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Old February 4, 2020, 06:35 PM   #1
Shooter12
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Most reputable certification/course(s) for Handgun Instructors?

Hi

I'm in California. (Don't hold it against me.)

I'm a physician who is into shooting and has taken a bunch of courses from the local instructors including the NRA handgun instructor course, and have started to introduce handgun shooting to some of my friends who are completely new to it.

I'd like to become more qualified as a handgun instructor.

What are the shooting schools whose instructor certification would be most reputable i.e. carry the most weight? (I do realize that simply taking a course or getting certification alone doesn't carry much weight, that's not my question, I'm asking about schools.)

Gunsite? Sig Sauer? Rogers? Rangemaster?

I'd prefer something closer to California, if possible, but willing to travel for multiple week-long courses if it's worth it.

Thanks.

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Old February 4, 2020, 07:18 PM   #2
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The course that “carry the most weight” are the NRA instructors courses.
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Old February 4, 2020, 07:41 PM   #3
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A friend of mine has been an NRA-certified instructor for a number of years. He recently took the instructor certification course offered by USCCA -- he said he thinks they have a very good course. BUT ...

He paid several hundred dollars for the class and certification, plus having to travel to somewhere and stay overnight in a hotel. The certification is supposed to be valid for a year, and after about six months they notified him that they were deactivating his certification because he hadn't registered enough students. Bottom line: USCCA seems to expect their instructors to not only instruct, but also to act as salesmen for USCCA and their insurance programs.

I still think the NRA is the most widely recognized. If you want to become a better handgun instructor, don't stop with Basic Pistol. The NRA offers several more advanced handgun instructor certifications beyond Basic Pistol.
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Old February 4, 2020, 07:52 PM   #4
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Do you want to do this as a business, or are you simply looking at improving your own skills and giving the best instruction for your friends?

I've done 24 courses at SIG Sauer Academy. I find the instructors there to be excellent. That doesn't mean there aren't great instructors elsewhere. SIG does specifically have courses set up for the instructor route if you go that way. SIG has courses set up to develop a baseline and then individual courses to work on specific skills (there's a guideline chart that maps it out). There is a lot you can do in your own development, and then the instructor courses (my own understanding here) help you gauge your progress as well as how to best pass it along to others.

I think the NRA courses are some of the most well recognized and likely would serve as a good basis. The NRA certified instructors I've interacted with have been varying in their own skill levels and instructional ability. This is true of teachers anywhere, but I have at times been less than impressed. That said, my experience is the general shooting public can benefit from all the instruction it can get (I include myself in this). If doing more local courses allows you to cover more topics at lower cost and then be better able to pass it along to others I think that bears consideration.

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Old February 4, 2020, 07:58 PM   #5
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Here in NYS you need to be an NRA certified and everyone except retired and active law enforcement needs to take a course to get a pistol permit. Check with your state laws to find out what specific requirements your state or county may have.
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Old February 5, 2020, 01:10 PM   #6
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Thank you all.

So I will take more NRA instructor courses, then. And avoid the USCCA instructor certifications (though I am a USCCA member and like their insurance).

@Tunnelrat, yes I saw the course progression chart on the SigSauer website, I like that. Given that the Sig Sauer school is on the way other side of the country from California - I'll have to spend a day travelling each way (aside from cost of plane tix). Would prob try to take their basic pistols 1-4 on the same trip, or as many as possible depending on their offerings. Do you think SigSauer academy is a better option than, say, taking Gunsite's weeklong courses for Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced, then the Instructor Development course?

Gunsite is in Arizona so closer to me, that's a plus in terms of time off from work and cost of travel. The downside is that Gunsite is more 1.5x more expensive, a 5 day course is $1800 tuition, compared to SigSauer $1250 for a 5 day course.

To answer your question, I'll be teaching for fun and as a service to the community, and the money earned helps a little bit. I'd earn a lot more working as a physician on a Saturday then teaching gun classes all Saturday. But as a physician, you don't get to shoot guns.

@NoSecondBest, thanks for the thought. Yes I have CCW. Here in CA you have to take a certified CCW class (8-16 hours I believe). Getting on the county roster as an instructor for the CCW class is a process; it's also a competitive field as there are many many good CCW instructors around, far better than me; and it's not the most fun to teach I imagine, lots of know-it-all shooters taking it just to fulfill the requirement, it's different when you have beginning students who really want to learn or even experienced students you can do move-and-shoot drills with.

If anyone has any recommendations for handgun instructor training/certification courses other than NRA, SigSauer Academy, and Gunsite, please do let me know.

