Monday, April 30, 2012

DPI Class – After Action Report

Finally!!  After taking two NRA Instructor courses and the Suarez PSP course, on Saturday it was time to hit the classroom / range again with my own Defensive Pistol I course!  It really felt good!!

The DPI course is my answer to what comes after the NRA Basic Pistol course, but before their Personal Protection courses.  It teaches the next level of basic skills (past the NRA “parts of a firearm” and “firing first shots”) that I believe a shooter needs to learn – draw from a holster, speed reloads, tactical reloads, clearing malfunctions, use of cover, “slicing the pie”, “roll-out”, sighted fire, intro to point shooting – to name just a few topics.  Most of the folks that attend this class have never worked through these skill sets – yet I believe they are the foundation to a solid shooting skill set that every person who carries a weapon must have.

We also covered a multitude of examples of “shoot/don’t shoot”, “when do I draw”, the OODA Loop, the difference between practicing target shooting and “combat effective” shooting, what do I carry in my EDC kit, a number of different “rules of three” pertaining to gunfights and basic survival and much more.

After the intro lecture to get us all on the same page, we worked all drills inside with dry fire (nice because it was in the mid-40s and misty) for another hour and a half on the same silhouette targets we would use on the range.

Lunch!  (ya gotta eat!)

OK, short lunch!

A few more dry fire drills, then it was off to the range.  I was very please on how the folks used their range time and performed all our drills.  From sighted fire to point shooting, from single to multiple round engagements, from concealment, speed reloads, tactical reloads – and of primary concern – safe practices on the range.  They did a great job, got solid hits and were drawing smoothly, engaging accurately and re-holstering accurately and gently.

Another 45 minutes finish up after the range time and all were on their way home a little after 5PM.  A good day!

I am going to share this post with all the folks that attended and ask that they post their own AAR here.  It should provide folks thinking about the course some idea of what the students thought of my DPI class – or, I’ll have my butt handed to me!  :)

Train hard, get good hits – win.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Training – Suarez International – Point Shooting Progressions with Roger Phillips

Fair warning . . . this will be a very, very, very  long post . . . . . . . . . . .

Point shooting is nothing new. From the days of the Old West, when there were far fewer really good gunfighters that you may expect, there were a double handful that were simply machines that allowed them to get solid first-hits with devastating follow-up hits in what appeared to be the blink of an eye. They didn’t acquire a solid stance, take a firm grip, attain a good sight-picture and press the trigger straight back . . . . they just drewpointedshot . . . . and dropped their enemy. Point shooting is nothing new.

In today’s training community the Modern Technique is king - modified weaver or isosceles stance, firm two-handed grip, focus on the front sight, blurred image of the target with the front sight center mass and a trigger press straight to the rear is what’s taught. And, frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that as part of a shooter’s skill set. It’s what I teach my students - virtually all are brand new shooters, some so frightened of a weapon it is difficult for them to even pick one up and hold it. The Modern Technique is a solid technique that is great for many shooting situations.

However, with the rise in interest in personal defense, the search for “new”, faster techniques of evading, drawing and getting the first hit on an attacker is growing. While “sighted fire” is certainly desired, the vast majority of attacks occur at very close range typically obeying a “rule of three” of . . . . 3 meters, 3 rounds, 3 seconds. This is the landscape for most gun fights. There is one additional ingredient – a stationary target has an 85% chance of a center mass hit while a moving target has only a 25% chance of a hit. Think about that very carefully . . . . . . . if you simply “stand and deliver” you stand an 85% chance of taking a round to your center mass. However, if you move, if you “get off the X”, your chances of a center mass hit drops to 25%.

So, is there a way to marry point shooting and movement that would allow me, as a person defending myself, my family and my friends to accurately engage an attacker and to reduce my chances of being shot? The answer is “yes” – and Roger Phillip’s PSP course is my first exposure to this type of defensive shooting.

