Firearms training is a booming business. 

By David James Bruce

Remember around 2005, when the real estate market was booming and everyone that was working a menial job became a mortgage broker over night by watching a couple videos and taking a multiple choice test. Remember how that ended? Well, there is a similar trend happening in the firearms world. The world is becoming less safe, terrorist attacks are on the rise, wide spread civil disobedience, rioting, looting. Ok, now take a breath. Things aren’t quite that bad, but the media has bad news playing 24/7 and that is surely a factor that has caused the firearms training world to become flooded with students and hence a booming market has been created for the firearms instructor, but are all firearms instructors created equal?

Enter the self designated firearms instructor. To the uninitiated, he might look the part. Is he fit? Check. Does he have a Beard? Yup. Hat with tear away American flag? Yeah dog, Well let’s get to busting some caps right? Maybe not. What do we really know about this individual? If I needed the services of a lawyer or a doctor, I could easily look for some initials after his or her name that would indicate that they are trained and certified under some governing body and this is a good thing. I could also research what school they went to, maybe even where they graduated in their class.

Not so simple in the largely unregulated world of firearms instruction. Now, there are a handful of training facilities in the U.S. that are well established and have solid reputations and you couldn’t go wrong training with them. They have been operating for years and have seasoned firearms instructors. These institutions would not let someone get up and speak in front of students without being vetted and trained in their established systems. These vetted instructors are not only hired for their skills and experience, but their ability to establish rapport with the students and deliver training in a manner that is consistent with their institution.

That’s all well and good if you live near one of these training academies, but what if you don’t? Should you just drive to the nearest range and look for an advertisement hanging from an old cork board in the front hall? Nope, you want to do some research. You should go online and look at reviews or After Action Reports (AARs) of training classes that took place near you and see what past students had to say. A well done AAR has a ton of value. It lists what people liked and didn’t like, what drills were covered, take aways and also round count and a list of required equipment. Also, read the instructors bio, resume or curriculum vitae (CV). If I am taking a defensive firearms class, I would like to know that the instructor has had some “Skin in the game” at some point. I need to know he has he carried a firearm professionally and his life depended on him knowing how to use it.

I also like to see instructor level qualification from a recognizable entity, i.e., military, federal, state or local law enforcement academy or an established firearms training facility. Also, some time spent as an instructor or cadre at a course. You see, it takes a little time to transition from doer to teacher, and I like to see a little professional instructing time under someone’s belt before I lay out my money for a class.

When I look at a bio or a resume a dead give away to me that someone is full of shit is when they list agencies or units that they “trained with”, but never belonged to. Standing next to a high speed guy does not make you a high speed guy and you don’t get any credit for that – in fact – minus 5 points for embarrassing yourself. When you do take your class, if the instructor spends more time telling war stories than actually explaining and demonstrating techniques and coaching students, something’s wrong. War stories should be kept to a minimum – it’s nice to put the techniques that are being taught into context, but if there are a lot of stories with the ending of the story being where the instructor saved the day, that’s a red flag. Even if he really did the deeds, he’s a clown. I advise you to not spend money on that shit, you can get that at most bars for free. Doing a little research ahead of time will ensure you have a safe, successful training day. Spend your time and money wisely, with reputable instructors that put you and your learning first.