I believe that the more interesting restaurants have a hidden menu from which patrons in the know can enjoy items that aren’t readily visible to the masses. This analogy becomes farther-fetched the more I think on it, but this past Saturday I participated in Clackamas County PSTC’s PST 201 class, which is not listed in their normal list of courses and requires the student to have successfully completed PST 103.
Not quite the same as ordering the “animal style” at In-n-Out, is it? Okay, it was a crap analogy, and even worse, I’m now craving In-n-Out.
Volunteers of America
There are a lot of moving parts (and people) in a PSTC handgun class, which boils down to a single staff instructor wrangling up to eight
kittens students through numerous exercises involving firearms and live ammo. This is where the volunteer coaches help balance the teacher/student ratio and provide logistical support, safety supervision, and individual attention.
So, why volunteer as a coach? Well, there are some facility perks for sure, but personally it’s an opportunity to give back to the local community by helping beginners get the most out of their learning experience.
Teaching the Coaches, Coaching the Teachers
Since the bulk of PSTC’s handgun classes consists of PST 101 sessions, the course material of PST 201 focuses on how to best assist those who are brand new to firearms. We spent the majority of the day in class going over the PST 101 content and how to communicate that content to the students. I took copious (if barely legible) notes.
As with PST 102 and 103, we were under the expert instruction and leadership of Gabe White, whom we can see demonstrating key concepts and procedures on the Green Deck (it wasn’t all classroom time on Saturday!).
Back to Basics
By the time one completes PST 103, one has spent a lot of time behind the trigger, and the fundamentals covered in PST 101 have been supplemented and transformed by newer knowledge and experience. When mentoring beginners, one has to reposition one’s perspective to that of someone who may not have ever picked up a gun. This isn’t about “dumbing down” of what one has learned; rather, it’s about reorganizing and prioritizing.
The Pareto principle*, or the principle of factor sparsity, states that “for many outcomes roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes.” The “vital few” outweighs the “trivial many.” So while your PST 103 brain has accumulated so much more than what that brain held after 101, that which the 101 student should know is more important than what you’d like for them to (eventually) know.
Rooted in Safety
The matter of firearms in American history and culture can be as complex and complicated as one wants to make it, and at the same time the need for safe habits and practices around those firearms remains critical. The rear-view mirror hindsight that I gained in PST 201 is that the crucial takeaways from PST 101 are thus:
- Muzzle safety
- Trigger discipline
- Safe loading and unloading of a handgun
In recalling my experience as a n00b, I would say that those three points were well made and well absorbed by the time I left the PSTC range (admittedly in a slight daze) after PST 101. I think that says the instructor and coaches did an excellent job, and that in turn sets the bar for what to (pun intended) aim for when I get to help future 101 students.
* A Peopleware topic if there ever were one.