A request went out last month to all NRA Instructors seeking instructors that would provide discounts in the month of October for anyone with an active restraining order who is looking to receive self defense, gun safety or firearms training. Jody and I decided it was such a worthy cause that we signed up.
Strategic Outfitters will offer our seven hour Pistol Intro class, which is normally $79, for FREE to anyone with an active restraining order. We also decided that this will be permanent, not just for the month of October. Please call or email using the contact information in the left column to sign up for a class using this offer.
A restraining order is nothing more than a piece of paper and many abusers have continued their abuse or even murdered their victim. If someone you know has an active restraining order, please tell them about this program.
Most concealed carry classes you see advertised online, in gun stores, in pawn shops, and at gun shows are just 2-3 hours. We don’t conduct them and never will. What you aren’t taught in those short classes can get you arrested, or worse, killed. In the 7 hours of our Pistol Intro class, we find it difficult just to cover the minimum knowledge and basic skills that you need to know.
Those classes are called “concealed carry” because they (barely) qualify you for applying for a concealed carry license from the State. They do not provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to responsibly and safely carry a concealed firearm, much less the knowledge and skills necessary should you need to protect yourself or your family.
You’ll get to shoot a bullet or two for meeting the state requirement. You might not even go to a range though—it isn’t uncommon for those classes to have you shoot a low powered .22 round into a bucket of sand right there in the gun shop or pawn shop.
We offer a series of classes to take you from where you are today to where you would like to be. Our 7 hour Pistol Intro class takes you from being uncomfortable with guns to understanding gun safety, proper handling, and marksmanship. We’ve had students that had taken the typical 2-3 hour concealed carry class, but hadn’t gotten their permit because they felt less confident after taking that class than before. They leave our 7 hour class with confidence.
For learning proper concealed carry and defensive shooting techniques we teach the NRA’s Defensive Pistol course (1 day) and the NRA’s Personal Protection Outside The Home, PPOTH, (2 days). We also teach the NRA’s Personal Protection Inside The Home, PPITH, (1 Day) which concentrates of preparing you to defend you and your family in your home.
Whether you’re choosing an instructor for a basic class to obtain your concealed carry permit or looking for someone to take an advanced course from, you need to do your homework to first ensure that you have a safe experience and second have a positive educational experience. I’ll try to break down things to consider in making your choice.
In Florida and many other states, becoming an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor by taking the two day class is the only requirement to being able to teach classes required for the firearm safety component of the state’s concealed carry license. This means that someone with absolutely no firearms knowledge or experience beyond a two day class can teach firearm classes!
Something else to understand is that in Florida an NRA Certified Instructor can create their own class that qualifies for applying for a concealed carry permit. These classes are not vetted by the NRA or the State—or anyone else for that matter. This is why there are classes that are only a couple of hours and the students “demonstrate” their safe firearm handling skills by shooting a single low power .22 caliber round into a bucket of sand.
There are four general categories of instructors:
Part-Time: doing training because they want easy money
Part-Time: doing training because they genuinely want to help people learn
Part-Time: doing training to help people learn and to earn extra money
Full-Time: doing training as a business
The first group are best to avoid. They put on minimal classes of just a couple hours and often use the low power .22 caliber round into a bucket of sand. They have very little investment into training aids such as inert training guns. We have had numerous students come to us for basic training after having already taken one of these types of classes. They left the other instructor’s 2 hour class being more afraid of firearms than before they took it.
The second group includes individuals that have a wide variety of experience levels from very little to expert; what they share is an honest desire to help everyone they can to learn to use a firearm. Many will give the training for little or no cost. The quality of their instruction runs from teaching improper firearm handling to outstanding teaching.
The third group is very much like the second, except that they charge reasonable rates for providing training.
The last group certainly want to help people learn as well—if they fail their livelihood fails! Instructors in this group often have far more investment in teaching aides, training tools, and their own training. For some of us the investment, which includes real estate for classroom and range, can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
So how do you separate the good instructors from the bad instructors? Be a good consumer and do a little basic research. If you have friends that have taken firearm classes, talk with them about their experiences.
Next use the incredible power of the Internet to Google (or Bing, or whatever your search engine of choice) the instructor and their company. Internet tip: put a person’s or company’s name in quotes when you do the search, especially if they are common names/terms. (I.E.: search for “John Doe” instead of John Doe)
Be wary of instructors with little or no Internet presence beyond a Facebook or Craigslist ad. While there are certainly very good instructors with little Internet presence due to their lack of computer skills, there are far more poor quality instructors looking to make a quick buck. They have no Internet presence beyond a Facebook or Craigslist ad because they have nothing to tell you about themselves aside from having taken a two day Instructor class.
