Dealer’s Choice Drill

Dealer's Choice DrillOnce the shooting fundamentals have been mastered, training needs to involve thinking and decision making. We are always looking for drills that can be shot on a static range, even one that doesn’t allow holster draw, that cause the shooter to have to think. The Dealer’s Choice Drill requires precision shooting, decision making, target identification, speed, and is fun!

The Dealer’s Choice Drill takes Tom Givens’ Casino Drill to the next level by providing an almost limitless combination of shooting tasks of varying complexity that require very precise shooting. This makes it ideal for Instructors to use in working on decision making skills with a large group of students. The Instructor calls out what is to be shot.

Some Potential Shooting Choices

  • single card (I.E.: “red 7”)
  • specific card where both red and black must be shot (I.E.: “kings”)
  • combination of cards (I.E.: “red 7 and black king”)
  • odd or even cards (I.E.: “red even” =  red 2, 4, 6, 8, 10)
  • face cards (I.E.: “red face cards” = red king, queen, jack)

An even harder drill is to call out a number and the shooter must decide which cards, of all of them on the target, must be shot to equal the number using Blackjack point values. (I.E.: “27” which could be shot using two face cards and a 7, or a face card, an ace, and a 6, or…)

Making Targets

The first thing you need is a deck of cards divided by suit. One deck will give you enough for two targets with a red and a black suite on each target. (You can get 12 decks for around $10 on Amazon, making the cost per target less than 50¢.) The cards are stapled onto the backer in some ordered pattern, rather than randomly. You’ll discover the Dealer’s Choice Drill is hard enough without having 26+ randomly ordered cards to have to search through. If you are able to master the drill using patterned cards, you can increase the complexity by several orders of magnitude by random positioning.

While there are various card deck printed targets you can buy, I haven’t found a target with an ordered deck of cards. The closest is the Birchwood casey 37026 Eze-Scorer which is 23″x35″ and is $1.00 per target, but the cards are randomly placed and the face cards aren’t pictures. Beware of other targets where the playing cards are substantially reduced in size, making card identification much harder and requiring you to shoot much closer.

Solo Firearm Training

Using an app like Randomizer+ Random Pick Generator – Decision Maker, you can enter a list of all of the combinations you want to shoot and have the app randomly tell you what to shoot each time you press the button.

Distances and Subjective Performance Measurement

Three yards seems to be an ideal distance to shoot the Dealer’s Choice Drill from. It is close enough that shooters should be able to clearly identify the individual cards, yet far enough to make putting accurate hits on each 2.25″ x 3.5″ playing card a challenge.

The drill can be shot from the holster or the low ready position. The time to complete a given firing command is going to be heavily dependent on the number of cards to be shot and the complexity of that command. The best measure is going to be adding the times for a collection of firing commands. By randomizing the order, the collective time for one session can be compared against previous sessions while eliminating speed increases due to memorizing the drill.


We’d love to hear about your experiences with the Dealer’s Choice Drill and any variations you come up with. We have a Facebook page dedicated to the drill for your feedback.

Becoming an NRA Instructor

Once you’ve decided you want to become an NRA Instructor or add a new discipline, your next decision is what Training Counselor to take the class from. This is likely to be the most important decision you make in your instructing career.

If you plan to base the decision of who to train with on cost alone, it’s a simple matter to look at the NRA Instructor classes in your area and find the lowest price. You might get lucky and that Training Counselor may do a great job, but more likely basing your decision on price is going to cause you to lose out on a much better educational experience.

In every field or product, quality costs

NRA Training Counselors are free to set the cost of their NRA Certified Instructor class at whatever price point they wish. Some will look at what others charge and price their classes cheaper than everyone else. Most others will pick a price somewhere in the middle. Almost all will avoid being the highest.

Our classes are almost always the highest.

Students coming to Strategic Outfitters to become NRA Instructors, or for any of our classes, benefit from the depth and breadth of our experience, a custom designed training facility, and trainers that help you towards success.

Our Experience

  • Doug has 24 years of experience in teaching including: FBI Academy in Quantico, VA; the Institute of Police Technology and Management (IPTM); and he is a professor at Valencia College in Orlando, FL
  • In addition to being an NRA Training Counselor, Doug is also an NRA Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor
  • Doug is one of only a handful of Training Counselors that is also licensed by the State of Florida as a Firearms Instructor and can therefore teach and qualify armed security officers and armed private investigators
  • Unlike some Training Counselors that are only certified to teach NRA Pistol Instructors, Doug can teach the following NRA Instructor courses:
    • NRA CCW
    • Pistol
    • Rifle
    • Shotgun
    • Personal Protection In The Home (PPITH)
    • Personal Protection Outside The Home (PPOTH)
    • Refuse To Be A Victim (RTBAV)
    • Home Firearm Safety
    • Range Safety Officer/Chief Range Safety Officer (RSO/CRSO)
  • At Strategic Outfitters, you don’t get a single trainer, you get a husband and wife team. Jody is an NRA Instructor certified in multiple disciplines and offers different perspectives to the topics covered
  • Both have years of law enforcement experience, Jody at the local level and Doug as a Special Agent for the State of Florida
  • Doug and Jody are successful business developers and owners, having created, run, and sold businesses in both the retail and service sectors for over two decades
  • We have held an FFL for nearly a decade, giving us a great deal of insight into the hardware aspects of firearms, including NFA items (suppressors, short barreled rifles, etc.), and federal regulations covering their manufacture, sale, and transfer

What You Will Experience

  • Our NRA Instructor classes go well beyond the required material. We share our insights and experiences in everything from establishing a business to marketing it
  • We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and many thousands of hours in designing, building, equipping, and maintaining a concierge level training facility with classrooms, an onsite range, and a Pro Shop that is within easy driving distance from anywhere in the greater Orlando area
  • Your manuals will already be assembled into notebooks so you can concentrate on learning and don’t have to bring empty three ring binders with you
  • We mentor Instructors that train with us. Our professional guidance is always available to our students; it doesn’t end when the class does

Becoming an NRA Instructor: Value not Price

The cost of the training to become an NRA Instructor is an investment in your future. You can maximize that investment by making certain to attend the class that is going to teach you the most, especially as it pertains to the business side of being an Instructor.

To put cost into perspective, NRA Instructors typically charge around $65/student for classes to obtain a Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License. The cost difference between our classes and most others is only a couple of students—the tangible benefits you’ll receive are immeasurable.

Here’s a previous post on choosing a Training Counselor that goes into detail. Use it to compare us to the others and you’ll see that we offer the greatest value in training in the Central Florida area.

More information on our class to become a Certified NRA Instructor, including the registration page can be found here.


By JL Rehman

Distance is your friend…

Being in and around law enforcement and security for most of my adult life, I tend to exercise situational awareness when out in public as a matter of daily routine. We had plans in place when our kids were small, especially due to the very public spotlight on Doug’s career in online child exploitation investigations and the arrest and convictions of those people. For us, it was just a way of life. Most people don’t or have not had to live that life, but the lessons learned can apply to anyone.

Now with grandchildren, that situational awareness is even higher. Now it’s not just about the kids, but about our kids and their kids. Watching how strangers react to our grandchildren and how our kids in turn react to the stranger.


I’m a big proponent of distancing. Keeping enough space between me and a stranger to allow myself reactive time if the stranger, for whatever reason, decides to become a threat. When someone gets too close, my internal brain alarm goes off. I’m not a fan of crowds either.

The same went for our kids in public. Pulling them back whenever they were practically nestled up on the hip of someone waiting in line, or too close when suddenly engaged by attention and conversation by a stranger, or just zoned out and not paying attention from a long day. Distance.

For the first time an issue arose that, looking back, could have been handled differently. I was out with my daughter and grandchildren, we stopped to eat and took a table. They were seated with their back against the wall with me on the outside. There were tables lined down the wall, most filled. A guy came over, a bit disheveled, and began talking to us as if he had known us for years. I get that some people are like that and perfectly harmless. He could have been too.

He sat at the table next to us so he was closest to the kids and immediately started interacting with them. Not us, them. He clearly had experience with kids in how to engage them for conversation and the ability to get them comfortable enough to answer questions. He got down to their level. Even so much as encouraging the youngest to howl like a wolf. This may all sound harmless and cute, but on the other hand, it felt like “grooming”.

We ate quickly and left, but it compelled me to re-evaluate the way I handle those situations now. Next time, the kids will be buffered from the stranger. One of us (adult) will be in-between. Distance.

There is a fine line between being socially kind and polite, and taking action on a possible threat. It’s hard. It means constant evaluation. It means reading body language. It means listening to what the stranger is saying. And not saying. It means allowing your natural instincts the ability to do its job (that gut feeling) and doing what it tells you.

Fatigue—the Enemy of Safety & Learning

Strategic Outfitters Defensive CombatOnce a month, Jody and I hold a Defensive Combat (DC) class. The real world scenario based class involves lots of moving, decision making, and of course shooting. By moving, I don’t mean the typical take one step to the left (right, forward, or backward) that you find in classes with 30 students on the line—I mean continuously moving while engaging multiple reactive targets. In the blazing Florida heat, safety dictates that watching for any signs of fatigue in the students is paramount. Once we observe it, it’s time to conclude the training as both safety and learning will decline.

With the news of a negligent discharge (ND) this past weekend by one of the icons of the firearm training industry, I evaluated what information was available to seek the root cause. The ND happened at the end of the training class, just before the qualification shoot. At least three people had confirmed that the revolver was unloaded prior to the ND. So how can three people, one an industry icon and another a Range Safety Officer, miss seeing a round in a revolver’s cylinder?

Some will cite confirmation bias—we see what we want to see. If we expect to see a cylinder devoid of cartridges because we know the gun is unloaded, that’s what we tend to see. We know the gun is empty, so we go through the rote of opening the cylinder and then closing it. But at least three people failed to see the cartridge; confirmation bias alone does not explain this safety mirage.

I don’t know what the weather conditions were that weekend where the class was held and I don’t know how long everyone had been on the range that day or the day(s) leading up to it. Based on typical descriptions for the type of class where the ND occurred and this being just before the final qualification, everyone had likely been on the range a great deal.

Let’s face it, we tend to get sloppy when we are fatigued; with firearms, sloppy equals dangerous. This doesn’t usually get taught in Instructor or RSO classes, but it should! While it is critical for Instructors and RSOs to be watching for signs of fatigue in others, it is just as important for every person on the range to be watching for signs of fatigue in others AND THEMSELVES.

Signs of Fatigue

Signs to look for in others and ourselves include loss of motivation, slowed reflexes and responses, poor concentration, sore or aching muscles, and weakness. We don’t learn well when we are fatigued, nor do we perform well.

One of the unmistakable signs of fatigue is wanting to get the shooting over with. When you find yourself taking shots that you know aren’t going to be good, you have reached the end of valuable training.

Staving Off Fatigue

None of us want to face it, but we are all getting older and fatigue sets in earlier and often more suddenly than when we were in our prime. There is no magic cure for fatigue; when we’ve pushed our body to its limits, we start entering a state where it is much easier—and likely—to make mistakes. We can, however, take some steps to delay the onset of fatigue.

Starting off the day well rested will have considerable impact on delaying fatigue. Staying hydrated means consciously forcing yourself to drink; if you wait until you are thirsty it’s already too late. Particularly in the heat, stick with water and products designed to replace vitamins and minerals lost through exertion and sweating.

Speaking of sweating, pay close attention to the amount of sweat produced by yourself and others. The cessation of sweating is a telltale sign of heatstroke—a medical emergency.

Instructors should be giving their students regular breaks where there can go inside to an air conditioned environment or at least get into the cooler shade to sit down and relax. Instructors should also be constantly reminding the students to drink. Eating small snacks is another good idea.

Range Gazebos and Shade SailsOur range has shade sails suspended over it so that shooters can avoid the sun as much as possible. It has large gazebos with picnic tables for the non-shooters to remain in the shade and be able to sit down. We are also in the process of adding fans in the gazebos and on the range to help as well.

Medical Factors

People with medical issues can become fatigued much more rapidly than others. This is why paying attention to everyone on the range, shooters or Instructors/RSOs, is vitally important to the safety of all. As certain drugs can have side effects brought about by sunlight, everyone should be aware of the potential effects of what they are taking.

For Instructors, finding out if anyone has a medical condition that could impact their range experience is important. It can be as simple as asking at the beginning of a class for anyone with any potential issues to speak with you during a break. Including a short section in the range briefing about fatigue is another good idea.

Train Smart

Get a good night’s rest before the class or range session. Take water and sports drinks, along with snacks, with you. Recognize those signs of fatigue in yourself and others so that you can have a safe and valuable range experience. Most importantly, know when it is time to stop training.

New NRA CCW Course!

The NRA has been deluged for a very long time with requests from the public for an actual NRA CCW class (as opposed to the Basics of Pistol Shooting class that is aimed at any and all legal uses of handguns). In response, the NRA announced a new modular CCW Course yesterday that will allow Instructors certified in this new discipline (Basic NRA CCW) to teach an NRA CCW class.

