What to Look for in a Firearms Instructor

Selecting the right firearms instructor is vital for anyone serious about learning how to handle a firearm safely and effectively. It would be great if there was a standard, but there really isn’t. Anyone can call themselves a “firearms instructor” and there’s nothing to stop them in most places.

Whether you’re new to firearms or looking to improve your skills, a qualified instructor can make a significant difference. Here are some things Here’s what to look for in a firearms instructor to ensure you get the best training possible.

Qualifications and Certifications

Relevant Certifications

A firearms instructor will likely have certifications from recognized organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), Sig Sauer, Rangemaster or state-specific certifications. These certifications indicate that the instructor has met certain standards of knowledge and competence.

But merely having one of them doesn’t mean they will be a good instructor. It’s a starting point when looking, not a final destination. Both David and I are NRA instructors, but we will be the first to tell you that it’s not the highest standard of instructor certification.

Professional Training

Look for instructors with a relevant background in law enforcement, the military, or professional firearms training. These backgrounds often provide extensive hands-on experience with firearms. Additionally, inquire about advanced training they may have completed, such as defensive shooting or tactical training. Don’t forget to ask when they last took training themselves. Continuous education is crucial for staying current with the latest safety protocols and techniques. If the instructor isn’t continually learning him/herself, then it’s fair to ask why.

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Experience and Expertise

Industry Experience

Years of experience in firearms instruction and related fields are important. Experienced instructors have seen a variety of situations and can offer insights that less experienced instructors might miss. Specifically, look for experience in teaching different skill levels, from beginners to advanced shooters.

Practical Experience

What practical experience does the instructor have in what you want to learn? For example, if you want to learn to be a better competitor, does the instructor have experience competing? If you’re learning to protect yourself and your family, does that instructor have training and experience in the defensive use of firearms?

Teaching and Communication Skills

Effective Communication

Your instructor should be able to explain complex firearms concepts in a way that’s easy to understand. They should use a variety of teaching methods, such as hands-on practice, visual aids, and simulations, to cater to different learning styles.

Often, instructors with no practical experience will know only 1 or two ways to do something or can only give you the “book answer”. For example, when a range of motion limitation shows up, they no longer know what to do. An experienced instructor can help you adapt and succeed in the context of your life.

 If you get a “my-way-or-the-highway” sense from them, ask yourself if that will meet your needs.

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Engagement and Interaction

An effective instructor engages their students and encourages active participation. They should be skilled in addressing questions and providing constructive feedback. This interaction helps reinforce learning and ensures that students are comfortable and confident with their skills.

Instructor Techniques and Methods of Instruction

It’s important that the instructor not only knows their subject but also knows how to teach it. This includes understanding different learning styles, pacing lessons appropriately, and using techniques that help students retain information. Ask potential instructors about their training in teaching methods and how they stay current with educational techniques. If all they’ve ever done is “teach” by reading PowerPoint slides, that could be an issue. That’s not an instructor, it’s a narrator. Look for an instructor who has training and education in adult learning theory and knows how to apply it.

Safety Emphasis

Safety Protocols

The top priority in any firearms training should be safety. The instructor should strictly adhere to safety protocols during training sessions. They must reinforce safety rules and best practices consistently. A certification like the NRA Range Safety Officer rating is a good starting point.

A good instructor will start with a safety briefing that covers safety rules, range rules and the plan for what happens in an emergency.

Emergency Preparedness

Training on handling firearms malfunctions and emergency situations is essential. Ensure that your instructor teaches students how to respond safely and effectively in real-life scenarios. Are they trained to provide effective first aid for bleeding, cardiac or breathing issues? As to see their current certifications. At a minimum, we suggest current CPR/AED/First Aid and Stop the Bleed certifications.

Comprehensive Curriculum

Course Content

The curriculum should cover a wide range of topics, including firearm handling, shooting techniques, and self-defense strategies. A balanced mix of theoretical knowledge and practical skills ensures that you are well-rounded in your training.

Practice to Succeed


A good instructor can tailor the training program to meet the specific needs of their students. This flexibility is crucial for addressing unique challenges and scenarios that you might face. Ask if the instructor can customize their lessons based on your experience level and goals.

References and Recommendations


Look for reviews and testimonials from previous students. Success stories highlighting the impact of their training can give you confidence in their abilities. Don’t hesitate to ask the instructor for references you can contact.

Professional References

The availability of professional references who can vouch for the instructor’s expertise and teaching ability is another good sign. Speaking with these references can provide additional assurance that you’re making the right choice.

Staying Updated

An instructor should be committed to continuous learning and staying updated with the latest firearms trends. Participation in professional organizations and firearms training conferences indicates a dedication to maintaining high standards.

Best Practices

Familiarity with best practices and guidelines from reputable firearms organizations ensures that the training you receive is based on the most current and effective methods.

Choosing the right firearms instructor involves looking at their qualifications, experience, teaching skills, emphasis on safety, comprehensive curriculum, references, and knowledge of current trends. By carefully considering these factors, you can ensure that you receive high-quality training that enhances your safety and proficiency with firearms. Investing in a qualified instructor is not just about improving your skills but also about ensuring that you handle firearms responsibly and safely.

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