Firearm Instructor Certification

Firearm Instructor Certification

You cannot ignore the power of the National Rifle Association (hereafter referred to as the NRA) for good reason – the NRA is the largest and oldest firearms training organization in the world. Established in 1871 for the improvement of shooting for their members, the NRA actively trains the general public, law enforcement, and military. In many states, the NRA is mentioned in state law when qualifying for Concealed Carry Instructor Certification as a prerequisite for being approved to teach Concealed Carry Classes. The NRA’s Instructor program website states the requirements for every instructor:

  • Candidates must have completed the basic course in the discipline they wish to teach, e.g. NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting, Rifle Shooting, etc.
  • Candidates must possess and demonstrate a solid background in firearm safety and shooting skills acquired through previous firearm training and/or previous shooting experience. Instructor candidates must be intimately familiar with each action type in the discipline for which they wish to be certified.
  • Candidates will be required to demonstrate solid and safe firearm handling skills required to be successful during an instructor training course by completing pre-course questionnaires and qualification exercises administered by the NRA Appointed Training Counselor.
  • Candidates must satisfactorily complete an NRA Instructor Training Course in the discipline they wish to teach (e.g., NRA Basic Pistol Course), and receive the endorsement of the NRA Training Counselor conducting that training.

On its face, the four bulleted points hold instructor candidates to a high standard. If every instructor-candidate were to meet all the requirements, we would not have an over-saturated number of instructors out there in the market. In reality there are many instructors who do not meet these standards because they have been passed in exchange for a few dollars to attend the course. This is not the NRA’s fault, it’s the fault of Training Counselors who pass anyone who comes to their course. That’s not to say there are not good Training Counselors who uphold the NRA standards, there’s simply more that don’t uphold the standards.

Most states require concealed carry instructors to be certified as a pistol instructor. The path to become an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor entails:

  1. NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Student Course (8-Hours)
  2. NRA Basic Instructor Training (BIT) Course (6-Hours)
  3. NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Instructor Course (10-Hours)

All together that’s 24-hours of training. So yes, in just three days you too can be a pistol instructor (some states may require additional training). Which is why its up to you to get additional training. At the least, an aspiring instructor should take the additional Personal Protection in the Home and Outside the Home courses and the Range Safety Officer course.

  1. NRA Personal Protection in the Home Student Course (8-Hours)
  2. NRA Personal Protection in the Home Instructor Course (9-Hours)
  3. NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home Student Course (14-Hours)
  4. NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home Instructor Course (16-Hours)
  5. NRA Range Safety Officer Course (9-Hours)

All together that’s an additional 56-Hours of training. Total for all classes: 80-Hours.

Why would anyone who has trained in the military or in law enforcement want to take the additional classes if they don’t have too? The answer is simple – education. The rules for engagement are different for service and law enforcement than they are for the average citizen. The average citizen does not have the protection of the government when they use their firearm, therefore they are taught the firearm is the “Tool of Last Resort”. It comes down to what you have been taught, what you believe is right, and what actions you can take under a certain set of circumstances. In the civilian world, military and law enforcement rules don’t apply. For those who live near bordering states, the additional training could possibly allow them to teach in a nearby state where requirements may be more stringent.

Let’s bring up another point – the attitude you have about your firearm. Both military and law enforcement are taught their firearm is a “weapon”. They go to work knowing should something go wrong they can use their “weapon” to end the conflict. The NRA and seasoned firearm instructors refer to guns as guns, pistols, revolvers, semi-automatics, and so forth. The reasoning behind this thinking is to remind citizens they have a deadly piece of equipment on their person – they are literally bringing a gun to a fight. The word “weapon” also has a negative connotation – implying you intend to use it to kill someone someday. While this may simply appear as a play on words, its important to think about the gun as a last resort and to train appropriately. The personal protection courses remind citizens of when they can and cannot deploy their firearm. These courses also have a legal lecture titled “Firearms and the Law” in which an attorney, a person with a J.D., or a law enforcement officer with advanced Police Officer Standards Training (P.O.S.T.) certifications who are authorized by the state to make a legal decision which would guide the citizen in making the right decision.

