Who Is Teaching You How to Shoot?
This is arguably the most controversial and complex of the choices to make when it comes to your first formal instruction. For those who grew up around firearms, do you remember your first experience? It was likely something like, “My uncle gave me a shotgun and said to just pull the trigger, roaring with laughter as it knocked me flat on my ass.” This is an all-too-common experience and a great way to sour people for life on firearms and firearms instructors. For those who have no experience with firearms but are curious, the same advice applies.
When you purchase a car do you go to find the person who is the best salesperson in the state? Or do you go to dealerships looking to find the person you jive with the best? Selling a car isn’t hard and there’s a lot out there. The person who understands your needs and has a genuine interest in getting you the right solution, that’s the salesperson you want. Firearms training is no different. Just because a firearms instructor was in Special Forces, a SEAL, a SWAT member, a police officer, etc. doesn’t make them a good teacher or a good fit for you. In fact, they might be exactly the wrong thing you need.
What Type of Firearm Training do You Need?
Now let’s talk about the type of training you need. As civilians barring the worst-case scenario in America, we’re unlikely to need to walk around in body armor with a loaded rifle in a combat zone. You’re also unlikely to need to walk or drive around in heavy body armor with a pistol on your hip dealing with other civilians on what might be the worst day of their lives. With that in mind, an argument can be made that the best firearms instructors for civilians are other civilians especially when it comes to the best pistol training instructors.
Those who’ve spent years carrying concealed, who’ve immersed themselves in competitions are the closest thing we can get to the stressors of a violent encounter. That’s not to say experiences from military and law enforcement are useless, quite the contrary especially when it comes to things like tactics and procedures. But the day-to-day firearms ownership in a concealed manner is not something common in either military or law enforcement. Be realistic with your expectations in a class. If you take a long-range precision class don’t expect it to translate immediately to your daily life.
The Different Types of Firearms Instructors
Having an instructor who is the best you can both find and afford can be a unique hurdle to jump. Unfortunately, the only generally recognized basis of certifications comes from the NRA, and they are ludicrously inadequate. As an example, becoming an NRA-certified pistol instructor is only a two-day, 16-hour course. The summary qualifying course of fire at the end is akin to most states’ CCW permit course of fire in terms of difficulty. For context, in 2019 Lucky Gunner (who is a prominent online ammo distributor) put a video on YouTube of them shooting the Texas CCW qualification, blindfolded. They passed with ease.
What you should look for in an instructor is their ability to discuss the Firearm Safety Rules in-depth time spent both utilizing and teaching in your firearm of choice and how you both get along. It cannot be stressed highly enough that the way an instructor teaches should match the way you learn. The best instructors in the firearms world could teach an Eskimo to find ice, that’s the real challenge.
Why We Must Be Picky When it Comes to Choosing a Firearm Instructor
Firearm ownership and usage are not and should never be considered a thing of power. It is, however, a profound responsibility and right that should not be taken lightly. When you decide which class to take, do so with a purpose in mind, not just because it’s cool or the cult-like following of many firearms instructors. Just like training for a marathon or deciding to lose weight, what’s the reason for those choices? If there’s no answer to the “why” question as one instructor put it so eloquently, “That’s ballistic masturbation.”
Shooting can be fun but doing so with purpose these days has become even more important. The world we knew pre-2020 isn’t coming back. You can either choose to pine over something that isn’t coming back or train and become more competent. If you’re choosing to embark on furthering your skills with a firearm, do your research and make the choice that’s right for you, not just what’s popular or cool.