Let me link to a very “unfair” video of Roger and his shooting techniques on youtube:

I say this is unfair because what you see is 1:04 minutes of our 16 hour class. It’s so easy for a traditional shooter to blow off what you see in this video because it is so radically different from the traditional “stand and deliver” type of defensive shooting. That said – here is the reality. If you are NOT the guy moving, then you are the target Roger is shooting at. All 24 of the students that took the weekend class did these exact shooting drills. My own experience was that I experienced around an 80% hit rate, minimum, while moving as fast as I was capable of. Let that sink in just a bit . . . . an 80% hit rate while running my butt off. I was shooting a Glock 17, magazines loaded with 15 rounds each with an average of 5 rounds per engagements. That means that while moving I could draw, engage and hit the bad guy’s center mass with 4 of the 5 rounds without “aiming”. Ya know, I’ll take it!

So, how did I get from a typical “Modern Techniques” shooter to a PSP student/shooter in 16 hours? It’s easier than you think.

As I stated in an earlier post – I hate the idea there is only one way to do something. If a trainer says he’s got the only answer – look for someone else. As a trainer of new shooters I believe I simply have a responsibility to search for new techniques that may help them survive a run-in with a bad guy. I want them to go home to their family and anything I can learn that helps them I need to learn. The key to Roger’s course is two-fold – leave your ego in the car (I have a jeep, it barely fits!!) and flush your mind of what you know and be willing to learn a new skill.

The mechanics:

My dealings with Suarez International were very professional. I found the PSP class from their website. The information displayed was fairly complete and accurate. My phone conversations with them were pleasant. I was assured a seat was available in the Searsboro class in Iowa, I filled out the info online, shared my CC number and received confirmation of the order quickly.

I also ordered Roger’s PSP DVD. I am a data hound and wanted a glimpse of what the hell I was getting into. It’s a great video but, again, without actually doing the exercises that he shows, it’s hard to really grasp their value. And, without seeing live demonstrations, on a very secure range, honestly they could be dangerous to the new shooter.

I followed up the DVD viewing with a general internet search of Roger and his courses. The findings were mixed. Shooters at the Warrior Talk Forum that had actually taken the course certainly found value and had great things to say. Folks that seemed to have viewed the youtube videos only but had never taken the course – not so much.  Overall, the positives far outweighed the negatives in what I found in my research.

My preparation for the class was primarily just my usual drills – all using the Modern Technique shooting. I took my standard range gear to the course – a Glock 17, Serpa holster, two magazine pouches and 10 magazines. I also took a second Glock 17 in case of a catastrophic weapon failure. I purchased 1,000 rounds of ammo – barely enough, I’d take a minimum of 1,200 to my next course. Range food (jerky, cliff bars, a bit of hard candy), WATER and a bottle of ibuprofen (unless you are one of the 20 to 30 somethings) are a must. Ears, eyes, baseball cap, light fleece and rain coat (rained for a portion of the class each day), sturdy shoes. 

The classes started promptly at 8 AM with virtually all the shooters there by 7:30 AM. The hosting instructor for Suarez was Greg Nichols. By 7 AM they were setting up the course and stapling the targets, by 7:30 AM the “meet and greet” was underway. Everyone there truly had their “head in the game” – they all came to work, to learn and to enjoy the process as well. There were cops, ex-military, a couple Vietnam vets (myself included), GWOT vets, a retired grade school teacher, a computer jock (I’ll include myself in this category as well), folks who had taken Suarez trainings in the past and newbies like my self. We ranged in age from I would estimate the late 20s to the mid 70s - quite an interesting bunch of experience and personalities.

The course started out with about an hour lecture of the Roger’s history with point shooting, the evolution of the course, the arguments for this approach to personal defensive shooting and the mechanics of the body that make so much of what we were about to learn just a natural extension of our physical abilities and capabilities.

On to the good stuff!!