Addressing Firearms and the Law, most CCW instructors are allowed or mandated to provide their students with a copy of their state laws addressing the use of lethal force. This is a slippery-slope that new firearm instructors find themselves interpreting the law rather than teaching the law. The state nor the sheriff authorizes instructors to interpret the law under any conditions. If a student has a question that requires interpretation the instructor would be wise to not comment and to refer them to an attorney. Law enforcement is the biggest violator of this rule. It makes sense they have been taught to interpret the law as part of their duties; they should be able to comment on how the law is applied. However, there’s a fine line between interpreting the law and dispensing legal advice…we suggest you simply defer to an attorney for those types of questions.

Where you receive your training is equally as important as the certification you are receiving. There are many qualified firearm instructors across the country. Within the NRA and the USCCA structure there are formal titles of instructors who teach and certify firearm instructors. The top title is the “Certified Counselor” who teach instructors to teach firearm training to the public. As mentioned earlier, there are good counselors and bad counselors – those who will uphold the standards of these organizations and those who are in it for a quick buck passing everyone willing to part with their money. Both have counselors who will teach for anywhere from $40.00 a class to as high as they can get away with depending on their reputation.

Choosing a place to receive your training is just as important as choosing a doctor, an attorney, a CPA; if they are the cheapest in town there’s probably a reason. We have a counselor in Boise, Idaho who is the cheapest in town for certification – his excuse – he’s retired and doesn’t need the money. If you offer a special for a class that’s $10.00 below the normal market rate, he’ll provide the same class for $20.00 below – driving the cost of the class to a ridiculous low and providing no value for the training the student receives; and it shows. Students attending advanced classes at Level 1 Firearms have to be retrained on the basics because of this guy – you would be surprised what we have seen as a result of his training.  In fact, we ask who their training counselor is before they attend an advanced instructor class through our company – if it’s the counselor we are talking about, we make them retake basic training with us before attending an advanced instructor class.

The volume of training can be a double-edge sword. We have heard horror stories about a training facility in Las Vegas, Nevada that sells memberships and teach groups of 50 or more instructors at the same time. Volume can give you extensive experience, but it has to be the right balance between volume and training. We have found its better to keep instructor classes small – somewhere around 10-14 instructors in one sitting; for student courses we have limited registration of no more than 25 students. You can scale beyond those numbers by adding additional instructors but the classroom dynamics change, quality control goes down, and personal attention suffers because too many students are competing for the instructor’s attention.

Additional Training

On-going training is essential for the firearm instructor. As mentioned earlier, training under other instructors will give you more exposure to different styles and methodologies. It’s also important to continue to train on the “basics” as a regular regiment which will compliment your advanced training curriculum.

There are many training opportunities available to the firearm instructor. Some of the more popular training facilities include Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, DTI and others. The key to determining the level of training you will receive is oftentimes discovered by visiting their websites. Unfortunately, many training schools are simply offering a regurgitation of some sort of NRA course. For example, when performing a basic search, many training facilities focus on a course of fire that’s very similar to the NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home course. They boast of learning how to defend yourself in public, move to cover, levels of awareness, holster draw, presentation, tactical reloads and other techniques that are simply included in NRA courses or a variance of some extension of an NRA course. Their claim to fame is the classes are taught by ex-military and law enforcement officers. While we are sure some are better than others, you can only be taught the same concepts so many times. Instead, look for unique training methodologies and techniques that will help you pass your knowledge on to your students.

Look for facilities that offer a unique approach to training – such as moving targets, reactive targets, shoot houses and simulators. You’re going to pay more for these training facilities but the experience and lessons learned will be invaluable. Chances are you’re going to have to travel for this type of training. Keep in mind you’re not only looking to increase your technical skills but also your instructor skills.

Remember, the average student will stop training once basic pistol or concealed carry training has been completed. Unlike our military and law enforcement professionals, they do not see a need to improve their skills beyond the basics or minimum requirements to attain a CCW. This creates a conundrum for the firearm professional – the average student sees no reason to continue training while in reality they should continue training to build on top of their basic skills. To be realistic, absent some specialized training requirement, the average student will not attend advanced training, be sure to keep this in mind as you progress forward with your own training.

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