What to Look for in a Firearms Trainer

 

I constantly see signs by freeway exit ramps advertising concealed carry permit classes for ridiculously low prices. While I completely understand how money (or the lack thereof) can affect buying decisions, when you’re choosing a firearms instructor, you are choosing someone to teach you how to potentially save your life and the lives of those close to you. So, choosing the cheapest one available makes as much sense as choosing the cheapest skydiving instructor.

The minimum amount of training needed to teach concealed carry in many states is instructor certifications in NRA Basic Pistol and NRA Personal Protection Inside the Home. This is the bare minimum, though, and a good instructor will have many, many more hours of classes beyond this. Aside from this minimum, what else should you look for in a good firearms trainer?

  1. Someone who lists their sources. I’ve taken classes from major training centers that never mention anyone other than the people associated with their school. They taught the Color Code without mentioning it was Col. Jeff Cooper who came up with that idea. They also taught the Weaver Stance without saying who invented it, giving their student the impression that everything we know about firearms training was their idea. The fact of the matter is everyone who trains people in the safe use of firearms owes a huge debt to those who have gone before us, and acknowledging that debt is a sign of a trainer who is interested in imparting knowledge, not creating followers.
  2. Someone who has multiple sources. The broader the trainer’s knowledge base, the more options they have to diagnose and correct a student’s issue with learning to shoot well. Also, trainers who have a wide variety of sources tend to come up with more innovative and effective training techniques because they are not hidebound to one way of thinking. Also, look for instructors who have taken courses that require a measured, standardized test of some sort to become an instructor, such as Rangemaster or Massad Ayood Group, because that introduces an element of intellectual rigor and accountability into their teaching process.
  3. Someone with relevant training. I have nothing but the greatest respect for our military and law enforcement, but the jobs they perform are different than the job I have. The firearms training they receive, therefore, is to accomplish a different task than the task I need to accomplish. If the firearms instructor you’re considering has combat experience or is a seasoned police officer, that’s fine. Just make sure they also have training that augments what they’ve learned in the service and helps translate that service in a way that is useful to we armed citizens.
  4. Someone who competes on a regular basis. Nothing will show what is working and what needs improvement than shooting a practical pistol match. Even some of the most elite troops in the Army have learned that performing a simple task like hitting a target 10 yards away becomes a Herculean feat under the simulated stress of a timer and the gaze of your peers. Competing in a practical pistol match helps you apply what you learn in shooting class to a situation that more closely resembles the street because, as noted trainer Massad Ayoob once said, a shooting match is not a gunfight, but a gunfight is most definitely a shooting match.
  5. Someone who encourages wider training. Simply put, any instructor who doesn’t encourage you to train with other trainers has his own best interests at heart, not yours. No one firearms instructor has this all figured out, and if your trainer is not comfortable with you learning from other instructors, he’s more worried about repeat business than the growth of his students.
  6. Someone who is also committed to learning. If the last class your instructor took was during the Bush administration (the George H.W. Bush administration), their techniques are probably not the ones you want to learn. An instructor who has recently taken classes from another instructor will have more current, effective teaching methods that use more modern theories of instructional learning and firearms technique.

Lastly, your instructor should focus on the teaching the students who are in his or her class, versus standing up in front of them and going through the motions. A firearms instructor who’s committed to excellence will also be committed to instilling that drive for excellence in his or her students, making them safer, more prepared gun owners.

Published in Guns
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There are 17 comments.

  1. Coolidge

    My criteria is whoever will do it the fastest and the least expenditure of my time to complete this worthless, unconstitutional infringement of my rights.

    The beauty of firearms is that they take very little training to use, especially pistols at very short ranges.

    I don’t need some gun guy telling me about the law, because they usually get it wrong, and I’m already a lawyer anyway. I’ll go for legal training from other sources.

    I resent being forced to pay for state mandated training.

    When I got my CHL, the instructor came to my reserve unit a few days before we shipped out to Afghanistan, and asked if anyone wanted free “training” for a CHL. He donated his time to do it, and he did it in record time. The shooting portion was waived, since I had my military qualifications current, the finger printing was done down the hall at the ID center, and the fee was waived since I was active duty. I only had to pay a few bucks at the drug store for passport-style photos.

