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!

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