Institutional Inbreeding: Why Your Instructor May Not Be Very Good. At All.

by Rouen Heiberg

The shooting and firearms game has changed significantly over the last decade or so. Much of this can be attributed to the Internet, YouTube and just the fact that the world is changing.   Many veterans of various theatres are moving into the training industry, some better than others. Unfortunately, this also created an environment where everybody who fancies himself an expert now has his own soapbox.

One phenomenon that raised its head in the firearms industry, is that everything has to be “Tactical” these days. If it’s not covered in FDE it cannot work. For the tactically challenged among us, FDE is a semi-dirty-diaper khaki colour abbreviated for Flat Dark Earth. Tactical Black is so last season anyway, and the tactical fashionistas are going Disruptive Grey this year.  Every second guy is running around clad in 5.11, with a “Tactical Beard”, Casio G-Shock watch, 6 knives, 3 guns, 1 axe, 1 pink Steri Stumpie, a paracord bracelet, and his blood group tattooed behind his ear. All this while running to fetch the kids from school…if you ask why…you will get the 1000-yard stare and a free lecture on why he is a sheepdog protecting the sheep. Frequently this is coupled with dreadful firearms skills and tacticool moves that achieve nothing bar a questionable YouTube coolness factor. And don’t get me started on firearm safety, or rather lack thereof.

Thanks to this, I cringe every time I hear the world “tactical”. It gets thrown around way too easily in my not-so-humble opinion. Just like with rum and bad decisions, this tacticool phenomenon is partnered with something called Institutional Inbreeding. Basically, it means that a person or individual gets so indoctrinated by a specific narrative, they point-blankly refuse to open their minds to any other concepts despite overwhelming evidence.  This might be a training doctrine, an individual instructor, a firearm brand, or whatever makes their boerewors bend. Unfortunately, this doctrine is often based on outdated (and sometimes just plain stupid) material.

A perfect example of this is a little pet irritation of mine. Gunservant talked about it a couple of blog entries ago …Empty Chamber Carry. I can just hear the slides racking in the background as I type this sentence. Anyhow, so you have this concept being aggressively punted by a group of individuals despite the fact that they are the odd-ones-out. Every single well-respected, internationally-known firearms trainer in the world advocates one-up carry.  Yet some refuse to accept this, and believe a concept used in a desert country far away is still the best idea ever. Despite the rest of the world having moved on, and despite not understanding the context of the original decision when it was made decades ago. When questioning this dubious doctrine, you get thrown some made-up “facts” about safety, and people shooting themselves, and whatnot.

Now, I come from a military household. My father served for 26 years and retired as a Colonel in the SANDF. Even he told me handgun training in the army sucked during the time when most conscripted young men went through their basics: you were shown a handgun, told to run a 2,4 under twelve minutes, and then you were considered trained. In all fairness, handguns were never primary weapons, and most soldiers didn’t carry a sidearm. Fast forward a decade or three, and despite all this knowledge at our fingertips we still see military and police members being taught teacup grips, Weaver stances and shooting handguns with one eye closed. In the Twenty-first Century. When you ask the instructors why this is being done, you will get the same answer – ”That’s the way I was trained”… 1983.

Induldge me with another example. Until last year I was employed by a large international security company in a sales capacity. I had the opportunity to talk to two of the firearm instructors. The one did not even own a firearm, yet he teaches people to shoot. Both of them said they were taught to shoot during their national service, but they don’t shoot anymore as they shot enough during “those days”. I was so completely stunned at the arrogance, I just nodded and said I had work to do. The same old training material recycled over and over and over again. Textbook Institutional Inbreeding.  The only problem is that it will get people killed. I wonder which formula the accountants use to depreciate human life…

Enough with the ranting: winners talk solutions.

With many of these individuals there is one common golden thread that connects them all:  they don’t (wait for it and get a notebook, its mind-blowing stuff)…they don’t…READ. What?…NEVER!…Can`t be that simple…it’s not tactical enough!!!1

They don’t read. It is as simple as that. Nor do they use reading’s easier (lazier? -Ed) cousin; YouTube.

There is so much information at our fingertips.

For a world that has gotten so big with the click of a button, some just point-blankly refuse to do any research whatsoever. If you don’t research you cannot measure, if you don’t measure you cannot improve, if you can`t improve you cannot form your own opinions and know when something is malarkey. It’s an evil circle that just ingrains the foolishness more and more. Oh, and only reading what your favorite instructor says and only watching his videos doesn’t count either.

Therefore, I urge you to read, research, and talk to guys more experienced than you. If you read and research enough you will notice a trend. Many of the Big Boys in the industry have massive respect for each other. They reference each other and often attend each other’s courses. Just recently Matt Graham (I am a complete fanboy by the way: his channel is Graham Combat) wrote a blog regarding a course he went on presented by the Tactical Dalai Lama himself; Ken Hackathon. He was in awe on how Ken didn’t get caught up in all the tacticoolness but focused on teaching proper shooting fundamentals.

We have fantastic instructors in South Africa. They are there, use them. But be critical in your approach as there are also a lot of downright dangerous and unsafe clowns out there claiming to teach people how to shoot. If you read and research enough you will know when something is stoopit.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some names for you to Google: Ken Hackathorn, Dave Spaulding, Pat McNamara, Matt Graham, Travis Haley, Mike Pannone, Louis Awerbuck, Kelly McCann, Arno Barlow, Larry Vickers, and Frank Proctor. There are many others. You will find them as you go along.

The world is big; don’t get stuck in one place.

Stay Safe

Rouen is a rough-and-tumble kind of fellow from the dank depths of the Garden Route. He haunts the lands around George, and does his part in running a shooting club down there. He does unarmed combatives, firearms training, and causes trouble on the Internet.

7 thoughts on “Institutional Inbreeding: Why Your Instructor May Not Be Very Good. At All.

  1. I agree with the statements here, but would like some clarity on who you think the good trainers are. Some of us are involved in shooting quite a bit, and might therefore know where to go. But I see almost none of the “good” guys advertise in the magazine’s or Facebook groups. Even when you skim over the offerings on Gunsite, it is difficult to pinpoint the right guy for the job at hand.

    And don’t forget the difference between training and practice.


  2. The arrogance is found everywhere. For example the one up carry. While my kids were young i never had a bullet in chamber. It was my last safety barrier in case my kids got hold of my pistol. When pointing out my reasoning all the keyboard warriors screamed sacrilege.


  3. Louis Awerbuck was indeed excellent, and I strongly recommend his books, but I’m afraid he has shuffled off this mortal coil, back around 2014.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well-said. I am going to be on the lookout now for the G-Shock watch. Not quite sure how to tell a “tactical beard” from a regular beard, but perhaps it coordinates somehow with the FDE attire.


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