Let’s face fact. Americans want to feel safe in their home and within their communities. Large numbers of the public doesn’t. This shows itself in the personal safety questions voiced throughout our gun safety classes. Whether rooted in fact or emotion Connecticut residents saw a 73% surge in pistol permits last year. This number isn’t suddenly reflective of interest in recreational shooting activities.
Here at Safe and Secure Training we’re only 25 minutes from where the Sandy Hook tragedy unfolded. Despite this proximity and Connecticut’s political “blue state” leanings we’ve seen a surge of students coming through our doors. This isn’t unique to our region or the state. The U.S. has seen its fourth year of exponential growth in the numbers of new concealed carry permit holders. Nearly two million Americans became armed citizens in 2016. This is largest increase in carry permit holders. Ever.
The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Basic Pistol Instructor program has introduced millions of prospective gun owners to the principles of safe gun handling, marksmanship and responsible gun ownership. It’s the most widely taught introductory course nationwide and a great first step. After all as our student manuals state, “Safety is fundamental to all shooting activities.”
As an NRA instructor who patiently persisted throughout the 2016-17 Basic Pistol overhaul I’ve experienced and witnessed the unfortunate damage to the NRA (Training) brand. Who’d have foreseen this happening? The program changes were (largely) well-intentioned. Each one of us can share our respective accounts of the major classroom inconsistencies, trainer unprofessionalism and the outright “diploma mills” in our communities. Yet disregarding front-line trainer input or feedback did a tremendous disservice to our internal and external audiences. In Connecticut many NRA instructors simply stopped teaching or otherwise repurposed and repackaged NRA curriculum as their own. Others have simply affiliated with more innovative training providers. The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) is presently capitalizing on this ongoing dissatisfaction.
Fortunately the NRA Training and Education (T&E) team is now pivoting with a complete revamp of the longtime NRA Coaching program. Shooting Coaches have traditionally served to increase the proficiencies of competitive shooting teams. The program has been highly selective. Only a fraction of instructors have been invited to participate. This is now changing. Here's (likely) verbiage we’ll see shortly,
"The NRA Practical Coach program is a new NRA program designed to extend the training that the NRA provides to shooters beyond the instructional level. The target audience for the NRA Practical Coach is the non-competitive shooter who needs more help after the completion of an NRA basic instructional program."
So, what's this mean?? It’s not the highly anticipated Carry Guard instructor certification. Recent reports indicate that program will remain out of reach for the majority of NRA trainers. The Practical Pistol Coach is an instructor development opportunity for those interested (and suited) to help the growing numbers of the American public seeking to learn defensive pistol skills. This program of instruction was formerly limited to the select among us who’d attained the highly competitive NRA Advanced Pistol Instructor designation. Prior eligibility standards are now being loosened to reach out to the NRA instructor community at large.
The new program isn’t exactly a surprise and has been in the works for an extended period. Yet the Practical Coaching program represents a unique opportunity. In a perfect world this offers the possibility to redress current instructor alienation, to re-engage NRA instructors over the longer-term and to ultimately benefit the public we serve. I’m encouraged to see this broader entry into defensive shooter education and hold hope it generates the needed goodwill, instructor enthusiasm and greater learning opportunities for our students.
So is this a good fit for every NRA pistol instructor? The jury’s out. For countless basic instructors the instructor development is a definite plus. A training syllabus with the backing of a national training organization brings obvious benefits. Time will tell whether this is a good fit for those already actively teaching in the defensive training community. The good news is that additional coach offerings will include Practical 3-Gun Coach, Long-Range Shooting Coach, Practical Rifle Coach and Practical Shotgun Coach.
The inaugural Practical Pistol Coach program launches in December. The three day class ($375) will be held at in Fairfax, VA at NRA HQ. Current Instructors can confirm their prospective eligibility by logging onto www.nrainstructors.org. Those eligible will see the following message and workshop link.
Let me know your thoughts on this or other training topics at dan@safeandsecuretraining. Please share with those who this would benefit within our instructor community.
Stay Safe. Stay Secure!
The author is a multi-disciplined NRA Training Counselor, NRA law enforcement and civilian firearm instructor and training counselor. He also actively teaches and mentors USCCA instructors in the greater New York City and southern New England region. He’s also a self-admitted novice writer who’s eternally grateful for Spellcheck!