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!