5 Mistakes Non-NRA-Certified Instructors Make 

If you are a student looking for instruction, you owe it to yourself to find an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor. Remember, you get what you pay for!   

by posted on March 18, 2024
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There are two types of firearm instructors: NRA Certified Instructors, and everyone else. While there are many non-NRA-certified “firearms instructors,” this means there is the possibility of many improperly trained firearms instructors, which leads to improperly trained students.

In my experience, there are five mistakes that non-NRA-Certified Instructors regularly make. The first mistake is not being properly trained. Other mistakes include setting unrealistic goals; looking for an audience; failing to instruct; and giving incorrect instruction. These mistakes compromise safety, proficiency, and put the well-being of these students at risk.

Not Being Properly Trained
Most non-NRA-Certified Instructors that I have encountered have not had the proper training to be an effective firearms instructor. NRA Certified Instructors are the “Gold Standard” when it comes to firearms training. This is why many states recognize the NRA training curriculum as acceptable for their concealed-carry programs and certifications. This is also why so many new shooters look to NRA Certified Instructors for all their firearm training needs.

The NRA Training Program includes introductory courses like Basic Rifle, Basic Shotgun, and Basic Pistol. The NRA also offers intermediate and advanced firearms training in Concealed Carry Workshop (CCW), Defensive Pistol, Personal Protection In the Home (PPITH), and Personal Protection Outside the Home (PPOTH). Many firearms instructors who have not been NRA trained offer similar courses that do not meet NRA standards or goals. As a result, students from these instructors are not being properly trained. This can lead to safety issues as well as proficiency and marksmanship problems.

Setting Unrealistic Goals 
Many non-NRA-Certified Instructors set unrealistic goals. Often, untrained firearms instructors expect their students to shoot above their skill level. Most new shooters want to know what caliber their firearm is chambered in, and which caliber of ammunition they can safely shoot out of their gun. Usually, there is an element of fear with first-time gun owners and their new purchase. Just getting new shooters to overcome their fear of firearms can be a challenge to any instructor, especially if the instructor has not been properly trained.

New gun owners are not expecting to immediately begin shooting at a competition level. Unfortunately, many non-NRA-trained instructors expect new gun owners to shoot as well as an experienced shooter. When training new shooters, it is often a chore to get them to even “hit paper” much less the “bullseye.” NRA Instructors are trained to teach students a skill in small increments. This means starting from small to complex when instructing. For example, on the range we teach the most important skills first, like always keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction with finger off the trigger, then add additional techniques to build upon one another, like learning sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press, breath control, and so on. This is all to ultimately develop the proper knowledge, skills and attitude necessary to safely and properly handle a firearm.  

Safety is the number one issue with which both shooters and instructors should be concerned. This should be the number one goal of any firearms instructor. Without safety, every other goal is unrealistic. If you are unsafe, you are not following the NRA’s Rules for Safe Gun Handling:

  • ALWAYS Keep the Gun Pointed in a Safe Direction
  • ALWAYS Keep Your Finger off the Trigger Until Ready to Shoot
  • ALWAYS Keep the Gun Unloaded Until Ready to Use

Looking For an Audience          
Non-NRA-Certified Instructors often make the mistake of viewing their students as an audience. Many non-NRA-trained firearms instructors take the opportunity to “show off” to their students on how well they can shoot. As NRA Instructors, we are encouraged to refrain from shooting in front of our students during a basic firearms class. This is because one of two things can happen. First, if you are having an exceptionally good day, your proficiency could intimidate a student to the point of causing them to become frustrated and give up. Second, if you are having an unusually bad day, it could cause your student to lose faith in your ability to teach since you are a “bad shot.”

Another reason an instructor should not use their students as a captive audience is that they are stealing their student’s time. This is especially true if you are charging your students for your instruction. If a student is paying you for an hour or two hours of training, and you as an instructor are shooting half of the time, your student is not getting their money’s worth. An instructor should focus all their time and attention on their student and be instructing, not shooting.

Fail to Instruct 
Many times, a non-NRA-Certified Instructor “thinks” he or she is instructing a new gun owner. In reality, they are not teaching them anything except how to “spray and pray,” just throwing rounds downrange toward the target. I am shocked at how many of these “firearms instructors” cannot identify the 5 Fundamentals of Shooting. The instruction from these individuals consists of nothing more than pointing their firearm downrange and shooting. Without exception, these “instructors” are not NRA-trained firearm instructors.

If an instructor does not know what to look for to improve the techniques of their students, how can they know what to teach and how to teach it? The 5 Fundamentals of Shooting are aiming, breath control, hold control, trigger control, and follow through. If an untrained firearms instructor overlooks just one of these fundamentals, then they are failing to properly instruct. As a result, if your student fails to apply any one of these fundamentals, they will not gain proficiency in their shooting.

Giving Incorrect Instruction 
Many times, when a non-NRA Certified Instructor gives a student instruction, they literally are doing more harm than good. There have been more times than I would like to admit where I have had to spend extensive time with a student undoing what the last instructor taught them. The proof that an individual has been improperly taught is in the fact they came to me for proper firearms training. If they received quality instruction that improved their marksmanship, the student would have gone back to their original instructor.

Some common incorrect teaching techniques that I have encountered from students include shooting under their non-dominant eye, improper holds, improper breathing, and incorrect sighting. Non-NRA instructors usually get their training from YouTube. These “Certified YouTube Firearms Instructors” are much more effective in looking “Tacti-Cool” than as effective firearms instructors.

Proper firearms training can be the difference between life and death in a life-threatening situation. Improper training can lead to improper self-defense. This puts you and your loved ones at risk. Proper training can give you the advantage if ever faced with surviving a deadly encounter. This is not the time for “bargain” firearms training.   

If you are a firearms instructor, either “for pay” or just to help your family and friends, you owe it to your students to become NRA trained and become an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor. If you are a student looking for instruction, you owe it to yourself to find an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor. Remember, you get what you pay for!   


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