Firearms instructors are incredibly important people. These are the men and women with education and experience to teach brand new shooters. These are the people who will be a trustworthy and knowledgable resource for any man, woman and child looking to use a firearm for the first time.
They’re also often the go-too gurus for fine-tuning one’s shooting abilities. Even seasoned shooters can go to a firearms instructor for advice on obtaining the perfect shot.
But what if you go to the wrong one?
It turns out that many firearms instructors may not be as experienced, knowledgable, or wise as we would have hoped. And the results can be downright dangerous.
Here are 10 tips from Two Amendments for vetting a firearms instructor to make sure they’re up to snuff. If they meet any/all of these standards, they’re not worth working with.
- A special forces resume. This is the number one fraud in the firearms training business. There are too many of these guys out there lying about what they did in the past. Always ask to see a DD-214 from anyone making these claims. Someone that’s legit will produce the DD-214 right away, a fraud will give you the run around and make excuses.
- Ask to see a copy of their professional liability insurance. A quality instructor will have insurance and a legitimate business. The frauds will form an LLC and think that will shield them from all liability for any issues that may arise in a class they are teaching.
- Ask to see their own firearms training record. What classes have they taken? Who did they take the classes with? Has any organization certified them? Beware, there are some fake organizations out there selling instructor certifications for $40 to look like they’re part of a legitimate training organization (the same thing went on in the 80’s dojo wars).
- Do they require prerequisites before they let you take one of their classes? If they’re teaching basic firearms safety class then nothing should be required. If they’re teaching advanced firearms techniques they should require that participants show prior formal training or demonstrated skills such as USPSA or IDPA classification. Instructors that will just let anyone show up with a new pistol or AR and shoot on the move or practice room clearing are neither safe nor professional.
- Watch out for the training ladder. Some instructors will tell you that you have to take their handgun 01 class before you can take their handgun 02 class and you have to have both of them before you take take the elite international handgun operator class they offer. They do this to get you to keep coming back or force you into taking all their classes if you’re just interested in one class. (This was another common 80’s dojo trick)
- What are they teaching you? Shooting from moving vehicles sure sounds cool, but is it practical? Clearing rooms is another fun thing, but not too practical. Many of the questionable instructors will teach dangerous techniques that are nothing more than dancing with guns (Google: American Defensive Enterprises). A quality instructor will teach recognized fundamentals and then work on making you more accurate and faster.
- “The System”. Just like the 80’s, there are all kinds of instructors teaching a proprietary firearms fighting system. This is nothing more than rex-quan-do (Napoleon Dynamite fans will get the reference) bullshit designed to sound cool and elite. (Google “Hammerfour” to see how this scam works – tactical training from people with no LEO/MIL or firearms background – the internet may have put this group down for the count)
- The instructor bashes competitive shooting or says things like the the streets are not like competition. Remember, competition gave us the Weaver stance as well as the modern isosceles. Competition pushes people to excel and pushes them to innovate. If it doesn’t work in competition it sure as heck won’t work in the streets under stress. Instructors who are afraid to put their skills to the test in competition usually know what would happen if they did – an thus why they bash and avoid.
- The tactifool. Watch out for the combat bearded digicam wearing buzz term talking guys. These guys think basics, safety, and fundamentals are less important than gear, how you look, and how you sound.
- Magpul on steroids. Keep an eye out for the guys who watched the Magpul DVDs and then decided to do everything faster, harder, and more accentuated. He really has no idea why he’s teaching it, what use it has, but he knows it looks badass.
The fact is that there plenty of good firearms instructors out there. They know what they’re doing, and they’ve been doing it for a while. Better yet, the best instructors have tried-and-true methods that they themselves have put into practice.
And yet, there are so many instructors who are not this way. It’s almost as if the firearms industry has become a giant market of scam artists, looking to pick off any innocent, unknowing new student. This not only rips off the new student, but the actual material the student learns (or doesn’t learn) from the instructor could end up hurting them in the long run.
However, you can prevent most of these situations from happening. Follow the 10 tips above and stick true to your gut. Be patient, and you’re sure to find an instructor that’s worthy of the valuable time and money you’re investing.