While doing your Internet search, pay special attention to photos of the instructor, the classroom, and the range. Is the instructor dressed professionally? Is the instructor exhibiting good safety? (Take a look at Did your instructor do this?) Does what you read and see bolster your confidence in the instructor? Looking at websites other than the instructor’s, what do you learn about them?
What is the location of the class—a dedicated training room, a pawn shop or gun store sales floor, a motel conference room, a shack in the woods, etc.? Is it an environment that is conducive to learning and that you would be comfortable in? How many students are in the class? If it is more than a dozen, what’s the likelihood that you will be able to ask questions? Obviously the more students in the class, the less individualized attention you will receive which is why we limit our classes to 8 students.
While you are still looking at pictures and descriptions, where is the range portion of the class held? If it is in the classroom (I.E.: shooting into a bucket of sand…), that is almost certainly an instructor you’ll want to avoid. If it is at a public range, will the range training be held on a firing line with others not associated with your class? First, it is difficult for an instructor to work with a student shooter when there is other gunfire going on. Second, there is a lot of bad (dangerous) gun handling by people at public ranges.
If it is held on private property, is it actually constructed as a range (as opposed to just a pile of dirt, or worse targets in an open field with no backstop)? If the “range” is in the middle of nowhere, how long will it take EMS to reach it in the event of a mishap? Does the instructor have have a trauma kit at the range and know how to use it? Is there space to land a helicopter for an air evac?
Even more importantly, is the private property insured as a commercial range? Homeowners insurance is not going to cover a mishap for firearm training.
Do they carry instructor liability insurance? Any professional instructor, whether full time or part time, should.
Is the basic/concealed carry class the only training they offer? Instructors that provide a variety of advanced classes typically have a broader experience base that you will benefit from.
What is their philosophy of training and of civilian firearm skills? The role of an armed civilian is very different from the role of a law enforcement officer or a soldier. While learning advanced tactical skills employed by law enforcement and the military can be fun, many have limited or no usage to the armed civilian. Tacticool instructors that advertise their classes will turn you into a tier one operator should be avoided!
If you don’t find the answers to these questions during your Internet research, ask the Instructor. If they won’t answer the questions or provide unclear answers, cross them off the list—you have a right to those answers.
On the heels of our last blog post, Did your instructor do this?, comes this story out of Texas.
July 23 (3:47 p.m.) A local gun store owner had an accidental discharge of his weapon while conducting a License to Carry class. A report was not made to police until the students in the class went home. When the police investigation began, the officer contacted an employee inside Potter’s Liquor, located next door to Triple G Guns at 1542 Sunset Drive, and discovered that the bullet went through the wall of the liquor store and hit a ceiling tile half-way through the store. The liquor store reported that this was not the first time the gun store has had a weapon discharge into the liquor store. James Goodwin, the owner of Triple G Guns, failed to report the discharge to the police department. The owner must report this incident to the State Board that regulates the License to Carry instruction.
The person in the photo below teaches firearm safety classes that qualify the students to apply for a concealed carry license. The photo is from one of their classes. They posted this and several more to their Facebook page and then shared that post to a gun group’s page. We have cropped it, eliminated the background, placed black boxes over their head and chest to conceal their identity, and converted it to black and white. The gun in the photo appears to be a real handgun, not a training gun (not that it makes any difference since training guns are supposed to be treated the same as real guns…).
If it is not bad enough that the instructor is standing in front of their class with the handgun pointed at his hand/arm and finger appearing to be on the trigger, apparently they saw absolutely no problem with this and posted it for the world to see…
To make matters worse, this instructor claims many years of law enforcement experience. If true, they are not someone that just took a weekend instructor class; they have decades of experience with handguns.
Another in the group of photos shows the instructor holding the handgun by barrel, appearing to be pointed towards his legs/feet. Yet another shows the students sitting at tables with what appears to be a handgun round in front of each. (Live ammo has no place in a classroom environment.)
This is why it is important to vet anyone you are going to take training from, basic or advanced. Look at their Facebook pages (business and personal), website, blog, Google search, etc. If you find images such as this, find another instructor!
Compare the photo above to this photo of a wounded soldier who is controlling the direction of his pistol and keeping his finger out of the trigger guard.