Our first exercise was the “dot drill”. There was a small dot beside each ear of the silhouette. Five rounds, do your best to make a single hole from 15 feet. There were 12 shooting lanes and two shooting groups – tier 1 and tier 2. This other shooter in front or behind you was a loose partner for the two days. The dot drill bled off some of the initial tension I think we were all feeling – the “let’s get started” feeling. And then . . . . it was simply non stop!!

Brief pause here – I had 6 magazines on my person at all times. One in the Glock, two in my magazine pouches and three in my rear left pocket. Then, I would dump a box of 50 rounds in my left pocket when I had a chance. While I was waiting to shoot or listening to Roger lecture I would reload or top-off my magazines. My thumbs are still sore today. If you take a class, and don’t develop this habit VERY EARLY, you will waste too much time off the line and miss drills. The class never stops, never breaths, never ceases except for about a 20 minute lunch eaten while you top off magazines and chat about what’s next. It is a very fast course, it is a very intense course.

Second pause – safety. This was a hot range – weapons loaded at all times, topped off when you were not shooting and weapons handled in some fairly non-conventional ways. Roger reminded us over and over to “keep your head in the game”!! This is actually one of my favorite phrases for my students – a thinking shooter is a safe shooter – period. Everyone kept their head in the game, even when some of the drills were high adrenalin producers.

We began with a quick exercise in aimed shooting. Traditional shooting stance and engage with 3-5 rounds. No surprises here, especially when I look back on how I did that. The words “front sight, front sight” echoing in my ear. Next we moved to focusing on the target and allowing the sight picture to blur. We were changing our attention to the actual threat. The results were the same but we were changing our focus to the threat.

We progressed to what was called “metal on meat” where you used the rear of the weapon as the “sight” and simply placed in on the center of the target and engaged. Even here, while if you were “bull’s-eye-centric” and you could easily be flustered with the “misses”, the reality was that all rounds typically were solid combat-effective hits.

Each exercise was run multiple times, each time a bit smoother and a bit faster with safety being of primary concern. Most shooters drew from concealment as well – one more added piece of the whole experience.

Once past this, we worked on an interesting drill known as the “zipper”. The purpose of this drill was to quickly put multiple hits on the threat while simultaneously trying to take out their central nervous system – shoot out their spine. You would run a group of 3-5 rounds right up their middle, bottom to top drawing and engaging as quickly as you could while trusting that your body would aim for you. The result – by the end of the day combat effective hits were a very easy thing to attain.

Yet another interesting drill – that gave tremendous confidence in the whole idea of point shooting – was to draw to the ¾ postion (just prior to engaging your support had in a grip, elbow down, weapon parallel) put 3-5 rounds in the pelvic area and then switch focus to the head and do a head shot with a simple move of the wrist. By the end of the day this – too – was completed by virtually every student there.

There were repeats of these drills, some others that I’m not going to detail simply because I notice I’m on four pages already!!!

The day ended with everyone pretty tired, kinda sore (ok, honestly I was truly hurting – mainly my feet) and ready for supper. We ate as a team at a nearby steak house - very, very, very good food!!!
And so ended Day 1.

Morning two began with breakfast at the motel. I was fortunate enough to walk into the elevator at the same moment Roger came out of his room. We took gear to our cars and had a round of biscuits and gravy – is there a better possible way to start the day? It was a great conversation, learned a lot of the background of the course and could easily see his passion for his work. I enjoyed the time a great deal.

Again, everyone was at the range by 7:30 AM. Weapons loaded, magazines loaded, rain gear on (yep – raining lightly) and ready to rock by 8:00 AM. The first hour was used to teach how to “get off the X” just as fast as you possibly could. This is where the training begins to diverge radically from most training I have received. I suspect there are many reasons for this:

It’s dangerous. If you do something stupid while running full tilt with a loaded weapon you could shoot yourself (most likely) or shoot a team mate. Not good.

The raw liabilities that go with this type of training. Few ranges are willing to allow it on their grounds.

It takes a lot of energy. I have been to many courses, loaded with fat guys (hey, gotta be honest, I’m one of them) that are unwilling to push their bodies to their individual limits. It’s much easier to stand on a firing line, in a static position and be happy with making as small a diameter group of holes as possible.

