After completing a two-day rifle/pistol class, something was still bothering me. Throughout the course I had been scolded for snatching my handgun back from the target too quickly. I was told I was not properly “following through”–a term used to mean acquiring an additional sight picture and prepping for another shot, even though you have completed firing.

I wanted to talk to someone who wouldn’t just parrot information or argue with me but would really help me think through whether I was in error.

The first name that came to mind was Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor. I had met him at a Rangemaster Tactical Conference years earlier and greatly respected and admired his ability to question and analyze every aspect of the tenets we hold sacred–sometimes erroneously. Being a former instructor at the elite Rogers Shooting School also means he has forgotten more than I will probably ever know about shooting and teaching people with firearms.

I messaged him, asking if he had time for a chat. He agreed to a phone call.

For the next hour and change he listened to me, asked me valuable questions that challenged me to think about my experience in that class and guided me toward new and very important knowledge.

We talked about everything from vision to recognition and reaction times. We talked about the most difficult part of the draw stroke vs the most time consuming and how those two concepts were different. We talked about human psychology when it comes to using a firearm against another human. We talked about sight acquisition, ready positions, what follow through on a range is meant to do and what it is not, how it is done correctly and the time frames within which it can be done for experienced shooters vs new shooters.

In that hour and change I learned more than I had in a year of classes.

Whenever I think of Claude I think of that conversation and how generous and gracious he was to share knowledge with me so freely.

It was not the first conversation we had ever had, and it would not be the last.

Since that day Claude has attended classes that I have taught, more than once, carefully taking notes and giving constructive feedback. He has dialoged with me on many different topics and challenged me on my own thought processes and ideas.

He is always patient, asking questions instead of accusing, guiding you to conclusions through inquiry and ready to say, “I need to think about that,” when you bring up a point that can’t be immediately settled.

And he does think about it.

On more than one occasion I have seen him write blog posts or send articles of research on conversations that were left with open questions. In my experience, he has never left a question hanging.

Despite his knowledge and experience he has never taken offense to me asking for further clarification or explanation of a concept he has presented. He readily dives in, explaining carefully and patiently while I’ve learned.

In addition to all of that, though, he has continued to be kind, welcoming and a genuine delight to see on any range or at any event. He has only ever greeted me with a warm smile, a full hug and a compliment, always making me feel welcome in his presence.

Thank you, Claude, for setting such an example of critical thinking, of patience and guidance in the face of curiosity, and thorough feedback when sought for advice. Your example, friendship, knowledge, and generosity have and continue to inspire and mean so much to me.