As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday I came across a posting by the NRA’s official Facebook page that caught my attention. “98.8 percent of mass shootings since 1950 have occurred in gun-free zones. So why are lawmakers opposed to allowing citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right to self-defense?” I immediately shared the article onto Strategic Outfitters’ Facebook page.
I then clicked on the link, expecting to be taken to something on the NRA’s website. Instead I was taken to a third party website with an article titled, “Just One Gun Law Might Stop 98.8% Of Mass Shootings, So Why Do Democrats Oppose It?” I quickly scanned the article finding demeaning reference after demeaning reference to “Democrats”. I immediately deleted the share from our Facebook page…
“Republican” and “Democrat” are very dangerous and imprecise terms. Are they referring to those career liars that tell the voters whatever it takes to get elected and stay elected, while always intending to do whatever is in their own best interest for power and money? Are they referring to the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, the official organizations of the aforementioned liars? Or are they referring to the citizens of the United States that happen to generally vote for Republican or Democratic candidates?
Likewise, don’t use the labels liberal and conservative; they are every bit as dangerous and imprecise as Republican and Democrat. All of these labels seek to pigeon-hole voters into groups that the Republican and Democratic Parties can more easily manipulate for their own ends.
We have friends that would typically be referred to as liberal and Democrats. News Flash: a great many of them are gun owners, including some that are concealed carry license holders! If you don’t know them well, you’d likely never know this as it is taboo. Liberal/Democrat/Progressive politicians have made gun control a hallmark of their campaigns, branding anyone that isn’t in lock step with them as deranged.
Conversely, conservative/Republican politicians paint liberals and Democrats as all hating guns and gun owners.
This binary thinking, them versus us, benefits no one except for the two corrupt political parties that are attempting to lock us into the prison cell of thought control via stereotyping.
Those of us on the pro-gun side need to stop feeding the corrupt political parties’ stereotypes by being precise in our language. If you need to say that the Party elites want to limit or eliminate our right to keep and bear arms, say so. Don’t, however, say that Democrats want to limit our right to keep and bear arms—some, more than we will ever know, actually agree with us and offending them only hurts all of us.
Also, remember that there are plenty of Republican politicians that are willing to trade away our rights in exchange for maintaining/enhancing their power and fortunes…
We have updated our training matrix to provide a path to our advanced training options for those that already have a concealed carry permit or have taken advanced training from other instructors. “Advanced Training” means a handgun class that was at least 8 hours and that specifically includes drawing and firing 100+ rounds from a holster. (Email us if you have a question!)
Those that already have a concealed carry permit can take our 2-3 hour Gateway Class for $35. It is a safety & skills review class (classroom & range) that serves as a gateway to our more advanced training classes (PPITH, PPOTH, and Defensive Pistol). The class ensures that the students have learned the ALWAYS rules of safe firearm handling and employ them. Additionally it gives us an opportunity to work with them on their marksmanship skills on the range. We have found that the $65 two to four hour “concealed carry” classes may be enough to get a concealed carry permit, but the students usually don’t really learn safety and marksmanship.
We are also now offering the NRA’s Defensive Pistol course. The Defensive Pistol course is similar to the NRA’s Personal Protection Outside The Home (PPOTH), including having the same student book. One significant difference is that students in PPOTH must first take the Personal Protection Inside The Home (PPITH) course; PPITH is not required for Defensive Pistol. Another difference is that PPOTH includes more advanced shooting, such as from cover/concealment and low light.
By offering Defensive Pistol, our students now have a quicker, less costly, means of receiving training in the nuts and bolts of concealed carry and drawing/shooting from concealment.
We strongly believe that PPITH is a course that almost everyone will benefit from and we will continue to offer it. We will also continue to periodically offer PPOTH for those that might want the more advanced training.
Here’s a summary of starting out with us on your path to confidence and competence in self protection:
You haven’t taken any formal handgun or concealed carry classes: Pistol Intro Class
You have a Florida concealed carry permit: Pistol Gateway Class
You have Advanced Handgun Training (NRA Defensive Pistol, NRA PPOTH, or other advanced handgun training that was at least an 8 hour class involving holster draw and 100+ rounds fired): You can take any of our classes, schedule computer simulator sessions, and attend our Skills & Drills Range Days!
The NRA’s very first safety rule is “ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction”. This seems simple enough, but how do we implement it in a typical classroom where there is going to be a lot of firearm handling?
If you aren’t already familiar with the gold standard in classroom firearm safety rules, take a look at our post on that topic.