Thanks.
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Old February 5, 2020, 01:51 PM   #7
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I would think the NRA course, being national and 'not for profit'(like Sig Sauer Academy and Gunsite, et al.) would be the most recognized. The Sig Sauer Academy appears to be mostly a SIG firearms shooting/weapons tech school.
What NoSecondBest says about NYS might apply in CA too. Dunno myself. This turned up via a net search. https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/fscinfo
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https://firearmtraining.nra.org/become-an-instructor/
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Old February 5, 2020, 01:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
@NoSecondBest, thanks for the thought. Yes I have CCW. Here in CA you have to take a certified CCW class (8-16 hours I believe). Getting on the county roster as an instructor for the CCW class is a process; it's also a competitive field as there are many many good CCW instructors around, far better than me; and it's not the most fun to teach I imagine, lots of know-it-all shooters taking it just to fulfill the requirement, it's different when you have beginning students who really want to learn or even experienced students you can do move-and-shoot drills with.
Almost all the people I had attend the class over a twenty year period were new handgun shooters. I've never had an experienced handgunner attend. You do get a "know-it-all" once in a while. You know, someone who reads all about it on the net and is an instant expert. Here in NY if they have experience they already have a permit. You can't own a handgun without a permit. Although there are a lot of instructors on file at the courthouse, I get way more requests than I care to fill. Even though it can be a good source of income here in NY, it isn't worth it if your free time is valuable. Some instructors are getting upwards of two hundred bucks. Most are getting around a hundred. If you can get a class of ten or more together, you can do pretty well giving the course.
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Old February 5, 2020, 02:05 PM   #9
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Most reputable certification/course(s) for Handgun Instructors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by T. O'Heir View Post
I would think the NRA course, being national and 'not for profit'(like Sig Sauer Academy and Gunsite, et al.) would be the most recognized. The Sig Sauer Academy appears to be mostly a SIG firearms shooting/weapons tech school.
What NoSecondBest says about NYS might apply in CA too. Dunno myself. This turned up via a net search. https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/fscinfo
Start here.
https://firearmtraining.nra.org/become-an-instructor/
As someone that has attended the SIG Academy, it's not primarily a tech school. They do offer armorer courses for a number of the product lines, but the amount of times those are offered pales in comparison to say their Handgun 101-104 courses (I'd say that's their bread and butter, they're offered constantly). You also don't have to shoot SIGs. While the trainers themselves do use SIGs and there's no denying the relationship, the techniques taught generally apply to any firearms of a similar class. I personally have used a Glock for most of the pistol courses I've taken, and there have been guys using AKs in the AR course. As long as you maintain safety the gear is your call.

My NRA Basic Pistol course was paid for by me. Now one could argue there was no profit involved at all and someone else here that has more experience on the instructor end can sound off on that. There absolutely is profit involved in a number of the firearms academies. Whether that lessens their reputations is a decision I leave to others.

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Old February 5, 2020, 05:05 PM   #10
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A consideration about Sig Academy: Their instructor certification, like their Armorer certifications, is only valid for three years. So to remain certified you would have to travel back to New Hampshire and take the same class again, every three years.

The NRA instructor qualification remains in good standing as long as you pay the certification fees every three years.

Also, Sig Sauer Academy has a strict (and expensive) ammunition requirement:

Quote:
Estimated round count: 1,500 rounds pistol
For Epping, NH courses, non-toxic, non-jacketed FRANGIBLE ammunition may be required
Lead core ammunition to be used on steel only
I use my own reloads for training, to save money. 1,500 rounds of 9mm frangible ammo is $450 according to their ammo cost calculator. I think my reloads (in .45 ACP) cost me about 12 to 15 cents per round, so 1,500 rounds would only cost me about $225.

It all adds up.
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Old February 5, 2020, 05:34 PM   #11
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Only courses that are inside require frangible, and even then only the indoor pistol range as the indoor rifle range allows lead ammunition (hence the may be required part). You can ask ahead of time if the course will be inside (though if you're far enough ahead of time it might not be known for certain). So it's possible that you need frangible for a given course, but it's not always true. There are more courses outdoors in the summer, not many people want to do 8 hrs outside in the winter, so that also affects which ammo is needed. I bring my own ammo whenever I can.

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Old February 6, 2020, 12:06 AM   #12
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NRA is the most recognized and will therefore carry the water for more people than anything else. But it is sub-par IMHO. There are "famous" schools and instructors and most of them are better at marketing than their competition, but that does not make them better for teaching shooting and all the other skills (low light, target ID, diversions, shooting on the move, etc.) needed to be capable. In fact most schools teach shooting basics and that is it. No weapon retention, shooting from and into vehicles, etc.

I've taught about 6000 students so far and have largely gotten out of it since so many instructors and students want a piece of paper (or to sell a piece of paper) but have no real motivation to become proficient. I try to take a class a year because their is no "arrival" point when it comes to pistol shooting and tactics. The skills are perishable and changing. When I started, there were night sights, but no WMLs, lasers or Red Dots and many of the techniques have been eclipsed. There are very few people on my list of folks I would take a class from. Ron Avery passed away last year, but he was one and I was fortunate to have taken two courses from him.

MidSouth Institute (John Shaw), Mike Seeklander, Rob Pincus are three that I would look hard at. Delve into who and what they are as instructors. Interview them like you would a new intern for your medical practice. They might not get top billing in the bling categories, but they are top drawer instructors. I'd venture to say you probably have a few local to you that are excellent as well, just harder to find.
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Old February 6, 2020, 01:14 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkCO
MidSouth Institute (John Shaw), Mike Seeklander, Rob Pincus are three that I would look hard at. Delve into who and what they are as instructors. Interview them like you would a new intern for your medical practice. They might not get top billing in the bling categories, but they are top drawer instructors. I'd venture to say you probably have a few local to you that are excellent as well, just harder to find.
I don't think the OP was asking for names of just instructors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shooter12
What are the shooting schools whose instructor certification would be most reputable i.e. carry the most weight?
Of those you listed, the only one I have heard of is Rob Pincus. I assume MidSouth Institute must be a school of some sort, but I don't know about the other two. Do any of them offer instructor certification? That's what the OP asked about.
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Old February 6, 2020, 01:29 AM   #14
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Quote:
There are "famous" schools and instructors and most of them are better at marketing than their competition, but that does not make them better for teaching shooting and all the other skills (low light, target ID, diversions, shooting on the move, etc.) needed to be capable. In fact most schools teach shooting basics and that is it. No weapon retention, shooting from and into vehicles, etc.
FWIW, SIG has classes for most everything mentioned in this quote (for the OP, pay heavy attention to the guest instructor courses as that is often where the more specialized instruction comes in). While there is no doubt an element of marketing, it's not always to the exclusion of actual content.

That said, in my years of training at SIG I have noticed that the Handgun 101-104 courses now dominate the calendar this year (to be frank it's disappointing.). I think the cash cows are frankly the lower level courses. They're easy to sell out, and while I might love a course of 6 people and an instructor that's not as profitable. Lower level courses also don't require instructors with as specialized knowledge nor as much in terms of facility usage.

Quote:
so many instructors and students want a piece of paper (or to sell a piece of paper) but have no real motivation to become proficient.
In interacting with other students I have seen this firsthand. Taking the courses is one thing. Actually applying yourself within those courses and then practicing those techniques on your own is another.

Quote:
There are very few people on my list of folks I would take a class from.
Somewhat related, but even within one school there are often instructors that develop a following (it can be debated whether that following is warranted or not). Eventually those people leave, which is disappointing. Scott Ballard and Todd Rassa were instructors at SIG that covered a lot of the executive/personal protection courses, including day long force on force classes. They've since retired and while the executive protection has been started back up, it appears to be in 5 day blocks which frankly is hard to have both time for and the money for personally. Adam Painchaud who was the director for a long time has also left. In my experience it's not easy for an academy to replace instructors when you are talking about more specialized instruction.

Quote:
I'd venture to say you probably have a few local to you that are excellent as well, just harder to find.
To the OP, some schools that I know offer courses more in your direction include Kagwerks, Baer Solutions, Esoteric, DARC, TMACS, Vickers Tactical, Haley Strategic, the list goes on.
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Old February 6, 2020, 08:29 AM   #15
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Aguila, I get that he asked for schools and not instructors, but as TunnelRat mentioned, schools are only as good as their instructors, who leave, or you take a class and get the new instructor who is not as good. Maybe I should have gone further in my explanation in the some folks are born teachers, others have to learn. A born teacher is better learning from the best and then leveraging those superior skills through their own teaching style, not a canned method, which most of the "Instructor Certs" push, and or require regular fees and courses to maintain that cert. If the creation of a structure is not in ones natural inclination, they are better off taking a few courses on how to teach married with their becoming the best shooter they can be. That flows to almost all areas of high level instruction in that the cert is worthless, it is the person that matters most.

John Shaw, and now his son, is one of the top shooters the US has ever had. I met him many years ago and the experience (actually was a guest at his house and got to teach him to Twin Load a shotgun) is something I will always cherish. MidSouth has taught more Tier One operators than anyone else...pretty amazing track record.
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Old February 6, 2020, 11:56 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkCO
John Shaw, and now his son, is one of the top shooters the US has ever had. I met him many years ago and the experience (actually was a guest at his house and got to teach him to Twin Load a shotgun) is something I will always cherish. MidSouth has taught more Tier One operators than anyone else...pretty amazing track record.
But do they offer instructor certification?

