Monday, October 22, 2012

Review - PPOTH Instructor Course Oct 19-20 2012 After Action Report - AAR


The NRA’s Personal Protection Outside the Home is one of their most demanding courses and their answer to teaching a shooter the skills and techniques required to defend themselves outside of their homes using a concealed carry weapon.

Taught over two days and focused heavily on the use of a concealed carry weapon for defense it covers everything from a person’s level of awareness to the proper way to present their carry weapon through a two-day, broad series of classroom and live fire exercises. Students are required to have a much higher level of proficiency with their handguns prior to being accepted to the class and leave with the beginnings of a broad range of skills that can be used to defend themselves, their family or their friends should the need arise.

If this sounds demanding, busy, focused, intense . . . . it is. Now, imagine what it’s like to teach the instructors that will teach this course.

This course was taught by Darin Van Ryswyk, the founder and owner of “CWR Firearms Training” of Ames Iowa. Darin was my very first NRA Training Counselor and after experiencing four other Training Counselor or NRA National trainers, he remains the standard IMNSHO. He is a police officer by profession, a former tactical team member, a trainer for local law enforcement and currently a Captain in charge of over 30 police officers. If you ever have an opportunity to attend one of his courses, take it - you’ll have a great experience and be a much better shooter or instructor for the experience.

I was more than pleased when Darin invited me to be an assistant instructor. While I am very comfortable teaching new shooters, or introducing experienced shooters to more demanding skill sets – this would be my first time teaching experienced NRA Instructors a new skill set. While I am not overly prone to “nerves”, it mattered that I do a good job so I was a bit on edge as the course began and introductions were made.

The course was attended by Shane, Todd, Leo, Corey, Nathan, Charles and Christopher. All had Instructor credentials including the NRA PPITH. They consisted of law enforcement folks, ex-military and life-long shooters that were well experienced. Honestly, not an audience for the timid! It’s always interesting to watch the “scope out” process at the beginning of a course – heck, I do it myself. While they had an experience of Darin, they had no experience of me. While I felt a bit under the microscope for the first hour or so, once the course began and the on-going, two day instructor candidates teaching students and other instructor candidates was under way, things planed out and we were off and running.

The mechanics of an instructor’s class revolve around teaching the skill set of, well, teaching. The best way to do this is by having these instructor candidates teach the ENTIRE course to each other and to us. This is followed by the “sandwich method” of review – tell them what you liked, suggest improvements and end with something you really thought they nailed.

Teaching this course is like riding up and up and up in a roller coaster then reaching that tipping point where you are charging down the rail – and that’s how the two days went.

The very first lesson was giving a range safety brief. We divided the class into two groups of three, gave them 10 minutes to prep and then had them deliver their briefs. Once the brief was done we would ask for feedback following the “sandwich method” so the candidate instructor could hear how well he had done and find areas that he could work on. This was the entire first day and covered everything from the range briefing to levels of awareness to proper presentation of their weapon from both an open-carry position to concealed carry. The great thing about teaching folks with such a broad range of experience is that the personal skills of each instructor are brought into the room. Frankly, you can learn as many new skills from folks like this as you can share from your own experience. It is certainly a very rich environment for folks that are willing to learn something new!

As is typical with this level of training, day one ended with everyone pretty well shot. An evening in my motel room and a long nap in the chair were my night’s activity before I packed it in to rest for day two!

Day two is spent entirely on the range. There are approximately 30 different drills that are gone through, first dry fire and then live fire. Here, on a live range, their skills as an instructor are really being watched. While it is one thing when you are simply watching their weapons manipulation skills when they are only doing their own range work, it is quite another to evaluate their skills when they are teaching those skills to others. Detail counts. Their ability to safely, quickly and consistently present their weapon is important – their ability to teach that skill to another shooter is why we are all here.

Darin was able to round up a couple friends that have taken courses with him and shoot IDPA with him as well. Sam brought her boyfriend Dana along to be the class’s range students. Sam is the more experience shooter with Dana being a fairly novice shooter. It was the perfect mix for these guys to teach. This left 2-lanes open so instructor candidates would often fill the empty lane.

Again, the process was the same as day one. The drills were assigned the night before. Their homework was to become completely familiar with these drills, write up range note cards and come prepared to fully teach their drills to the students on the lanes. At this level, these are very detailed drills. You are emulating (and in our case actually are) teaching new students that have never engaged multiple targets, never used barricades or cover in their training. It takes real focus for each and every drill. Add in live fire and the stakes become much higher.

The second day went from simple presentation of, and engagement with, their weapon from open carry to presentation from concealment while moving to low cover and shooting with the use of cover.

Along the way cartridge failure as well as weapon malfunctions and clearing techniques were all covered as well as the process of scanning and evaluating their environment after an engagement. And, since Darin is a law enforcement trainer as well, proper procedures following a shooting were presented as well as Iowa law regarding the use of a firearm.

Once the drills were over – over 7 hours after they started – I covered the contents of my Blow Out Kit, we finished up a few loose ends and they headed inside for their final exam. These were quickly finished and reviewed and the course ended with the presentation of Darin’s course completion certificates.

This was a solid bunch of shooters as well as instructors. They were all serious, their head was in the game through two very busy days and they were great with the students on the line. There is little doubt they’ll do a fine job when they begin offering their own PPOTH courses in their individual area.

As for me personally, I truly appreciated the ability to get my “feet wet” with Darin. And, I found places where I could contribute to as well, both in the classroom and on the line. It was a great two days! So, a final thanks to Darin and to the folks attending, you guys will make great PPOTH instructors!

Here are some photos of the day.


PPOTH NRA Instructor Course 10–19,20 - 2012

Update 10/23/2012:     The following is a video montage of various short clips from the shooting drills that were conducted.  Each Instructor Candidate conducted an assortment of drills. (NOTE:  Video shot “in front” of the firing line was shot with me behind the line holding my Android phone out to film the line as they shot – NO ONE stepped in front of the line.)

PPOTH NRA Instructor Course–Shooting Drills–10/20/2012


  1. Sounds like you had 'fun', and worked your butt off! :-)

  2. Yep, pretty good description - everyone worked hard and I believe we all had a good time! Can't wait to do it again!

  3. Wow, what a fabulous experience. Intense.

    1. Hey there Ms. A - yep, it was a really good weekend. I think I would use the word "focused" perhaps, but it was definitely a couple days to keep your head in the game!!

  4. Bill,
    Really appreciated your time and the insight you brought to this training session. It's always great to get the perspective from as many "knowledgeable" instructors as possible. Good luck with your future endeavors.
    C. Miller