What course should I take next and what is a Firearms Instructor Development Course?

Many new Instructors and students ask me “What course should I take next?” My answer is always the same, any course that enhances your skills as a “student of weapons-craft” and those that offer more than just a course of fire designed to make you a better shooter. The courses I am speaking about are those that teach you things like the importance of having good situational awareness, evaluating points of access and egress in each location you find yourself in, including an evaluation of transitional spaces and those that teach you a variety of force options or some kind of use of force continuum if you will. Additionally courses that teach you how to prepare yourself for the aftermath of a self-defense incident where you had to use non-lethal or heaven forbid, lethal force.

These courses should also emphasize that your first option should always be to avoid, evade and then if necessary counter your threat rather than going for the gun immediately. The gun should be a tool of the last resort, period.

I tend to go a little further in my answer by saying that one should have skills in non-lethal methods of engagement, such as OC or “pepper spray” and of course empty-hand Combatives, maybe even one or two of the various martial arts. My personal choices for many reasons, but mostly because I studied both of these extensively are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or “BJJ” and Jeet Kune Do or “JKD.”

For empty-hand Combatives I always recommend to find someone who was trained by the late Bill Underwood first, Bill is the father of empty hands Combatives. Right now the top Combatives trainer in the game, again, in my opinion, is Kelly McCann with Kembatives Brand, honestly, I do not know Kelly and I do not know who trained him, but his program of instruction is spot on and very similar to what I was taught by my mentor Mike Griffin, who was a personal friend of Bill Underwood.

Circling back to Instructor Development Courses…

The NRA’s Firearm Training Program is a true Instructor Development Program. Most people start by becoming an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor, and yes many people in the industry talk down the program, but truth be told in my intermediate and advanced level shooting courses the first drill I start with is the NRA Instructor Pistol Shooting course pre-course qualification and you’d be surprised how many people, (Even nationally known trainers) who have failed to shoot a 6″ group at 15 yards cold on demand. Yeah, they don’t know that first drill is actually the NRA’s Instructor Pistol Shooting course pre-course qualification, but when I tell them their collective “oh man, I suck” comments sound like an echo.

So what it an Instructor Development course? Is it a course where you listen to a bunch of lecture and then are driven out on the firing line to run a bunch of drills where you are the shooter and NEVER once do a teach-back of any kind on the material presented by the Instructor or even run a drill on the line with your fellow Instructor candidates? That is not an Instructor Development course, and how could it be? That is just a money grab from the Instructor, and some build little cults teaching like this, believe it.

Furthermore is taking a written test and passing a couple qualifications that are not that difficult an Instructor Development course evaluation? I don’t think so, it could be a good student level course.

Yep, that’s what happens in most of these so-called “Firearms Instructor Development” courses and it is ridiculous if you ask me. (I know you didn’t ask me, but this is my blog so you’ll get my qualified and educated opinion)

Recently I attended a three-day Instructor Development course and it was exactly what an Instructor Development course should be. What made this Instructor Development course stand out was the fact on TD1 the Chief Instructor and his staff, there were five (5) total staff instructors asked each individual candidate what they were there to learn. The Chief Instructor readily admitted that he doesn’t know what we know and wanted to make sure that each person got what they came for, that was a big takeaway for me, the Chief Instructor was fully engaged at all times and each candidate did a teach-back on the range selecting one of five or six different drills offered by the staff. During the teach-back the candidate was teaching a couple Staff Instructors with the rest of the candidates observing and then at the end there was an evaluation or the good, and of course the areas that needed to be improved.

This course was not a “Certification” it was all about development and that was refreshing in a world where people want to collect “Certifications” to list on their C/V or website.

Now, I have seen just about all of it, when you travel the country teaching classes as I do and having dinner with students on the road they give you feedback and most tell me that courses that do not pressure test the Instructor Candidates ability to deliver a block of instruction in a classroom environment and on the range with a range exercise are just a “Paper Credential” and I agree with them. So, are you into collecting paper or are you into getting coaching on how to be a teacher, trainer, coach, and mentor?