    The testing requirement needs to be done away with. Actually, the entire requirement to be “allowed” to carry with the permission of other people who are grown ups just like me, is absurd.

    I’ve half a mind to get certified to instruct just so I can offer it for free, or at a bare bones price for the most limited time allowable to stay in compliance with these unconstitutional laws.

    • #1
    • October 29, 2017 at 1:53 pm
    • 6 likes
  2. Member

    Kevin Creighton: I constantly see signs by freeway exit ramps advertising concealed carry permit classes for ridiculously low prices.

    Interesting, I don’t recall seeing such an ad in my entire life. Clearly we live in different neighborhoods…

    • #2
    • October 29, 2017 at 2:09 pm
    • 2 likes
  3. Member

    @Skyler, I endorse your position that requiring a class or permission of the government to exercise a right granted by our Maker, and guaranteed by the Constitution, is repugnant. But that’s the world we’re stuck in for now.

    As a military retiree, and former peace officer, I, too, have had a lot of training, and plenty of time, commencing before I enlisted, to give serious thought concerning the taking of a human life. The percentage of our population with such background, though, is small, and shrinking. I’m encouraged by the number of people who are giving new thought to the need for personal defense. But I also find that the majority of these people really have no idea of what they’re getting into. Besides, for every one of us, training and practice – good. Lack of training and no practice – not good. And when I look for an instructor, I check out everything @Kevin Creighton suggests.

    BTW the instructor from whom I take my CCW classes is a retired Army Ranger and CPA, part of an organization that includes two attorneys who are friends of mine, and who are closely aligned with a leading attorney in the fight for 2A rights. No apologies here, except that I can never get enough training. The CCW class is a mere formality I have to go through every couple years.

    • #3
    • October 29, 2017 at 2:16 pm
    • 2 likes
  4. Member

    There is a big difference between punching holes in paper and shooting at a human being. That paper target doesn’t move. I have no problem with someone obtaining their CHL. You will be responsible for every round you fire. In the heat of the moment if you hit an innocent bystander you will be facing criminal charges as well as a civil lawsuit. You might lose your freedom, your home, and if the person survives and requires a lifetime of medical care, a good portion of your income.

    I would hope that far more people would take the time to receive proper training and an understanding of the law concerning firearms than they do when it comes to driving their vehicle.

    • #4
    • October 29, 2017 at 3:08 pm
    • 2 likes
  5. Thatcher

    Kevin Creighton:

    • Someone with relevant training. I have nothing but the greatest respect for our military and law enforcement, but the jobs they perform are different than the job I have… Just make sure they also have training that augments what they’ve learned in the service and helps translate that service in a way that is useful to we armed citizens.

    This is obviously different in your mind from that you noted in your number one. So can you give some examples? Or how to tell? Or what questions to ask?

    • #5
    • October 29, 2017 at 4:16 pm
    • 1 like
  6. Contributor

    Guns are simple things and easy enough to handle responsibly. I think we have fetishized them to the point where they seem exotic and mysterious, objects imbued with a malevolent will of their own, difficult to control and perilous to handle.

    They’re just guns. My kids all shot guns by the time they were twelve, and all owned guns shortly after that. People who want to own a gun should know how to handle them safely. People who want to use them for self-defense should understand what the laws do and don’t allow them to do. People who want to carry should take it seriously, be particularly well versed in the relevant laws, and be well-practiced and competent with their weapons.

    People who want to be Massad Ayoob or impress the folks at Gunsite have to work a lot harder.

    • #6
    • October 29, 2017 at 7:44 pm
    • 2 likes
  7. Coolidge

    Quietpi (View Comment):
    No apologies here, except that I can never get enough training.

    I’m all for maximizing the voluntary training.

    • #7
    • October 29, 2017 at 8:26 pm
    • 2 likes
  8. Coolidge

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    I would hope that far more people would take the time to receive proper training and an understanding of the law concerning firearms than they do when it comes to driving their vehicle.

