GC-124 Erik (Trek) Utrecht | How to Take a Class and What to Expect

No matter which role you may fill in a firearms training class, this episode is valuable to students and instructors alike. Today’s guest is Erik Utrecht from Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute and between the two of us, we cover all kinds of issues pertaining to firearms training.

If You Are a Student

Listen up and learn about what you should look for when you’re trying to find the right training for you. Furthermore, take some tips on how to prepare before class and what kind of mindset to bring to the occasion. Also, be aware that you as a student can provide a benefit to the instructor at the same as he/she helps you improve your firearm skills. By applying the principles discussed in this podcast, you’re likely to maximize your firearms training class take-aways.

If You Are a Firearms Training Instructor

This episode covers issues like how to balance mission and responsibility for the people in your care, instruction methods, and the benefits of fluid feedback — both the kind that you give to your students and the kind that your students give to you.

Here’s Gunfighter Cast episode GC-124. Today we’re talking with Erik Utrecht from Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute about what a student should expect when taking any firearms training class, etiquette, the safety perspective and how to get the most out of your class.

Erik “Trek” Utrecht/MDFI | Listen Now

Erik Utrecht from Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute

This podcast was originally published in January of 2017. 

Host: Daniel Shaw

Guest: Erik Ultrecht

Introduction/Timeline: Stephanie Kimmell

Firearms Training Class

What to Look For and How to Approach It.

2:46 What happens at a quality firearms training class?

3:36 How do you decide which class to take?

• Decide which kind of class you’re looking for: Handgun, Less-Lethal, Rifle, Shotgun, Low-Light, etc.

•Read the curriculum and decide which class you want.

•Before you register, look at the gear list to make sure you’ll be able to show up prepared for the class.

•Make sure you meet the prerequisites for that class.

5:45 What happens when you show up to the class?

• Prerequisite check

• Gear shakedown

•Detailed medical briefing — note Trek’s story about negligent discharge

7:56 Is the medical briefing really that important?

•What does a bad emergency medical plan look like? Planning to drive to the ER and saying the guy shot himself ain’t gonna cut it.

If you go to a class and there’s no safety and emergency briefing, pack your stuff, leave the place, and request a refund.

11:22 What are some things to look for in an emergency medical plan?

• Is there a map to the hospital?

• Is the ten-digit grid available for life-flight, should that become necessary?

•What are the road conditions like? Can an ambulance get to your location?

• Does it seem like the instructor(s) have given critical thought to the plan? Do you feel safe?

12:00 What does unsafe instruction practice look like? It may seem like common sense, but sometimes new firearms students aren’t really aware of what is safe and what is not.

14:54 Instructors can make firearms classes as safe as possible based on the lesson and the need of instruction for the day. However, the fact remains:

You cannot make a firearms class safe. -Aaron Cowan

16:15 Do classes get more dangerous as you advance in skills? YES

• From Basic Handgun Fundamentals classes all the way up to Navy SEALS training, people get shot. This is why there are prerequisites to more advanced training classes.

20:20 It’s important to overcome the lackadaisical approach to safety and push for a community of safe and effective training.

• Don’t be influenced by YouTube and Instagram stars who don’t promote, or even mock safety standards in firearms training classes.

22:54 Using a movie reference as an example, Trek explains how teachers need to be responsible for the mission at hand and the people under their care. That means making sure students get the training they need — in an environment that’s as safe as possible.

For a firearms training class instructor, Sully is a good example of leadership. He cared about the mission but he also cared about the people he was responsible for.
“I need a count.” Sully focused on the mission and the people under his care.

• In the more advanced classes, though, the consequences of failure are more severe. It’s necessary though. In a real-life situation, individuals are going to be downrange, so eventually, that becomes a part of your advanced training.

• If there are logistical concerns, and you as a student feel its unsafe to shoot even though your instructor is saying go ahead, alert the instructor of the situation and wait.

27:16 Is it possible for an act to be unsafe when it doesn’t violate any safety rules? And when is an unsafe act imminent?

• When the operating system between our ears, that is normally 100 percent for-life-safe gets overwhelmed for a nanosecond — bad things can happen.

