This will likely be long, it was a busy 3 days. Grab a fine bourbon, scotch, cup of coffee . . . put your feet up and let’s get rolling.
I have a purpose in doing AARs. First, it lets me sort through things, see what I believe went well and not so well, provide a place for those that attend to offer their thoughts, provides a place where those that attend can see the photos I took, it gives those looking to take coursework that I teach some idea of what the heck they’re getting into coming to me . . . and it offers up what I do to other instructors, to see how I do things, to see if there is anything of value in it for them. We are all it “this” together, we all want to become better shooters, safer shooters, better instructors, better students . . . and sharing thoughts, ideas and results is one way to help make that happen. All IMNSHO – of course.
Let’s get a couple items out of the way first. I am NOT A FAN of the changes coming to the NRA. I like taking new students from the beginning to the end. I see a number of problems on the horizon (I’ll detail them later) that I pray are being addressed. And I keep hearing rumblings that BIT will also move on-line as well – I would consider this a near fatal decision when considering teaching new Instructor Candidates how to teach. I will continue to voice my displeasure and to encourage being more hands-on for such fundamental coursework.
That said, I like the Phase II coursework very much. I took the ICs through it and we spent a great deal of time both on a SIRT range and the live fire range working through what it will take for a new and inexperienced shooter to pass the Red shooting test. I will cover this in its own section farther on in this post.
A quick comment about the weather . . . it was brutally cold! -7*F at the start of the day with little wind. Still sub-zero after around 3.5 hours on the range but the wind had picked up and wind chills were -20-ish*F. The ICs knew what was coming, dressed for it and sucked it up. Pretty impressive to watch and I’m very proud of each and every one of them – good job guys!
Alrighty, enough chit-chat – on to the AAR!
Basic Instructor Training (BIT)
BIT is foundational information for all instructors. It is where the TC teaches inexperienced instructors how to actually “teach”. To transfer their knowledge, their lesson plans to the student. Of all the coursework Instructor Candidates take – this one is, without question, the most important course. Everything from their personal grooming habits, the clothes they wear, their demeanor, how they represent the NRA and shooting sports in general to cautions about their words, comments and writings is touched on and covered.
Add to that how to organize training teams, prepare to teach a course, promotion of their coursework, how to finance it, what training aids are available and how to integrate them into their presentations is also covered.
And, the actual art of teaching; taking a lesson plan, organizing their thoughts and actually standing in front of a room of students and presenting a portion – in this case the Basic Pistol course – of the coursework to the “students” (their fellow ICs). I’m not sure how this would ever transfer to an on-line course only. And it works so well as it is now – I pray they reconsider moving this to an on-line course.
BIT is a “6-hour” course. We began at 8 AM, pushed hard all day, and ended at 5 PM (including a 1-hour lunch). This is pretty typical for me. The guys worked hard, made solid presentations, asked great questions. I had a couple that were genuinely surprised when we finished, that it had run so long. Day 1 was in the can!
Basic Pistol Course Instructor Course – “Old Course”
From a Training Counselor POV this is where I really get to evaluate the Instructor Candidates – their actual knowledge of firearms, their “personality” (are they quiet, BSers, are they “shooters”, can they talk, do they listen, are they willing to take feedback). It is at this point that the 1,400-ish TCs in the US shape the touch and feel of the instructor community. I’m hopeful we all take it seriously.
I genuinely enjoy teaching this course. This is typically an IC’s first course that they choose to teach. They’re excited, they’re typically “here to play”, and they jump in and give it their all! I like it! And these six guys – Braxton, Rod, Michael, Jim, Peter and Ron – were no exception. They played hard and willingly added nearly a full day to walk through Phase II – who could ask for more?
The BP Instructor Course pencils out at 10 hours . . . we ran about 12 by the time we wrapped it up. Through the many IC teaching presentations, the feedback sessions, the suggestions that were made – their progress from the first day and “Introducing a Speaker” to the lesson that was taught on cleaning a firearm – their progress was fast, consistent and – best of all – they could recognize the change in their own capabilities. Honestly, I could not ask for more out of any IC.
