving you 1:1 benefit for your button release double stack pistol reloads. Malfunction clearances with an Advantage Arms .22 conversion kit will be more helpful than doing similar drills with a Ruger 22/45. And so on.

A .22lr training pistol can be an effective and economical way to practice many handgun fundamentals, but misused it can also lead to a very false sense of proficiency. By keeping in mind what a .22 can and cannot mimic, both the beginner and the dedicated shooter can wring real benefits from a sub-caliber practice pistol.

About the author: Todd Louis Green has worked in the firearms industry since 1998, including instructing for the NRA Range, Beretta, and SIG-Sauer. He has over 1,000 hours of formal firearms and combatives training. A 3-time “Advanced” rated shooter at Rogers Shooting School, Todd is also a graduate of the NRA Tactical Pistol Instructor Development program and a 3 division Master-ranked IDPA competitor. Todd is a certified Beretta, Glock, Heckler & Koch, SIG-Sauer, and Smith & Wesson armorer; certified Simunition force-on-force instructor; and certified Emergency First Responder. He is a long time member of IALEFI, IDPA, and USPSA.