    I would hope so too, but it shouldn’t be a requirement. We don’t force people to take classes on slander, or theology classes before practicing their first amendment rights.

    • #8
    • October 29, 2017 at 8:28 pm
    • 2 likes
  9. Coolidge

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Guns are simple things and easy enough to handle responsibly. I think we have fetishized them to the point where they seem exotic and mysterious, objects imbued with a malevolent will of their own, difficult to control and perilous to handle.

    They’re just guns. My kids all shot guns by the time they were twelve, and all owned guns shortly after that. People who want to own a gun should know how to handle them safely. People who want to use them for self-defense should understand what the laws do and don’t allow them to do. People who want to carry should take it seriously, be particularly well versed in the relevant laws, and be well-practiced and competent with their weapons.

    People who want to be Massad Ayoob or impress the folks at Gunsite have to work a lot harder.

    Well said.

    • #9
    • October 29, 2017 at 8:29 pm
    • 1 like
  10. Member

    When I went for my CCW training, the guys running the class spent more time telling us how experienced and well-trained they were than actually teaching content. They were all current law enforcement, and most of them were in things like SWAT.

    That’s okay, in general, but they had a real attitude and “aggro” problem. Every question got dismissed if it didn’t support them.

    There were also some iffy ideas in their course, like how to respond if you’re carrying and get pulled over by a cop. For example, when the officer approaches, they said to yell out “I have a gun!” Literally, using those words. Not “I have a permit, and am carrying a weapon” or anything less alarming.

    They also spent a few minutes explaining just how financially risky it was if you actually had to shoot someone, and how you should buy extra CCW liability insurance. Which they could sell you, right there on the spot…

    • #10
    • October 30, 2017 at 3:09 am
    • 2 likes
  11. Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    Chuckles (View Comment):

    Kevin Creighton:

    • Someone with relevant training. I have nothing but the greatest respect for our military and law enforcement, but the jobs they perform are different than the job I have… Just make sure they also have training that augments what they’ve learned in the service and helps translate that service in a way that is useful to we armed citizens.

    This is obviously different in your mind from that you noted in your number one. So can you give some examples? Or how to tell? Or what questions to ask?

    Look for post-service training. There’s a shop out here on the east cost of Florida that plays up their SpecOps / Tier One background and takes people out on night shoots early on in their training.

    This makes sense to them, because of lot of what our military does these days goes down at night. For we armed citizens, though, that’s a surprisingly uncommon occurrence: Tom Givens (one of the absolute best trainers out there) has kept track of what his students have done post-CCW, and so far, they’re 62-2-0, and those two losses were because they weren’t armed that day.

    Whoops.

    None of his student’s gunfights were in utter darkness, which makes sense, because criminals need to identify their target, and without the night vision gear that the military uses, the criminal needs to attack in an area with some sort of lighting around so they can spot their prey. Also, crooks treat flashlights as a sign of authority, and avoid such things. So what makes sense in a military situation (training at night with night goggles and weapon mounted lights) is actually rather useless for people who don’t wear a uniform and a gun to work.

    • #11
    • October 30, 2017 at 5:17 am
    • 2 likes
  12. Contributor
    Kevin Creighton Post author

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Kevin Creighton: I constantly see signs by freeway exit ramps advertising concealed carry permit classes for ridiculously low prices.

    Interesting, I don’t recall seeing such an ad in my entire life. Clearly we live in different neighborhoods…

    I saw them all the time in Arizona before they went to permit-free concealed carry, and I see them all the time here too.

    Two anecdotes:

    Right after this lady finished shooting her pink camo Hi-Point .380 in a lousy teacup Weaver stance, she boasted to the bystanders at the public range that she was an NRA Instructor and she taught concealed carry “all the time”.

    We had a guy wander in to the luxury gun range I worked at before our grand opening who wanted to be our head trainer. He had his NRA Instructor Cert and was rarin’ to go. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I too had my cert, and 200 hours (at that time… I have more now) of extra training as well.

    Caveat freaking emptor, people.

