5 Things You Need to Look for in a Firearms Instructor
With the increase in gun ownership – notably new gun owners - in the last several years, there is an increased demand for quality firearms training and, thus, increasing demand for quality firearms instructors. But how do you know who to spend your money with and, more importantly, your valuable time with? Firearms trainers right now are like karate schools in the '80s. There is virtually no oversight, and just about anyone can claim they're a trainer and start a shooting school with little or poor experience.
Gun Safety. First. Always.
First and foremost is gun safety. The trainer you select should be hyper-focused on the safest aspects of firearm handling. If you don't begin the training with a range safety brief, be very cautious. They should cover the four rules of firearms safety, range rules, first aid, and other essential topics concerning safety with firearms. Look up their training academy in the search engine of your choice to see if there are any news articles about range accidents at their location. If there are, I will avoid that school.
Look for a trainer that specializes in civilian firearms training.
Military and/or law enforcement firearms experience is good and is often seen as the gold standard for a trainer. However, the military and law enforcement play by different rules than the average armed citizen. As a civilian, you will, for the most part, be on your own. You won't have backup or support from anyone else, so be sure the defensive firearms training is focused on the laws and techniques regarding the citizen.
Where does your instructor come from? Who did they receive training from? If it's just military or law enforcement, that may not be enough as those skills don't always translate well to civilian training. Don't be afraid to ask your trainer where they were trained or who they've worked with in the past. Good trainers will be able to spot and groom other good trainers, continuing their lineage into other parts of the country. Find the top schools in the country and follow where those trainers have ended up. You can usually trace them to a few select locations, and those should be your first choices.
This step is usually the easiest. Does that firearms trainer have a good reputation? If you've heard any bad stories about a particular trainer, there are probably 10 more that you haven't heard. A firearms trainer's reputation is everything to them, and they will do everything they can to keep it pristine. Once again, look up the school on the web for any stories or reviews about the school. If you find too many negative ones, I will steer clear of that organization. This is also an excellent opportunity to find someone who's taken a class from the school and ask them their opinion. Word of mouth is often the biggest driver of business for firearms trainers, and excellent schools will create disciples out of students if they had a positive experience.
What kinds of training or techniques do you want to learn? A reputable school will list all of the classes they teach on their website, and you should find the types you're interested in learning. Be wary of schools that offer "designer" techniques that don't have much real-world applications or classes that are obviously tailored to military or law enforcement. If you’re going to be carrying a handgun for self-defense and want to learn the skills necessary to protect yourself during a robbery at a convenience store, you probably won't need to learn how to breach a door and clear a room with a team of 4 people. Also, be cautious of schools that teach too many classes. The skills for deploying a handgun for self-defense are relatively basic and really haven't changed that much over the years. A school that offers 10 or more classes on handguns may be just regurgitating the same info in different ways.
With so many firearms training schools out there, the choice can be daunting. The one you choose should be scrutinized, and you should always trust your instincts when selecting a trainer. Do your research because the training you receive could potentially save your life or the life of someone you love. ~ Tim
Tim is the head instructor at LFX Firearms Training and offers the Tennessee Concealed Carry Course online. In addition to being a professional instructor for over 10 years, Tim is a competitive shooter and is an advocate for firearms training and gun rights.