The Modern Firearms Instructor: Can We Do Better?


FIreams instructors have a golden opportunity when teaching concealed carry classes.

Firearms instructors have a golden opportunity when teaching concealed carry classes to encourage their students to seek further training.

It seems everyone is a firearms instructor these days, me included.  As the interest in firearms ownership and concealed carry grow, so must the instructor base.  We are law enforcement, military and private sector firearms enthusiasts who want to share our knowledge and help others.  Most firearms instructors only teach their state’s concealed carry course or other “basic” classes and I’m certain the majority of us do a respectable job with the short amount of time we are allotted.  Still, can we do better?  I believe there are two areas where many firearms instructors just plain fail.

The majority of new shooters or at least new students only attend their first class because their respective states require it to attain a handgun carry license.  I would dare say many of them are certain that this rudimentary training is more than adequate.  That’s not their fault.  That’s our fault as instructors.  An eight-hour, state-mandated safety class is in no way sufficient and that is a point where I feel many instructors fail.  We should be encouraging our students to seek further training on their own after completion of that class.  Granted, it can be difficult for your average person to overcome their fears and finances to attend even a basic eight-hour class.  How do we convince those folks to attend intermediate and advanced training?  It all starts with that concealed carry class.

Here are my thoughts on the matter, for whatever they’re worth:  During the class, the instructor should periodically  point out to the students that they are attending a class which only covers firearms safety and legality which is mandated by the state.  Talk about the things which can be learned and skills which can be acquired with further schooling.  During the class, give live-fire demonstrations of the courses of fire and point out that you reached that level of competence (hopefully) by attending classes and practicing what you learned.  Too many concealed carry instructors finish their class and point their students to the door essentially saying, “Here’s your certificate…Sick ’em!”

Now, how do we encourage our students to attend additional training if we don’t do it ourselves?  This is my second point of concern.  A good teacher is a good student, first and foremost.  Being completely honest, most firearms instructor certifications are not terribly challenging.  The standard is just sixteen hours in length.  In my state, the concealed carry course is eight hours.  That means, often times, someone with only a sixteen-hour certification is teaching an eight-hour course on how to safely and effectively  employ a handgun in a deadly force situation.  Neither of those standards is sufficient in my mind.  They are merely the minimum levels of competence required to get a certificate.

A firearms instructor uses a dummy gun to demonstrate off hand placement during the draw stroke.

An instructor uses a dummy gun to demonstrate proper and improper weak hand placement during the draw stroke.

Instructors should be consistently seeking further training for themselves, as well.  The topics of gun safety, shooting fundamentals, tactics and the principles of adult learning are vast and there is no way to even begin to grasp all of it in a two day class.  A legitimate firearms instructor should be able to answer questions about their own training with aplomb.  I put off taking a firearms instructor class for years until the right opportunity arose.  The stars aligned and I was able to attend a Rangemaster Firearms Training Services (Tom Givens) intensive two part, 40-hour firearms instructor development program.  It was the right decision. The tuition was substantial, but that investment will return for years to come.      1

A concealed carry class is generally the armed citizen’s first exposure to firearms training.  All too often, it’s the last.  A well-trained instructor who understands the importance of being a good student will likely influence his students to follow the path to further education even if it leads to other instructors.  Don’t ever be anyone’s last firearms instructor.

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About Warren Wilson

Warren Wilson is an experienced law enforcement officer with approximately 20 years of service, specializing patrol and tactics. He is a former SWAT team leader, writer, and firearms instructor. Warren is currently the training lieutenant for a metropolitan agency in the State of Oklahoma.

One thought on “The Modern Firearms Instructor: Can We Do Better?

  1. Nicely done article! I, too, beat the drum about more training, emphasizing that it is both a potential lifesaver, AND a boatload of fun. It seems that about 5% of my students go on to take more training, and/or shoot an IDPA match 3-4 times a year.

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