Once a year I run a NRA Basic Rifle Instructor course that is primarily for scouters. The NRA and the BAS have joined forces to insure that the training scouts receive is consistent and provided by well-trained instructors. All scouters that conduct the Rifle Merit Badge training must be certified NRA Basic Rifle instructors.
Sooooooo . . . this past weekend found me at scout camp to conduct the training for three current scout leaders and an “interested party” who I suspect will be joining our ranks soon.
The first day was filled with the NRA Basic Instructor Training course. I must say that of all the coursework I teach for the NRA – this particular course surprises Instructor Candidates (ICs) the most. They typically expect it to be a “drag” and are surprised at its depth, at how much they find they actually didn’t know and how much they learn about the art of teaching. It is, IMHO, the absolute most important piece of coursework in the entire sequence.
BIT is a long day. I’ve mentioned that more than once. The recommended minimum length is 6 hours . . . I typically find it takes 8. It introduces everything from basic teaching principles to the concept of the coach/pupil method. Unless the individual has had teaching/training experience in the past (we actually had a retired fighter pilot who was a student pilot trainer as one time in his career) the BIT course covers a lot of new ground. It takes time to roll through the principles, to work through the exercises where the candidates “build” short presentations to practice/learn an instructor skill set and get some understanding of what this entails exactly.
The BIT course is also something you don’t want to rush through. It is my opportunity to introduce the ICs to how I present information – following the outline laid out by the NRA training guide. I want the ICs to truly experience the whole process of learning and becoming an “instructor”. As I said, it’s a full day and these four ICs did a great job.
The NRA Basic Rifle Instructor Course . . .
Just a few points of clarification for those looking at taking this specific coursework. It’s “sports shooting” . . . not tacticool, house clearing, butt kicking tactical shooting. That’s not it’s purpose.
It’s “foundational” coursework . . . much time is spent on safety, range protocols, nomenclature, a broad range of action types, shooting positions and correcting issues with individual students.
It’s time consuming. When was the last time you actually worked you way through the bench rest, standing, kneeling, sitting and prone positions to the point you could shoot a precise group at a specified distance?
Day 1 . . . Teaching ICs to teach the fundamentals.
Words mean things. In a training community – they mean very specific things. I write things like “bore”, “lands”, “groves”, “comb” . . . and if you are like me images appear in my head and a group of words form around them describing exactly what they mean. They should mean the exact same things to all of us. And that is much of what Day 1 is about. Getting us all on the same track . . . in agreement . . . clear on the meaning of the words . . . and clearer on the words each individual IC will say to explain these things.
Again – long day, repetitive day but pretty interesting because each IC would describe exactly the same thing but using their own words. We all learned something. The ICs learned that PREPARATION is a very big word. Tough to be smooth and clear . . . if you’re not fully prepared, if you have not solidified in your own mind what each item is and how you want to explain it.
I always start with the simplest firearm . . . in our case a single shot, bolt action .22 savage rifle the scouts use at camp. (Were this a basic pistol class I would start with a SA revolver). What I like to stress here is that if they learn the “words” on a simple firearm . . . the IC can show how the words don’t change when you get to a more complex firearm such as my AR that I used to work through a long range shooting course last year.
A common “issue” is moving ICs from the word “weapon” to using vernacular specific to the firearm in their hand. “This is a single shot, bold action, .22 caliber rifle.” It’s a little thing, many TCs kinda go overboard to extent of a jar on the table with fines placed in it for each infraction. My approach is a bit different. Three of us are were former military. The argument I use is that the young scouts we will be training truly do not know the difference between a “weapon” and the firearm in their hand when they are on the range. I simply want to keep it that way as long as I can . . . as we all can. Sadly many will get the opportunity to hold a weapon in their hand during their life to defend their country, their buddies or their families. As I type this I have men I’ve worked with when they were young scouts doing exactly that. So, that’s my argument “against” using the word “weapon” . . . let’s allow them to be kids as long as we can.
While virtually all the ICs had shot rifles “all their life” . . . I find it a great deal of fun to see lights come on as they hear new words for the first time, learn from other ICs as they all presented their piece of the coursework. By the middle of Day 1, they are truly “in the game” and working hard.
This is their first opportunity to fire first shots from the bench rest position. I like to use this as an opportunity to talk about building a position, refining the words they may want to use for sight alignment and sight picture. And, with only four, I can work each and every one through the process acting as the “coach” to their being the “pupil”. Our range is 50’ so we are using targets scaled down from a 25 yard target to represent the same sized target area on a 50’ range. The course of fire is 5 rounds per target outline (there are five on each target). I begin with each round “by command” and end with them firing the entire 5 round string on their own. And, while this is going on I am walking from one shooter to the other “coaching” – demonstrating how that process works and letting them experience what it feels like. This also kicks some of the “mud” off in the form of nerves, anxiousness and general fear of shooting really crappy. They all did fine.
The day ends with a reminder that the next day is a full range day, they need to study the positions, work on their words, practice what they can . . . and be ready to roll at 8AM sharp.
Day 2 – Range Day
I spend the entire second day on the range. For me it begins with a range safety brief . . . and then each IC was required to do a range safety briefing as well. Again, it is instructive to watch the progression from first presenter to last as the words become more refined, clearer and each become more comfortable. This is the 3rd day of instruction, the nerves are quieted, the words come more easily, all are in their respective “roles” be it instructor or student. And we can get real work done.
Next are presentations on each of the shooting positions – no live fire. They describe, demonstrate without a firearm and demonstrate with a firearm – no live rounds are sent down range.
With only four ICs there is time to allow each to make a full presentation of each shooting position we will work through that day – standing, kneeling, sitting and prone. We work on the first one – standing – the most. The idea here is to make sure the “depth” of what is taught and demonstrated is as effective as it can be. The first guy out of the chute has the disadvantage of simply being first. The last . . . reaps the benefit of all the preceding presentations. And we all learn.
This consumes the morning. We had to lunch and come back for the live fire portion. I do this by dividing the ICs into two pairs – one acting as the coach . . . and one the pupil. By this time, it’s rewarding to see that both “coaches” are truly in their roles are the students. There is real teaching and learning going on. The course of fire is 5 rounds on each target. The first 5 are by command only and then the target is fully reviewed downrange. The last two are then shot, again 5 rounds per target, with both being evaluated after the course of fire is completed. Do this for two shooters per target . . . for four positions . . . and you’re talking 60 rounds per shooter or 120 rounds total per shooting position . . . 480 rounds for the day total between all ICs. It’s a long range session . . . but an incredibly valuable one. Each IC has the opportunity to discover their weaknesses (and believe me folks, we all have them), learned what they need to work on as they go forward, and had the opportunity to coach a shooter through 4 different positions firing a total of 60 rounds. It was a good day!
The range work a wrap they took both the Basic Rifle and Basic Rifle Instructor exams. We graded them (90% was the minimum acceptable score), reviewed them, did final exit interviews . . .
. . . and it was a Wrap!!!
Congrats to Tom, Jim, Jeff and Tim! Thanks for coming guys! Great job!!