I’m an NRA Certified Instructor and an active NRA member… I work hard at it and I’m darn proud of it. The NRA is a large organization with over four million members and many facets of operation. While there are things here and there that the NRA does that I may not agree with or support, as a whole I believe it is a good organization and does far more for the second amendment and shooting than just lobbying efforts and politics.
While there are always those that will find fault with something or anything the NRA does, one area that the NRA has had a positive net-effect is in the area of training. While I’ve heard some folks talk about NRA courses and/or NRA Certified Instructors as being a “joke”, incompetent, or inadequate… I don’t think it’s fair to paint all NRA courses and instructors with a broad brush or blanket statements. You need to know and understand the intended purposes of the NRA training courses and instructors.
First… the NRA courses are designed to provide instruction to folks regarding the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to safely own and operate a firearm. The majority of these courses are called “Basic” for a reason. They are designed to take someone new to firearms or with limited knowledge and/or experience and provide them a thorough overview, introduction, and learning opportunity about a particular category of firearms such as pistol, rifle, shotgun, or muzzle-loading. Even the newer courses like Personal Protection In The Home, Personal Protection Outside The Home, and Defensive Pistol are still, while building on previous courses, basically focused on the fundamentals with regards to knowledge, skills, and attitudes in these areas.
When taught according to NRA guidelines, curriculum, and expectations… these courses are thorough and effective. I’m even amazed at the number of students in my courses that have a fair bit of shooting experience, even police officers, who have indicated they learned something… even quite a bit… in my NRA course. The NRA courses focus on fundamentals and you’d be surprised at how many experienced shooters… including LEO’s and competitors… that see improvement when they re-focus on the fundamentals of shooting.
As a life-long shooter and hunter, a long-time NRA Certified Instructor and 4H Shooting Sports instructor, a former Law Enforcement Officer, and with a career as a professional educator with my graduate work in Learning and Instructional Design… I find the NRA course materials and lesson plans to be very thorough and effective for the intended audiences when properly presented and implemented.
The NRA courses are not designed to provide one-stop, end-all training. They are not designed to provide door-kicking, house-clearing, SWAT-tactic proficiency. As I inform all my students, I hope that the NRA course is just the beginning of their life-long learning, practice, and training related to firearms. I’ve had many students go on to take courses at TDI, Gunsite, Front Sight, Todd Green’s AimFast/Hit Fast, and many of the other advanced training schools that offer quality instruction and training for firearm owners and enthusiasts.
Currently, the NRA is the only entity providing standardized training materials and opportunities nation-wide for every day folks. Some states, like Ohio, have accepted the NRA training and courses to meet the education or training requirements for obtaining a concealed carry permit. I have friends in law enforcement who have expressed concern to me that there are not a lot of tactics involved in the NRA courses. Again, the State of Ohio like many other states, requires a firearm SAFETY course, not a firearm TACTICS course. While I have attended and I’m very supportive of firearm tactics courses, I can tell you from experience in the courses I’ve taught to hundreds of students over the years… that many new shooters and experienced shooters really still need to focus on safety and the fundamentals of shooting.
Second… like any training opportunity you might encounter, the NRA instructors are human and may vary in qualifications and teaching ability. The certification the NRA provides instructors is, in my opinion, a basic level of competency in using firearms and instructing shooters, using the NRA materials and standards, who are the targeted audience of any particular NRA course. It does not certify that the NRA instructor knows the make and model of every firearm ever made. It does not certify that the NRA instructor can win at Camp Perry, the IDPA nationals, or place five .40 S&W shots in a one-inch group at fifty yards.
I expect, and you should too, NRA instructors to be competent at performing and instructing the safety and fundamentals of shooting… and while the NRA does have standards for instructors, not all are equally qualified. Remember this too… Just ‘cause the coach can’t kick a fifty-yard field goal or out-run and tackle the other team’s star receiver doesn’t mean he can’t be a good coach… that would be like dismissing Michael Phelps swimming coach as having anything to offer because he can’t out-swim the Olympic gold-medalist.
