As I go about my business in the small rural community where I live, I am sometimes asked what I do. When I reply that I am a professional firearms instructor the typical response is, “Oh my brother / sister / uncle / cousin / wife / neighbor’s dog is a CCW instructor. Do you teach CCW?”
The majority of the gun-toting public in my state is blissfully unaware of the level of training it takes to become a CCW instructor, the bar is pretty low. In fact, the most well-known training facility in this state will take an absolute beginner and, if they pass their five day Instructor Course, make them instructors at their world renowned facility. Do you want someone with five days of experience teaching you? This is an especially bad choice when it comes to the life and death decisions related to CCW.
Finding a good firearms instructor shouldn’t be hard, but you do have to do some research. Many of the established instructors in my area are legit, but there are some red flags. One popular training company out here has owners who have posted certifications from training companies they owned. A classic self-licking ice cream cone. Would you trust a self-certified surgeon?
Your instructors should at a minimum have a national level certification such as the NRA, USCCA, or Second Amendment Foundation. Ideally they would also have a state or local certification. For example; we are certified by the state Department of Wildlife for Advanced Hunter Education and all CCW instructors in the state have to have an endorsement from their county sheriff.
“But wait. My instructor was an Army-SEAL-Sniper-Delta-MARSOC-Ranger who did twelve years in Afghanistan running special Green Leaf ops.”
Good for him, does he Crossfit too?
I specifically left out military and law enforcement experience for a reason. Even though this type of experience is the gold standard in the industry, not everyone who put on a uniform is the next Jeff Cooper, Clint Smith, or Massad Ayoob. Few uniformed members ever really work with firearms, much less have the responsibility to instruct others on them. It’s not much of a stretch to say your typical postman or mall security guard has just as much experience. There are plenty of excellent instructors or trainers who do not have military / LE experience. Most come from the competition side like Jerry Miculek and Taran Butler. It doesn’t matter that your instructor was in the military, what matters is what they did in the military. Were they instructors? Were they marksmanship instructors? Even if the answer is yes, go back to: do they have the national, state, and local level certifications? The military / LE experience should be icing on the cake. If the icing looks nice but the cake tastes like crap who would want it?
Finally, what do these instructors do to better themselves? If they are not shooting, competing, attending additional training then they are stagnating and not giving you the best education possible. As instructors we owe it to our students to keep ourselves up to date with the latest equipment, firearm, and training innovations. We could say to hell with it and just go for the green. A lot of instructors do that. It costs a lot of money to attend these courses, it takes a lot of time away that could be spent teaching students, or rather taking their money. However, we do not believe in doing the bare minimum. We feel a moral obligation to our students, the firearms community in general, and to all of the citizens of this great nation to provide the most complete and up to date firearms education for our students and putting out well educated, well trained, and responsible firearms owners..
For the firearms instructors reading this- It's not about you. It never was. It's about the product you are putting out on the streets. It doesn't matter how well you shoot or how fast you are if you are not able to make your students better than they were when they hired you. Ultimately, that is why they are paying you. That is why we continue to train, we continue to compete, we will continue to improve. Will you?