13 Tips on Choosing the Right Firearm Instructor

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13 Tips on Choosing the Right Firearm Instructor

As any responsible gun owner knows, it is important to train with one’s firearm. Just as one doesn’t jump on a motorcycle and ride without first learning the proper way to do so safely, so it is with firearms. In most states, it is a requirement to receive training in order to get a permit to carry. A good firearms instructor, one that is licensed and certified, can make your training efficient and more worthwhile.

Importance of Having a Good Instructor

Finding the right firearms instructor is vitally important. As every person is different, each will have his or her own needs and goals when it comes to training. It is wise to find an instructor that can meet those needs and help one to attain their goals. When choosing the instructor that is right for you, do your research and shop around, possibly even see if you can sit in on a class as an observer. The following factors, while they may or may not be deal breakers for everybody, should all be considered when choosing a firearms instructor.

1. Safety

Firearms safety is paramount. When choosing an instructor, the first thing that should be looked at is safety. Do they teach the fundamentals of safety first thing? Do they stress and follow safety procedures at all times on the range? You should also inquire about his or her emergency protocols, in the event that someone has an accident. Are they prepared with a First Aid Trauma kit and able to deal with a gunshot wound? If the answer to these questions is no, then move along to another instructor, quickly.

2. Reviews by Former Students

Do a search online for reviews on a prospective instructor. See if there are any reviews by former students, and what they had to say about their experience. You may also be able to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against them. You can also post on our concealed carry forums to see if any members have any experience with a particular instructor.

3. Shooting Experience

If you are looking for someone to teach you how to shoot, obviously it is important that they have experience shooting. While it may not be necessary for the instructor to have fired millions of rounds downrange, they should be a seasoned shooter. The longer an instructor has been shooting, the more wisdom they have gained that can be imparted on you.

4. Real-world Experience

You should make note of what kind of real-world and practical experience your instructor has. If they teach about combat shooting and tactical techniques, do they have a background in the military or law enforcement that would lend credibility to their advice, or do they just teach theory? If they teach about concealed carry, do they actually carry concealed when not on the range?

5. Teaching Experience

Everyone likes to have an experienced instructor, someone who has been teaching for quite some time. New instructors shouldn’t necessarily be avoided though, as all teachers have to start at some point. A new teacher can make up for their lack of experience in other ways. When judging an instructors teaching experience, look at how many years they’ve been teaching, where they have taught at, and how recently they have been certified, or re-certified.

6. Teaching Style

All instructors have their own style of teaching. Some may be gruff while others are soft-spoken. Some may quickly rattle through a ton of information while others may go slow and repeat crucial points. A student’s personal preference and learning style are definitely a factor here.

7. Teaching Specialty

Some instructors tend to specialize in certain aspects of firearms training. While the instructor may be an expert in their preferred field, their knowledge may be lacking in other important areas. If you are looking for close quarters combat training or concealed carry techniques, you may not want to use an instructor that focuses more on hunting or long-range target shooting.

8. General Knowledge

A good instructor should have a broad base of general knowledge about firearms and applicable gun laws in your area. He should be able to instruct you in several various aspects of firearms training. Similar to instructors who only teach a specialty, some only possess knowledge in specialized areas. An instructor should be able to assist you with any problems with your firearm, regardless of type, model or caliber. They should also be able to answer any questions a student may have on a wide variety of topics.

9. Comfort with Instructor

A student’s comfort level with their instructor is vitally important. An instructor who places his students at ease will earn respect and will create a good learning environment. A student that is uncomfortable with their instructor will have a hard time learning or retaining knowledge. If the instructor is intimidating, rude or doesn’t earn respect, students may be afraid to ask questions or choose to ignore the instructor, creating an unsafe environment.

10. Class Size

Proper firearms training usually require some one-on-one time between an instructor and student. A large class size means too many students are competing for an instructor’s limited time and attention. In situations like this, quiet students or those who are struggling may not get the personal instruction necessary for them to keep up with the class or fully grasp a principle or technique.

11. Instructor Location

It is a dream of most gun owners to train at one of the few premier firearms training academies around the country. However, probably 99% of gun owners live nowhere near one of these schools. Since time is a valuable commodity for most people, and few can waste it commuting to far off locations, it is wise to find an instructor located in the nearby vicinity. There are resources online that can locate instructors in your area such as the USA Carry Firearm Instructor Directory.

12. Cost

While it is hard to put a price on proper firearms training, cost is a factor that must be considered. If you are like most people in today’s economy, money for extra things above and beyond normal household budgetary needs is hard to come by. It is completely normal and rational to comparison shop class prices between instructors, with all else being equal. There is nothing wrong with seeking the best value for your money, and good instructors will offer reasonable and competitive prices.