I believe there are now around or over 88,000 certified NRA instructors and even if just five or ten percent are below par… that is four to nine thousand instructors who might need to do a better job or find something else to do. While the NRA has parted ways with many sub-standard certified instructors and training counselors over the years, YOU still need to do your research.
Is the NRA instructor well known or have a good reputation in regard to their training and courses? Is the NRA instructor insured? Who has recommended or reviewed the NRA instructor and what was the general consensus? What facilities are being used or provided? What are the costs and what will you be receiving for your hard-earned dollars? Why is the instructor offering the training… for money? or to stroke their ego? or to promote safe, effective shooting? You should do the same with any training or instructor you might be seeking out or paying.
USA Carry has a list of things to look for in an instructor and Kathy Jackson over at the Cornered Cat has some items specifically for gals to consider when seeking firearm training.
The NRA Instructor courses and NRA Certified Training Counselors I have experienced have been thorough, quality experiences… but I’m also selective and research who I’m taking my training from. Again, you should be selective and research who YOU are taking training from too.
I have had the opportunity to teach and train about a hundred youth each year aged eight to eighteen in 4H Shooting Sports over the last decade and I’ve had the pleasure of training hundreds of folks as an NRA Certified Instructor between the ages of ten and seventy-eight... men, women, youth, elderly, pregnant, and disabled... over quite a few more years. Being the best instructor I can be is important to me, and a good instructor is also a good student. I continually seek out additional training and learning opportunities for myself whether I find it in books, magazines, online, DVDs, advanced training, or one-on-one training.
The thirty to fifty days I spend training shooters each year gives me a lot of personal pleasure in knowing that many more folks are enjoying shooting and exercising their God-given rights ensured by our Second Amendment… and especially seeing the smile of pleasure and satisfaction as a new shooter puts their shots on the target, gains that self-confidence they were missing, or an experienced shooter finally figures out that one tweak or fundamental that has been throwing off their shooting or keeping them from advancing their skills to the next level.
Now, I’ve had to bump my NRA course fee/donation to forty dollars in recent times… to help with the insurance and materials costs… but hey, for me it ain’t about the money. I’ve also spent literally thousands of dollars on NRA and other advanced training opportunities, materials, blue guns, red guns, a variety of firearms, dummy rounds, holsters, gun safes/locks, and many other items to provide the best training aids and environment possible for my students.
Now I don't fault anyone for charging a reasonable amount for firearm training courses as most of the good instructors have a considerable investment of time, money, experience, and effort. Some folks have shied away from my courses over the years figuring a course for only thirty or forty bucks probably isn't very good or worth much to them, but those who have checked me out ahead of time have no hesitations.
I’ve set up my classroom at gun clubs, living rooms (with a fifty-five inch flat-panel), churches, VFW halls, barns, and garages. The shooting range needs to be adequate and safe, but don’t discount a course completely on the classroom location. I’ve provided the classroom portion in a quality manner to a family of five in a living room and I’ve even used a Sunday School classroom.
I also seem to have developed quite a reputation with the ladies (yeah, my gals know) having donated time as an instructor for Women in the Outdoors events, offering women-only NRA courses and training over the years, and even a fair number of guys who are LEO’s have sent their better-halves through my courses. I’m excited to see the number of gals who have chosen enjoy the shooting sports and to empower themselves with firearms to protect themselves and their loved-ones… and in the last two years or so the blogosphere has just exploded with gals and gun blogs.
One final thought for NRA Certified Instructors and Training Counselors out there… Take pride in what you do and work within the NRA curriculum while upholding the NRA’s standards. Oh, and if you want teach your own thing, if you’re not happy, don't value the certification, or you’re ashamed of being an NRA instructor, your NRA certification, or you just aren’t competent… as some instructors have supposedly lamented… then PLEASE… quit and don’t renew your NRA credentials.
…and those are some of my thoughts on the matter…’cause… I’m an NRA Certified Instructor.