An informative and, hopefully, eye opening semi rant follows: Recent messages coming in asking me the following:
“I saw your recent post about a course you did and was wondering: does it really only take 2 days to become an instructor?”
The answer is: NO
The instructor process…..if done correctly, is not as easy as some of the shortcut takers (and providers) will lead you to believe. People always wonder why I don’t accept everyone into an instructor course. The simple answer is: they’re not fully qualified. They either do not have what it takes, or they do not YET possess what they will need to successfully complete the process.
Becoming an NRA Instructor is not normally something that a newer shooter should be thinking about. A good instructor has YEARS of experience, and many thousands of rounds downrange as a student prior to feeling that they are ready to teach someone how to safely handle and shoot a firearm.
The first step is to always attend as a student. Personally, I had nearly 2.5 years of training under my belt prior to attending my first NRA Instructor course. It all started with one on one instruction from a professional instructor, then an NRA Basic Pistol course, then quite a few other courses that gradually slid towards concealed carry type training. I would estimate that I had nearly 250 to 300 hours of training before my first instructor course.
In my most recent course, the least experienced person had just less than 2 years of training. I can tell you that this person has attended at least 1, sometimes 2, and even 3 days of fairly high level, professional training PER MONTH for those 2 years. That does not take into account the personal skill practice time they’ve put in either.
If one were to wish to obtain the Pistol Instructor credential, then they would have to attend the NRA Basics Of Pistol Shooting course as a first step. Then, they are encouraged to practice as they learned in the course to maintain (or preferably improve) their skills. The next step is to complete a Pre Course Assessment. This is where the candidate will have to demonstrate safe gun handling with multiple types of handguns, know the safety rules verbatim, and be able to demonstrate a good grounding in the shooting fundamentals by passing a qualification target.
There is also a pre course questionnaire that is used to assess their desire and goals. This is one way to determine that the candidate has the Knowledge, Skills and Attitude necessary to enter into the instructor certification course.
Up to now, the candidate has dedicated a minimum of 8-9 hours in the classroom, 2-3 hours in the pre course assessment, and some time completing the questionnaire. That does not include any other time that they SHOULD be dedicating to their own development as a shooter and student. Add to this the actual instructor workshop and you’ll have a bare minimum of 32 hrs of documented, official training. But that’s not enough if the time for personal skill development and practice is not added.
IF they are accepted into the instructor certification/development course, then they will be learning how to teach under the guidance of a Training Counselor or Mentor. The process will involve hands on demonstrations, live ‘teach backs’ where they will present topics and receive feedback and evaluations that will help them discover their strengths and weaknesses, and they will have to demonstrate crisp, safe, and effective gun handling, safety, and knowledge at near 100% effectiveness throughout the process.
Is there a guaranteed pass? No. This is not, and should not be, a pay to play process. If you cannot be safe, pass the required exams, and develop the attitude of an instructor, a candidate will not pass the course. In the NRA, you’d have to pass the written exam with a 90% or better, AND successfully pass the presentation and demonstration segments as well.
I have met instructors that attended one class and suddenly, they were certified as an instructor. I have met those that never stepped foot on a range, never completed the required courses, and have run into those that could not demonstrate the basic requirements that they should have as in instructor. It seems that some people wish to obtain the credentials to bolster their ego or gain some sort of standing in their club or organization.
I have also met those that obtained the credential because it was convenient at the time and it was available to them- even though they themselves KNEW they were not ready or qualified. It is highly important to know your own abilities and to recognize that fact. Remember, we are dealing with firearms that can hurt or kill people.
An instructor that has a lack of experience is no instructor at all. They are doing a disservice to the industry, to their fellow gun owners, and to themselves.
So, instead of saying “I want to become an instructor” How about saying “Am I good enough to be an instructor? How do I get there?”
In the end, what it really takes to become an instructor is the willingness to invest many hours attending classes and courses, a lot of dedication in learning and perfect practice, and a good deal of cash, not to mention time reading, learning, and interacting with other trainers and shooters so that you can learn everything you can possibly learn about shooting and training.
Here’s the trick: You’ll never learn it all. if you think you know everything there is to know about shooting and training, it’s time to get out because you don’t know anything.