On the range, the safe direction is obviously the berm/backstop. It’s not quite so simple in the classroom. There are not many places where firearm classes are held that have safe, bullet proof walls. Also remember that a ricocheting bullet or fragments from whatever is struck could cause serious injury. So how can you point a gun in a safe direction in a classroom?
The best “safe direction” option I can think of for using a real firearm in a classroom would be placing the barrel inside a clearing device or bullet recovery tank since the gun cannot fire in any other direction—pretty impractical or unrealistic for classroom training though. One fail-safe method for use in a classroom is to select the best “safe direction” and use a SIRT pistol or inert training gun—impossible for a mishap to occur!
(Note: SIRT and inert training guns are still treated as if they are real firearms. Failing to do so invites the negligent handling of real firearms. Train your brain to treat any “gun” with the same level of safety and respect.)
So how about malfunction drills in the classroom where a mechanically functional handgun is needed? One option, albeit not perfect, might be to “neuter” a handgun by removing its firing pin or striker. Whether using a “neutered” gun or not, the ONLY type of ammunition that should EVER be in the classroom is inert dummy rounds. Another option is conducting any training that requires a mechanically functioning firearm, such as malfunction drills, on the range instead of in the classroom.
How can we go about making the classroom “safe direction” the best that we can? Kathy Jackson of “The Cornered Cat” (website & Facebook) and I had an informative exchange in an instructor group on Facebook. Kathy offered some suggestions such as using a Kevlar vest or a box of books that is capable of stopping the most powerful round possible for the guns used in the class. Another idea would be a portable bullet trap.
It is important to remember that these enhanced “safe directions” are dimensionally limited though. A round discharged must impact the object for it to provide any benefit. An instructor or student having a negligent discharge may very well not have the gun aimed directly at the enhancement object—the other layers of safety rules have to be violated for the ND to happen in the first place…
The loss of the victim is most regrettable, as is the guilt that the student that pulled the trigger will now live with. It is also an opportunity for those of us in the instructor community, as well as our students, to review our own safety precautions to ensure that we don’t miss something that could lead to another tragedy.
The victim was in his office, on the other side of a wall where the students were practicing a malfunction drill (clearing a firearm after a failure to feed, failure to extract, hang fire, etc.) A bullet was fired from the handgun being used in the exercise; it penetrated the wall and fatally struck the victim in the office.
ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
As “ALWAYS” implies, it means all the time—not just when it is convenient. While rule #2 may not have been applicable in this training exercise since pulling the trigger may have been part of the drill, rule #1 and #3 certainly were. There can be no argument that the gun was not pointed in a safe and that the gun was not unloaded.
Of the additional NRA rules for the storage and use of a firearm, the very first states, “Know your target and what is beyond.” While the wall in the classroom might have been the target, the victim is what was beyond it and the wall was incapable of stopping the handgun round.
The NRA adds another layer of safety rules for its instructors. First, there is absolutely no live ammunition allowed in the classroom—by anyone. This includes the instructor, the students, and anyone else in the room. No ammo, no negligent mishaps.
The second rule is that before any firearm, or even a training replica that is inert, is used for any purpose in a class, the instructor or student will have someone else verify that there is no live ammunition in the firearm or magazines. This applies not just to the first time is is used in that class, but every time it is used in the class.
Adding all of these layers of safety rules together prevents mishaps. Even if the class being taught is not an NRA course, these rules are the gold standard in safety and apply. Likewise, even if the person instructing the class is not an NRA Instructor, the safety rules apply.
As a student, you have a right to learn in a safe environment. If the instructor is not following these rules, it is not a safe environment; you should leave any classroom where the instructor doesn’t/won’t follow the safety rules and demand a refund. Better yet, ask the instructor what their safety rules are before you sign up for their class.
We will likely never know exactly what had been taught to the students before the fatal shot in the class this weekend. We won’t know if the safety rules had been taught and retaught before the students handled firearms. We do know that safety rules were broken and a life was lost.
The vast majority of firearm ranges only allow static target shooting. Very few ranges allow you to draw and fire from a holster and of those, most don’t allow moving and shooting. Students in our advanced handgun courses are required to draw from a holster and fire, along with moving, at our private range.
We have decided to take the training we provide to an even higher level that is unavailable at the vast majority of ranges, even those allowing holster draw and movement. We’ve added a vehicle to our range equipment that will be used for training and drills involving shooting out the window at a threat (such as a carjacker or someone with violent road rage), exiting the vehicle to engage a threat, and using the vehicle for cover/concealment (such as when confronted by an armed robber, kidnapper, or other violent aggressor).