Monday, September 30, 2013

Training Course Review – NRA PPITH Instructor Course


I love teaching new instructors! There are a number of reasons for this . . .

They are truly motivated. You simply don’t put in the raw time, the range time and, frankly, the money it takes you, as an individual, to become an instructor unless you are serious about it. This particular course – the NRA Personal Protection in the Home Instructor Course has a couple of requirements.

  • You must be a NRA Basic Pistol Instructor
  • You must successfully complete the live fire qualification requirement of ten, two-round hits in two seconds from the low ready at 21 ft.

There are simply no short cuts to becoming an instructor for the NRA – or any other organization for that matter.

An added bonus this time was that two blogger friends were coming from the east coast to take my course. Old NFO of “Nobody Asked Me” came to my NRA Basic Pistol Instructor course in March and signed up for a return trip. And, “Keads” of “Another Day . . . Another” had been looking to be able to offer additional training for the range he instructs at, also decided to come as well. Both are definitely “shooters” and had good information to share on the range while they were listening to my thoughts on the subject. The bottom line out of exchanges like that is that everyone learns something new!

Another class member was my son Mike. He’s fast becoming a fine shooter and had a 3rd place finish in his latest IDPA outing. Damn he’s quick! And, he’s developing a fine instructor “feel” as well. It does make a dad proud to watch these transitions!

The course was rounded out by Tim – an engineer where I worked years ago and also the owner of a flight training company. Again – broad training experience is a win for everyone.


Friday was a day for Keads and I to become “well acquainted”. The NRA has a requirement that each instructor attend their BIT – Basic Instructor Training – every two years. You would think that with only a single candidate in the class you could fly through the information . . . . and you’d be mistaken. We started at 8AM and finally finished up by 3:30PM. The information – the exercises simply take what they take, period. So, we spent the day reviewing the training methods of the NRA and, frankly, it was a great time together. He’s been teaching basic pistol and concealed carry in North Carolina for over 5 years and there’s always something to learn from a new instructor.

After time for both of us to freshen up a bit it was time to go to the airport and pick up Old NFO. Weather delayed him about an hour but by 8PM we were at the local Appleby’s having a fine meal!


The proscribed length of time for the PPITH course is 9 hours . . . good luck with that! There is just plain a lot of material to cover. While I do some lecture – the majority is done by assigning the candidates parts of the course – giving them 5-10 minutes to prep and then let them present it to the rest of the candidates. Once complete – we all critique the presenter. I like the process. It gets candidates over their “stage fright” as well as allows them to hear what other instructors see and hear. Everything from where their hands are to how they use the power points and other props to their tone of voice and delivery is reviewed. It is NOT the place for big egos – and that was not an issue for the weekend either.

The second portion of the course is the range work. For the students these candidates are going to be teaching – it is typically their first serious exploration of the use of a firearm for their personal defense. Given that – it is important that the range work go well. If their first exposure to dedicated range work learning skills to defend themselves is poorly conducted, poorly structured or – God forbid – flat out unsafe, many will simply choose not to continue to practice the basic skills required to defend themselves.

So, Saturday ended with a full run-through of Sunday’s range work, but with SIRT pistols. I know you all are getting tired of me singing the praises of the SIRT pistol . . . . tough! What a great tool. Each candidate ran each drill from beginning to end, meaning from taking a shooter to the line to confirming their firearm was empty and properly reholstered before they left the line. For one candidate, it was his first time actually running a range exercise. By Saturday’s end, everyone was clear on how the next day’s range work would go and we wrapped up about 4:30 PM.


Sunday began with the candidates taking their exams and our reviewing and grading them. Passing for instructors is 90% and all exceeded that number. A final review of what was coming for the day took a bit of time and then we headed for the range.

I set the candidates up in three lanes and just started with numbered 9” plates, 6 per lane on their target frame. We ran each drill 4 times with one mag per drill. With 4 candidates, things truly ran very, very smooth. All I had to do was to release the line to each new “instructor” as we ran through the drills – and take photos as I acted the part of RSO.

Skills covered were simple marksmanship from the low-ready; shooting using a low barricade over the top, to the right and to the left; shooting around a corner both to the left and the right; and, shooting rapidly with more than one shot; dominant hand only and support hand only. Both “instructors” and shooters did a fine job.

As an instructor watching new instructor candidates I am looking for everything from their basic skills to their ability to be heard, to “command” a range and for consistent use of defined vocabulary. And, while it sounds like simple drills – the repetition, the newness of the experience and the candidate’s own personal expectations of themselves make it much more stressful than one would expect.

The very last drill was the candidate’s range qualification. The NRA course calls for a 9” plate to be used – I hate that. I use my standard student target set at 21 feet. The drill was 10 engagements, 2-rounds each in 2-seconds on the “UP” command. One of the beliefs I have – and stress to new candidates – is that you shouldn’t expect a student to do something you either cannot do or are unwilling to do. So . . . . I went to the line and had my son run the drill for me. No pressure . . . .

Thankfully, I did hit 20 out of 20 – even though one round was by the closest whisker! I’ll still take it! I’ll show you my target – they can share on their own blogs their targets if they wish – everyone did just fine!


Everyone helped tear down the range and we headed back inside for the wrap-up.  We took some time for feedback on how the course felt to them. I had certified instructors sitting in front of me – simply too valuable of a resource not to use to find out what they liked, what they felt could be improved and any other thoughts they had. Virtually all of them loved how the SIRT pistols played into things and all are looking at placing orders for their own.

And that was that – done, finished, outta there . . . . what a great weekend.

Only to be topped by an early supper at the local Amana Colonies to our south that feature good old fashion home cooked meals. Old NRO, Keads, Mike and I ate too much, had some great pie and then called the weekend “well done”!

Thanks for coming guys, it was great! Looking forward to the next one!

A video of the course qualification:



A couple of yours truly via Old NFO:

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DSC00384 (Small)


  1. At least you got my 'good' side... :-) Truly enjoyed it, learned a bunch and it IS applicable, not only for myself, but future students! At least this time the sights were on! :-) Enjoyed the food and conversations after training too!

  2. At least you got my 'good' side... :-) Truly enjoyed it, learned a bunch and it IS applicable, not only for myself, but future students! At least this time the sights were on! :-) Enjoyed the food and conversations after training too!

  3. Range Report from Old NFO:

    Range Report from Keads:

    Thanks for comin' guys, it was a good time!

  4. I had a great time and you are a great instructor as well as host!