Firearms training is a hot topic these days, and very much a booming industry. Training schools are popping up all over the place and becoming more and more popular as more people carry guns and want to be prepared.
So, how do you choose a school? Training is expensive, so you surely don’t want to waste any money. A simple Google search can display hundreds of schools, each offering their own brand of tactical training. For a new shooter, it can be difficult to sort through these courses to make sure they are finding a quality organization.
First off, look for credentials. It’s important to know I am a military veteran before I say this: Be highly skeptical of military credentials. Why? Without the combat arms or special tab to go along with it, it doesn’t mean much. Even with infantry credentials (I’m infantry, by the way), it doesn’t make for a good instructor for concealed carry. If you wanted to know about combined arms, squad tactics, etc., then military experience is a must, but for tactical handgun courses, not so much. The same for former LEOs (law enforcement officers). Most LEOs qualify once or twice a year with less than a few hundred rounds.
Special Forces credentials mean a bit more, but be cautious that someone isn’t a liar. If someone says they are a Navy Seal, find their class number; most are proud to pass it out and tell a few tales of how hard their class had it. Also, a top-flight Special Forces operator can be a great gun fighter, but it doesn’t mean he can teach. Look for instructor credentials — for example, a LEO instructor, a Marine Corps shooting coach, or BUDS (SEAL) instructor.
Credentials shouldn’t end there, though. A real instructor should always be learning and involving. Many will list classes they’ve attended, especially from nationally known schools. A short list of known and valued schools are:
- Thunder Ranch
- Sig Sauer academy
- Roger’s Shooting School
There are others, and don’t be afraid to ask where your instructor has trained. Most will be proud to tell you about the schools. Research the training they’ve gone through; a quick scan from Google searches should tell you quite a bit.
Second, be wary of the combat roll. This training emphasizes moves that look cool, but make little sense. For example, when will you ever do a soccer style slide tackle while shooting to take down a target? Never, but I see it in training promos on YouTube all the time.
Beware of buzzwords like “Israeli” or “Secret ______ (insert some special forces unit here) method.” The Israeli method is a favorite for attracting new and unsuspecting students. I’m not judging Israelis, but their methods are designed for a forced conscripted force, and not for the everyday American.
Look for training that makes sense, that doesn’t focus or overuse the word “tactical.” Training needs to be grounded in reality, in real situations, not the instructor’s fantasies. Focus on real training that will give you the basics of weapons handling, and build on those fundamentals.
Third, how important is safety to your instructor? Safety should be the number one building block for any training course. Get a class itinerary (which a quality school will have), and look to see if they have a portion of training set aside for a focus on safety. If your class involves some form of pointing your weapon at another student and dry firing, you need to rethink your training. Again, I have seen this be a part of a training course. Safety goes hand and hand with professionalism.
The fourth factor is class size. How many slots does the course have open compared to instructors? This can vary depending on the training. For example, a handgun basics course does not need as many instructors as an advanced course featuring fire and movement. The instructor-to-student ratio is important for both the quality of training and the safety of the course.
A course with a single instructor for 20-plus students means you will have very little one-on-one time with the instructor, and the instructor may not be able to pay attention to the safety of everyone on the firing line. Too many students and not enough instructors means you won’t get the most out of your training, and wasted training is wasted money.
Fifth, experience is key. Research the course, look for reviews promoting it, and pay special attention to what people learned at the course. If you see vague, commercial-like reviews on review pages, look to see how many reviews that person has posted. If it’s just one review for that training school, and it sounds commercial-like, then it’s pretty suspect.
The best way to research a training school is to look on videos posted online of the courses’ actual training. This will tell you a lot, fast. Even for amateurs, if it looks unsafe, then it is. If it looks stupid, and too tactical for school, then it is. And at any time you see a combat roll, just consider another course.
Another method is to just ask around. Ask at the local gun stores (while buying a box of ammo, or a mag or something). The best scuttlebutt is going to come from gun shops where rumors and gossips, and of course, opinion, are passed around.
The sixth and most important factor? Knowing your skill level before signing up for a course. This involves a few things. First off is asking the instructors, or someone associated with the course, the desired skill level. If they start rattling off things you’ve never seen done and do not feel comfortable with, find a different class.
Firearms are inherently dangerous, like knives and cars. So taking a class outside your skill level is not only dangerous, but a waste of time and money. Do not feel that your pride is wounded by taking a class a step below the advanced tactics. Everyone has to learn somewhere, and it’s better to reinforce the basics than get ahead of yourself training-wise.
These are my simple rules for choosing training schools. If they want my time and hard-earned money, they better be prepared to present a safe environment, teach me realistically, and have the means and experience to teach whole classes. If they don’t, I want my money back.
Be safe, and keep training.
Have you gone through a training class? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below: