By Adam Syfrett
Many people entertain the idea of playing host to a professional instructor, in the hopes of potentially mitigating some of their own personal logistical hurdles that would be involved in travelling to seek training. Others seek to do it just for the free spot in class. If these are your only motivations for being a host, I invite you to reconsider your train of thought. Playing host to a class places logistical and organizational demands on you far and away above attending one. That is not to say that the juice is not worth the squeeze. Having played host now to several instructors, I’ve greatly increased my own scope of knowledge, and circle of friends.
The most obvious need for playing host is some sort of range facility. The facilities you have access to will play a critical role in the sort of classes you can host. Talk to the range owner/board, and see what sort of classes they are comfortable having their name associated with as well. If a certain class you want to host has something as a part of its plan of instruction (POI) that is against range rules-such as drawing from concealment, or rapid fire strings, then you likely will want to find a different place to act as the host facility.
Knowing the range facility, and the shooters who frequent it will also help you determine the course(s) you are wanting to play host to. Asking yourself, “Who will come to this class?” is a good checkpoint. Level one classes are often easier to fill than more advanced ones, but, that may not hold true in your particular situation. Also, go ahead and discount headcount you may have previously developed based upon buddies saying they’d of course come to a class you hosted. Things change when you start asking people to put their money where their mouth is.
Once you’ve determined the location of the class, and the type of class best supported by your community, it’s time to start reaching out to instructors. Some instructors may not be willing to work with a first time host, due to concerns over filling a class. That is their right, as good instructors are doing this not just to better the community, but to also put bread on their own table. Coming to an empty class isn’t just a waste of their time, but also their hard earned money. There are very real expenses incurred by an instructor showing up to teach a class. Be mindful of various instructor’s strengths, and work with those who best meet the course you want to offer. You’d not call Presscheck Consulting about putting on a Basic Shotgun Manipulations class-you’d call Steve Fisher with Sentinel Concepts.
Working with the instructor, and the range, start nailing down dates that work best for everyone. You need to be mindful of other events that may be going on not just at the range, but in the surrounding area. As an example-the range I work with on hosting classes happens to be near a college with a Division 1 football team. Hosting a class on a weekend with a home game going on would be a poor idea, as any student travelling to the area would likely not be able to find hotel rooms available. Weather is another thing to keep in mind-rain sucks, but heat kills. Hosting a high intensity carbine class in Death Valley in July may perhaps be ill advised.
With a range, instructor, class, and dates all agreed upon, now you need to focus on filling your class. Posting notices on appropriate forums is always a good way to go, as is asking if you can post signs at your range. I’ve had good luck in talking with local gun stores about posting signs/posters for classes I’m playing host to. Make sure that the potential students know how to reach you with any questions they may have. Also, start looking for hotels to recommend to your students, as well as travel plans for it they may be flying in. If possible-offer to have them ship their ammo to you or the range, as travelling with ammo by plane is difficult. Same goes for the instructor, let them ship their ammo, targets, and any shippable gear to you, to make their travel easier.
As it gets closer to the date of the class, start planning on the logistics of keeping everyone safe and hydrated. Most ranges already have a pre-developed medical plan, so become very conversant in that. Having multiple IFAKS around is always a good idea. Bottled water is reasonably cheap, and there’s really no reason not to have a cooler or two full of it handy at all times. Having adequate restroom facilities is at times overlooked, but is also important. Shade, particularly in summer months, is a Godsend. Sourcing a few popup awnings for students to be under when not actively shooting is a very nice touch. Tables for gear also are hugely helpful. If you can set those up closer to the firing line, you help students get more out of their class time, as they aren’t having to go all the way back to the range house, or their vehicle to jam mags, or reset their gear.
Consumables are often the last thing on everyone’s mind, and the first thing that wind up slowing down a class. Here are a few suggestions, along with quantities recommended.
- Staple Guns: These are often where the wheels fall off, and things get forgotten. You’ll need several of these on hand, and plenty of staples. Load each staple gun with a full capacity of staples at the beginning of each day. I like to have one staple gun per three students on hand. More is always better of course as well.
- Target Backers: If your range uses cardboard backers, go ahead and get multiple on hand per student. Get IPSC backers, and plan on needing one backer, per student, per day. This is of course dependent on the volume of fire for the class-a precision class where students are shooting 100rnds a day may only need a single backer, whereas if you’re in a high tempo carbine class, you may need more than one backer per day.
- Masking Tape: With shooting paper targets, students will need to tape their misses. Thankfully masking tape is cheap. A roll of 1” masking tape per student makes the downtime for target taping go far faster.
- Spray Paint: Steel targets will need to be touched up, assuming you’re shooting them. No need to source expensive paint-just buy the cheapest white or black you can find, and have at least one can per steel target, or one can per student, whichever is less.
- Target Uprights: Most ranges have decent target stands, but everyone forgets about the uprights. Figure out what the targets you are using will need, and snag at least one set per target, with a few surplus in case they get shot up.