Meet The Fta Member: Marshall Luton
Tell us who you are, where you grew up, where you live, and where you teach.
My name is Marshall Luton. I was born in Chattanooga, lived in Memphis, then moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I grew up in Tulsa and call it home. Tulsa is where my company is based, but we’ve taught classes all over the country
Did you grow up in a home in which adults had firearms?
I grew up in a family that knew very little about them. None of my relatives had military backgrounds, and my dad only had one rifle, an M1 Garand “that would shoot a mile”. I remember being afraid of it cutting one of my fingers off when my dad would drop the bolt. My father never taught me anything gun-related, and none of my relatives were even interested in guns, so it’s pretty crazy to think that I would grow into someone interested in shooting who loves teaching and helping others.
Were you ever in the military, law enforcement, or any other profession in which possession of a firearm was necessary?
I started my law enforcement career in 1995, five years after graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. I never had any formal firearms training before then. After the academy, we had very little opportunities to receive training, and since my life was valuable to me I started shooting competitively. I wanted to be as good as I possibly could. I initially shot mainly IDPA but I got into USPSA too. I worked my way from Sharpshooter to Master, and got bumped up to Expert at the 2002 IDPA National Championships. I the won the Regional Championships at the Expert level in 2003 and got moved up to Stock Service Pistol Master. I only shot Stock Service Pistol because I wanted to use a gun that I carried on duty. I found the better I got at these little competitions, the more I was asked for help. I’d like to think to think that it was because I was approachable.
When did you decide to become a firearms trainer, and how did you go about it?
Originally, I became a firearms instructor in order to be able to help my fellow officers. I soon learned that I like teaching civilian classes as opposed to law enforcement classes because for the most part the civilian students on average are significantly more enthusiastic and receptive to learning new things than many of the career law enforcement officers. (Editor’s note: this has been my experience also. Only a small percentage of both law enforcement officers AND civilian concealed carriers are firearm enthusiasts.)
Please set out three firearms and/or tactics instructor certifications that you possess that are most relevant to what you teach today and why.
I have been a CLEET-certified firearms instructor for pistol and shotgun since 2002. I got my CLEET certification as a rifle instructor in 2003. Although this entity was instrumental in getting me started in my journey, it didn’t prove to be what I had hoped it would have been to develop me as a teacher. Being a good shooter doesn’t matter if you can’t diagnose another shooter’s problems. You can’t diagnose a problem if you can’t SEE it or recognize it. I think the class I took with Travis Haley solidified what we have been teaching for 20 years is spot on. I took Travis’ D5 handgun class in 2015 and got to see first hand what a true instructor is. Not only can he DO, he can tell you and show you WHY he’s able to do what he does. He is able to back everything up with science and, to me, that’s where the real information is. Even though Travis is a youngster compared to Tom Givens, no one has influenced me more than Tom Givens. In the classes I’ve taken from him, he has helped us to validate what we teach and how we teach it. It was in his three-day instructor development class that we first developed our model for trigger control. Lastly, the information I got from Bill Rogers at his four-day Pistol/CQB Carbine Course, was amazing. He pushed us outside of our comfort zones and was able to fix a few things that allowed some of his students to increase their speed without sacrificing their accuracy. Obtaining an Advanced Certificate from him is no easy task. That certificate is one I am very proud of. The things I’ve learned from instructors of this caliber have helped us to develop our curricula. It has influenced not only what we teach but how we teach it.
Please name one (and only one) instructor that you might describe as being a mentor to you.
It was in firearms instructor school in 2002 that I met the man who would change my life. He is brilliant, strong, deadly, and kind. He is the one who taught me how to be a true teacher of the art. When he got to know me, and could see what kind of person I was, he sat me down and told me, “Your students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” He said never forget that and you’ll go far. To this day, I haven’t. His name is Vince O’Neill, and he’s one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. While other instructors took the drill instructor path, and loved to scare, scream, yell, and belittle the students, I followed Vince’s lead and learned to encourage, empower, and be of service to others. I welcome students to the range as if they were entering the front door of my home. I think this settles them down from the get go and helps create an environment that is conducive to learning.
What class do you teach that you think benefits students the most?
We teach a class called Advanced Combat Pistol. It’s really just a play on words. We laughingly say that no one will sign up for a class if you put the word “basic” in it. I think the thing that we do best is connect with our students. We have had repeat students come and train with us for two decades. Even though every class is different (even if it’s the same one in title) we cater the training to each individual student. They leave feeling confident yet humbled, challenged yet motivated, empowered yet realistic. When you are a “teacher of staying alive” it’s more than shooting. It’s about developing the whole person and helping them realize that they will never “arrive”. It’s about the journey. It’s about learning and having fun and making friends along the way.
What is the most important thing that you have learned as an instructor that perhaps new instructors would benefit from knowing?
If you enter into this arena thinking that you’re the biggest, baddest, toughest, smartest dog in there, you will soon realize that you are kidding yourself. My advice to a new instructor is to seek out as many instructors as you can afford. Learn from them. See how they approach difficult students. Gain as much information as you can. Don’t take anyone’s word for anything. I tell my cadre that if you can’t explain something bio-mechanically, don’t teach it. If you don’t have the answer to someone’s question, it doesn’t mean that you’re a horrible instructor. We can never learn it all. We can always learn more. It’s all in our attitude.
Please provide us with your contact information, including email and website address.
Marshall King Luton, Jr.