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Hey! Who wants to become a firearms instructor?

by John Glatthar

If you are not just “into firearms” but also have some solid skills, good overall knowledge in the subject matter, and have a desire to educate others, then why not consider teaching?

America needs you. The next generation, our future leaders (gasp) and public servants need to be taught not only how to safely handle firearms but that these inanimate objects are not evil devices that should be banned or heavily restricted. They must be taught that firearms are indispensible and necessary tools for the defense of yourself, your family, your community, and your country. 

Did you know that in 2020, the FBI reported that 8.4 million background checks were performed for first-time gun buyers? With so many new gun owners, the demand for qualified instructors is at an all-time high.

Not an “expert” shooter? Before your lack of confidence in your skills deflates your dream of becoming an instructor, remember that only a tiny fraction of gun owners in America possess Navy SEAL-level or champion-grade expertise in firearms. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that only a person of that magnitude can be worthy of the title “firearms instructor.” That is untrue, for you must be a skilled teacher and communicator, as well. Excellent shooting skills does not necessarily equate to excellent teaching skills. Having both would be ideal, of course.

No matter the subject being taught you must an effective communicator. Being able to effortlessly and repeatedly hit a bulls eye on a paper target is an admirable skill and one a firearms instructor should possess, but it is only one element in the skill set that a firearms instructor should have.

Some other things to think about and qualities you should possess:

1. You must be patient. Some perspective here: there are 7 billion+ people on Earth, and every individual is unique. No two are the same. Remember that. It is inevitable that you will eventually get a difficult student in class. I have had students who were more than a bit dense and were incapable of following rules and range commands. They were asked to leave the range. I recorded their names so if they ever called again in the future, I would decline their business. Am I being too harsh? My answer: My range, my rules, my life. The older I get, the less tolerance I have for safety violations that put me in danger.

2. Assume nothing! Until your students demonstrate that they have solid gun handling skills and can follow fundamental safety rules, assume that they know nothing! That does not mean that you can talk down to them and treat them as children. What that means is that you do not skip over any fundamental building block of teaching. Watch them very closely, especially their hands.   

Erroneous assumptions explain why husbands (even with solid firearms knowledge) often do not make good instructors when they have their wives as students. Same goes for brothers teaching sisters, and so on. They skip over the fundamentals, assuming that their “student” certainly must know this or that basic knowledge already. They may not, so frustration builds. Example conversation:

Gun knowledgeable hubby/instructor, losing patience: “Damn, how do you not know that?”

Neophyte wife, getting flustered: ”Don’t yell at me!” I didn’t know!”

And it just devolves from there...

3. Do not re-invent the wheel. Teach using pre-existing educational building blocks from a source such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) or the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), or others reliable trusted sources. These courses have been developed and refined over the decades. In fact, the NRA has been in existence since 1871. Their sometimes-questionable legislative and political activities aside, they have provided valuable instruction for more than 100 years. Hard to argue with that.    

4. Never use your students as test subjects for risky, unproven techniques. Just because Johnny Tactical showed his subscribers some cool techniques on YouTube does not mean that you should ask your students to perform such moves. Practice a new technique many times yourself, and then ask yourself these questions:

- Is this technique safe?

- Can an average or novice shooter on my range do this without
  hurting himself or others?

- Is this technique necessary and useful?

- Would it lessen the quality of this course if I left it out?

If the answer to any of these is “no” then throw that technique in the trash, and stick with the fundamentals. You won’t go wrong.   

Here is some inside wisdom: Master level shooter Rob Leatham now teaches some select classes. Look for his YouTube videos. He is often asked by less experienced shooters if there is some (paraphrasing) secret zen voodoo trick to becoming a top level shooter? His response is no- it’s all about mastering the fundamentals. Did you catch that?  Master the fundamentals.  

 5. You must have good time management and organization skills. If you get into teaching CCW courses, depending on your state, know that some are 8 hours or longer in length, as required the state or county. If you plan to shoot outdoors, can you do an 8-hour class and get to the range afterwards to complete the qualification before dark, during the short daylight months?  On one occasion, I asked students to start their cars, turn on their headlights, and illuminate the targets. We just could not get to the range early enough to beat the sunset. I did that only once, after which I time-shifted the course to start an hour earlier. Not an easy task for a night owl who has never been and never will be a cheerful “early bird.”

6. Keep your shooting skills well-tuned. Keep up to date on changing technology and ever-changing laws at the local, state, and federal level. In Nevada, our legislature meets every two years. That is a good plan, since it keeps the rabid, howling anti-gun crowd quiet for a time.