Thus far the existence of the course, officially named the “Basic NRA CCW” course, has not been made public. In an email to Training Counselors sent out yesterday, we were told a little about the new course and given an opportunity to sign up for one of the first two course sessions being held during the NRA Annual Meeting in Dallas at the beginning of next month. I’ll be attending the very first session and will report on what I learn there about the course.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The course is modular so that the Instructor can teach only the portions needed to meet the requirements of their state permitting process. This means that the course can vary in length from 1 to 16 hours. It also means that a state specific, non-NRA legal module and/or live fire qualification can be included.
  • In order to become certified to teach the Basic NRA CCW course, you will have to be an NRA Pistol Instructor, successfully complete the Basic NRA CCW course (student), and successfully complete the NRA CCW Instructor course. Instructors that haven’t taken BIT in the last two years will have to take it again in order to add the new rating. (That’s a requirement for adding any new rating and a good reason to get all the ratings you plan to within that two year period.)

The course the TCs are taking is 8 hours, but I have no idea how that will translate into what Instructor Candidates will have to take. I strongly suspect that the student version the Instructor Candidates have to first take will be 8+ hours and the Instructor class will also be 8+ hours.

My suspicion is that the NRA CCW course will take sections from the Basics of Pistol Shooting and Defensive Pistol in order to create the modules. If that’s what was done, it should be an excellent course!

Some reasons you might want to consider adding this rating (when it becomes available) include:

  • This is a way to differentiate your classes from the typical 1-3 hour CCW classes seen everywhere. This will be an actual NRA class with an NRA certificate. Until I’ve seen the actual modules, it’s hard to say how long a minimum course  for Florida will be, but it’s entirely conceivable that it could be around 4+/- hours.
  • You’ll be teaching NRA approved curriculum instead of something you created yourself. Unless you have the credentials to be developing curriculum yourself (NRA civilian ratings DO NOT provide those credentials), this makes the new NRA CCW class particularly attractive.
  • Since NRA CCW classes ARE NRA classes, you’ll be able to register them on the Instructor Portal. This means that your classes will show up in searches anyone does on the website. Despite the trashing from the main stream media, the NRA remains the most respected source of firearm training and people will seek out these classes when they are publicly announced.
  • The modular format of the class means that you can easily break it down into multiple sessions/days. You could even break it into the initial class covering all of the necessary modules and then additional classes covering other modules. Some very successful trainers are already employing this tactic to increase attendance.

We will update you when we know more and when we have classes scheduled.

Calendar of Upcoming Training Classes

Listing of All Upcoming Training Classes

NRA Instructor Class Expectations

Before I go to a training class, I try to find out everything I can about what I’m going to learn, what I’m going to do, what is expected of me. I want to know how is the class going to help me toward reaching my goals and pretty much anything else that comes to mind. Hopefully this post will answer some of those questions for those of you that are contemplating becoming an NRA Instructor or already  signed up for an NRA Instructor class.

The NRA requires that the Instructor Candidate successfully complete the Basics of Pistol Shooting student class prior to the two day Instructor class. Effective 1/1/2018, the same is now true for all Instructor disciplines.

What an NRA Instructor Class Is

NRA Instructor LogoThe NRA Pistol Instructor class is two days with the first being Basic Instructor Training (BIT) and the second being the Pistol Instructor training. BIT is the NRA way of teaching a class and is very good. I was already a college professor before taking BIT and I found it helped me immensely in teaching.

The second day delves into specifically teaching the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting curriculum.  Day two of the Instructor class is learning how to teach the class, not the actual information that is presented to the students—that was learned in the preceding student class.

There are multiple exercises over the two days where the Instructor Candidates teach sections of the class. Each time an Instructor Candidate makes a presentation to the class, with the other’s playing the role of students, they are evaluated by their classmates. (This is why the NRA requires a minimum of four Instructor Candidates in an Instructor class.) The evaluation is conducted by the Training Counselor with the class first providing positives about the presentation, followed by improvements that can be made in the presentation style, and then the positives are reviewed.

Negatives are not allowed in the evaluation. For example, saying that the presenter did a terrible job presenting the section is not allowed. Instead, an improvement that could be shared with the presenter might be to ensure that all of the important points of the section are covered.

Each day has its own written examination. They are open book and require a minimum of 90% to pass.

At the end of the class, those that have passed the two examinations, passed the shooting qualification, passed the firearm handling requirements, demonstrated an absolute commitment to safety, and demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to be an NRA Pistol Instructor will be certified (after registering and paying a $50 non-member or $30 member certification fee).

What an NRA Instructor Class Isn’t

There is more to certification than paying for/attending a class. The class is for well experienced shooters. In order to become a certified NRA Instructor, you must demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary for an NRA Instructor. The class will require your active participation and attention. Merely attending the class does not guarantee that you will become certified; it provides you the opportunity to achieve certification.

Instructor Candidates are expected to already have a firm knowledge of firearms and shooting. The NRA Pistol Instructor class is intended to teach candidates with that knowledge and skills how to teach the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting course. The class is not a remedial shooting skills course—you should be able to pass the shooting qualification before you attend the class. (20 rounds fired from 45 feet at a nine inch target with a minimum of sixteen hits within a six inch circle.) If you can’t shoot to this level, seek out an Instructor that can help get you to this level before the class. Failing the qualification means not getting certified.

Staying in Your Lane

One thing that many Training Counselors fail to stress is that being an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor does NOT mean that you are qualified to teach anything you would like to—actually, the NRA is only going to certify you to teach the Basics of Pistol Shooting student class (four different versions),  a Gun Safety Seminar, a Women On Target class, and a laser marksmanship class— nothing more.

Absent other instructing certifications, an NRA Pistol Instructor is way out of their lane in teaching anything beyond basic firearm safety and handling, the fundamentals of pistol shooting, and a few other basic topics. Teaching holster draw, concealed carry, and anything “tactical” is well beyond the limited instructor training they have received and potentially opens them up to substantial civil liability should one of their students discharge a firearm and cause an injury.

An NRA Pistol Instructor desiring to be able to teach true concealed carry classes, which would include teaching drawing and firing from a holster, would need to go through the process to become certified to teach the NRA’s Personal Protection Outside The Home (PPOTH). That process involves first becoming an NRA Personal Protection In The Home Instructor (PPITH). As the NRA requires taking the student course of a discipline before taking the Instructor version, the order of classes for someone that is already a Pistol Instructor is: PPITH student > PPITH Instructor > PPOTH student (Basic & Advanced) > PPOTH Instructor.

What to Expect

The first thing to understand is that the class is really three days worth of material forcefully compressed into two days. The pace has to be fast in order to meet all of the objectives. Some topics will only be touched upon and you will need to do your own studying after the class is completed. Above all, you need to be paying attention.

Strategic Outfitters Classroom

Don’t expect this to be one of those classes where you can be a passive observer. NRA Instructor classes are highly interactive—you are expected be an active participant and will be presenting to the class multiple times. You’ll also be expected to work with your classmates to put together presentations.

Hint: pay careful attention when you take the required Basics of Pistol Shooting class for students as you’re going to be expected to know the information taught there and are going to be teaching that same information during your Instructor class.

The range portion of Day 2 is particularly fun and educational. The Instructor Candidates are paired up and take turns being the “student” and the “Instructor”. We have highly skilled shooters shoot with their non-dominant hand when playing the role of student. The idea of the range exercise is to give each Instructor Candidate an opportunity to help a “student” to correct any errors in the shooting fundamentals.


Hopefully you noticed that I keep italicizing attitude. I do so to draw attention to how important your attitude is. NRA Instructors, first and foremost, should have a genuine desire to help others to learn how to safely handle, fire, and store firearms. They should want to help others to be safe, confident, and proficient gun owners and to help their students to reach their goals with firearms.

I stress in my Instructor classes that they must focus on the needs of their students. They must put themselves into the students’ shoes and ensure they meet the students’ needs. Every class you teach will be different because every class will be made up of different people with different knowledge, skills, and attitudes—especially attitudes towards guns.

By reminding the Instructor Candidates how nervous they feel in getting up in front of the class, they can empathize with the student that is nervous in handling a firearm, perhaps for the first time in their life.

Wrapping Up

This post was quite long and had a lot of information in it—just like your Instructor class will be. Come prepared to have long days filled with learning!

Training Counselor: One Night Stand or Relationship?

I’ve written before about choosing a firearms Instructor, but what about if you are looking to become or already are an NRA Instructor seeking a Training Counselor? (Training Counselors train Instructors.) The basics of choosing an Instructor apply to choosing a Training Counselor and links to my posts on the topic are at the bottom of this one.

What follows is long, very long…
(unfortunately it needs to be)

The first question to ask is of yourself:

Are you only looking for a certificate, or are you seeking to be mentored?

If you are only looking for a certificate, you can get that with any Training Counselor. If you are looking to truly learn the material and much more in order to be a great Instructor, seek out a great Training Counselor.

If you’re seeking to choose a great Training Counselor, it should be a long term relationship. Paying attention to the factors outlined below won’t guarantee you find one, but it will substantially improve your odds.

Traits of a Great Training Counselor

  • Open Book
  • Follows NRA Rules
  • Stays Current
  • Is a Mentor
  • Is a Student
  • Teaches
  • Knows their Limitations

Open Book

Do you want to take a class from someone that appears to be in witness protection, held at an undisclosed location that you’ll find out only after registering for the class?