Let me circle back to this recent Instructor Development course, it was a wealth of knowledge on everything from basic fundamentals to moving while shooting, communication with partners/friendlies, proper use of cover and concealment, room clearing and even a block of instruction on tactical medical procedures and tourniquet application, along with starting a business and talking about things like range and firearms instructor liability insurance and so much more.

The block of instruction on tourniquet application is something that I added into my courses about three years ago and soon I will be requiring each individual student in my range intensive courses to bring their own tourniquet and have it on their person throughout the course, right now I have a fully-stocked trauma bag at each course and the range that I teach at full-time has a fully-functional AED or Automated External Defibrillator, when I am on the road I take my own AED with me.

Now let’s talk about certificate collectors, I have no problem with them, attending courses and getting more training is what we as trainers encourage our students to do. In fact, I encourage all of my students to take as many courses as their pocketbook will allow and from as many different trainers as they can. My binder of certificates include many you would recognize and I have taken multiple courses with people all across the country.

Earlier this year I was invited to attend an Instructor Development course as a guest to evaluate the POI or Program of Instruction and was even provided ammunition and a place to stay, all I had to come up with was travel expenses, rental car, and food. Several of my closest friends know about these offers and they also know that I am the type of person who will refuse the “freebies” and will pay the tuition because that gives me the ability to speak freely about the course and write about my experience(s) in this blog.

Oh, by the way, I was to evaluate a nationally known Law Enforcement Instructor Development course next week, unfortunately, the course was rescheduled due to a death and I will be doing that in September now.

Again, this is my qualified opinion based upon my years of education, training, and experience in this arena and as we know in order to have a qualified opinion on a particular subject you must have the education, training, and experience in that specialized field otherwise your opinion is just like that thing that you expel waste out of your body from while sitting on the crapper.

A Firearms Instructor Development course is one that as I say, pressure tests the candidate in a variety of situations, not just standing in cement on the firing line and mediocre course of fire then a couple qualifications and then take a written test. An Instructor Development course pressure tests each candidate to actually present assigned curriculum either on the range or in the classroom, I prefer a range drill myself so I can evaluate the Instructors ability to explain, demonstrate, imitate and coach his or her students through the exercise.

An Instructor should allow the student to run drills at 50% speed to get familiar with the drill and then allow them to gradually increase the speed until the point of failure or in our case “misses” and then evaluate with the student why they missed. I give a lot of one-on-one coaching as I walk my firing line in the courses I teach because it is important to give feedback to the student, that is what they crave, interaction with the trainer.

This going full-speed just to shoot fast is ridiculous, you must be able to shoot good first, speed will come over more and more repetition. A famous quote attributed to legendary lawman Wyatt Earp goes as follows, “Fast is fine, accuracy is final.”

An Instructor Development course should also include a short exit interview with each candidate, not just a certificate presentation ceremony full of pomp and circumstance and photos for social media. This exit interview should be conducted by the chief instructor and any assistant instructors. It should be used as a tool to help the Instructor candidate understand their strengths and weaknesses and give them an opportunity to give feedback on the course in a closed-door session so the candidate can speak candidly without his or her peers in the room. This exit interview should only last 5 or so minutes.

I will be offering a one-day and two-day Firearms Instructor Development course very shortly and soon my two-day course will be approved in Florida as a “State Certified” program eligible for those graduates to teach Firearms Safety Courses for Florida Concealed Weapons or Firearms License applicants, stay tuned, that will be coming.

Lastly, it is my recommendation that all Instructors take some kind of continuing education throughout the year. Yeah, I know many do not have an unlimited budget to travel the country and take courses, that’s why you must seek out not only Instructor level courses, but solid student level courses and try to increase your skills, that will make you a better trainer, teacher, coach and mentor to your students.

Thanks for checking in, and until next time, be vigilant be the best, and as always, live life abundantly!

Train hard so you can fight easy!

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