I guess I'm in the mood to write these days.....
Anyway, about once a week I get a message or e-mail from someone who wants to become a firearms' instructor. First, I'll say that I am no expert. I have experienced many failures in this past year and I'm still trying to figure this business stuff out. *deep sigh* Bad News: THIS SH*T IS NOT EASY! Good News: If I can do it then you certainly have a fighting chance. And I'm always open to give you guys advice but I WILL NOT do the work for you. Now that I got that off my chest, here's what you need to do.......
First you'll need to decide what kind of instructor you want to be. Do you want to certify law enforcement and armed security? Do you want to be able to issue carry permits to civilians? Or do you just want to teach regular people how to shoot because you know it'll make the world a better place :-) If it's the first two, then I'll have to direct you to your state's Secretary Of State website. For GA, you'll start here to apply for a Georgia Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies license which covers firearm training instructors. It doesn't hurt to get your state firearms' instructor cert even if you just want to teach civilians without issuing certs but it's not 100% necessary.
The third category of instructors needs to assess their background and skill-set. What experience do you have? How long have you been shooting? How often do you shoot? Do you know the gun laws in your state? What are your personal biases and how do they influence your teaching style? Who is your target audience? What's your motivation for wanting to teach people about firearms? Can you actually teach? Then you need to take as many firearm's classes and instructor courses as you can afford. The more the merrier. Getting these certs is good but getting the experience of sitting in a classroom learning from another instructor is better. You should also know that having a bunch of certifications on your wall DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN THAT YOU'RE A GOOD INSTRUCTOR OR SHOOTER. In most cases, it just means that you can afford to take classes and that you're a good test-taker. The experience is what counts.
LEARN. I spent 7 years in the Army shooting and carrying a rifle and occasionally a pistol. Shooting and instructing as a Soldier is NOT the same as shooting and instructing as a civilian but that's another blog for another day. After I got out of the Army, I started working as a range safety officer at a gun range. I worked there for about 8 months before I got my NRA Pistol Instructor cert. In those 8 months, I taught new shooters and shot every day. And before you guys burn me at the stake, I'm not a fan of the NRA's politics or a majority of their followers BUT their certs are recognized nationwide. I would not be able to teach my women's handgun classes across the country if I didn't have their instructor cert and instructor's insurance. Moving along. If you haven't done so by this point, you need to familiarize yourself with as many firearm types and calibers as possible. Get comfortable shooting and cleaning them. I'm personally a fan of Glocks and 9mm BUT I understand that they may not suit everyone's preferences or needs. Do not let your personal preferences/biases cloud your ability to make helpful suggestions. Next, you need to understand learning styles. Here is a good site to help you understand exactly how people learn.
PREPARE. There's a million different teaching tools you can use to help educate people about firearms. Please don't break the bank in the beginning. You can always upgrade training materials in the future. In the beginning, I needed the following items:
- Firearms for students to practice with
- Training pistols aka dummy guns (I got blue and orange guns from Amazon....one day I'll be able to afford a SIRT Training Pistol)
- Snap caps
- Flip chart or dry erase board or projector if you're feeling fancy
- Targets (I buy mine in bulk from Son Of A Gun targets on Amazon)
- Ear/eye protection. I'd suggest buying the nice electronic ears for yourself and the less expensive over-the-head ear pro for students
- Sight alignment/sight picture training aids (you could also make these)
- Safety rules poster, infographics (optional)
- Cameras are also good to have for marketing purposes
Those are the basics. You may need more or less depending on exactly what you're teaching. For example, defensive pistol/rifle instructors may need barriers, target stands and body armor.
TEACH. I'd suggest you start by teaching private lessons. This can be a tricky process if you're using an indoor range and teaching as a guest instructor. Check out my Free Game blog here to learn more about guest instructing. Once you find your student you need to find out what they expect to learn and why they want to learn about firearms. Try to mitigate their expectations. Let them know that they're not going to become a sniper after the first session and that learning about firearms is an ongoing process. What's their end-goal? Do they want to purchase a firearm for home defense? Do they want to get their carry permit and make firearm ownership a lifestyle? Tailor your training to their response. The "why" is also important. Are they planning to commit a crime? Are they legally able to possess a firearm? Can they pass a background check? Are they mentally stable enough to shoot a firearm? These questions may be somewhat tough to ask in an initial meeting but the more you know, the better. You are responsible for this person while they are under your instruction and what they do when they leave your class may reflect against you negatively. Make sure you're teaching accurate, responsible, and safe information. Reminder: YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED INSTRUCTORS INSURANCE!!!!! Have your lawyer create a liability waiver. It's also not a bad idea to record your lessons. You can never be too safe.
Remember that you're always a student first! Continue to take basic firearms classes and learn from other instructors. It'll only make you better *thumbs up emoji*