Guest Writer: Kenzie Fitzpatrick
When searching for a concealed carry class to take, look for a high-quality class with real-life scenarios taught by a credentialed instructor. A concealed carry class should include the fundamentals of firearm safety. The instructor should demonstrate proper shooting techniques, and go through the state statutes when it comes to carrying concealed. They should show concealed carry options, and have an open class discussion for students.
Determine what your options are in your area (and travel if you need to) and ask questions of the instructors offering the classes. Look for instructors with credentials that are related to concealed carry or pistol knowledge. In this guide, we’ll go over questions to ask instructors, credentials to look for, and more tips are how to choose the right class.
Different States, Different Stakes
The statutes differ state to state on what is required to obtain your concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit. For argument’s sake, let’s talk about finding a concealed carry instructor who meets the standards set in most statutes. Some sort of credentialing is required for the instructor to teach Concealed Carry Classes.
The options include, but are not limited to, a state Fish and Wildlife Conservation agent, a National Rifle Association (NRA) instructor, a Law Enforcement officer, a state-certified instructor, or any instructor certified by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission or a State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
One of the most popular classes people take is a hunter safety course taught by a state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Agency. Unfortunately, in some states, this class qualifies for you to apply for your CCW permit. I say unfortunately as this class is all about how to hunt safely. You’ll learn how to understand the seasons in your area, how to cleanly shoot an animal, and more topics that are unrelated to concealed carry laws and practical applications. I took both a hunters safety course and a concealed carry course when I was getting my hunting license and CCW permit so as to be prepared for both situations.
Before signing up for a concealed carry class, reach out to the instructor and ask them questions. The most frequent thing I hear from people without their permit is that they feel overwhelmed with options and don’t know what to ask or what to look for in an instructor.
Questions To Ask Your Concealed Carry Class Instructor:
“What license, credentials, etc. do you have?”
The statute only requires one of the earlier mentioned credentials in the state I live in; therefore a lot of instructors only take one instructor course to get certified to make money teaching firearm classes. When an instructor stops there, it almost always tells me that they only got this certification to teach and nothing more. The NRA is not the only governing body out there so look for other credentials such as range officer certifications, gunsmith certifications, armorer courses, safety certifications, and things of that nature.
For example, I am a certified Range Officer by the National Range Officer Institute with a multi-gun endorsement. While this isn’t related to concealed carry, it is a nationally recognized credential by match directors that I am trained uniformly and professionally. A match director handles all of the match administration. This includes scheduling, range construction, the coordination of all support staff (including range officers) and more. The match director decisions prevail over all others.
I also am a certified Range Safety Officer by the National Rifle Association. This adds to my safety credentials. One of the other things not related to concealed carry that I recommend looking for is a CPR/First Aid/AED certification. In case of an emergency, you want to know that your instructor has a safety plan in place and can provide aid.
Below are some of the industry credentials I recommend looking and asking for:
Concealed Carry Instructor Credentials
- Basic Pistol Instructor
- Basic Rifle Instructor
- Range Safety Officer
- Basic Shotgun Instructor
- Instructor Shotgun Shell Reloading
- Instructor Metallic Cartridge Reloading
- NRA-NMLRA Instructor Muzzleloading Shooting
- Instructor Personal Protection In The Home
- Instructor Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home
- Chief Range Safety Officer
- NRA Instructor Home Firearm Safety
- NRA Instructor CCW (brand new)
NROI Academy Credentials
- Range Officer
- Chief Range Officer
- Range Master
Medical Safety Credentials
- First Aid
- Basic Life Support
US Concealed Carry Credentials
- Concealed Carry Instructor
- Live-Fire Defensive Shooting Instructor
- (Level 1 or 2) Advanced Live-Fire Defensive Shooting Instructor
How Often Does Your Instructor Practice?
“How often do you go to the range?”
I have been asked how often I shoot by every instructor I’ve ever had. Why not ask the same of the instructor? My first basic class, my instructor told me he maybe shoots three times a year. I was surprised that I spent a lot more time shooting than he does. This is not always a red flag, but I have some concerns with learning from people who don’t train often. Shooting is a skill that takes a lot of practice and a lot of conditioning. If you’re spending more money on the class than the instructor spends on ammo in a year, it’s time to look for another trainer.