Most CCW courses are far more than just a handgun shooting course, and being a good CCW instructor requires solid knowledge in, and the ability to explain, statutes and laws - especially those pertaining to the use of deadly force. No, you do not have to be an attorney to recite the law, but you must be proficient in the knowledge of the laws. Have no interest in studying these laws? Then you have no business teaching the subject matter. Stick to basic marksmanship classes.

Keep yourself educated.  Become the trusted “go-to guy” or gal for advice. People will seek you out once the word gets out that you are person who “knows of what he speaks.”

7. Watch your mouth. If you have a past background where you regularly fraternized with foul-mouthed associates, you’ll most likely pick up that negative tendency. I can’t believe how foul my mouth was upon my discharge from the Marine Corps back when. Leave that sh*t back on the base when you left. You are a civilian, training civilians. Therefore… be civilized! Be a gentleman or lady in the truest sense of the word.  

Keep your hyper-macho attitude in check. Sad to say, but this industry attracts a fair amount of chest-thumping, macho blow-hards, gun-worshiping commandos, and knuckle dragging ammo-sexuals.  This is the species that is a major turnoff for women who seek firearms training. As is very often the case, they are hesitant to get training from the local “firearms dude” for fear of choking in a “testosterone fog.”

There is much more to add to this, but after decades of instruction, I have witnessed the pattern and have heard countless stories from female students. Don’t take my word for this. Read Paxton Quigley’s book Armed and Female, in order to gain insight into a woman’s perspective on guns in American culture. Read the book, whether you are a man or a woman.     

What sort of instructor can you be?

1. A strictly informal, amateur, non-profit instructor, who shares his knowledge by teaching friends and family. This is how I started more than 40 years ago. Do it. We need you to pass the torch of knowledge and respect for our right to keep and bear arms on to others, especially the younger generation. I was taught to shoot a rifle at age six at summer day camp. Under adult supervision, we kids were firing real rifles  – my favorite activity above all else. I even loved the smell of it! 

2. An instructor working for wages at an established range or shooting academy. Your skills and credentials should be strong enough on your resume to be hired for such a job. If not, then start as a part-time assistant Range Safety Officer until you gain the experience.

3. An NRA-certified (or other credentialed) instructor who runs classes on his own using your own facility and a public range.  

I know of several instructors who teach classes out of their home and use outdoor public ranges for live fire training. The question is: are you prepared to have strangers in your house? Do you have adequate parking? Are there zoning or codes or HOA restrictions that would preclude such a home-based business? Are those who share your house with you on board with this venture?

You should raise the limits on your homeowner’s liability insurance policy. Be extra cautious here and get rock-solid coverage that will protect all your assets – just in case.

If you use a public range, you might find yourself in fierce competition for space on which to conduct shooting exercises, especially on weekends. Consider, perhaps, offering classes mid-week, as there are a significant number of retirees who need training and are free during the week. In fact, if you offer mid-week courses when few or none of your competitors do, you will corner that niche market. All this assumes, of course, that you are retired or semi-retired and are free in the week.

4. Perhaps the very best way to run a successful training business is to own or lease a nice piece of land, upon which you can build a safe shooting range with a good backstop. Favorable topography will save you from having to bring in fill dirt for backstop. Nothing stops a bullet better than a mountain side or hill side.

For the classroom, you can rent a mobile office by the month. Just hook up power and you are ready to roll. No power nearby? Get a towable, quiet diesel or LP generator.  It is not a small investment, but it can be used to power your house as well, if you disband your range training facility.  

You could erect a building yourself, but there is far less hassle with a mobile rented unit than having to deal with getting inspections and approval from a county building department, some of which are notoriously difficult to deal with. Still, having your own place, even with the building hassles, is the very best long term solution.,

 5. Whether for weekend money, as part-time work, or as a regular job in this field, being an instructor can be rewarding. If you expand your capabilities and licenses to include gun sales, ammo & accessory sales, and gunsmithing services, you will open new streams of income. For this to materialize, however, you will need to bring on board trusted, talented people. I hesitate to offer you advice on how to choose the “right” people. My advice is to do as much as you can without tethering yourself to another. You will know when the time comes to take on an employee or assistant. Stay away from formal business partnerships – far too many end up in acrimonious splits. Be selective, and not too quick to associate with those who you have not known for at least a few years.

Coming up next month: Step by step instructions on how to become a firearms instructor in Nevada.

At Semper Firearms Training we encourage you to buy a good firearm, get trained in how to use it, and continue your firearms training as part of a defensive lifestyle.

Please be sure to watch these two important videos and to send the links on to a friend:

Images courtesy of Oleg Volk

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Semper Firearms Training
9732 Pyramid Hwy #409
Sparks, NV 89441
775.842.6409
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Images courtesy of Oleg Volk