There is a very limited amount of text that can be placed into the comments section of a class listing on the NRA’s Instructor portal and it’s impossible to get a complete picture of the quality of a class from it. A Training Counselor can put website addresses into the comments, however, to lead a potential student to information sources. Evaluate what they put into the comments for the class: are the comments designed to give you information to make an informed choice; are the comments solely about classes they have taken; are there no comments, minimal comments, or aloof comments?

One of the first steps to choosing a Training Counselor is to do an Internet search on their name and another on their business name (putting the name into quotes such as ” John Doe” often helps focus on the right person/company).  What can be found in a few minutes spent doing research can be tremendously enlightening.

Where are the classes being held? If it is an undisclosed location that will only be revealed after registering and you are seriously considering that Training Counselor, contact them to ask why they are concealing that information and the exact location BEFORE you register. You have a RIGHT to know where and in what environment a class will be held before you register for it.

Do an Internet search for the address of the class. In some instances, you’ll find that it is the Training Counselor’s home. Depending on the arrangements, being in someone’s home could be awkward and a poor learning environment, or it could be comfortable and a good learning environment. Regardless, it almost certainly means that range portions of classes are held somewhere else; contact them to find out the location of the range they use—Google/Bing/etc. the range location.

If shooting portions of the class are held at a “private range”, you should ensure that it is safe (has an adequate backstop well above the targets—you are responsible for every bullet that leaves your gun, whether in a class or not) and that it is actually insured commercially as a firing range (don’t be afraid to ask for proof).

Follows NRA Rules

The NRA’s firearm training programs for both students and Instructor Candidates are well thought out, as are the rules for teaching them. Instructors and Training Counselors must teach the curriculum completely and as it is designed; they can add supplemental information, but they can’t skip parts.

By not following the program as it is designed, Training Counselors are depriving the Instructor Candidates of receiving the training experience that they paid for and need to be prepared for teaching their own students. Two of the most common areas where this happens is insufficient Instructor Candidates and not having them conduct the range portion.

NRA HQ requires that there are a minimum of four Instructor Candidates in a class. This is because the Instructor Candidates are supposed to take turns actually teaching the student class for the discipline certification they are seeking (Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Personal Protection Inside The House, etc.). They are also supposed to be broken into groups for certain modules; working in groups shows the value of team teaching. This is particularly important for the first class that an Instructor Candidate is going to take (usually Pistol Instructor).

Failing to have the Instructor Candidates conduct the range portion of the class is a particularly egregious violation of NRA Rules. The Instructor Candidates are supposed to be learning how to conduct the range exercises of that particular discipline. The best way to actually learn it is to conduct it under the watchful eye of the Training Counselor.

Stays Current

The firearms training world is constantly evolving; the same goes for the NRA training program. A Training Counselor needs to be constantly seeking out the latest information. This requires reading a great variety of information sources and being actively involved in online groups and forums for firearm trainers, especially those targeted at NRA Training Counselors.

This, however, doesn’t mean adopting the latest, greatest, cutting-edge training/tactic/etc. and passing it along. The great Training Counselor evaluates everything they are going to teach, personally vetting it. We live in a media driven world where everyone in the firearms industry is trying to make a name for themselves by “inventing” the latest training/tactic/etc. and marketing it through social media. It’s the responsibility of the Training Counselor to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Is a Mentor

The NRA concept of a Training Counselor is that they don’t just teach Instructor Candidates, they mentor them so that they can become the best possible Instructors. The relationship isn’t supposed to end after the class ends—Instructors are supposed to take their questions to their Training Counselor. If the Training Counselor doesn’t know the answer to an NRA related question, it’s their responsibility to contact NRA HQ, get an answer, provide it back to the Instructor, and know it the next time an Instructor asks.

Mentoring doesn’t end with NRA questions, it includes the vast array of knowledge about firearms, firearm training, business, teaching, and more.

The great Training Counselor doesn’t see other Instructors, or even other Training Counselors as competitors. They share their knowledge so that the training industry can evolve, making it better for students. They want to see others succeed, raising the bar and thereby the quality of available training.

Is a Student

It is said so frequently in the firearm training world that it has become cliche, but it remains true that a great teacher is foremost a great student. The great Training Counselor thirsts for knowledge and seeks it continually.

This can include taking training offered by other firearm trainers, but it must also include studying things such as adult learning and methods of instruction, shooting issue diagnostics, legal, trauma response, and anything else that impacts upon them, the Instructors they train, and the students of those Instructors.


