I never set out to become a firearms instructor.
Heck, years ago I didn’t set out to ever own a gun either… but about 5 years ago that all changed. Well, it changed a lot earlier than that, but it was about 5 years ago that I bought my first firearm. If you go through life open to the possibilities, open to what flows, truly seeking Truth and not just confirming your own biases then well… it’s interesting where you wind up.
So as I took classes at KR Training, one day Tom Hogel takes me aside and suggests I get my NRA Instructor Certifications. I had no desire to teach, I was totally taken aback that he just came out of the blue to move me in that way, but he and Karl both encouraged me and well… here I am.
I am far from a master, but I have been travelling this Instructor road for about four years now. Kathy Jackson recently posted to her blog an article about “How to Become a Firearms Instructor“. It’s a good article, that contains valuable information for both instructors (current and prospective) and for students.
In fact, I think Kathy’s article speaks more towards students than instructors. Read on.
Kathy talks about how there are two roads: certification, apprenticeship. I’ve done both, and I can say that both are valuable. While having certifications are nice and they open doors and grant some level of immediately recognizable credentials, history, and understanding, I just don’t think they’re as valuable as apprenticeship. If you want to learn X you have to do X. So if you want to teach, you need to teach. But you can’t just go out there and teach — you need to learn how to teach, you need to be taught how to teach. And it’s not just how to be a teacher, but learning how to be a teacher in that particular topic area. I can attest to many things I’ve learned by being on the range, by being under Karl, watching Karl, seeing how HE does things (because Karl’s one of those few people that can both do the thing at a high level, and teach the thing at a high level — I’m fortunate). There’s just no substitute for experience, and doing it under the watchful eye of a mentor.
Still, certifications have a place. What I think is more important is to keep your binder of certificates growing. Kathy encourages this too: continuing education. I also am fortunate to have a mentor that acknowledges he doesn’t have all the answers and is willing to continually improve. Karl continues to attend classes himself and seek out training from other instructors. He encourages us to get better and grow. Granted, I haven’t done much to travel to other instructors, due in part to time and money, but as well, Karl brings some of the best instructors here: Tom Givens, Claude Werner, Caleb Causey, SouthNarc, amongst others (Ben Stoeger’s coming in 2013)… so if they’re coming here, great! I’ll finally be taking Rangemaster’s Instructor Certification course in 2013.
But what you must remember is, like Kathy points out, certifications usually just take a weekend to get.
I know what it takes to get NRA Instructor Basic Pistol certification — folks, it’s not much. I could probably take any KR Training Basic Pistol 2 graduate and get them their certification (ok, perhaps stretching it… but not by much). This isn’t to be a slight on the certification because it’s quite valuable and useful, but just realize that because someone has a piece of paper doesn’t mean they know what’s what. Just because someone is certified by Texas DPS to be a CHL Instructor doesn’t mean they actually know anything about shooting (and hitting the target).
It’s important for (prospective) students to look at the whole of the Instructor:
- Who are they?
- Do they put their name on their website? A picture isn’t needed, but is useful.
- What credentials do they have?
- Being ex- law enforcement or ex- military doesn’t mean they know how to shoot, or how to work things in a civilian context
- Who have they trained with?
- Are they still training? When was the last time they took a training course, and with whom?
- Do they do other shooting activities, like IPSC/USPSA, IDPA, 3-Gun, or other competition? Hunt?
- What’s their approach and attitude? If you Google search them, what are others saying about them? How does the instructor present themselves online?
And yes… shop around. There’s lots of people wanting to join the bandwagon. Just here in the Austin area there are more and more people setting up shop as firearms instructors, so look around and compare who and what’s available.
Kathy’s article contains a lot of wisdom for people wishing to be firearms instructors. I’d also say that it’s good guidance for (prospective) students about the sort of instructors you should seek.
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