    • #12
    • October 30, 2017 at 6:54 am
    • Like
  13. Member

    cirby (View Comment):
    When I went for my CCW training, the guys running the class spent more time telling us how experienced and well-trained they were than actually teaching content. They were all current law enforcement, and most of them were in things like SWAT.

    That’s okay, in general, but they had a real attitude and “aggro” problem. Every question got dismissed if it didn’t support them.

    There were also some iffy ideas in their course, like how to respond if you’re carrying and get pulled over by a cop. For example, when the officer approaches, they said to yell out “I have a gun!” Literally, using those words. Not “I have a permit, and am carrying a weapon” or anything less alarming.

    They also spent a few minutes explaining just how financially risky it was if you actually had to shoot someone, and how you should buy extra CCW liability insurance. Which they could sell you, right there on the spot…

    Not all LEO’s will make good instructors. The difference between a police officer and a private citizen is that a police officer has a duty to act, a private citizen does not. A police officer that is teaching private citizens should emphasize that concealed carry is for self-defense and the applicable state laws concerning self-defense. War stories are for coffee breaks.

    As a former police officer my training both in the classroom and on the range was predicated on the fact that I would be stopping and detaining individuals that I did not know. Now that I’m no longer a police officer my mindset is different. I no longer have a duty to act, and I don’t put myself in a situation that might be dangerous. An example of this is that I don’t frequent low life bars or taverns. I don’t consume alcoholic beverages when I carry, and I stay away from neighborhoods and business areas that have a dangerous reputation. I don’t get involved with people I don’t know. No shouting matches, no road rage. I walk away from others that are involved in these types of activity.

    • #13
    • October 30, 2017 at 7:30 am
    • 3 likes
  14. Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    I don’t get involved with people I don’t know. No shouting matches, no road rage. I walk away from others that are involved in these types of activity.

    I wish I had captured the source of a statistic that showed that CCW holders were far less likely to become involved in any violent situation than non-CCW holders. To those of us who carry, and have seriously considered the consequences of becoming involved in any threatening situation, it’s no surprise at all. Coupled with such thinking is the fact that proper training includes raising awareness of our environment in a relaxed way – Jeff Cooper’s “Condition Yellow.”

    • #14
    • October 30, 2017 at 4:27 pm
    • 2 likes
  15. Coolidge

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    I don’t get involved with people I don’t know. No shouting matches, no road rage. I walk away from others that are involved in these types of activity.

    I wish I had captured the source of a statistic that showed that CCW holders were far less likely to become involved in any violent situation than non-CCW holders. To those of us who carry, and have seriously considered the consequences of becoming involved in any threatening situation, it’s no surprise at all. Coupled with such thinking is the fact that proper training includes raising awareness of our environment in a relaxed way – Jeff Cooper’s “Condition Yellow.”

    It’s also because criminals aren’t contributing to the statistic.

    • #15
    • October 30, 2017 at 4:46 pm
    • 1 like
  16. Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    Not all LEO’s will make good instructors.

    Some police officers make incredibly bad instructors, mostly because they have no %&#@* clue about how to actually shoot or handle a firearm.

    I used to bump into the local firearms trainer for the police department, and he always complained about how most of the officers couldn’t shoot worth a damn. They’d come in once a year to qualify, shoot the minimum number of rounds, and leave. He showed me a target from a “qualifying” officer once, and it looked like the sort of thing I’d manage if I literally shot with my eyes closed.

    “Qualifying” to shoot, in many departments, means “pushed a certain number of rounds through the barrel in the general direction of a piece of paper.”

    • #16
    • October 30, 2017 at 5:00 pm
    • 1 like
  17. Member

    We had to qualify quarterly. If you didn’t qualify you worked a desk until you did. At the end of the qualification course we were given 200 rounds for practice. We also had an indoor range that we could access 24 hours a day for practice. There was simulator time for shoot don’t shoot scenarios. Our range instructors,as well as being police officers were Glock armorers and each duty weapon was inspected before we shot.

    Training time is expensive and some city governments, county governments, as well as taxpayers have no desire to pay for that type of training. I can empathize with taxpayers, but you get what you pay for I suppose.

    • #17
    • October 30, 2017 at 5:35 pm
    • 1 like