Anyone that has searched for firearms training has almost certainly seen all the claims by instructors trying to make themselves look impressive. Three badges of implied credibility are often cited. These are NRA Certified Instructor, POST or police affiliation, and military training. To an unknowing public, they all sound quite impressive but there is much more you should know before selecting someone to teach a subject or skill that often determines who lives and who dies or whether or not you spend the next few years incarcerated and/or facing expensive legal fees.
Another consideration is what you want to get out of the training. Do you want your Concealed Carry license? Do you just want the permit or are you most interested in learning the most accurate and latest laws on the subject? Are you interested in learning skill to protect your life, liberty, or property or do you just want to make loud noises and not shoot yourself or others? These purposes and a whole host of others should all be considered before choosing your firearms instructor.
Almost all instructors are NRA Certified Instructors. Since the NRA has over 100 years being the gorilla in the gun community, the letters carry some impressive influence but that should be one of the last considerations. The reality is that all it takes to be an NRA Certified Instructor is to be a member and attend at lease two NRA classes; one on a specific type of firearm which basically tells you how to go to the range and not shoot yourself and one that shows you how to put together a basic course outline. In my opinion, that’s a pretty low bar to meet but, if you’re new to firearms and only interested in recreational shooting, it’s all you should need.
Military service is another mention that sounds more impressive than it usually is. That is because most service members have little to no additional training after their brief introduction in Basic Training. Among the few that do receive enhanced training, it’s almost always excessively regulated. Military training on something other than the M-16 is almost unheard of. Effective handgun training is nonexistent outside of Special Operations. You should also keep in mind that being a good user does not mean you can teach it effectively.
Police officers get much more handgun training but far less rifle training than the military however, most departments are still teaching the same techniques from 40+ years ago. Some still have qualifications based on 6 shot revolvers. They frequently use methods that would be considered assault with a deadly weapon if the average citizen did the same thing. Where they just patrol officers that liked guns or were they firearms instructors. Did the instructor actually teach or just enforce qualification standards?
What you should be looking for is actual experience in the subject they are teaching. Does your CCW instructor keep up with the latest laws? I have seen some that teach common misconceptions that are actually contrary to law. Check to see if they are affiliated with local – not national – advocacy groups that spend time advocating with your state legislators. Does your skills instructor have experience with the guns you want to learn beyond the by-the-numbers taught by most government schools? And finally, can they teach it in a way that you can understand and retain the information?
As a disclaimer, I didn’t write this to trash people with the above mentioned credentials. My intent is to bring awareness to their limitations and hope that you learn to look past a catchy facade and look for real experience that will best match what you want in your firearms training.