As part of the Instructor Pre-Course qualification – there are various exercises. Loading and unloading a single action revolver, double action revolver and semi-automatic pistol. Each did these with ease which is a good sign they’ve dealt with each type of firearm to some extent.
Then we moved on to clearing a misfire with a semi-automatic pistol. Again – hands worked smoothly and the words that went with the description of the clearing process were spot on.
I always am a bit apprehensive of an IC being knowledgeable on how to clear a double feed in a semi-automatic pistol, but my concerns were unfounded and each performed the process with ease.
This left the shooting portion of the pre-course qualification. For this course I shifted the shooting portion around a bit. Because of the cold, I held it to the end of the range work for the Phase II and had them shoot the target provided in the Phase II booklet. The only issue here was simply the cold. By the end of our 3.5 hour range session the temps were dropping, the wind picked up a bit and the wind chill was in the low -20s. I also had a brain fart and had them shoot two targets with 20 rounds each target. Heavy sigh. The results were very good though with each instructor easily staying within a 6-inch group at 45’ with only handful of dropped shoots for the entire group. I could have not asked for more – especially considering the nippiness of the weather. Again – great job guys!!
We cleaned up the range, headed back inside for a wrap and handed out certificates (my own, from e.IA.f.t.). The wrap went well – I am hopeful they will forward their own AARs and I will attach them to this post as they come – or they will do it themselves. Total course time – 25 hours. A very busy weekend and a fine time was had by all.
Special Mention Topic – SIRT Pistols
No . . . I don’t sell/market SIRT pistols in real life. No, I don’t own part of the company. But I am a very big fan. I set up a SIRT range at the back of the classroom. We used ad hoc items for shooting bags – one real shooting bag and a couple range bags. This is what I used to teach the ICs how to run a range and to evaluate and correct their shooting positions. I find them an invaluable tool to teach new and inexperienced shooters. Add to that weather conditions such as we had and you can get between 80-90% of your range instruction done with a SIRT pistol and range in the classroom. If you are not using these, if you don’t use them in your own day to day dry fire training, I would strongly encourage you to add them.
As an aside, the way one of the ways I justify them is that they cost about the same as a 1,000 round case of 9mm ammunition. I probably roll through 3,000 rounds of 9mm every year between my own training and coursework I take. My last case of 9mm cost around $240. As an NRA instructor you can purchase a SIRT from NextLevelTraining for less than $220. I have one on the desk behind me as I type this. When I get out of the chair to move somewhere I pick up the SIRT and send about 25 “rounds” downrange to a LE SEB target. I probably move out of my chair a dozen times a day leading to about 125-ish “rounds” of practice fire every day. I can work on stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, multi-round engagements, my balance of speed and precision, and on very precise shots . . . all without spending the $0.24 per round of 9mm required on a live fire range. Once the SIRT is “paid for” – I save about $30 per day in my shooting costs . . . and I actually do much more “range work” simply because of the SIRT pistol. Let’s assume I do this 125 rounds 3 days a week . . . that comes out to 19,500 additional “rounds down range”. And that, folks, has a real effect on your shooting capabilities . . . just sayin’. By the end of our weekend everyone had decided to pick up a SIRT pistol for their own use and use in the classroom. I even ordered an additional pair as well. Check them out – I think you’ll be happy with them.
“Basics of Pistol Shooting Phase II”
Couple thoughts up front here . . .
I took a bunch of crap from a few instructors that I was even going to share this material with my new Instructor Candidates. There wasn’t a lesson plan . . . how are you going to cut time out of the old stuff to teach this . . . (simple . . . I didn’t, the ICs invested nearly a whole extra day of their own free will) . . . this is way outside the box . . . “I’ve copied this whole thread and I’m thinking of sending it to T&E . . . . Heavy sigh . . . Really folks, is that where we are as professional firearms instructors??? For the record Ander Lander and I had a FB conversation about my plans and his only caveat was that I make it plain that this was preliminary and that it may well change before final release. I had no problem with that. My approach was that I taught BIT in its entirety, BP Instructor in its entirety and then . . . after that was all done . . . we went through Phase II. That is how I got to this point and frankly if any other TC is looking to do this, I don’t see another way to do it and still pay justice to the NRA coursework as it is today and as it will be tomorrow . . . so put on your big boy/girl panties and just do the work.
