Feb 24 2012
Choosing a good firearms instructor is critical to getting effective and accurate training. There are so many options out there and the choices can be overwhelming. I would say that “shopping” for the right instructor is just like shopping for the right handgun. So many choices and opinions, but in the end it’s a very personal decision. Here are a few (I’m sure not all) considerations you should take into account when deciding who’s going to train you:
Is he/she the right instructor for the job? The first thing you want to do is find an instructor who is proficient in the field and applications you wish to pursue. For example, two hundred and fifty foot slow fire bullseye shooting is very different than self-defense shooting. You also want to choose an instructor who is very active in the disciplines they teach. Do they compete or participate in the type of shooting events that keep their skills fresh?
Is the instructor certified? I wouldn’t pay Joe Blow off the street to teach me how to shoot. You shouldn’t either. Take a look at the instructor’s certifications and do some research. Just because an instructor is certified in one discipline doesn’t make him or her expert in all disciplines. Make sure you are paying someone who is an expert in the field in which you are seeking training.
Is the instructor insured? The NRA offers Professional and General Liability insurance plans for up to 2 million dollars for firearms instructors. If the instructor is serious about training and safety, he or she will have some sort of liability coverage.
How does the instructor teach? Everyone learns a little differently. You want to make sure that your learning style is comparable to the methods the instructor is using to teach. It is important to have a sort of teacher and student chemistry in order to get the most out of your courses.
Can the instructor instruct? I know this sounds like a no brainer, but this is a really important question. There are hundreds of instructors out there. Some are better than others when it comes to the instructing. Just because a guy can shoot ½ inch groups at one hundred yards doesn’t mean that he’s a good instructor. Teaching is a skill unto itself, and a good firearms instructor will have both shooting and teaching skills. Sitting in on part of a class and watching the class flow and how it is run is a great option if a prospect instructor will allow it.
Does the instructor know it all? Nobody likes a know-it-all. If you are going to be paying somebody to talk to you and work with you, you might want to make sure you like their attitude. A good instructor will know when he or she can’t answer a question. Nobody knows everything there is to know about guns and shooting. There is something to be said for the instructor who has the humility to say “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you on that”.
Does the instructor have an emergency plan? Does the instructor have a trauma kit readily available at all times during a class? Is the instructor trained in how to respond to an emergency such as a gunshot wound? A good instructor will have a safety plan that is presented in the beginning of class and will take charge in the event of an emergency.
Does the instructor have good reviews? It’s not overboard to do your research and ask for references. A good instructor will give you a list of prior students to contact, or have prior students contact you, but only AFTER getting permission from those former students. If an instructor gives out any of their students’ information (even a name) without prior approval I would consider that highly unprofessional as firearms and firearms training are very private matters.
Is there a live-fire portion of the class? Any instructor who says he/she can teach someone firearm skills and safety without the student ever handling and shooting a live firearm is someone to avoid. Most all the safety and skills learned in firearms training is built on muscle memory. If the student never handles the firearm, they cannot build the muscle memory necessary develop safe habits. Time on the range is every bit as important (if not more) then classroom time. You can’t effectively learn to shoot without putting rounds down range.
What is the student to instructor ratio? Think about it, you’re standing on a firing line with a bunch of other students holding loaded guns. It is imperative for the safety of everyone involved that each student receive the necessary one-on-one time, training and coaching to instill safe gun-handling habits. A generous ratio would be five students to one instructor.I truly believe that attitude is of the utmost importance when seeking out a trainer.
To quote myself in a guest article I did called WHY WE TRAIN: “One should never consider themselves finished with their training. In martial arts, the master is always a student as well. This is the mindset every shooter should take on, no matter their skill level or their credentials.” You should seek to surround yourself with other shooters and instructors who share this philosophy and attitude. There is always more to learn, and the first step is acknowledging that you don’t already know it all…and no one likes a know -it-all.
Good luck and happy training!