Language Lessons: SME

There’s a lot of grey area in the firearms industry. From quality of guns to the quality of people, sometimes shit gets confusing. We’re here to briefly break down the term “SME” and build it back up as it relates to an industry with no governing body to credential its members. Mad Duo

Term: SME (Subject Matter Expert)

Relates to: Any industry, but we’re here to relate it to the Firearms Industry

Category: Industry Vernacular

Application(s) of Use: SMEs can be utilized as a resource in countless ways

Definition: Merriam-Webster’s simple definitions of the term broken down are:

Subject: the person or thing that is being discussed or described

Matter: something that is being done, talked about, or thought about

Expert: having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced

Why it Matters: Subject Matter Experts are relied upon for their knowledge, which ultimately influences others and/or assists in positive progression. Knowing from where and whom you get information is important because if you learn from the inept, you too will be inept.

Into the Weeds: Aren’t all firearms instructors SMEs? Absolutely not, and neither are all “Public Figures” with large followings on social media. This isn’t to say you can’t learn things from non-SME instructors.

In other industries, SMEs are usually formally educated professionals who have dedicated many years in their field. Most hold licensure in their specialty. SMEs in other industries are often utilized in shorts stints (i.e. for a project, a book, a quote, or as an expert witness in a trial, etc.).

Complete opposite to the above, the firearms industry (as a whole) has very few routes of formal education, let alone at a higher level. Dedicating years toward education rarely happens, and if it does, the degree is generally geared to engineering or business. SMEs in our industry, on the other hand, are built from experience. The people who have done the work, made the mistakes and learned from them… again and again, for years. This is not the mall-ninja-mag-flippin-full-auto-only-shooting-echo-chamber-embracing-empty-chest-rig-wearing-shit-talking-tactard who becomes instafamous overnight. Credible sources have history, and they won’t hide it. True SMEs are respected by their peers; even if they don’t see eye-to-eye, there is a professional respect.

Since the Firearms Industry is not only business-to-business, but also business-to-consumer, there is a large, fan-type following from the consumer market–we’re sure you can think of some offhand. Consumers navigate endless amounts of information without that information being vetted. Some believe what they read because no one tells them otherwise. For that reason, many people trust bad information.

Here are a few ways to spot an SME in the Firearms Industry, though no single indicator is a slam dunk on its own:

  1. They’ve been worked in this industry for a long time
  2. They don’t withhold their qualifications, or their experience
  3. They have actually done whatever it is they’re teaching or being used as a reference for
  4. Their peers respect them
  5. Their students give positive reviews
  6. Their outcomes are measureable, i.e. holes in paper, holes in people, or are well above average than their peers in whatever it is they’re doing.
  7. Industry insiders and businesses use them for product R&D and/or T&E

ADM 1

In summary, “Trust but verify”; fact check the information you’re digesting. True SMEs will accelerate your learning curve, but do your due diligence before getting your learn on from someone who claims to be an SME.


[Featured Image is from this video from 2013, where Andrew Tuohy of Vuurwapenblog lampoons some firearms instructors]

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