How to Identify a Worthwhile Firearms Instructor

The first and foremost requirement of knowing if someone is worth your training dollars and time is knowing that instructor’s commitment to safety. The student shouldn’t have to ask about safety. The instructor must be up front and open about the safety policy with his or her potential student. The Four Golden Rules should be quoted easily and readily (then further explained in detail during training). Safety should never be glossed over or left unmentioned. If the firearm instructor you are considering as your Source of Truth fails to mention safety, I strongly suggest finding someone else to teach you.


Another important point that will help identify a competent instructor is knowing if he or she will demonstrate the drills that the student will be shooting. A simple question to ask the potential instructor is, “Who will be demonstrating the drills?” If the instructor candidate does not answer, “I demonstrate everything,” your training dollars and time are likely best spent elsewhere. If the instructor doesn’t have the skills to do what is asked of the students, and truly, to do it far better than the students, then what is there to be learned from such an instructor? Skills take time and dedication to develop. If the instructor has neither the time nor the dedication to become a top notch shooter, then why spend money learning from that person?


Observe the gun and the gear that your instructor is using. An instructor should be able to identify quality gear. If he or she shows up with a sub-optimal firearm in a poorly built holster, then how can this instructor help a shooter identify an ideal firearm and holster combination for a student? A serious instructor will set aside an amount of money appropriate to be able to purchase quality gear as it helps establish a benchmark of quality for the student. An instructor who is willing to invest in a reliable and good quality handgun for him or herself demonstrates a commitment to being Best in Class.


Bear in mind that there is no single “degree” that someone can get from an accredited university or college to become a “firearms instructor”. Hence, anyone can hang out a shingle and overnight, become an instructor. What will separate the chaff from the wheat is if this instructor continues learning. My mentors, Tom and Lynn Givens have been instructing students for decades. In fact, they have taught thousands of students, tens of thousands, even. With all their experience, Tom and Lynn still routinely take time out to attend classes from other instructors. Continued training sends a clear message to the student. Learning is never finished—even when an instructor has reach the top of his and her game and have published in all the major publications, contributed to NRA training and are recognized as industry-wide leaders—even then, learning is never finished. A good instructor needs to have the desire to constantly learn—even once the top of his or her game has been reached.


Finally, a worthwhile instructor will run a class where the student feels free to ask questions and even to make mistakes (of the kind which do not compromise safety). Learning to shoot is a process and no one can do it right one hundred percent of the time. While it may be embarrassing to make a mistake, an error should be used as a point of learning instead of something on which to dwell. A skilled instructor will use a mistake as a teaching moment for the class without humiliating the student.


If an instructor doesn’t fit these few basic requirements, I suggest that the student’s time and training money is better spent elsewhere.

1 Comment
  1. Good thought provoking write up. Thank you.

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