Sunday, January 6, 2013

Training Course Reviews - NRA Basic Pistol Instructor Course 1-4-13 AAR


Phone Rings:

ME: Keller!

Darin: Bill? How ya doin’? Say, I’m doing a Basic Pistol Instructor Course – like to give me a hand?

ME: Sure! Give me the details . .. . . .

Dates are shared, plans are made . . . and this weekend – off I went!

The NRA Basic Pistol course is typically the first course new instructors choose to teach. Actually, in most cases, it’s the first course NRA course folks choose to take. And, like any “first”, how people view their experience will decide so many things – have they gained knowledge about handguns, will they be safe in their use, are they fearful of handguns, what is their view of the NRA after going through one of their courses, what do they think of the instructor and his team, will they ever take a NRA course again . . . .

The person directing these people, managing the course and actually teaching the NRA Basic Pistol Course is the instructor. A lot rides on this person’s shoulders! A lot WILL ride on the 14 new Basic Pistol Instructors I helped Darin train this weekend as well.

5 AM came early on Friday (1-4-13) and the alarm blared at me. In the car by 6AM and off to Ames, Iowa. I arrived at the Izaak Walton League chapter house by 8AM and toted my gear in. Darin had already set up the room so I put down my gear and waited for everyone to arrive. By 8:30AM all 14 . . . . let me say that number again – 14!!! . . . . folks arrived. Pretty diverse group . . . let’s see how many I remember. A youth pastor, BSA Explorer leader, IDPA shooter, police officer, Army reservist, couple young guys starting a new training company, person heavily involved in the shooting sports for disabled shooters, a photographer . . . . and more. All were shooters, many highly trained and a few were life-long shooters with little formal training. I knew it was going to be a great group!!

Each instructor candidate must complete a pre-course evaluation. If you are interested in the specifics, you can find it here. And, after brief introductions – the next 90 minutes were spent conducting the pre-course evaluation. Handguns were handled, explained, loaded and unloaded and a live-fire range exercise was conducted to make sure each instructor candidate passes the pre-course evaluation. In the event they do not, they can not continued in the class.  In that case they are typically refunded their money or they can be worked with to correct the things that need work and they could participate in a future course – remembering they would once again need to pass the pre-course evaluation at that time.  Everyone passed just fine and we were headed into the rest of the day!

Every instructor is required to take the Basic Instructor Training (B.I.T.) every two years. That course was our Friday. We started at 8AM with the pre-qualification evaluation and ended at around 9PM with the very beginning intro to the Basic Pistol Instructor Course. The rest of the time was spent on the B.I.T. course material. The NRA uses what they call the TPI – Total Participant Involvement method. What that means for instructor candidates is that they actually teach to the Instructors and fellow instructor candidates multiple elements of teaching basics during the B.I.T. portion and then virtually all elements of the Basic Pistol Course. For many, it’s their first experience of standing in the front of a room and actually teaching a new skill set or new information to a group people. It can be both intimidating and humbling. And, it is genuinely fun to watch.

The first presentation is always the introduction of a teaching partner – their name, personal and professional info and their shooting experience. They are given around 10 minutes to prep and then they move to the front of the room and each team, in turn, introduce their partner to the group. During these teaching times, the rest of the class roll-play “students” and typically ask way more questions than a standard class does. Some questions get pretty darn creative in fact! As I said – fun to watch.  These are traditionally “shakey”, no one feels like they have had enough time to prepare and there is a fair amount of discomfort on everyone’s part.  By the last day – in our case the last exercise they had to teach was the cleaning of a revolver and semi-automatic pistol – the assignments were given, a time limit on preparation of 5 minutes was given and virtually everyone said “I’m ready, can we just do it??” No prep-time, just taking the teaching material, clean kits and handguns and teaching.  It’s quite a transformation to watch!!

Each team’s exercise ends with an evaluation by the Instructors as well as the other instructor candidates. The “cookie” method is typically used – what did we really like – what could be improved – and one thing that was done really well. For those who have never spoken publically, never received feedback while standing in front of a group, never been publically criticized or praised – it’s an eye opening experience!

That is the basis of the entire course – and our Saturday, from 8AM to about 4PM. The entire Basic Pistol course is taught – safety rules, types of handguns and their major components and individual components, ammunition, shooting stance and grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press, shooting first shots, cleaning the different types of handguns, range hygiene, shooting sports and other courses offered by the NRA. To say it is a full and intense day is simply an understatement.

Truly, everyone did great – again, very fun to watch.

Of course, there are always exams – in this case FOUR of them. There is the live fire pre-course qualification shooting exam, the actual NRA Basic Pistol Course exam, the Basic Instructor Course exam and finally the NRA Basic Pistol Instructor Course Exam. Instructor courses must be passed with a 90%. The Basic Pistol Course an 80% and they simply must pass the live fire course-of-fire as well. No simple feat by any means!

20 hours . . . . that is how much time these instructor candidates invested over the two days. Long, intense, focused . . . . and all were successful! As I have said before – very fun to watch!!

Thanks to everyone for all your hard work – you did a great job.

Bill with 1-4-13 pistol class

And thanks as well to Darin, for inviting me to team teach with him and for being one of the best in the business!!

Darin 1

Looking forward to the next one!!!


  1. Sounds like a good weekend, and congrats to the graduates!!!

    1. I'm sure most will check in and get your sentiments. They were really a hard working yet fun group! A good bunch of trainers there!