13. Avoid Gimmicky Instructors

A good firearms instructor is one who will adequately cover all of the fundamentals, and is willing and able to work with you, and your equipment, to make you a better-trained shooter. You want to avoid instructors that rely on gimmicks or trends, or who demand that you use a certain gun or holster, or a specific hold or stance. Obviously, an instructor will have a preference on equipment or techniques, and will try to teach you those ways. But they must be flexible enough to adapt their preferred methods and techniques to accommodate a student’s ability, especially if a student is having trouble understanding or performing.

Choosing the firearms training instructor that is right for you should be a thoughtful decision. Hopefully you will consider some or all of the factors in this list when making your decision. There may also be other factors not in this list that you think are crucial. If so, let us know in the comments below. Each gun owner is an individual, with different tastes, preferences, learning styles and needs, and what is important to one shooter may not be as important to another. Now get to training, have fun and stay safe!

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  • NRAMAN

    Good advice Luke. However, there are a lot of instructors these days that are falling prey to the giving of cheap CCW courses to make money without regard for the integrity of their profession. False advertising, false or inflated credentials, teaching outside their scope of certification just to name a few. I would like to see those of us who are following the rules get together and weed out those that give all of us a bad reputation. Are you in Luke?

    • Fixed Sight Training

      I agree about the advice and with you NRAMan
      I have had many students from other schools here in the Denver area who are frustrated with the no shoot or 1 magazine shooting after listening to a long and painfull lecture on something that shouldn’t take too long.
      Other schools force you to use their 22s and therefore don’t teach recoil management as well as not allow students to become familiar with their gun.
      How many people are out there carrying legally with a new gun and ccw who have never shot a pistol because they went to a substandard school which only does the minimum required?
      I even provide pistols for free if need be and can provide ammo and people are still going and sitting in a amphitheater for hours learning how to shoot :I

  • Mike Lau

    I agree with NRAMAN. We out there are trying to do the right thing and teach the right way. I have noticed that ammo has also played a big part in students getting to class. I have seen it in other clsases as well. We may not be the big name instructors but provide great training at good prices.

  • Producer2

    This really leaves out a lot.

    Most students ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and are really not in a position to really evaluate if an instructor is good or merely mediocre.

    What was left out of this checklist was to take course offered by a gun club or NRA-affiliated organization, one which preferably has several instructors teaching the course, and strictly follows the NRA syllabus with NRA materials. Multiple instructors serves as a cross-check, and tends to eliminate some of the ‘free-lancing’ that takes place when solo instructors deviate from the NRA script.

    Also – there was no mention of checking the instructors credentials to see that they are credentialed (and current) by the NRA. In some states, they also need an instructor’s credential from the State Police so that the course will be accepted for a carry permit application.

    So rather than a detailed checklist, a beginning student is best to take a basic course at a gun club or shooting organization, and see what they think, and also read as much as they can for firearms handling and range procedures. A second or third course (preferably by a different instructor) after a period of time will expose them to different instructional styles, and if it is all taught to the NRA syllabus, the material will be consistent.

    Individuals who are experienced in a topic (such as firearms) tend to forget that beginning students don’t have anywhere near their frame of reference, and telling the student (for instance) to be concerned about safety when they don’t even know (yet) safe firearms handling procedures is a bit too much to expect.

  • blogengeezer

    Fortunately the instructors I have had over the years of NM CCW, have all been excellent. Retired Mil, active police experience, retired reserve officers. Blackwater (Xe) All were exceptional, each added knowledge and live firefight survival experience to their curriculum. Good tips/information on subject Luke.

  • Dan Starks

    I have been blessed to have been teaching firearms course for more than 25 years and I agree, most folks don’t know what to expect or even ask for. I have always maintained a ratio of one to one while handling firearms and I also offer my students the opportunity to try more than fifty different handguns in a variety of calibers before they make a purchase. More often than not a new student shows up with a firearm their friend recommended only to find they can’t handle it! New shooters should also become familiar with the personnel in a professional gun store where they can get honest answers to their many new questions. Be wary of a salesperson trying to sell you the “latest/greatest” rather than something that really fits your needs, hands and wallet. Be aware of any return policies before making purchases and insure they have a competent gunsmith on staff. Once you done all that, go out enjoy and share your new found interest with all your non-gun friends. It’s a great way to expand the firearms friendly community

    • Amber Collier

      just as Edward explained I am impressed that someone able to get paid $4876 in four weeks on the internet. have you read this page w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • shooter2009

    Good stuff, thanks!