Let me say outta the box . . . I like this coursework! It’s well thought out, the flow is good and it will accomplish the overall goal of turning out a safe shooter that is a reasonably accurate shooter as well – I give this a very well done. All NRA instructors that have accounts on the nrainstructors.org website have access to this material, it is on the front page of the “Manage the course” tab.
I would consider this to be much more of a “shooting course”. Much of the foundational material has been shed and placed in the on-line portion. So defining parts of a handgun, some of the material that deals with things that don’t go “bang” are gone. However – ALL of the stuff that deals with safety, eye dominance, shooting positions, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press, loading and unloading a handgun and – to a much greater extent – marksmanship are very much alive and well in this course. From the booklet – there are four primary exercises:
Exercise 1: Firearm and Range Safety Review (60 minutes)
Setting: Classroom and/or range
1. Review the three NRA rules for safe gun-handling.
2. State range rules.
3. Identify range commands.
Exercise 2: Fundamentals (60 minutes)
Setting: Classroom and/or range
1. Determine your dominant eye.
2. Assume a proper two-handed grip.
3. Demonstrate the five fundamentals of pistol shooting: aiming, breath control, hold control,
trigger control, and follow through.
Exercise 3: Loading, Cocking, De-cocking, Unloading, and Pistol Maintenance (60 minutes)
Setting: Classroom and/or Range
A. Load, cock, de-cock, and unload a single-action revolver.
B. Load, cock, de-cock, and unload a double-action revolver.
C. Load, cock, de-cock, and unload a semi-automatic pistol.
D. Review how to safely clean a pistol.
Exercise 4: Shooting Positions and Shooting Qualification (2 hours)
A. Demonstrate the five learning steps to shoot from the benchrest position
B. Demonstrate the five learning steps to shoot from the Isosceles position.
C. Shoot the course qualification.
For all the consternation my decision to include this in this Instructor Course caused since there was no specific Training Guide, if you pass through each of these exercises you will quickly note that ALL OF THEM ARE COVERED IN THE CURRENT COURSEWORK. So, if you teach the standard BP Instructor Course, everything is covered – no worries.
So . . . some thoughts . . .
You need to be a shooter.
What do I mean by that? (All my own opinions – not meant to reflect the NRA position AT ALL – just my take-away after running this thing.) This particular module is “shooting centric”. With the exception of the safety aspects and teaching the “Big Three” – this is a “range centric”, “shooting centric” piece of coursework. While the old BP course got the shooter to safely get rounds on paper . . . this course is much, much more shooting focused. The instructor needs to be fully familiar with running a range, running a course of fire on a range, with fixing shooter problems from their stance to their trigger press and all things in between.
And . . . if you can’t actually shoot – meaning walk out to the range now. . . right now . . . with your favorite firearm . . . and shoot a qual target – you might need work.
If the NRA Instructor Course was your last professional development course – you might need work.
If you don’t send a couple hundred rounds down range each and every month – you might need work.
It is very difficult – IMNSHO – to truly assist a new shooter with becoming a better marksman if you don’t work at refining that skillset yourself. In the old BP course there was hours and hours of “other things”. Things that consistently got brushed aside by student comments by the two questions on the review sheet that asked . . . “What did you like best?” and “What would you like more of?” The answer, hands down, was always “I want more range time!” Phase II answers that request in spades. And if you, as an instructor, aren’t up to the task of truly moving a new shooter to a reasonable marksman in 3-4 hours on the range . . . please take the time to polish your skill set, it will help us all.
I’ll skip all the classroom time where the two courses overlapped and move to the actual shooting portion.
Phase II Range Work
I began with the SIRT range in the classroom and ran my standard “drill”. As well as introducing the words I use on the range. A brief summary . . .
Firearms begin on the bench, ejection port open, slide back and canted 45-degrees to the right with an empty magazine next to the firearm.
“Load your magazine with xxx number of rounds.” Shooter loads the magazine, DOES NOT TOUCH THE FIREARM.