• Instructors pick up on unsafe trends and address them as early as possible to train out the trend.

33:53 What does a not-so-great class look like?

• It’s not so great if you’re not learning something or applying what you’ve learned.

• Have you learned why you do something, how it fits, and how to replicate it properly? If no, then you’re not ready to move on to the next thing.

33:05 What kind of teaching method should you look for?

•How human beings learn, and not poo-pooing how different human beings learn is very important Step 1 for an instructor.

• It’s worthwhile to consider, as a student, if you need a more rigid, militaristic teaching environment, or one that’s less rigid.

•Also, remember that an instructor’s job is to give feedback and take that into consideration when you receive it. You’ll hear what you’re doing well. You’ll also hear what you’re doing badly and how to improve your performance.

• If a class is advertised as educational, but all you do is drill and there is no instruction or feedback, then that’s a fun drill day, but not an educational class. Some classes are simple go, no-go tests.

• A formal class looks like this: do the educational lesson, do the test, if you (or the class as a whole) don’t pass the test then the instructor conducts a period of remediation offering tips and pointers for improvement. After that, test again watching for improvement. If no improvement is seen, it’s not appropriate to move on to the next point of instruction.

Firearms training class instructor teaching Foundation Handgun/Carbine.
@mdfi_tim from Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute leading a Foundation Handgun/Carbine weekend.

• A good instructor reads the students instead of focusing solely on the lesson plans.

• It’s crucial that the instructor demonstrates the lesson being taught with a high level of proficiency.

44:50 What kind of mindset does everyone need before entering the class?

• Urgency. Use visualization, knowing that in class you have the opportunity to prepare for a fight — you’re not just preparing to shoot at paper.

• To get the most from your instructor, be able to verbalize your mission in class attendance. If the instructor understands what you’re intending to get from the class, he/she will be better equipped to provide it.

Whenever you ask me a question, I don’t want to give you a generic Sunday School answer. I’m going to give you an answer based on you, your life, what you do based in the context of what reality means to you.

• Remember that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. When you miss, figure out what happened — why did you miss? Did you snatch the trigger? Did you have good sights? Was your grip good enough? Be willing to ask your instructor to help you figure out what the problem is.

50:06 The instructor should never tell the students to do something that he/she won’t do. The teacher should do a demonstration first.

53:06 What if you’re a faster, more accurate shooter than your instructor? Remember that he/she is your coach, like the guy in the corner in a boxing match — there to guide you toward the best you can be.


53:53 Is it okay to question your instructor? Yes

• When you ask questions, you learn the reasons and strategies behind the principles.

• By asking questions you help the teacher cultivate better teaching strategies. Good instructors really do want your feedback, good or bad.

• The relationship between a good student and a good instructor is symbiotic — they both feed each other for growth and improvement.

1:02:59 What are a couple of good classes to take from Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute?

When Things Go Bad. This is the class that teaches you how to keep your gun running when you get shot or stabbed, trip, get clipped by a car, or whatever may happen to distract your focus during a gunfight.

» It’s not a day of standing on a static line shooting. In this class, you learn workarounds for situations where you lose body parts and sure footing. For example, how do you reload when you’ve only got one working hand? This class teaches you how.

When Things Go Bad - MDFI firearms training class.

You Suck, It’s Not the Gun. This Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute firearms training class takes beginning, intermediate, and veteran shooters and makes them better. It’s a day spent overcoming the challenges of marksmanship with a defensive firearm.

You Suck It's Not the Gun - MDFI firearms training class.

Gunmag Training's Chief Instructor Daniel Shaw is a retired US Marine Infantry Unit Leader with multiple combat tours and instructor titles.  Since retirement from the Marine Corps, Daniel teaches Armed Citizens and Law Enforcement Officers weapons, tactics and use of force. Daniel takes his life of training and combat experience and develops as well as presents curriculum to help Law Enforcement, US Military and Responsible Armed Citizens prepare for a deadly force encounter.  When he isn't directing marketing for Gunmag Warehouse, Daniel travels the US teaching and training under Gunmag Training, and discusses all things hoplological and self-defense related on The MagLife Podcast.

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