Teaching is far different from instructing. Instructing is delivering material typically developed by someone else. Teaching includes instructing, but the great Training Counselor takes steps to ensure not just that the material is covered, but that the material is learned and understood by their Instructor Candidates. The great Training Counselor can also add their own material that enhances what is learned and retained.

The great Training Counselor understands that people learn in different ways. They have the knowledge and teaching skills to present important points in ways that all of the Instructor Candidates can grasp and retain. Any stories they tell will be aimed at illustrating a learning objective, not self-aggrandizement.

Knows their Limitations

The great Training Counselor is keenly aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. They aren’t afraid to admit they don’t know the answer to a question, but they will either seek out the answer or refer the Instructor to someone that knows it.

Likewise, a great Training Counselor isn’t afraid to refer students to other Training Counselors and Instructors, especially if the training being sought is better received from someone else.

Evaluating Options When Selecting an NRA Training Counselor

First and foremost, you should consider the Return On Investment (ROI) of the training dollars you are going to invest. One of the worst mistakes you can make is allowing price to be a deciding factor—value is the appropriate yardstick.

Pricing set by a Training Counselor may be based on any of a variety of factors:

  • What are their financial expectations?
    • full-time occupation
    • part-time occupation
    • hobby
  • What is their investment in training?
    • training classes they have taken
    • training aids they have purchased (SIRT pistols, computer simulators, etc.)
    • do they lease a dedicated storefront
    • do they own a dedicated facility
  • What is the level of their experience and expertise?
  • What is their reputation?

Of course, those factors don’t always enter into the Training Counselor’s pricing method. Some will simply seek to undercut the price of everyone else so that they get  Instructor Candidates that are selecting classes on price, not value. Others may simply set a price that is in the ballpark of everyone else.

So how do you determine the method a Training Counselor uses to set a price? Simple—ask them! If they are lower than most, ask them to explain how they can provide the same quality of training for less than others Training Counselors. If they are higher than most, ask them how that higher cost translates to the training experience that you will receive.

If you are going to ask them questions concerning pricing, the most important question is how does the cost charged equate to value for you, the student?

Factors for Consideration

  • What did you learn from the NRA Instructors portal listing for the Training Counselor’s class?
  • What did you learn about the Training Counselor and what you will experience in their class from their own website and Facebook page?
  • What did you learn about the Training Counselor by doing an Internet search for their name?
  • What did you learn about the location where the classroom portion of classes will be held?
  • What did you learn about the location where the range portion of classes will be held?
  • What did you find about the Training Counselor’s philosophies pertaining to firearms, firearm training, and mentoring?

Taking the answers to all of those questions, you’re now in a far better position to discern the true value of taking a class from that Training Counselor.

Previous Blog Posts on Choosing an Instructor

Choosing an Instructor

Did your instructor do this?

Lots of Bad Instructors—Choose Carefully

Firearm Safety in the Classroom

Family Safety: Our Significant Others

By JL Rehman

In the defensive firearm world with the focus on hardware, proper grip, etc., as it should be, what often falls between the cracks is consideration of our significant others. They can unintentionally become an afterthought in the long-term preparation of safety and action. Planning for family safety must involve all members.

It is easy to make assumptions of their response based upon your perspective and the expectations of their involvement during a deadly encounter.

It is not uncommon for our partners to have a fear and hands-off attitude toward firearms. No one should be made to feel guilty because of their personal feelings about firearms. On the other hand, it can lead to lack of cooperation for a plan in the event of a crisis.

Does that mean the end of the conversation? No. A crisis will involve them regardless, without their permission and with no regard to their feelings.

Have a Plan

When a predator makes a choice to invade and threaten your life and the lives of your loved-ones, passive ignorance by a partner really isn’t an option. During a deadly encounter, whether at home or out, their reaction can make the situation much worse if a plan of action and preparation isn’t in place.

Panic is your enemy. Consider these options. Have an honest conversation. Plan what they need to do. Whether it is grabbing the phone and hiding in a safe closet, running to a neighbor, or knowing what to do in the public arena, give them something to do. Taking the attitude that you will “protect them” isn’t good enough. Frightened people panic, freeze and often become unintentional targets. They can become distractions or obstructions to your engaging a threat.

Coming the Summer of 2018

Strategic Outfitters is launching a new class for family safety, Critical Home Defense, a three-phase course: Classroom, Computer simulator and in-house practical located at our dedicated facility.

Teamwork can make the difference between life and death.

The Gun as a Modern Day Amulet

An amulet is something someone wears or carries that they believe will protect them from evil. That’s exactly the way many gun owners treat their gun.