If you want to answer the OP's question and then expand upon your answer, that's fine. But you (and a couple of others) have talked all around his question without answering it at all.
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Old February 6, 2020, 07:54 PM   #17
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The course that “carry the most weight” are the NRA instructors courses.
now that is truly funny
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Old February 6, 2020, 08:59 PM   #18
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How is that “funny”?

Regardless of how you feel about the NRA, most states honor NRA instructor creds over anything else. Just a fact. You want to teach CCW in a given state? NRA instructor certification is probably whats required.

Try to get insurance to teach firearms without having a NRA instructor certificate to show.
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Old February 6, 2020, 09:14 PM   #19
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If you want to do well, I'd say get the NRA cert, then go take some instructor classes from some other instructors/school that covers the areas you want to focus on.
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Old February 6, 2020, 10:25 PM   #20
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^^^ THIS ^^^
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Old February 6, 2020, 10:25 PM   #21
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now that is truly funny
Not funny at all -- fact. As Sharkbite commented, most states recognize an NRA class as training for issuance of a carry permit. My state requires the NRA Basic Pistol -- by name.
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Old February 6, 2020, 10:45 PM   #22
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Quote:
But do they offer instructor certification?
Sure.

Since there is no such thing, since there are no standards, anyone can. But yes, all three teach an instructor course.
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Old February 13, 2020, 05:49 AM   #23
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I'm a graduate of the NRA Police Firearms Instructor Class (shotgun and revolver), Law Enforcement Rifle and Law Enforcement Sub-machinegun Instructor classes. I haven't taken an NRA class in almost 30 years though . . .

The NRA instructor classes for private citizens are viewed as pretty basic but they are recognized in many places in the country. Those courses would be a good place to start.

You're in California, so attending relevant classes at Gunsite would be logical.

Tom Givens of Rangemaster also has three different levels of handgun instructor class available. I'm not sure how often he gets out to the west coast.

Where to go for instructor training would depend a lot on what you intend to teach.
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Old February 13, 2020, 02:53 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by MarkCO
Quote:
But do they offer instructor certification?
Sure.

Since there is no such thing, since there are no standards, anyone can. But yes, all three teach an instructor course.
Of course there is such a thing. And there certainly are standards.

The NRA courses all operate under "standards." That is: The national body issues the curriculum and trains the instructors. I know that in the real world not every NRA instructor goes 100% by the book but, by and large, an NRA course taken anywhere in the country, taught by any NRA certified instructor, will cover basically the same information, and every student must take the same examination at the end. That's pretty much an operative definition of "standards."

Contrast that to Joe Smokepole, who sets up his own shooting school and claims that he "certifies" instructors. What's the basis of the certification? Yes, he issues a piece of paper at the end, but it's essentially meaningless. His course might be great or it might be terrible. Since it's alone and not subject to any objective standards, there's no way to know.

I'd compare it to the difference between a college or university that's accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, as opposed to some small school that just opens up in a storefront and claims to be a "college" or a "university." Or maybe a doctor who graduated from a medical school in some second- or third-world country as opposed to a doctor educated in the U.S. who is board-certified in his/her specialty.

The fact that the government doesn't have a standard for firearms training facilities and instructors doesn't mean there are NO standards.
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Old February 13, 2020, 04:01 PM   #25
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Most reputable certification/course(s) for Handgun Instructors?

I don’t think the difference is nearly as dramatic as a board certified doctor from the US versus a doctor from a third world country without any certifications. I get your point about the existence of standardization , but you’re taking it to an extreme imo. More so, in my experience both the skill and quality of the instruction from the “non standardized” school was well above what I got from the NRA course.

I think there is benefit in ensuring that within an organization the instruction provided is similar. Most of the courses I’ve attended have an overall curriculum that serves as a guide for the instructor. The instructor uses it as the basis, but for courses where the students are progressing faster than expected there is some leeway allowed to go further. Having a defined bare minimum is good, but to me it can also be artificially limiting. There is no body between the different academies. The NRA is certifying their own instructors in no small part because of how widely spread they can be. Most academies, even with satellite campuses, aren’t as spread out and as hard to monitor.

It’s very true that courses between different academies will differ both in what instruction is given and how it is given. At some level there are differences in methods of instruction. I went to an accredited university. That said, in working with other people from different schools, also accredited, what they covered in their courses wasn’t always the same. There’s only so much uniformity that’s possible.


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