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Private Shooting Classes vs Larger Shooting Classes

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This morning I had a private class with a very nice couple who had never shot a handgun before, and wanted to learn "to be more comfortable with their pistols".  It was a great class and both students finished the class with a solid foundation to build upon and shot very well by the end of our two and a half hours together.

This experience, while not unusual, got me to thinking about the efficiency of the Private Class versus the larger "standardized" classes.  It got me thinking enough that I decided I should adjust our private class offerings on our website and share some of my thoughts on this blog concerning private classes versus larger standardized classes.

The advantages of taking a private class include: small class size; a class time tailored to your schedule; flexible curriculum; and, generally, a lower stress environment.

Larger Carbine Class

I think we can all agree that, in general, small class size can be a tremendous advantage in the learning process.  When I teach a smaller class I can focus specifically on the needs of each student in the class.  I can address and expand upon their individual questions in a way that would be unrealistic in a class 4 to 5 times larger.  With just two or three shooters on the firing line I can spend time with each in a more attentive manner than when I have a much larger class.  This generally results in more quality time with each student and allows the student to pick up more information and receive more attention in a shorter amount of time than with the larger classes.  This can significantly expedite the learning curve and result in faster progress then other learning formats.

Another advantage of the private class is that we can tailor the class time to the needs of the students.  This can be as simple as scheduling the class around their availability; such as in the evening after work or on a morning during the work week.  This can also include running the class longer than planned if the students fell like they want or need more range time to further their progress or explore a subject that was not initially anticipated.  For instance: some time back I had a family class that decided they wanted to tack on an additional 30 minutes to shoot the plate rack because they were having a good time and decided that they were advancing their shooting skills by competing against each other for the best time. 

The Plate Rack

A further advantage to the private class is the flexible curriculum it offers.  For instance, the couple that I taught today both showed up with red dot sights on their pistols.  In our larger Basic Handgun Classes, where we teach a front sight focus as the target picture, it is difficult to spend as much time discussing the Red Dot Sight as we did today.  With the private class this morning, I was able to pivot and teach the curriculum as a primarily red dot based class.  This allowed my students to get the most out of the specific equipment that they brought to the class.  It is nearly impossible to change the instruction on the fly in a larger standardized class format.

For many new shooters, perhaps the most important advantage of the small-format, private class is a lower stress environment.  Many new shooters approach the firearm with a significant amount of apprehension.  This apprehension can significantly interfere with the learning process.  A relaxed mind tends to be a more receptive mind.  Considering the number of students we get in our Basic Handgun Class that are extremely nervous about shooting for the first time, the small class size, with people they know, coupled with our private range, can make a tremendous difference in the first time shooting experience for our students.  While we strive to make our class as low stress as possible, no matter what the size, sometimes there is no substitute for a small class.

So, what are the down sides to the private class format?  The main ones that come to mind are the small class size and the cost of the class.

While a small class size has many advantages, it does bring a few possible disadvantages with it as well.  

One of those is that there will be fewer questions in the class.  In our License To Carry (LTC) Classes for example, we constantly adapt the curriculum in minor ways to address some of the questions that come up from the class.  While they are fewer and far between after 15 years plus of teaching the LTC curriculum, every once in a while an inquiring mind brings up a question that has never come up before. This is a good thing, as it forces us to adapt our curriculum and grow as instructors.  It makes us better.  This interaction is less likely in the smaller classes.

Another possible disadvantage is the lower stress level of the smaller class.  I know, we already said this could be an advantage to the smaller class, but as with many things, this cuts both ways.  If we are training for defensive use of the firearm, then we are training to use our guns in a high stress situation.  There is little doubt that elevated stress levels in training can lead to higher levels of performance in the high stress environment created in real deadly force confrontations.  The question at hand is not if high stress training is useful, but when is high stress training useful.  Certainly though, there is a time and a place for the relaxed learning environment provided by the smaller private class and a time and place for the larger class and the performance anxiety that can be generated in them.  We leave the question as to which is appropriate to our customer, but would be remiss to to discuss both here.

And, of course, the single biggest "disadvantage" to the private class is the monetary cost of the class.  Or is it?  In reality, a two hour private class on our website is $200.00 for two people.  That is obviously more, when broken down per hour, than $99.00 for a four and a half hour class.  But is it really that much more?  After our two and a half hour class this morning my two students left shooting above the level of the average student in our larger Basic Handgun Class.  They paid about the same amount as they would have paid (per person) to attend the four hour class, but only invested 2.5 hours of their time and did so at a time that fit their busy schedule.  So that, combined with the lower slightly lower cost per person (above the minimum of two people) in our Private Class cost structure, makes the question one of value versus a straight forward time comparison.  Is getting more in less time worth the added cost?  Again, that is a question for our customers to decide, but one that I thought was worthy of discussion.

I hope this off-the-top-of-my-head post is worth your time to read and is helpful to you.  By no means is this an all encompassing list; just what occurred to me on the drive home.  Please feel free to call with any questions or concerns.  We are here for our students and no question is silly - except the question about your Groupon code not working that is answered in the product description below that you had to check TWO boxes that you read!  That question is really annoying.

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