Beware of unqualified firearms instructors!

Beware of unqualified firearms instructors!

By Joshua Gideon

If you have been around the firearms industry long enough you have probably encountered a gun storeowner or two who gives bad advice to customers purchasing firearms for self-defense.  Many of us have witnessed the eager sales guy sell a shiny Raven Arms .25acp to a female customer because “it’s all she can probably handle.”  Or the sales guy that says all you need to do to scare away a bad guy is rack the slide on your shotgun…which by the way is on sale for $299 with a free laser sight.  I am not the first to write about bad gun store practices and I certainly won’t be the last.  Although similar, I want to talk about something a bit different in this article.

There is a danger that I believe is at the root of much of the bad firearms training that goes on in this industry.  I call them the “I own a gun range” instructors.  You have likely encountered these instructors.  They are a mix of disaster just waiting to happen.  They are the typical “gun guy” who has “grown up around guns all their life” but have had little to no formal training.  Combine these individuals with the desire to have people look to them as an expert in something they enjoy, a few acres of land in the country, access to heavy equipment, and presto you have yourself a “Firearms Instructor.”  This combination is a powder keg of misaligned skills in an industry where lives are literally at risk.

Not only are they unqualified to teach, they likely causing training scars by teaching skills that are inefficient or at worse completely wrong and reckless, they give the students a false sense of confidence.  It’s this environment where “stopping power” and “Weaver stance” are taught as truth and myths that a .45 will drop a man with one shot are fact.

Although there are exceptions to the rule, many of these individuals who are masquerading firearms instructors are extremely dangerous.  Not only because of the bad advice they are teaching students, but also the perpetuation of other future trainers.  People of similar skill set look at Bob the self made firearms trainer and think, hey, “I like guns, I want people to think I am an expert, I have some land and heavy equipment…you know, I could be a firearms instructor too!”  Then they also begin to train more people incorrectly and the process continues on and on.  Qualified firearms trainers then have to spend time correcting these bad habits and healing training scars.  (I am speaking from the experience of one who had to spend a lot of money and time on the range correcting training scars I had picked up over many years of bad training.)

What’s worse is it’s not only the “I like guns” group that goes into these ventures.  It’s also the friend of the guy that owns a gun store, the guy that just got out of the military, the competition shooter, hunter, etc.  Teaching defensive use of a firearm has nothing to do with owning a gun range, gun store, military experience, competition experience, hunting experience, and so on.  We are talking apples and oranges here.  Building a shooting range makes you no more of a defensive shooting instructor than sitting in a racecar makes you a racecar driver.

So what makes a good defensive firearms instructor?  Well, to start out with, find out who trained them!  If the source of their training was from an “I have a gun range” instructor, you may want to reconsider their qualifications.  Qualified trainers have spent a lot of money and time on their training and insurance.  Some of us have upwards of 700 hours of specialized training throughout the course of many years.  In my case, not all of it applies to defensive firearms training, but the volume of training your instructor has does speak to their dedication to providing you with the most accurate and up to date training possible.

What else should you be looking for in a defensive firearms instructor?  Here are just a few questions to ask when looking for qualified defensive firearms instructors:

  1. What training method do they teach?  It is important to know their background and if they are using a training method taught by someone else or if they have put together the curriculum themselves.  With either answer, the follow up is, “Why did they choose that route?”
  2. Have they been to any instructor courses in the past three years?  It is critically important for trainers to remain relevant.  Advances in science and technology change quickly in the defensive firearms industry.  It is important for your trainer to be up to date.  Note that these do not have to be firearms related instructor courses.  If you find and instructor that tells you they took a course on adult learning, you have likely found a good instructor!
  3. What training classes have they attended in the past year?  A good teacher is also a good student.  Find me an instructor who doesn’t feel they need to take classes from other instructors and I will show you an instructor you want to stay away from.
  4. What training classes do they plan to attend?  Again, you can’t stop learning.  Regardless of your past training, there better be plans to get further training or you will be come irrelevant.
  5. Are they INSURED?  This is a big one.  Many so called trainers do not carry Insurance specific to training.  Just because the property is insured does not mean the instructor is insured.  If you are injured during the class, will you have to fight medical expenses getting paid in court?  Insurance like this is not cheap and few claiming to be instructors have it.  Before you take a step on a range with an instructor, make them prove they have a current Insurance policy that covers training classes.  If they are unable to produce this, they are likely hiding something!  Be very careful!!
  6. Are they members of any associations or trainer groups?  A good trainer surrounds themselves with other good trainers.  What associations they are members of and how active they are point to how dedicated they are as an instructor.
  7. What have they taught and changed their minds on?  This is a new one for me.  I personally have a whole list of these.  From .45 acp is the best handgun round ever to reloading in a workspace three inches from your face.  If your prospective instructor can’t answer that question, move along and find someone better!
  8. If you are unable to make their class, can they give you a reference to another instructor?  If they can’t, they are likely not connected very well in the industry and are likely out of touch with modern defensive training.  If they do give you a reference, check to see if they are qualified as well.  I have walked away from a few trainers based on the poor referral they gave me.  If the instructor refers you to an unqualified trainer he either doesn’t care about your training or doesn’t know what a qualified trainer looks like.

There are a lot of people who claim to be firearms instructors.  As more and more new gun owners begin seeking out training, these “I have a gun range” instructors will try to fill the demand.  As consumers it is our responsibility to seek out the good instructors among those unqualified.  This is a very serious decision; life and death may hang in the balance.  Your instructor should be concerned about making sure they are qualified to teach you and should welcome with open arms students who question their qualifications.  Good luck and keep training!