Vet Your Instructors

Students or prospective students have approached me many times with tales of instructors and curriculum to which they’ve subjected themselves. Inevitably, the stories are always the same and they’re never good. I’m hesitant to use the words never and always in my speech, but in this instance, I can use them both without fear of entering the pool of hyperbole often associated with the use of these particular adverbs. Initially, I was appalled at the accounts given by people who had “trained” with certain instructors. However, these accounts have become so commonplace that I tend to simply nod, and say “that’s unfortunate,” in an attempt to quell the conversation.

We find ourselves living in a time where governmental permission slips must be purchased in order for law abiding members of society to remain law abiding when exercising their rights associated with firearms. “The government giveth and the government taketh away” is not how rights work. I don’t believe governmental permitting processes should exist. At the very least, permission to carry your firearm, concealed or otherwise, shouldn’t require a monetary transaction with the state.

Additionally, when government requires citizens to graduate from a class before being allowed to carry and / or conceal their handgun in public, the people flock to the cheapest instructors they can find – instructors that live by the moniker “good enough for government work.” Not only is that lazy, it’s also dangerous and reckless.

I’m not here to tell you that all instructors are bad, or that any instructor or curriculum is perfect because none of those things are true – nor am I attempting to proselytize the student base of any other trainer. Ask anyone who has ever trained with me, and they’ll tell you that I vehemently encourage my students to train with other instructors. Moreover, I encourage people who haven’t trained with me to train somewhere with someone as long as they vet the instructor first. Producing more good people with guns who know how to use those guns safely and effectively should be the only goal of any firearms instructor, whether or not they are a financial benefactor.

Firearm instructors usually fall into one of three categories – military, law enforcement, or competitive shooters. Each of these backgrounds can be a great foundation for an instructor to build upon. Just be aware of what isn’t on their resume. If you’re looking for a concealed carry class and the only thing on an instructor’s resume is “’NRA’ or ’POST’ certified instructor,” you should absolutely, unequivocally steer clear of that person.

Ask yourself, “what will I be doing with my gun?” You’ll be carrying your gun into restaurants, malls, theaters, churches, and kids’ birthday parties. You won’t be conducting felony traffic stops, executing high-risk search warrants, or kicking doors in Afghanistan hunting terrorists. Furthermore, if you need to save a life with your gun, it’ll be serious business – not a game. Sorry, competition shooters but your objective is a high score, and your opponent is a clock. That’s a game. I love competitive shooting sports! I just hate it when competition shooting is counted as synonymous with fighting.

There’s very little martial value in competitive shooting – which brings me to my next point. If you read on an instructor’s website, or hear them say the word “administrative,” in any way pertaining to the handling of a firearm, i.e., “administrative reload” – train elsewhere, or, if you’re already in their class, ask for a refund. There’s nothing administrative about a fight for your life. Administrative gun-handling practices cause training scars that could have deadly consequences for you and / or your loved ones.

Don’t assume that because someone is a cop, a soldier, or a champion shooter that they’re automatically qualified to teach you how to fight with a pistol. It’s true that many police / military /competition shooting skills transfer to non-professional gun carriers. However, as previously stated, what they do most often with their guns is not what you’re taking that class to learn. Has your instructor done any training whatsoever in the private sector, or has every class under his belt been provided by his police agency? If you think cops have it all figured out, go back and read installment #21 of this article, titled “Cop Talk.” If your instructor has a military background, does he have any handgun training beyond what he received in the military? There is handgun training in the military – but a handgun, for obvious reasons, isn’t the primary weapon of our servicemen. Training time with a sidearm is often an afterthought for military personnel.

There are a lot of excellent and highly qualified instructors out there. Unfortunately, there are a lot of charlatans too. It’s up to you to vet your instructors before giving them your hard-earned money– or before putting your life in their hands. If your concealed carry instructor didn’t teach you how to draw your gun from a holster, he failed you. If you left class not fully understanding the laws pertaining to self-defense, your instructor failed you. If your class was abbreviated or if you were only allowed to fire the mandatory minimum number of rounds, your instructor failed you. If your instructor didn’t explain the realities of legal battles and post-traumatic stress following a lethal force encounter, he failed you. If your instructor didn’t explain the importance of avoiding danger, when at all possible, he failed you. If your instructor didn’t teach you anything about how to fight with your gun when trouble is unavoidable, he failed you. If your instructor didn’t challenge you in any way, he failed you. If you’re okay with any of those things applying to you, then you failed yourself.

Don’t be the lowest common denominator gun carrier. To accomplish that, you have to avoid subpar instructors by vetting them beforehand. Find out what training they’ve had beyond what’s been required of them through their respective agency, military branch, or shooting club. If they haven’t taken the initiative to learn their craft without it being mandated by their supervisor, are they who you want teaching you?

Find an instructor who knows what it means to be a good student. You’ll recognize them by how willing they are to share their resume upon request. If they provide a curriculum vitae, read it carefully and research their training. Talk to former students and get their perspective on the training offered by a particular instructor. Sure, resumes can be faked or embellished, but doing your own research when selecting an instructor is the only way to make an informed decision. If something seems wrong, it probably is.

When you find a quality instructor, understand that you need more training than a concealed carry class alone. Don’t engage in the government’s dog and pony show just to get your gun-toting hall-pass. Fighting skills are perishable. If you don’t train, and practice the things you learn in training, you’ll lose your edge.

Avoid what you can. Defeat what you can’t.


Please submit your questions to Ryan via email at

(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney or a medical provider, and no information provided
in “Slicing the Pie,” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be
construed, in any way, as official legal, or medical advice.)

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