But, survival lies both in accurate hits and . . . . . in not being hit yourself. And that is truly what the second day is all about – moving off the X.

All the static drills of Day One were repeated while the shooter moved, as fast as they could – directly towards the target, or to their 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock direction, or to their 5 o’clock or their 7 o’clock direction. These drills were run in two columns with the shooters moving closer together while shooting away from each other.

So by the end of the day I can confidently say I can engage a threat, running flat out (for me) while running directly at them, at oblique angles running towards them or at oblique angles running away from them – and achieve an 80% combat effective hit rate.

I’ll take it . . . . with many thanks to Roger and Greg!

If you can get a solid hit on an attacker first – if you can “move off the X” – and if you can place combat effective hits while doing it – you will go home at the end of the day.

In virtually any training circle this would be considered an advanced course. It’s a very intense course. And, it is very much a course that can save your life.

 PSP Class Photo

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Training – Day One Suarezinternational PSP Course

Pass the vitamin “I”, need a double dose!!  :)   Holy cow, what a busy day – too whipped to do  a full report, will do that on Monday.  Today was static – learning the full range of point shooting techniques.  Tomorrow – more of the same but at a dead run??????    Should be interesting.  Gonna be a busy day!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Training – I’m the best!! No . . . REALLY . . . . Just Ask Me!

I was originally going to say that I was going to “tip-toe” into this topic. Hell with it, I’m to old to “tip-toe” any more, besides, when I do my feet hurt.

I have noticed a disquieting trend of late with in the “Instructor” (more on the quotes in a minute) community of a “my way or the highway” – “that other instructor sucks!!” attitude. Enough so that I feel the need to comment on it.

Let’s chat about the quotes above – what is an “Instructor” anyway?? Bottom line, it’s a person who shares HIS/HER knowledge with a “student” who is someone looking to learn from the “Instructor’s” knowledge or skill set. Period. End of Definition.

Is the value of a certain Instructor’s knowledge or skill higher than that of another’s? Nope. That is a decision to be made by the “student” – and NOT the instructor. Is the Instructor “better” than all other instructors? I suppose it depends on the size of their ego. Mine is pretty damn big – yet I certainly understand that other Instructors possess skill sets I do not. So, again, this evaluation of who is the best is best left in the hands of the students.

Does the Instructor possess a skill set so evolved that their techniques are simply “right” while everyone else’s is “wrong”? – see above . . . ego . . . head size . . . . manhood size . . . testosterone / estrogen level . . . . Again, the only one who can effectively evaluate whether the Instructor’s skill set that they are attempting to teach enhances the student’s skill set is . . . the student.

Over the past 40 years of learning gun handling from more instructors than I care to count, I have had many that I would list as “exceptional” . . . and many that I would list as “poor”. Yet, from each and every one I learned something – however small. Since I have been slogging through the NRA Instructor classes for the past 2 years, their primary goal for their instructor courses comes to mind – to teach the “knowledge, skill and attitude” to make the person an effective instructor. The most important of these? Attitude. As an Instructor I should be willing to learn from every situation, every mistake, every success, every failure and every other Instructor out there to further my own personal skill set. Nor is the student left out of this equation either – if their attitude is poor, their level of learning will also be poor.

And yet, today in the Instructor arena there seems to be more and more judging of other instructors by other instructors. It goes something like this: “They” do it wrong, “They” are unskilled. “They” will teach you poorly. While “I” will teach you the “right” way. “I” am a much better instructor. 

I suppose this is simply human nature. Heaven knows I am certainly judgmental, no denying that at all. And of all the skill sets a person can learn, the weapons handling certainly lends itself to chest thumpin’ testosterone drippin’ muscle flexing types. Yet for me, where things start to go sideways is when one Instructor starts to condemn another Instructor because they don’t do or teach things the “right” way. I do not see how this can serve the shooting community, the Instructor community or those of us who are life long students. In this instance, in this situation I will make an exception and clearly state my opinion of Instructors who participate in this behavior . . . .
. . . . they are wrong.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Training – Completed the NRA Basic Shotgun Instructor Course today!

