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The Over Reliance on SMEs

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I have a theory as to why it is difficult for some to grasp nuance with defensive concepts, especially in weapon, caliber, and gear choices. For many people who have sought professional instruction and insight in defensive/offensive concepts, they have taken it as gospel with little discussion or thought as to how it applies to them as an individual instead of recognizing the instructor provided a baseline as a reference. Essentially, they treat these insights like copying someone’s homework but not realizing their homework is different from the instructor.

An SME (Subject Matter Expert) or instructor can provide baseline information for the students to refine as part of their own personal development. The best instructors remind their students regularly, these are some options – not THE options. These great instructors do not present themselves as the entire package of all that which is good. Those instructors also recognize everyone is working at their own level. What I take away from a course may be and probably is different from what others take away. An instructor should provide that baseline and then the student processes it. Within that baseline are some facts that can be used as a guide because students do not absorb the information and implement it on a 1:1 scale in their lives..

Consider your professional specialty- what you do for a living and every aspect in doing that- from the most complex to basic task. For most people, if they had to teach a couple of days of instruction to explain their specialty and to have skill exercises to drive home concepts, how many layers deep does that content go? How much nuance can be addressed during that abbreviated period? Can someone successfully do your job without issue completely independent of anyone else after 1-3 days of instruction? Would it make more sense to cover the basic common factors to help students gain a better understanding and rudimentary skillset within that time?

Most defensive pistol courses outline something similar to the following:

Equipment Needs- serviceable semiautomatic pistol in duty caliber with minimum of three functional magazines and XXX of good quality practice ammo. Functional duty type or concealment holster for pistol, belt compatible with holster, means of carrying spare magazines on belt, etc.

Objectives- students will learn malfunction clearing, reloading, understanding shot process, etc.

How much nuance is presented in a basic course like that? Minimal. In fact, that nuance shared is an aspect that helps spread the word on the instructors and gets people into their class. Are the gear requirements for the class meeting the needs of all the students defensively for their lives outside of this class? What about outliers? Do the course content and skills cover the needs for everyone? Will some need more refined concepts for carrying in a manner different than what is taught? It is just nuance. Those course equipment needs are not listed because they are the best options, it is so the class can stay on track with minimal hiccups. The list is not saying carry this as EDC (Everyday Carry), and you will be fine- but people take the entirety of the class like that. This isn’t an instructor or SME issue, this is an individual/student/consumer issue. Again, the instructors are providing a baseline, not a direct guide to implement these skills or specific weapons in daily life.

Truthfully, the majority of nuance must be from the student after they understand the baselines. Only the students have an idea of how to tailor the info to their lives based on what they encounter and what their overall mission is. Only the student determines their mission. Just like mission drives the gear- the individual determines the parameters of the mission. Ultimately, it is up to the individual/student to take in all the info and find their nuances.

Is it possible to learn about various nuances from persons other than an instructor or SME? Absolutely. Everyone has a unique perspective on various topics and these perspectives help understand concepts better through different viewpoints. SMEs help open people’s eyes to concepts they may never face and/or the SME can have insight and experience others have not yet attained. Instructors and SMEs can help you refine your process, but you are the one defining it.

Finding the nuance of your mission takes work and refining your skills, mindset, and equipment to fit your mission takes effort and time. This is not an easy process but it makes you much more efficient in the tasks you choose to take and mindset you follow. Being a perpetual student with various instructors and comparing notes with peers help you reach a higher plane of efficiency with your mission.

After gaining proficiency through courses, competing, study, and practice and yet your entire defensive mindset, loadout, and options are based entirely on generic input from SMEs, you are missing a huge factor in optimizing your options. You need less SME, and more ME (as in- you reading this) applied.

Matt Landfair
Lead Editor/Contributor at Primary & Secondary
Active Law Enforcement background since before the turn of the century in the middle of no where. Firearms instructor, armorer, has attended numerous training courses including DARC, Follow Through Consulting, EAG, TMacs, and more boring mandatory popo training you can shake a stick at. Has died a million deaths by powerpoint. He has written for RECOIL Magazine, Breach Bang Clear, Soldier Systems Daily and Monderno. Enjoys long walks on the beach, blah blah blah… Known as Matt Prime or Riafdnal in some circles.

Matt@primaryandsecondary.com
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