“To teach women how to protect themselves.”
“To offer training to my community.”
“To provide education and teach safe handling of firearms.”
When you ask women to tell you the reasons they became NRA Certified Firearms Instructors, these are the answers you get. As a seasoned firearm enthusiast, you might have had the thought at some point, “What can I do to help others safely and responsibly use firearms?” Becoming an NRA-Certified Firearms Instructor in order to teach others how to safely own and use pistols, rifles, shotguns is one path to achieving this goal.
To experience firsthand the process of becoming an instructor, I signed up for a three-day course taught by Jody Maki, who runs a firearms training business in northern Virginia called Girl on Fire. The instructor courses sanction attendees to train students on a specific type of firearm. I took the Basic Pistol instructor training course, as NRA Basic Pistol is the most in-demand course offered by the NRA. The course to become an instructor can cost $300-$500.
To qualify to become an NRA Basic Pistol Instructor, students must have already completed the NRA Basic Pistol course, as well as be able to demonstrate the ability to load, unload and deal with malfunctions with a variety of handgun types. Safe gun handling is an essential skill to teach to new firearm owners. Prospective instructors must have a competent understanding of how semi-automatic pistols and revolvers function—as well as how to address malfunctions—in order to explain the basics to students during the range portion of the course. They must also demonstrate marksmanship skills by qualifying on the range. Before we stepped foot in the classroom, my fellow students and I demonstrated this to Maki’s satisfaction at an indoor range.
The material in the instructors’ course is broken down into two days. Day one is spent reviewing the information covered in the course. Day two focuses on learning how to teach these materials, including having each prospective instructor teach part of the Basic Pistol course to their fellow students. Maki also goes over her techniques for safely building confidence in someone new to firearms and getting new gun owners on target. The best shooter is not always the best teacher. Shooting fundamentals might be so ingrained in someone that they come instinctively, but they also need to be able to explain those skills to a novice. Proper stance, grip, breath control and trigger press must all come together for bullets to land in the bullseye, and accuracy, Maki said, is what sells training.
“You want [your students] to go home with that bullseye target to show friends and family,” she said.
Maki is passionate about teaching women how to defend themselves, and she offers private training for groups and organizations, as well as active shooter prevention training to college campuses and churches. Her journey in the firearm’s world has been a unique one. Growing up in a Minnesota hunting family, she stepped away from shooting for many years. Five years ago, after rekindling a personal interest in firearms, she moved from the fashion industry to the firearm training business and started Girl on Fire. Since then she has certified over a thousand firearms instructors across the country.
Once one becomes a certified instructor, the NRA provides training aids and materials to use to teach the course. Classes must cover all materials and met their standards to be NRA-Certified. Once students start scheduling their own classes they can use the NRA training site to list them to perspective students.
Some people become certified firearms instructors for their jobs, such those who become the trainer for their law enforcement agency, while others are looking to start a business. Instructors set their price for courses and decide where to teach them. For the Basic Pistol class, NRA rules stipulate there must be range time for students to experience firing a handgun and to develop their safety and marksmanship skills.
The majority of women that sign up for Maki’s instructor courses tend to have military, security or law enforcement backgrounds. “However, other women who have spouses who are into firearms decide they want to assist with their family business, or they are shooters who have been seeing safety issues on ranges and want to help women get introduced to firearms in the safest way,” she said.
“The hard part is the business side —how to start a business, the insurance, logos, marketing,” Lisa Chau said of starting her own firearms training business, Live Fire Instruction, in northern Virginia.
Like Maki, Chau had a unique path into the firearms training world. She did not grow up around firearms. “There were no guns in the house, not even squirt guns,” she recalled. It wasn’t until 2013 when she suddenly found herself unemployed that a friend suggested she could get a job at a local gun range because she was “teachable and trainable.” Her range employment allowed her take training courses for free. Chau said after several instructors took her under their wings, she had the idea to start her own firearm training business and went through the process of becoming an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor. Chau said she likes having a flexible schedule, which gives her time to be with her daughter. She also offers an online course that gives tips on how to start and run your own firearms training business.
More women are entering the firearm community, and many are seeking training. Male instructors outnumber female instructors. Out of the 15 students in the course I signed up for, I was the only woman in the class. Maki said while her instructor course has been in high demand, only about 10 percent of her students are women. By contrast, in the concealed-carry permit classes she offers, women make up about 70 percent of the students.
Maki hopes more women are inspired to become instructors. “Women are natural teachers—especially moms, because they are regularly teaching their children,” she said. “In order to break down each process to be ultimately safe and successful, you should have that innate or natural teacher mentality, which I find in most women … ."
Maki said her mission is to teach instructors to keep extreme safety as a priority, as well as proper mindset and the importance of accuracy. "Our current society, as a whole, tends to put incorrect images and messages in people’s minds when it comes to owning and using a firearm, especially for self-defense," said. "Comprehensive education should be the goal of all instructors and I try to instill that into everyone I train.”
To find an NRA Instructor Course in your area, go to firearmtraining.nra.org.