And . . . . that’s a wrap!  I finished up the 2-day NRA Basic Shotgun Instructor course put on by Crawl – Walk – Run Firearms Training of Ames, Iowa today.  Darin was the T/C and did a great job.  This was my 3rd course from him.  I like his style of presentation.  He’s simply a great instructor to teach HOW to teach the NRA courses.  As for content, see my earlier post on the rifle course – all things are the same – busy, intense, lots of information . . .

So, next stop – Training Counselor training in Kansas City this September.  Really looking forward to that as well!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Commentary – Life at the speed of “life”

There’s a myth among folks that, as you get older - “life will slow down”.  In your teens and twenties, who really cares.  You’re young, strong – ready to learn and make your mark on the world.

In your 30s and 40s – you are IN life;  work, children, children, children, work, work – miscellaneous “bumps and illnesses” – work, work, children . . . .  The road can seem endless at times, you are experiencing “Life at the speed of “life” “ in a very intimate and personal way.  And . . . . you hear about this mythical time when all will slow down and you begin to reap the harvest of your efforts – that mythical thing called “time”.  Time to sit on the porch, time to vacation, time to fish, hunt, camp – oh to only reach “that time in your life”.

Your 50s and 60s are spent in enlightenment – the realization that life will always be lived “at the speed of life”.  And, there is a bit of a dread that builds – what if I have to slow down – because of hearts or lungs or joints or sight – it can be a pretty disconcerting list, enough to force a person to loose focus on life and be concerned with “what if’s”.  Of course, life also takes care of that by throwing “little bundles” your way.  I received mine on Monday . . . . .

Please meet Miss Lucinda Richelle., her lovely mom and old-fart Grandpa.

IMAG0077 (Small)     IMAG0081 (Small)   IMAG0085 (Small)
Beautiful Grandma MrsBill and Grandma D as well as sisters and Da Daddy
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She is a reminder that life has continued for millions of years – and will continue long after I’m dust.  She is a reminder of everything that is new and lovable and possible is the world that we live in.  And, she’s a reminder I’m not as old as I some days feel – probably only 10 years or so until her and gramps hit the “take your daughter to the range” day together.
Life simply happens at the speed of life – and some speed bumps are a very welcome thing indeed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Quick Welcome to Janet

Welcome!  Please, stop by often and share your thoughts!  I will do my best to answer any questions you might have in a timely fashion!


Head in the Game – Chatted with the LT today

The LT popped up on my Facebook Chat this morning. Spring fighting season has started. He had his first “dance” last week – his crew sent a few more on to their 72 virgins, took no casualties. A good day.

But then, for too many days – nothing. I’m not even his parent, just his old Assistant Scoutmaster, yet he is in my thoughts and prayers frequently.   I worry.

So, I was more than happy to see his icon appear with the green square attached. Even in his remote piece of the crap pie that is Afghanistan, he shows up on facebook – simply amazing. Did the usual male grunt bonding stuff and finally I asked if his crew was stilling kicking the ass of his dance partners.

“Smiley Face . . . just dropped 5 bombs and 4 155mm rounds today, back to business as usual around here hahaha”

We are truly in bizzaro land. “Back in the day”  correspondence from the US to the Central Highlands – 2 weeks, when things were working great. Today, about 20 seconds, question to response. Very, very strange.

I signed off then, told him to keep his head in the game and soldiers at the ready. I never say “stay safe” – safe is dead. I want him on the hunt, I want him to shoot first, I want him to drop all the munitions he can get his hands on, I want his guys hungry for the next fight. Then, I want them all to come home – life is truly too short.

Da Rules – Rule 4: Be sure of your target, and what’s beyond it!

