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How to Choose a Firearms Instructor

(From a USCCA article)

Having been teaching in the classroom, online and on the range for several decades now, I guess you could say I’ve observed and experienced many different kinds of students, instructors and classes. And while not every experience is a good experience, they are all learning experiences, and I try to apply what I’ve learned, whether I’m teaching classes, taking classes or recommending classes.

In fact, when it comes to taking concealed carry classes or recommending classes, I have learned that there are several factors that are crucial to consider. After all, selecting a firearms instructor (or just about any instructor, for that matter) is an important decision. And while the following recommendations aren’t necessarily in order of importance (except safety, of course), you may want to read through each one and prioritize them for yourself. Then, by considering these factors, you can make a more informed decision when selecting a firearms instructor who will be the right fit for you!

Key Qualities of a Top Concealed Carry Instructor

  • Safety Consciousness Safety should be the number-one priority in any firearms class, both in the classroom and on the shooting range. Firearms training involves inherent risks. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose an instructor who prioritizes safety. They should enforce strict safety rules and ensure all trainees understand and follow these rules. If an instructor does not emphasize safety or fails to enforce safety rules, it is a red flag. A good instructor will share, explain and model the universal safety rules and will ensure that proper safety protocols are followed at all times so the students are never put at unnecessary risk of injury or harm.

  • Credentials and Experience I’m going to be very honest here. You do not want to take a firearms class from a beginner. A good start to your firearms journey is vital in order to learn proper safety and fundamentals. So be sure to look for instructors with legitimate credentials and a solid background in the firearms platform and/or style that they teach. Ensure he or she has the necessary instructor certifications from recognized bodies such as the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), National Rifle Association (NRA) or the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI). These certifications indicate that the instructor has undergone rigorous training and meets the standards set by these organizations. Remember that experience in both training and teaching is important. Good teachers are most often good students, and they should be taking classes, not just teaching them. You can check on social media and websites to find these details. Look for a resume, certifications from reputable organizations, a list of training and the instructor’s background information. If these details cannot be found anywhere, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. Reputable instructors will be happy to share their credentials.

  • Reputation, Reviews and References Although an instructor might come with impressive credentials, practical experience is key in providing useful training. For instance, someone with law enforcement background would likely have hands-on knowledge about real-world scenarios trainees may face, along with effective firearms techniques suited for those situations. But remember, military experience doesn’t always align with civilian training needs. I regularly check reviews before I buy almost anything these days, from a new kind of health cereal to a fun pair of socks. So do not be afraid to do a little research on a potential firearms instructor. Look for reviews and testimonials from current and former students. If necessary, ask for references. A positive reputation is often a good indicator of a quality instructor.

  • Teaching Style This is a factor that really stands out to me. Just as we all have different strengths and preferences when it comes to learning, every instructor has different strengths and preferences when it comes to teaching. Some instructors may use a very regimented style, while others enjoy a more flexible flow. Some may incorporate group work and discussions, while others prefer to be the star of the show. If possible, find an instructor whose teaching style resonates with you and/or with your specific training goals. This may be accomplished by observing their classes or watching some of their videos if available.

  • Communication Skills If you’ve ever taken a class from an instructor who just couldn’t disseminate the information very well, then you understand how important good communication is. A good instructor should be able to consistently and effectively share rules, techniques, concepts and principles. He or she should be able to clearly and thoroughly answer the “why” questions. A good communicator should also be approachable and open to providing actionable feedback.

  • Class Atmosphere Don’t forget about class dynamics! If you have a chance to observe a class or video, ask yourself: Does the class seem welcoming and inclusive? Do students appear to be engaged and motivated? The atmosphere of a class provides a detailed and truthful look at how an instructor teaches … and whether or not you will fit in and learn there. Remember that positive class dynamics are the responsibility of the instructor, and the atmosphere he or she creates can either enhance or impair the overall learning experience.

  • Alignment with Your Objectives Consider your own goals and objectives with firearms. Why do you want to take a class? What does your training journey look like? Whether you’re interested in firearms for self-defense, fitness, competition or personal development, choose an instructor whose approach aligns with what you hope to achieve.

  • Commitment to Growth A good instructor should be committed to the growth and development of their students, both as responsible firearms owners and as individuals. This may include setting realistic goals, offering constructive criticism, celebrating wins and encouraging further training. Remember that firearms training is not a one-and-done experience; it’s a lifetime commitment! If you find an instructor who believes this, you may have the opportunity to train and learn from them for years.

How to Choose a Concealed Carry Class

Finding a concealed carry class is easy. Finding a good one? Not so much. Review the course content before choosing an instructor. It should cover essential topics such as firearm safety rules, shooting fundamentals, maintenance and legal aspects of firearm usage. After the basics are covered, you can move on to more specific training.

Common Warning Signs in a Firearms Instructor

During firearms training, it is crucial to be aware of potential red flags that could indicate a problem with the instructor or the training program. Below are some things that you should watch out for.

  • Lack of Safety Emphasis If the instructor does not consistently enforce safety rules or fails to correct unsafe behavior, it’s a significant red flag. Safety should always be the top priority in firearms training.

  • Inadequate Supervision Training should include close supervision, especially during live-fire exercises. If the instructor is not actively monitoring and providing feedback, it could lead to unsafe practices.

  • Outdated Techniques The best practices for firearms training are constantly evolving. If the instructor is teaching outdated techniques, you might not be getting the cutting-edge skills you need.

  • One-Size-Fits-All Approach Every trainee is unique, with different strengths, weaknesses and learning styles. If the instructor uses a one-size-fits-all approach rather than tailoring the training to individual needs, it may hinder your progress.

  • Disrespectful or Unprofessional Behavior Respect and professionalism are essential in any training environment. If the instructor exhibits disrespectful or unprofessional behavior, it can create a negative learning environment.

  • Lack of Practical or Scenario-Based Training Real-world practice is crucial. Firearms training should include practical, scenario-based exercises that mimic the kinds of situations you might encounter.

Choosing the right firearms instructor is not a decision to be taken lightly. By considering these factors, you can ensure that you select an instructor who will provide high-quality, relevant and safe firearms training. Remember, firearms training is not just about learning how to shoot. It’s about using firearms accurately as well as safely, responsibly and effectively. The right instructor will help you achieve this goal.

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