Think I’m overreaching? Really? When we’re choosing a firearms instructor we’re looking for someone to teach you how to save your life or the life of someone you care about. When you are choosing an oncologist you or someone you love is probably in a fight for their life. Who you choose for each of these positions could be the difference between life and death.

So what would you want to know about an oncologist before you trust him with this precious life?

  • Where he went to school?
  • Who is he associated with? Does he have colleagues?
  • Does he keep up on all the latest information?
  • How experienced is he with the specific problem you have?
  • What do other people think? Does he come highly recommended?
  • What is his performance like?

It turns out these are awesome questions to ask a firearms instructor before you trust him with your life too!

Where did he learn to teach defensive handgun?

Using a gun for his job DOES NOT mean he’s qualified to teach you how to defend your life with one. In the FBI, their agents are allowed to pass the qualifying exam with a 70% or better. But the FBI instructors are required to pass the same test with a 90% or better. Who would you rather have teaching you?

9d583fa8a3dc5ed630bd597feef4b62b_fullThis brings up instructor certifications that are available nationally. The question above was where did they learn to teach DEFENSIVE handgun? Many nationally certified instructors do not continue their education past the basic handgun instructor courses and are not trained to teach you to draw a gun from a holster.

While there is nothing wrong with the training they offer, just don’t confuse it with a defensive handgun course. And even worse, don’t accept this certification as proof that they are qualified to teach DEFENSIVE handgun skills. Ask for names and dates of the course where they learned the skills they want to teach you, then look those up.

Who is he associated with? Does he have colleagues?

10431691_10206934452270164_5975278256645891728_nIs he a one-man wonder? Everything begins and ends with him? Buyer beware! Good instructors are friends with other good instructors and aren’t intimidated or afraid to tell their students about other good trainers and training opportunities.

Does he keep up on all the latest information?

When was the last time he took a class? Has he taken any classes since his basic instructor certification? This is a HUGE red flag if the answer is no! It’s probably not a deal breaker if this is a new instructor and he’s sticking to the information he’s qualified to teach. But if he hasn’t had a class in 20 years walk away. On the other hand, if he has a good list of continuing education under his belt, but it’s been a couple years ask for an explanation.

412932_244513568996595_84535456_oGood instructors continue their own educations. By being a student and pushing themselves, they remember what it’s like to learn something new. It will make them a better instructor, and ensure that their students get the benefit of things the instructor learned from others. Remember, no man is an island! This is particularly true in the firearms training business. As a community, we keep each other sharp. Make sure your instructor is part of that community.

How experienced is he with the specific problem you have?

All training is not created equal and context is EVERYTHING! Learning how to work as part of a well-oiled machine on a swat team, or military unit does not necessarily translate to knowing how to move through the world as a civilian. In our State, we are required to have a policeman or attorney teach the law portion of the CCW course. We tried out a policeman who would tell stories about how he would push the envelope of what and where he could operate with his concealed handgun and if it didn’t work out he’d fall back on his badge. This was less that helpful for our students, as a matter of fact, it was downright BAD information.

specialtyThe tactics of police and military are good ones for what they do. They chase the bad guys, they go into dangerous situations knowing it’s a problem to begin with, they have body armor, and other gear you don’t. They usually operate without concealment, or where if questioned about their gun they can fall back on their badge. They have radios, partners, and backup – none of which you have. Are you starting to see a pattern?

Does that mean someone with a military or police background can’t teach? No, that’s not what I’m saying. But you need to ask where they received training to deal with the situations you are most likely to experience? They definitely should have more than the training they got on the job before they are offering instruction to civilians.

Do you want to train like they do? Great, but make sure you’ve covered your basics before you spend time and money on skills you’re unlikely to ever need. Which also means you should beware the trainer who tries to tell you learning how to board a boat with an assault rifle is training money well spent after your first time firing a gun.

What do other people think? Does he come highly recommended?

Ask for recommendations, and then ask other people in the community. Ask people like you, not necessarily the gun guy everyone talks about.

avolunteerBecause let’s be honest, you’re probably nothing like that guy so who he recommends probably isn’t going to be a good fit. Check the instructor out on social media and his website. Is he reaching a broad range of students or only one type of person at one club or store? A good instructor’s reputation will proceed him and his reputation will be widely known.

What is his performance like? Can he do what he asks you to do?

Does he demonstrate in front of students? This is a good question to ask when talking to references. If he never demonstrates proficiency you have to wonder why not? It’s important for an instructor to demonstrate how to do the thing he wants his students to do.

Seeing it done properly helps you solidify a technique in your mind. Does that mean he has to be perfect all the time? No! Often instructors are afraid to demonstrate because they might screw up. The reality is, it happens to the best of us. A good instructor can laugh it off and move on. A good attitude is essential.

A few more things that go without saying for the oncologist but I’ll mention about instructors.

certified-nra-firearms-instructor-1They shouldn’t be all over you. Honest, as an instructor there is very rarely any situation where I need to put both my arms around you to teach you. If he gives you the creeps, then there is something wrong. Trust your instincts no matter how well recommended this guy is.

I’ve been there, the weird guy that just feels wrong. He’s probably not going to do anything he shouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Ask him to remove his hand, give you a little space, etc. This is where you get to practice what he should be teaching you about self-defense. Trust your instincts and stand up for yourself – even if it feels rude.

Oh, and just because I’ve been using the male pronoun in this article doesn’t mean that all this doesn’t apply to female trainers. Having breasts and taking one instructor class does not qualify a woman to teach you to defend your life with a gun.

Social Shooting Groups

These days there are a lot of options for you to find friends to head to the range with. Practice is awesome, but don’t confuse these opportunities for real training. I enjoy shooting with friends at the range as much as the next guy. Last night my hubby and I had date night at the range with friends who put together a steel challenge course and I was excited to learn something new. But that kind of learning is completely different than what takes place in a class with a good instructor. Take advantage of these get-togethers, learn what you can, but always verify the information you’re receiving with those truly qualified to be teaching those skills.

In closing, there are a lot of good instructors around the country and while we have a list of instructorsthat we know to be solid people with good skills on this site, it’s impossible to vouch for everyone. It’s up to you to make an educated choice when it comes to learning to defend yourself, and those you love.

Remember, just because someone had a job that required the use of a gun or a national certification doesn’t mean they actually know what they’re talking about. When in doubt, get a second opinion!