I was doing my “morning read” and came across this story of an accidental shooting involving a “bird”, a mohawk and a drunk. (H/T – Bitter. That sentence should be enough to get you to read the story!)   And, it got me to thinking of my youth . . . . .

Just incase Jim is now glancing at my blog from time to time, Da Rules:

1: ALWAYS keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.

2: ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.

3: ALWAYS keep your firearm unloaded until you’re ready to use it.

Now, on to Rule 4: Always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

Shooters harp on these rules constantly – real shooters anyway. I have seen the passing “yahoo” who seems oblivious to any firearm safety rules what-so-ever, but in the community I move in, that is a rarity. And, most shooters will gently – but firmly – remind you if any of Da Rules are broken. I appreciate that, it works to keep our sport and training much safer.

However, once off the range, and in the field, things can go south quickly. In the time it can take to press the trigger that last little 1/64th of an inch, an afternoon’s enjoyment can teeter on the edge of disaster.

It was a very warm October afternoon in the early 60’s. My cousin Mike had just been presented with a new single-shot .410 shotgun for the season by my Uncle Victor (it was always Victor, not Vic). They were “home”, visiting my Mom and Grandmother, Uncle Victor’s family as well and enjoying the early days of hunting season in eastern Michigan.

We had spent an energetic morning walking the fields (sans dog BTW) and had not really seen much of interest. Uncle Victor suffered from terrible arthritis – a by product of WWII, flying B-17s and way too much time in the cold and wet and damp of southeast England. It was time for a rest.

I appreciated being able to tag along. I was too young to hunt, my father had probably been dead for over 5 years by then and I was happy to be there – even if it was just walking along.

Our rest took the form of squirrel hunting, sitting on the ground next to a tree, remaining quiet and still, and waiting for the little critters to forget about our intrusion and to resume their fall nut-collecting duties. After about 45 minutes or so, I watched Uncle Victor slowly raise his shotgun (pump 16 gauge if memory serves), aim at a tree probably 40 yards away or so and wait for the descending squirrel to get much closer to the ground. About 4 feet off the ground Uncle Victor fired his round, the squirrel dropped like a rock . . . . . . . and a man simply fell over on his side.

Our world exploded!! This older gent had obviously fallen asleep. He had farmer coveralls on, tan in color, a tan over coat, tan hunting cap – we was simply invisible to us all – until Uncle Victor shot him in the upper-left face. We were totally shocked – he was totally pissed and bleeding like a stuck pig!! Words were “exchanged” – to put it mildly. Luckily, the two men knew each other and the older gent’s temper cooled quickly. He was typical of the men and farmers of that era - now that he knew it was an accident he simply did a “ho-hum, I’m bleeding like a stuck pig, I’d better stop it” – he pulled a handkerchief from his hip pocket – rejected the call to go to the doctor’s and just held it over his wounds. Finally, after a clear demand from Uncle Victor, Mike and I were designated to go with him to his car and see him to the doctor.

Slowly we walked . . . . bleed, bleed, bleed . . . . he opened his trunk and slowly wiped down his gun and cased it . . . .  bleed, bleed, bleed . . . .  he took off his coveralls and folded them before he stowed them away . . . bleed, bleed, bleed . . . then, still holding the handkerchief over his wound, he drove to the doctors where we met up with my Uncle Victor.

Luckily, no real damage was done. His eye was OK, the shallow pellets were removed and the deeper ones were simply left in place. I would see that man on and off for the next half-dozen year or so (until I left home for the military) and up until the last time I saw him I could see three very clear and distinct black dots on his left forehead – the remaining pellets from our hunting accident.

