It’s easy to become state certified and meet mandatory training requirements to become a defensive shooting instructor, but it requires extra dedication and effort to become a true defensive shooting instructor. Here are some tips for giving your students high-quality training.
The Texas state curriculum mandates covering what the instructor community has come to refer to as the “four food groups”: use of force, non-violent dispute resolution, safe storage, and handgun use. These topics are very similar to what other states with training requirements mandate. I have found that the first three topics are usually covered quite well within most courses, while the handgun use portion is often covered ineffectively, to the detriment of the students. This is one of the reasons I became an instructor myself. Some of this can be blamed on the structure of the course as mandated, but I believe that much of it has to do with a lack of desire or ability on the part of the individual instructor to impart knowledge in a hands-on fashion at the range. This issue must be remedied, especially given the current market, which is filled with a majority of brand-new shooters seeking to carry defensive firearms concealed.
Flood of New Students
With the “panic” after the Sandy Hook massacre, there has been a large increase in the number of new applicants for concealed carry permits. I went from teaching an average of 10 students per month to receiving calls to host classes for 25+ almost overnight at the beginning of 2013. The majority of these new applicants are picking up defensive handguns for the first time in their lives and are often showing up to the qualification range with a gun that is still in its original container. With this being the case, it becomes extremely important for the instructor to realize that simply showing up, pointing at some NRA posters, talking about dogmatic safety rules, and then running a quick qualification on the range are not going to benefit the students at all. Far too often I see instructors running students through the qualification range like cattle so that they can maximize their profits while providing the students with minimal training value.
The sad reality is that a majority of these new licensees are not going to seek out additional training after they leave the state-mandated class and will thus be left without the basic knowledge that can be imparted with just a small amount of extra effort on the part of the instructor. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when the training provided at the initial certification class is so boring and largely irrelevant that the student has no appetite for follow-on training. A few things I do with my class have worked well and I recommend them to other concealed carry instructors.
Hold smaller classes or add more instructors on the range. I generally cap my classes at 15 people because I don’t feel that I can manage a range with more students from a safety or quality aspect without an extra instructor. If I do end up hosting a class that exceeds that benchmark, I have found that my fellow instructors are more than willing to lend a hand on the range portion of the class. Making the instructor-to-student ratio smaller helps with risk mitigation and gives the individual student higher quality instruction. This of course requires you to maintain a good relationship with your fellow instructors or to develop your own internal staff. Both options are doable, depending on your business structure. You can still make a solid profit without shortchanging your students on range time. You can also advertise your class as such, which can help from a marketing standpoint.
Make range time as big of a priority as the legal portions of the class. Right now in Texas, the class mandates 10 hours of training. The four mandatory training topics cannot possibly fill those 10 hours. Instead of filling in the time with war stories and the like, maximize your trigger time. Your students will gain more essential knowledge and will have more fun at the same time. This will in turn create an appetite for follow-on training. Even when the classroom time is shortened to four to six hours with new legislation in Texas this fall, it leaves the range portion of the class wide open. You are cheating your students if you don’t spend at least a couple of hours teaching basic defensive shooting techniques like the balance of speed and precision.
Rob Pincus and others have demonstrated that these simple disciplines can be learned in less than 10 minutes with a novice shooter. That extra time spent on the range can do amazing things for the new shooter’s confidence and mindset. Your students likely won’t train on their own if you don’t show them how to do it. With 10 to 15 students, I am able to accomplish a quality hands-on class incorporating very basic drills without taking away from the other mandated topics or the qualification. Time management is the key. Take advantage of every minute and every round. With just 50 extra rounds on top of a student’s qualification ammo, you can accomplish a ton. If nothing else, it will give a basic framework for the student to build upon and will usually motivate them to at least get out and practice on their own.
Remain an avid student yourself! You can’t provide quality instruction if all you have done is taken a couple of NRA safety classes and the state-mandated training. There is a plethora of valuable information on the internet alone that can help improve your classes. Make it your goal to evolve as an instructor by always looking at better ways to train and impart knowledge. There are a ton of instructors who can recite chapter and verse of the penal code, but very few who know how the body reacts to threats under stress. Remedying this condition means you’ll spend some of your profits attending classes from other, more seasoned instructors. There is no way you can motivate your students to continue to train if you aren’t willing to do the same.
Organizations like the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors are developing programs to allow those of us who have full-time jobs and teach concealed carry on the side to develop through distance learning some skills that full-time instructors possess. I encourage you to take advantage of these resources. Just make sure you fully understand each skill you are teaching before you add it to your range time. It does no good to teach a specific drill or training technique if you have no idea why you are teaching it. Read articles and books, watch training videos, and take classes.
It is easy to become state certified and meet mandatory training requirements, but it requires extra dedication and effort to become a true defensive shooting instructor. The concealed carry class that you teach may well be the only training your students ever receive in the use of a defensive firearm. Don’t let your lack of effort when it comes to hands-on instruction leave your students with no desire or ability to continue training. State-mandated concealed carry classes are the “first line of defense” when it comes to the firearms training industry.
It’s time for us to rise above state-mandated standards and provide students with solid defensive shooting fundamentals. A few NRA posters and a PowerPoint presentation aren’t going to cut it. The very fact that you are reading this article on this website indicates that you care about refining your craft. I hope you will continue to develop the quality of your class while still meeting the state-mandated requirements. The goals are not mutually exclusive. Your students will thank you for it, and it might even help to save their lives in their critical incident if and when it comes.