If you do an Internet search or read any gun magazine, you no doubt know that there are a lot of firearms instructors out there. And if I had to guess, I’d say that 98% of them are good honest folks who know what they’re doing. However, since the training we are getting from these instructors can literally mean the difference between life and death, we need to avoid the 2% who don’t know what in the heck they’re doing and could put your life in jeopardy. So, here’s what to look for when you want a quality firearms instructor.
1. What’s their employment background?
What did the instructor use to do for a living (or still does for a living)? Is he a former cop, ex-FBI, ex-Secret Service Agent, former military? Obviously, folks with this type of background have gone through far superior training than the average person, and they’ll be able to share real-life experiences when it comes to defending yourself. In other words, you want someone who doesn’t just spout “theory,” but knows from firsthand experience what they are talking about.
2. What’s their training background?
The groups that I mentioned above have had the opportunity to train at some of the best facilities in the world by some of the best instructors in the world. However, even if a particular instructor has no government or military background, they should still have received plenty of firearms training. There are private firearms schools all over the country that anyone can attend. In fact, a true instructor never stops learning. If I were you, I would avoid any instructor who doesn’t train often and can’t rattle off the schools and trainings they’ve attended.
3. Are they NRA certified?
If so, you know they at least went through the NRA instructor class and have been taught proper instruction and safety techniques. This will ensure you don’t run across someone who doesn’t know the first thing about firearms.
4. Do they guarantee their training?
This is a topic which I’m sure will make more than one instructor a little squeamish. So what. If they really believe in their training and believe they are offering the best to their students, then there is absolutely no reason at all why they shouldn’t have a 100% money-back guarantee. Why would you want to train with someone who doesn’t stand by their “product?”
5. Are they friendly, open-minded, and non-militaristic?
If you’re like me, I know you’ve come across this type of instructor: The one who says, “this is my way, and there’s no other way to do it.” Or the instructor who finds it necessary to intimidate people to stroke his own ego. If you haven’t come across these folks, just visit your local gun shop, as many of these types work there. When looking for an instructor, you want someone humble and willing to learn from others and take their advice, as well as share their wisdom.
6. Do they emphasize safety?
A firearms instructor must make safety paramount. If the instructor doesn’t cover the four safety rules (among others) or in any manner, makes light of safety, walk the other way. There’s a video floating around of an instructor who had a cameraman downrange, taking pictures of his students as they were shooting at targets (which the cameraman was next to.) I’m not going to waste your time discussing the stupidity of this, but I don’t care if the instructor is a former SEAL or Rambo himself. If he violates safety, he should be avoided.
7. Speaking of Rambo…
You want an instructor who lives in reality and trains his students for the practical scenarios they will encounter. The instructor who is melodramatic and tells students that they shouldn’t leave their house without wearing their bulletproof vest, carrying 27 items on them, in addition to their gun, and having a bazooka in the trunk, just in case, should also be avoided. You might laugh, but I’m sure you know some of these overdramatic trainers.
8. Do they listen to you and genuinely care about you?
If you’re talking to an instructor about the first gun you should purchase, do they actually listen to you and to the reason you want to buy a gun? Or do they just spout off “everybody should own a Glock, just buy a Glock, and you’ll be fine.” Each of us is different, and our firearms needs vary greatly. Look for an instructor that understands this.
9. Do they walk the walk?
I admit this one is difficult to find out. However, it’s important to know whether an instructor believes in their training. If you run into this person in the store, would they be carrying a concealed firearm? Or do they just teach the classes, yet never carry themselves? Obviously, I’d like to learn from someone who lives by what he teaches.
10. Can they teach?
Pretty obvious, right? I know many people who are great marksmen and have incredible self-defense knowledge, yet are terrible teachers. You need someone articulate and able to explain why we do the things we do. If an instructor loses patience with someone for asking a few innocent questions, then they probably shouldn’t be teaching classes.
Like I mentioned earlier, most instructors will fit this bill, but use this list to help you avoid the 2% who don’t. Plus, this list will give you a good laugh when you come across those knucklehead instructors who think they’re training Special Forces teams, instead of the average American who needs to learn how to protect themselves in everyday suburbia, not the mountains of Afghanistan.
To help you get started, you can browse the list of instructors in your state in the USA Carry Directory.