Teaching with an open mind

“Always learning. Always evolving. Always questioning.” These are the words that sum up Steven Joe’s mindset of being a teacher. As a Safariland Training Group Master Instructor of the Patrol Rifle Instructor Course, and with over 30 years in law enforcement and 18 years in SWAT, you’d think he has seen it all. And he has seen a lot. But it’s the job of instructing—and most of all, the students themselves—that keep him humble and open to new approaches and situations.

For example, when he was teaching a class in Alaska, he advised that the muzzle should generally face down when on the move. The local students then brought up the issue of what it’s like for them to travel in deep snow: if their rifle barrels are pointing down, they’ll fill up with snow. Through hearing about many of these different experiences, Joe has adopted an open mind to training, and listening to what his students have to say about the needs of their policing environments.


First and foremost, Joe’s main objective is to individualize the Patrol Rifle course so that students get the most benefit. “In some of these classes we have very good students, very professional and very—they’re just really good at their job,” he says. “And so it provides a challenge for me to provide something for them to work toward.”

On the first day of the course, Joe works through an evaluation process with the students to find out their skill level and strengths and weaknesses. He speaks frankly when he says he doesn’t care how good a student is at something (other than for evaluation purposes). What he really cares about is that their skills get better from taking the class. “You’re not going to get really good if all you practice is what you’re good at.”



The Patrol Rifle Instructor’s course is designed specifically for certified law enforcement and military professionals with a basic patrol rifle skillset who want to become instructors. The course is also geared towards instructors who wish to expand their patrol rifle knowledge base for teaching purposes. Students will learn maintenance of firearms, placement of weapons, shooting positions and different types of reloading including tactical speed reloading. And there will be drills. Lots of them.

Whereas many training courses focus on taking the time needed to shoot accurately and repeatedly pulling the trigger, a significant portion of the Patrol Rifle class is dedicated to shooting and moving, to simulate real-life situations in the field. Joe makes a comparison to competitive sports. “You look at fighting, a boxing ring even, those guys don’t just stand there punching out, they try to move into a position of advantage and they try to exploit that position advantage.” He adds another vital point, “If you stand still, you’re a very easy target, if you’re moving, you’re not.”



Since real life doesn’t happen just like training, Joe is a big proponent of always looking out for ways to add new skills development to the training program. When he sustained a knee injury he was asked to use a bosu ball during physical therapy, in which he had to step up on the rubber half-ball, throw another ball at a net, jump off the bosu ball and catch the rebounding ball. “And I’d go left, right, and left, right, and I said ‘man this would be fantastic to use for shooting!'” Joe began integrating the bosu ball into training as an unstable platform to shoot off of. He encourages the participant instructors to take the same approach— to pay attention, and think about how skills training can relate to their reality on the job.

Joe likes to quote the Roman poet Ovid: Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you. “I look at training like that because we have to remind them, that they need to be patient to learn these things,” says Joe. “They have to be strong and learn these techniques and sometimes it is painful for us to spend X amount of time running and shooting, doing this and that and the other, but the payoff is later on in life if when we need it, not right then and there. Because hey, everything’s not easy, otherwise everybody would be experts at it.”

Find out more about the catalog of courses at The Safariland Training Group.