“How often do you teach?”
Ask this question along with how often they go to a range. Experience matters, but only if they are teaching and practicing regularly. I know people who work at shooting ranges who were required to get their NRA instructors license to work there, but have never taught a class once. Technically, they’ve been a certified instructor for 5 years, but could have taught only once or twice. While I have only been a certified instructor for 4 months, I have already taught two classes with a third taking place this month.
“Do you also train military and law enforcement, or just civilians?”
I’ve had this question asked of me and am proud to answer, I have trained active military and civilians. I hope to have law enforcement officers (LEO’s) in one of my upcoming courses, but most LEO’s receive private training from private instructors as a group.
The military gentlemen I had in my class both did not own a pistol and hadn’t touched a pistol since they left the military. One had less than a few hours of training with a pistol that was issued to him during his service years as they mostly used rifles. It is really important for an instructor to be able to train more than just civilians as the needs of each student are extremely different. Teaching a student who has zero experience is a lot easier as they haven’t formed any habits and get to start with a blank slate.
Students with shooting experience and no formal education can be difficult as habits such as improper gun grip take a lot of time to break. Teaching a student with military experience to understand life in a civilian world is a large task, but one that is not impossible. They may come from a background of open carry, of hypervigilance, of understanding everyone around them has their back and the same training as they do, and more whereas the real world isn’t like that.
“What training do you participate in outside of teaching?”
A concealed carry class gives an instructor maybe 6-8 hours to train you for the rest of your life. You want an expert who lives and breathes firearms. As an instructor, I have a website dedicated to my shooting competitions, a blog where I write about firearms, and a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube dedicated to shooting sports. If I’m not shooting a competition, I’m in a firearms class getting more credentials. Some credentials take one to two years to move up and experience in order to do so.
Does your instructor officiate or shoot in any sort of shooting competitions? Have they been around the shooting industry enough to educate you on all things firearm related? Can they provide expert advice by diagnosing specific issues, providing insight, and working logically through issues with you? Is their real-world knowledge of firearms, holsters and gear a great resource to get you started in the right direction?
Tips For Choosing The Right Concealed Carry Class
Confirm What’s Included In The Pricing
Depending on where you live, the prices of the classes may differ. Ask if the class includes the range fee. Some instructors include it in the cost and some have you pay for it the day of, so it could cost more than they’re advertising. If a class includes things like ammunition, eye protection, ear protection, this could be why a class is more expensive. Price shouldn’t be a huge factor in your decision. If a class is offering a lower price than others, make sure that the instructor has some credentials and that the quality of the class is still high.
Check Out The Class Schedule
Some states have a mandate on the number of training hours required before applying for a permit. If a class is under 3 hours, there’s no way that an instructor is covering everything you need to know and do to conceal carry. The topics a concealed carry class needs to cover are firearm safety rules, situational awareness, types of handguns, concealed carry options and holsters, state laws, and proper shooting techniques at a minimum. There is no rushing through these important topics as each one needs to be taught, demonstrated, and practiced. The range portion should include a couple of hours of shooting with at least 50-100 rounds fired.
I have seen classes offered for a couple of hours after 5pm during the week and advise against this for several reasons. Most people working 8-5 are burnt out at the end of the day. There isn’t enough time to teach students everything you need to know. An instructor who isn’t willing to dedicate a day or two to teach you properly, isn’t doing their job of preparing you.
Verify The Student To Instructor Ratio
Instructors I have taken classes from have a cap on the number of students they can handle at one time. It is recommended by the NRA that there is a one to one ratio of students to instructors. While this is almost next to impossible, there should be a close-ratio between the two. It is wise to steer clear of mass courses. It’s harder to ask questions and stifles the conversations that come with more intimate numbers.
Overall, I recommend getting to know your instructor before taking a class. Ask multiple instructors from different course options so you have something to compare answers to. Challenge your instructors when they don’t answer your questions by telling them why you are interested in taking this course, what it means to you, and how important their credentials are to you. I learn just as much from the students as they do from me. I want to constantly improve my skills and my knowledge. All instructors should be working to do the same.