That story is nearly 50 years old – far older than I care to admit. Yet, it is so vivid, the surprise of the man falling over – even today there is a bit of a catch in my heart . . . . It’s a good reminder to:

Always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review – NRA Basic Rifle Instructor Course

I attended the NRA Basic Rifle Instructor Course this past weekend. What an exhausting, busy, detailed, fun and enjoyable time it was!
I want to break the review into a number of pieces:
  • Instructors
  • The NRA Basic Instructor Course
  • The NRA Basic Rifle Shooting Course
  • The NRA Basic Rifle Instructor Course
When you take an instructor course, you take all 3 of these courses. You may opt out of the Basic Instructor Course (BIT) if you have taken it within the past year, but it is well worth sitting through again just to have the experience once again – especially if you are taking it from a new Training Counselor (T/C). With this course we had benefit of two T/Cs – Mr. James Appleby and Mr. Ray Odle.

Jim Appleby: Jim was the lead instructor and presented around 60% of the information. He is an accomplished shooter in his own right, an experienced trainer and T/C and presented the course in a very active, open and interesting way. He engaged us entirely for the two days, so much so that the 7 AM to 10 PM first day was gone before you even knew it had started. I would not hesitate in the slightest to recommend taking an instructor course from Jim – your time and money will be well spent!

Ray Odle: Ray was Jim’s team presenter. The course was divided in such a way that Ray’s strengths and experience were used to broaden the course and lend a second POV to the entire experience. Ray has a long history of teaching competitive rifle shooting and brought a wealth of information on building rifle shooting positions that were then experienced on the firing line. His ease in the classroom reflected his years of experience teaching new rifle shooters and fine-tuning even the most experienced shooters as well. Here too, I would not hesitate a moment in recommending a shooting course from Ray, your time and money will be well spent!

When you take a NRA Instructor course, you actually take three courses – co-mingled into a single experience. You take the Basic Instructor Training, you take the actual discipline you came to learn to teach, in this case the NRA Basic Rifle Course, and then you take an instructor course for the discipline you came to learn to teach, in this case the NRA Basic Rifle Instructor Course.

 Officially, this course should take a minimum of 14 hours – our first day – with homework – was 15 hours. Of course it was followed by warm, home-made brownies and vanilla ice cream with warm fudge sauce, so it was truly worth the hours spent! Our second day began at 7:30 AM and ended at 4:00 PM – another 8.5 hours for a grand total of 22.5 hours in two days. Honestly, we still could have spent more time. This is something to consider when selecting a T/C. Find some folks that have taken their course – you’ll get a pretty good idea if you want to spend your money with that T/C. If they say something like:  “Yep, got that baby done in half a day!!”  You may want to pass on that T/C.  As more me, with Jim and Ray, I feel like I got my money’s worth and then some!!

Basic Instructor Training: If you have no experience as a trainer – you need a starting point, you need to learn the basics. That is the purpose of the BIT program – to teach you the basic tools to organize and present a NRA course in a consistent and professional manner. This segment is divided into 7 separate areas:
  • An Introduction – what is this course about
  • Policies and Procedures – What is the mission of an NRA trainer, how you become a trainer and the NRA training program policies and procedures. 
  • Roles and Responsibilities of Trainers – Why are trainers so important, what are their responsibilities, how they can project a positive image, a trainers concerns for a student’s rights, and an description of other important NRA training programs.
  • Organizing Your Course – How do you organize an NRA course, the necessity of leadership, course selection, finding an appropriate facility, what to look for from course participants, required equipment and materials, how to promote and finance the course.
  • Generating Publicity for Your Course – How do you get the word out about your course?
  • Preparing to Teach – How do you prepare and present a lesson, the eight requirements for effective training, basic teaching principles, how to set up a classroom and keep it safe, teaching methods, training aids, the actual presenting of lessons to your peers in the course and how to use the NRA lesson plans effectively.
  • Training Athletes with Physical Disabilities – how can you accomplish this?
  • A host of Appendixes covering a wide range of more detailed information.
This is listed as a 6-hour training. Good luck with that! There is so much to take in. The foundation of NRA training is TPI – Total Participant Involvement. This means that a student does not just sit in their chair and simply watch a power point. They are involved in exercises, they touch things, they learn and then teach each other. It is a very involved and dynamic environment. Through this method, the goal is that the student retains around 65% of all material taught. 

