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3 questions to ask before registering for a firearms instructor school

Firearms instructors should also be students of the craft


CGIS agents learn how to shoot around objects in order to prepare them for real world scenarios at the federal training center in Georgia Dec. 12, 2008.

Photo/US Coast Guard

During my law enforcement career, I’ve attended, taught and inspected several firearms instructor courses. Though most of them are based in my home state of Colorado, some of the schools are nationally and internationally recognized. Many officers who teach or instruct firearms use probably ask themselves the same question after completing one of the schools: Is this the right type of school for a firearms instructor?

Whether you’re choosing a big-name organization or a small up-and-coming school, some questions may arise as you’re shopping for the right place. Is this school just trying to pump through instructors for the sake of pumping through instructors? Is this school ten years behind in firearms instruction? Is this school just in it for the money and could care less about the students?

If you’re asking yourself any of the above questions in your search, try to look out for these three things before you choose a school.

1. Is this school teaching the right things?
Many students seek out a state approved or certified instructor school so they are able to teach under the term of P.O.S.T. Approved Instructor or Certified Instructor. The beauty of attending a true state approved or certified instructor school is that it has been evaluated and stamped by the state.

If your state is like Colorado, the approval comes from a committee of firearms training subject matter experts who are appointed by the state attorney general’s office. Having a stamp of approval on a firearms instructor course should mean that the course has appropriate content and is being taught by proper instructors.

2. Does this school have the right instructors?
Speaking of instructors, you’ve probably noticed there are plenty of firearms instructor schools out there that are taught by former or retired military personnel. Some of these schools have tremendous value. Some of these schools have little value as it relates to law enforcement firearms instruction. Do a little homework and view the curriculum prior to the class. If the instructor or organization is not willing to provide the curriculum to you prior to the class, use caution.

Some instructors’ claim to fame is that they’ve been teaching since revolvers were their primary side arm. I’ve attended a couple of those schools and found some instructors to be a wealth of knowledge. I’ve also found some of those instructors to be so far behind in tactics and teaching methods that it’s embarrassing. It is always important that the instructors of those instructor schools are also students of the craft. If those trainers haven’t been to at least an operator school in the past five years, use caution.

3. Will this school teach me how to be a better coach?
A true firearms instructor school will focus hard on the coaching, teaching and instructing concepts. In doing so, the course will probably not require the attendees to bring 2,000 rounds with them to the school. If a firearms instructor school mandates the attendees to bring more than 1,200-1,500 rounds of ammunition for a 40 hour course, use caution! It’s likely a shooting school disguised as an instructor school.

Here’s an analogy I offer new instructors: Do you know who Butch Harmon is? No? Okay, do you know who Tiger Woods is?

Yes, of course you know who Woods is. Harmon was Woods’ coach when he was in his prime.

My point is that to be an effective coach does not mean you need to be a great shooter. It means you must be an exceptional coach, like Harmon.

Do research before registering for a firearms instructor course. Read reviews, ask former students for their opinion and talk to the instructors directly when possible. Remember why you’re attending a firearms instructor school in the first place — to obtain knowledge and experience to pass on to your students in order to keep them safe.

Commander Paul Gregory has been in law enforcement since 1999. He is an instructor in handgun, shotgun, patrol rifle, precision rifle and select fire weapons. Paul is also an Instructor Trainer in handgun, shotgun, rifle and select fire weapons. In 2007, he was appointed to the Colorado P.O.S.T. Subject Matter Expert Committee for firearms where he remains today. Paul has trained hundreds of officers, deputies and investigators throughout the state of Colorado.

Contact Paul Gregory