Here’s something you don’t often hear a firearm instructor saying: Owning A Gun Doesn’t Make You Safer!

Here’s another statement firearm instructors don’t usually say: Learning how to safely handle and shoot a gun doesn’t diminish the likelihood of your being attacked!

Magic Amulet

Wait—I’ve bought a gun, taken training how to properly use it, and go to the range to practice. You’re saying that won’t keep me safe?

There’s a fairly well known proposition among those that study violence, drawing on a drawn gun is almost always a losing proposition. Put another way, if someone is holding a gun on you and you attempt to pull your gun, you’re probably going to get shot. The key to safety is avoidance of the situation, if at all possible, in the first place.

You Win Every Gunfight You Avoid!

Firearm instructors tend to concentrate on firearm skills. That’s not entirely a unexpected or bad thing, as an instructor should stick to the knowledge, skills, and abilities that they actually possess. The problem comes in failure to see the bigger picture—if the only tool you possess is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

If you have to deploy a firearm in self defense, you’re experiencing the worst day in your life. Win, lose, or draw, it is likely to be a life altering experience as well.

I bought a gun, took a 3 hour concealed carry class where we fired a low powered bullet into a bucket of sand, got my concealed carry permit, and sometimes even carry my gun, oh and I took it to a range once—I’m ready for a criminal attack!

Does that sound as misguided reading it as it did when I wrote it? Sadly, that describes the vast majority of American concealed carriers.

The first thing missing from that statement is any training concerning avoiding the criminal in the first place. The NRA’s Personal Protection Outside The Home class (PPOTH) has good avoidance information in it and also teaches drawing and firing from a concealed holster or a purse. Unfortunately it’s a two day class and requires that you have already taken the Personal Protection In The Home (PPITH). The NRA also has a Defensive Pistol class that uses the same student book as PPOTH. We teach it as a full day class that is a condensed version of PPOTH, spending about 70% of the class in the classroom learning about criminals, how they think, how they select their victims, and how to minimize your chances of being a victim.

Here are some of the major points:

  • Pay attention to what is going on around you. Get your face out of the cell phone!
    This is something that you don’t need to go to a class to learn how to do and significantly reduces your appeal to a criminal predator.
  • Avoid going places where crime is common. This includes avoiding “good” places at bad times.
  • Don’t look like a victim (meek, afraid, unaware, etc.).
  • Learn to spot the criminals before they spot you so you can avoid them.
  • Have a plan in case things do go bad.

Your gun and the skills you develop and maintain through regular training are what you are left with when every avoidance tactic has failed. A gun is not a magic amulet that ensures your surviving unscathed; it provides you with a final tool to use towards winning the encounter.


Everyday Carry (EDC) Flashlights

Even if your concealed carry firearm has a light on it, it is a great idea to have a flashlight with you—after all, you don’t want to have to pull out your handgun to find that object you dropped in the dark parking lot!

Keychain Flashlights

The most convenient flashlights for EDC are the small ones that go on your keychain. They aren’t going to turn darkness into daylight, but they provide more than enough light to see what you’re doing—or to identify that person lurking in the shadows…

EDC FlashlightsI scoured Amazon for for key chain flashlights and bought numerous different ones. The least usable were the ones where you have to hold one end of the light and twist the other to turn it on or off, taking both hands. The next unsuitable type are the rectangular ones. They are about 1/4″ thick, but are about 2-1/4″ x 1″. This makes them far too big for most key chains, especially if your keys are in your pocket.

The last group are a little thicker than the rectangular ones, triangular or oval in shape, and around 1″ at the widest, and around 1.5″ long. I tested a bunch of different models and found the amount of light they provide was close enough that there was no notable stand out. The best value of the lot was the 10 pack of Lumand.

AAA Battery Flashlights

I also purchased a bunch of two AAA cell flashlights to find one that would make a good all around EDC light that wasn’t too big, but could provide much more light than the tiny key chain flashlights. I found that all the two AAA lights provided plenty of light, but only one model allows momentarily turning the light on by depressing the on/off button on the tail-cap—the Streamlight 66118 Stylus Pro. While it does command the highest price, the momentary feature is well worth it.

If you’re looking for something even more compact, the Streamlight Stylus Pro has a one AAA cell little brother, the MicroStream.

I prefer an EDC flashlight without multiple modes (hi/low/strobe/etc.) controlled by pressing the on/off switch multiple times to select the mode and the two Streamlight flashlights mentioned meet that requirement. If you do want those options, the Streamlight 88061 ProTac single AA cell is a great choice as it even allows you to program the light to various combinations of modes.