When you apply this to the BIT portion of the weekend, you begin to learn the process. You are taught a principle, you are broken into teams (we had around 30 student) of anywhere from 2-4 and you then teach the entire class the principle you just learned. Once your 3-5 minute lesson is over, you are immediately critiqued on how you did as a team and an individual – your knowledge of the material, your “presence”, your use of aids and the “flow” of the presentation. What began as an intimidating process on Saturday morning ended as a simple exercise by Sunday afternoon. This process, this experience is the entire foundation of learning to teach an NRA course. It was very effective and progress was quickly and easily seen throughout the two days.

NRA Basic Rifle Shooting Course:

The Basic Rifle Shooting Course is taught to you, by the participants of the  class, through the use of the techniques learned through the BIT portion and then practiced on each other by actually teaching the Basic Rifle course. The recommended length of the basic rifle course is 14 hours – good luck with that too. While I have not taught this course yet, I can easily see it as a solid 2-day course that could easily run 16 hours.

The course is divided into seven different lessons: 
  • Lesson I – Rifle knowledge and safe gun handling.
  • Lesson II – Ammunition knowledge and the fundamentals of rifle shooting
  • Lesson III – Firing the first shots.
  • Lesson IV – Standing rifle shooting positions.
  • Lesson V – Prone and kneeling rifle shooting positions.
  • Lesson VI – Sitting rifle shooting position and review of positions.
  • Lesson Vii – Rifle sports and activities.
  • Appendix – A host of addition information and details.
So from the “teaching an instructor” POV, each teaching team within the class would prepare and give a short lesson on portions of each of these lessons. You will certainly have and give a lesson on the three primary rules of gun safety – and then be presented with instant feedback from your peers in the course on how you did, both bad and good. The accelerated improvement using this teaching method was really amazing to watch. Even the improvement from the first group to the last group – presenting the very same topic – was stunning to watch.

NRA Basic Rifle Shooting Instructor Course:

The course detailed above WAS the instructor shooting course, as taught by the individuals actually taking the course. The NRA lesson plan book shows every individual topic of each lesson on the left side of the page, with suggested (and required) material on the right side of the page. It’s very clear, easily keeps the instructor on task and insures that everything the NRA wants covered is, indeed covered. The “instructor” portion actually comes from the act of teaching your fellow students. As I said above, progress was rapid, visible and very encouraging.

Range Work:

As part of the NRA Basic Rifle you were taught the five basic shooting positions – Bench Rest, Standing, Prone, Kneeling and Sitting. This too was taught, on the line, using BIT techniques with a three man team at each shooting position: the Shooter, the Coach and the Instructor. Each individual was rolled through each task with most of the shooting positions. Here again, and entire day could easily be spent on the shooting line. We compressed that down to about 2 hours. Still, quarter sized groups at 50 feet were seen at many shooting positions.


There are three examinations given in this course – one for the BIT portion, one for the NRA Basic Rifle course and one for the NRA Basic Rifle Instructor Course. Each has 50 questions, some are “fill in the blank area” type and you must achieve a 90% on each exam. Honestly, with the level of involvement in this course, 90% is not particularly difficult. Plenty of time is given to take the exam with open books allowed if you are uncertain of specific wording.

The final part of the process is an individual exit interview with the T/C to review your missed questions, review the paper work you needed to fill out to send into the NRA and to collect your NRA fees for certification. This was obviously the shortest part of the class!

I have been a trainer for over 40 years. I can honestly say the NRA’s approach to teaching new instructors is very, very good. If you are looking to take an NRA class, this assures you get a very consistent level of training that is approved at the NRA national level. It assures you the trainer is knowledgeable in what they are teaching and has been fully evaluated before being allowed to get a teaching certificate. If you are thinking of becoming an NRA trainer, you can be assured you will be given a solid set of tools, and solid support that will allow you give your students the best experience possible.

Bottom line – a BIG TWO THUMBS UP on the weekend! Many thanks to Jim and Ray!