  • docmagnum357

    Good stuff, Luke! We have three or four local instructors who post their prices on utility poles here where I live. I hope prospective students don’t expect much from folks like that. We also have several who claim all kinds of experience falsely. How is a student supposed to know the difference? I think it still comes as complete shock to a lot of folks that there are people who will actually LIE, especially when there Is money involved.. I am the highest priced instructor in my area as far as I know, and I sure hope I weed out the students who aren’t serious with the additional $20-$25 I charge for my Concealed Carry class. If you esteem your personal safety so lowly that you would scrimp on a carry class, I know I can’t help you.
    The only way to get to be a good shooter is to get some help getting the basics down, and then SHOOT! A LOT! I try to encourage my students to get involved in USPAS or one of the other “practical” shooting sports. Sport is sport, but at least you are required to 1) use a pistol or revolver that is actually relevant in a self defense situation, 2) you have to develop skills that are relevant to defensive shooting, 3) there is at least some stress and pressure applied at matches.

    When you look at national statistics, only about 15% of people with a carry permit actually carry all the time. Only about 5% EVER get any additional training past what is required to get a carry permit. Anyone who wants to take the high road and do a good job training civilians is fighting an uphill battle. But there are a few good trainers out there, and at least 5% of students DO get more training. At least 15% of folks take their personal safety seriously enough to carry 24/7.
    S.F.

  • Jim

    Luke, your piece is excellent. Subject matter on target.

  • mike m

    great article and I agree with a lot of the points but of course your preaching to the choir of instructors and gun forum nuts that are into guns and thats why they are here. The REST of the CCW holders are the real majority.
    Sure use a FULLTIME professional instructor whois credentialed beyond a “weekend gun instructor course” insured medically trained with some of the many other good qualities listed here. Try to run a legit fulltime business as a professional with so many cut rate NRA certed weekend warriors pumping out CCWs from the box stores like Cabelas Shiels and Sportsmans Warehouse for cheap $$$ and see how that works ESPECIALLY in an environment where you can’t convince these same people to actually take another course like say Personal Security where they would actually learn something more valuable to them then the $500 gun they won’t hardly carry or train with.
    I’ve been around this for far to long which is why I’m looking to go back to security work where at least if I’m going to get shot it won’t be from a prospective gun toter on a Saturday afternoon for $50.
    This is also why we need to get rid of this system and those who would seek to “get rid of those who won’t tow the line” of some states permission slip fee system. The carry permit was issue in 1789 and is non revokeable. Constitutional Carry is law of the land now some just need to recognise it.

  • thepro

    Too Bad we can’t have just one license for all states, Until the states come together on the standards necessary to carry concealed, I don’t think this will happen. The states also need to ensure that there is adequate facilities for common folk, not just cops, to train. I don’t know of many shooting ranges that allow drawing from concealment. Utah didn’t even have you shoot or have a gun to obtain a Permit. Nevada just asks you to point and pull the trigger. No holster needed.
    Getting the gun safely and quickly from the holster was never addressed in any CCW course run according to state requirements.

  • lostone1413

    one thing ti always remember You have firearms instructors They will get you up to know how to handle a gun and get you to the point that your confident with handling guns. Then you have the other instructor I call them gun fighting instructors. With them the PC is pretty well out the door. You will be learning how to draw on the move how to shoot while on the move. That is way different the two steps to the left stop draw and fire Trust me on that. Many times near the end of the class you will use airsofts to do force on force. That will teach you what works and what doesn’t work One thing by all means if your not 100% confident with your gun handling go to the firearms instructor. The gun fighting instructor you look at as going to graduate school. You need to be 100% confident in your ability first

  • Gina Bautista

    I absolutely agree! I took women’s only handgun training level one and level two at Spartan Training Resources in Atascadero, CA. The instructors were great. Thorough, comprehensive, careful and patient. I felt at ease and comfortable with their instruction. They had/have military and law enforcement experience so I trusted their knowledge and experience 100%.

  • G50AE

    You should always make sure your CCW instructor wears a valid CCW Instructor’s Badge. And before anyone starts with the, “We don’t need no stinkin badges routine”, I’m not talking about a run of the mill CCW, CHP, or CWP Badge. A CCW Instructor’s badge is the real deal and lets you know for sure that your CCW instructor is “tactical”.

  • Combat Policy

    Fortunately Jason Hanson is still permitted to post his terrible advice on this site.
    It will be helpful as it shows many looking for training not to use him.

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