Thursday, March 13, 2014

Training – Course Preparation


I have a NRA Personal Protection Inside the Home Instructor course coming up this weekend and have been doing my usual course preparation. I suspect many of you will either be attending courses this spring or perhaps teaching some of your own. So, I thought I’d spend some time on preparing for a course – both from an instructor’s point of view, and from a student’s.

For those students wondering what kind of preparation the instructors go through, it’s similar to what I do when I get ready to take a course, just from a little different point of view.

Specific Material: Every course has specific material that is presented – whether the course is one of my own design or if it’s one of the NRA courses. For me, for this weekend I’m doing the NRA PPITH Instructor course. By way of preparation I will review the NRA’s Basic Instructor Training (BIT) manual (this is the NRA’s course on how to teach their courses), I’ll review the actual PPITH course itself, I’ll review the PPITH Instructor course and, finally, I’ll review the PPITH Training Counselor training manual. That’s around 15-20 hours simply reviewing and refreshing the material in my mind’s eye.

I’ll also add a review of the power point material as well – look at the flow, make changes that I have thought of since I last taught this course. Just try to settle the information in my head.

Range work: This is the first course in the NRA course work where you need to shoot a qualification target. Shooting qual targets is a great stressor for new instructors because they simply must perform . . . or take the course some other time. I always stress to instructors that when they go to the range – they MUST shoot the first target by way of demonstration. And, I encourage them to demo the majority of the drills in the course work to take some of the pressure off their students, to demonstrate proper shooting techniques and, to show they can . . . well . . . actually shoot. If an instructor is unwilling to shoot a drill, why should the student? This DOES NOT mean the instructor needs to be perfect – but they must shoot well enough to pass any qualification cold . . . “out of the box”.

So, off to the range today with my trusty “tombstone” target and 50 rounds of .22 and 100 rounds of 9mm. The qualification for PPITH is 10 ea controlled pairs from 21 ft, each pair from the low ready, 2-seconds or less with 80% of the hits within a 9” blank circle. Honestly, it’s a pretty easy drill, but for those who have never shot on the clock or had a required target to pass, it “up the ante” just a bit. Here are my targets:

20140313_145406 (Medium)

20140313_145411 (Medium)

The 50 rounds of .22 were all within a 7” circle and the 100 rounds of 9mm had one flyer on the left but otherwise the other 99 met spec. So, we’ll see if I can repeat this little puppy again tomorrow afternoon.

I’m taking a lot of words here to say that if you are an instructor . . . do the damn homework and course preparation. If you do not see enough value in working through your courses prior to teaching them . . . why should the students take your course seriously?

The preparation is a bit different from the student’s point of view, but there are similarities as well.

Gear: Virtually any course worth its salt will have a gear list available as well as some type of syllabus. Bring what they say . . . the gear is on the list for a reason. And, read over the course syllabus. If there is some work you can do prior to attending . . . do it!

Bring two guns! Let me say that one more time . . . BRING TWO GUNS!!!!! You are probably spending real money on the course, spending more on gas and perhaps a motel room . . . all of which will be wasted if your weapon has a hard failure early on in the course. Yes, it’s expensive . . . I get it. Yet, to travel and prepare for a course is expensive as well. Bring two guns.

Study course reviews or instructor reviews: This should be part of your prep work before even selecting a course to take. A nice feature of the internet is that everyone reviews everything. If a course is a dud, the instructor is crap or the course work is dangerous . . . that word WILL get out! And, if the course work is great, the instructor awesome and the value is seen as high . . . that word WILL get out as well.

Also, many instructors maintain websites or blogs or Facebook pages that host AARs (After Action Reports) that review their courses and ask for comments from students that have attended the course. This is another great resource to help you prep for the course.

On-line/DVD material: There are some instructors that post a fair amount of information about their courses on-line or they offer DVDs that also present much of their material. My suggestion is to pick up the DVDs or review their on-line offerings prior to taking the courses. It will help focus you, allow you to prep a bit better before you take the course and it will help you get your “head in the game” so you can get the most out of your training experience.

The two most valuable training resources are time and money. Vigorous preparation on the part of the instructor helps to insure that they offer the most “bang for the buck” to their customer. And, for the student, it insures they are making the best use of these two valuable training resources . . . time and money!

So, as we in the northern half of the country prepare for a new training season – get out to the range, shake off the cobwebs and let’s all hit the ground running this year!


  1. Enjoy, I know I had 'fun' and learned a bunch! (And even hit the target this time)... sigh