There are dozens of instructors hanging out shingles now-a-days to teach the tactical use of firearms. Some have significant experience shooting/exposure to firearms or has a stack of instructor certificates. Over the years, I have met many instructors who, once they received that ‘magic’ certificate, they believed they no longer had to attend any further training. After all, they were now instructors.
In a pair of recent articles, the topic of choosing a firearms instructor and training classes were discussed.
Many instructors will list their certifications in the hope of luring students to their classes. While it is important that instructors have a relevant level of training for the course they are teaching, many overestimate their knowledge and quite often their abilities. Attendance at an instructor level course and subsequent standing in front of a group pontificating about the good old days does not make one an instructor. I believe David Yamane explains this best;
“Instead, look for an ongoing pattern to the person’s resume. What you want is someone who is a good shooter and life-long learner who prides himself or herself on meeting the needs of the student. Certifications and award medals matter only in the sense that they document a person’s activity toward that end.”
I often use the analogy of doctors and firearms instructors. In the case of the former, we go to doctors when we are ill or are injured. We assume the doctor is able to take care of the problem and has kept up their skills through ongoing training and attendance at conferences, etc. over and above the 8+ years of training they already have. At times we may even check the doctors credentials to see how long they have been practicing and where they received their training. (I actually did this before I had my hips replaced.)
In regard to firearms instructors, since there are no rules, regulations, or criteria in place to standardize qualifications or credentialing, it is easy to be overwhelmed (read that ‘taken in’) by someone with a good ‘rap’ regarding firearms safety/training. If the new shooter has no or limited knowledge, it is easy to see how it would be easy to get ‘bamboozled’ into taking classes, etc. with little more than the word of the ‘instructor’ to go on. Some organizations like the NRA, the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, as well as some state organizations can be contacted to ascertain if the instructor’s credentials are legit.
In another article, Caleb Lee outlines three things to look for when choosing a quality firearms training course - Mindset, Functional Ability/Training, and Tactical Training.
Mindset - The knowledge and attitudes needed to avoid and, if necessary, survive a confrontation. This includes the mental preparation for dealing with all aspects of a violent encounter at home or in public and to never give up in a fight for your life.
Functional Ability/Training - Covers gun safety and gun maintenance and would, ideally, also help to steer a student away from a poor choice in a firearm to purchase for that student’s purposes.
Tactical Training – Is the practical, hands-on study of the tactics needed to avoid conflict or, failing that, to fight with your personal defense tools.
This includes learning effective use of cover and concealment, proper presentation of the gun, situational awareness, proper force “application” strategies, malfunction clearing procedures, reloading techniques and so much more.
Lee ends his article with the following:
Of course, once you find a class that teaches all three of these factors, you’ll want to research the school and the instructor both, including looking for online reviews. You will also want to make sure that the instructor(s) take advantage of continuing education to sharpen their skills and get better at what they do. Also, ideally, you’ll look for instructors with experience teaching who also carry in their personal lives, not just for class.
Finding the right course for you will entail you doing some leg work, but getting quality instruction can make the difference for you if you find yourself in a situation in which you need to use your firearm, so it’s worth taking the time to find the right class for you.
As with anything worthwhile or important, you have to do your due diligence. As a long time firearms instructor - over 30 years - I have seen many instructors who were not what they claimed to be. A little checking before attending a class may save you time, aggravation and money in the long term.
Be Safe - Be Ready - Be Prepared
 Lee, C. 2017. How To Choose Gun Training. Prepared Gun Owners; July 6, 2017.