We started and continue to thrive on the work of our concealed carry training instructors. On a weekly basis, I keep in contact with our current set of nearly 40 instructors across the country. At the same time, I am constantly speaking with instructors in order to find those we believe match the quality we wish to have for our instructor base. During all of this, I have spoken with hundreds of instructors and have learned some tips about how to find a good instructor that I would like to share today.
ALL INSTRUCTORS THINK THEY ARE GREAT INSTRUCTORS
Whether or not an instructor is truly great is a question of dedication and experience. There are a lot of great instructors out there but as you might suspect, nearly all instructors who have been teaching more than a year will put themselves in that category. Someone who understands the entirety of the concealed carry lifestyle, while picking the perfect pieces of information and method to give beginners is more rare than we might like to admit.
As I said, I've spoken with many potential instructors about bringing them aboard our group, but not everyone is accepted. Naturally, any instructor is going to feel they are good at what they do, but there is an issue with humility in this field that I have found, and many instructors who think that they are already on the ball do not take the time to improve themselves. From the outside, you can see the issues that the instructor might have, but the instructors themselves may not, and if they don't know of any way they feel they can improve, they're not going to improve.
ALL FIRST TIME STUDENTS THINK THEIR INSTRUCTORS ARE GREAT
So if an instructor comes across with this level of confidence, it is obviously going to look good to a first-time student. At this point in your journey, you have nothing with which to compare your instructor. You haven't seen a good instructor or a bad instructor in person. All that you have to go off of are the reviews that person had already received, and in that case, the instructor would have to be quite bad in order to get a bad review from someone who has nothing to compare to.
For us, the only time we get less than stellar reviews from our student surveys we send out, is when the student has taken other firearm courses in the past and has more context with which to pass judgment.
And to help you with that context, here are the most important things to look for in an instructor, while searching.
- Experience: Like anything else in life, one improves with practice. As a Firearm Instructor teaches more classes and gets more students passed through their doors, the instructors get asked more questions and learns how to respond. As they get asked these questions repeatedly, the instructors also find the best ways to concisely answer their students' questions, maximizing the amount of information given out in a set amount of time.
- The best instructors are students: The instructors who are absolutely the very best are always the ones who are, at the same time they are teaching classes, consuming a ton of training content both virtually and in-person. The best instructors attend classes from other instructors, read magazines, listen to podcasts, subscribe to emails, and PAY for additional training of their own.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST INSTRUCTOR YOURSELF
Finding an instructor that is both experienced and a dedicated student of the industry is challenging when all you have to go on is a website. Here are some suggestions to help you sift through the various instructors in your local area.
You can start by reading Instructor Bios. An instructor's biography should be helpful in indicating how long they have been teaching, and will show credentials beyond the minimum “NRA Certified Instructor.” To be clear the NRA Instructor certification is good and valuable but my point is that it is generally the required certification in many states to be a firearm instructor.
What you need to look for is an instructor who went beyond the minimum required training. Those extra credentials are generally indicative of their commitment to additional training and education. So in that area, you will be able to see in plain black and white, how much this instructor cares about what you care about.
You can also look for organizations, rather than just one instructor. Often times when an instructor is part of a team of instructors at a gun range or in a larger organization like our own Training Network; it can be indicative that they have access to better information, can get input from other instructors about teaching techniques, and are more likely to get experience teaching faster.
Look for and read student reviews. As I said before, most beginner students will think that their instructor is great even when there is a lot of room for improvement. However, instructors that are REALLY good tend to inspire students to post reviews online. In my experience, it isn't generally the quality of the reviews but the quantity that indicates a good instructor. Any instructor can get some friends to write some good reviews but a high number of testimonials more often suggests experience and quality instruction.
So with this knowledge at your disposal, take a look at instructors around you and make sure that they are up to the standards you deserve.