“Pick up your magazine, pick up your firearm, step to the firing line” Shooter follows the commands.
“Load and make ready” Shooter inserts the magazine, racks the slide and comes to the high compressed ready.
Shooter is now ready to shoot the dill. Shoots the drill and stands at the high compressed ready until they hear . . .
“Unload and show clear” Shooter drops the magazine, cants their firearm so the ejection port is up and then butts the end of the empty magazine next to the open ejection port.
“Thank You” As I pass behind each shooter at the end of the drill and check their firearm to insure it’s empty I say the words “Thank You” so they know they are empty. The remain in this position until all shooting positions have been checked.
“Ground your firearm and your magazine” The shooter leaves the firing line and returns to the table grounding their firearm, chamber up and canted 45 degrees to the right. Then they lay their empty magazine next to it and wait for the next loading command.
I run every course of fire this way . . . without fail . . . every time.
Shooting Drills – Standing, Two Hands
1 round engagement – magazine is loaded with a single round – fired to the commands DRIVE, TOUCH, PRESS. This is repeated 5 times.
1 round engagement – magazine is loaded with 5 rounds – fired to the commands DRIVE, TOUCH, PRESS. This is repeated 2 times.
1 round engagement – magazine is loaded with 5 rounds – fired to UP command. This is repeated 2 times.
1 round engagement – magazine is loaded with 10 rounds – 5 rounds fired “slow fire” on each UP command. This is repeated 2 times.
Clearing malfunctions is done along the way and as required. We had the “typical” problems I find with .22 ammunition and then the weather with -20-ish wind chills contributed. But, all in all, things flowed well.
Perhaps more of an explanation of my DRIVE, TOUCH, PRESS drill.
From the high compressed ready the shooter DRIVES the muzzle directly at the center of the target. It is during this step I correct “casting” and “bowling” issues as well as maintaining their muzzle straight forward.
At full extension they TOUCH the trigger taking up the slack only, but not pressing off a round. Here I can refine their finger placement.
And finally – PRESS – the trigger slowly and smoothly straight to the rear. Here I can work on jerking the trigger or anticipation. If I do this for 15 to 20 rounds I have plenty of time to tweak the presentation and trigger press of the shooter.
When we get to UP – the shooter simply executes the DRIVE, TOUCH, PRESS on their own including the follow-through at the very end.
Each IC ran a flight of 3 shooters through this set of drills to smooth out their range skills. And I have to repeat – in spite of the cold temps – each of them did the job very well!
Each IC shot the “RED” drill set, you can see their results in the photos as well as the included Instructor target – though, again, I had them send 20 rounds at each target rather than 10 . . . my mistake.
And that ended our day! They were pretty happy to leave the range, the wind was coming up and we were approaching -30 with the wind chill . . . time for a warm classroom and the last of the coffee!
Questions and thoughts that came up about Phase II
Cost came up almost immediately. This is a full day range course with around 200 rounds of ammunition being required if someone shoots the entire set of qualification courses of fire. I have traditionally included ammunition since it was typically limited to around 50 rounds. This course steps into the realm of marksmanship – a step past just safely shooting their firearm. In fact they’re required to pass the RED course of fire. I expect I will require them to bring ammunition or charge them an additional $28 for ammunition costs . . . we’ll see. Time wise, it’s as long as if I were teaching the old course so my standard charge will not change - $95 including range fee.
So the big question here is what is the NRA going to charge for their portion? I would guess $50 to $100. That would bring the cost to my student up to $145 to $195 range. Honestly, that’s going to be a hard sell. In many states – and please, I KNOW THAT WAS NOT THE INTENT OF THE BP COURSE – it is used for the CCW permit class, or at least a portion of it. I can sell a $95 course over a $40 online course that gets the person their carry permit . . . but not much more. Just a reality. So we’ll see how that all shakes out, but here in Iowa it is a real concern.
While thinking about this I did have a thought . . . simply make Phase II the NRA Basic Pistol Course. Just pull the plug on the on-line course all together. As a PPITH and PPOTH instructor I want a new student with a good foundation in handling their firearm and being able to shoot. Phase II will accomplish that is spades. Lengthen it a bit, formalize the shooting drills, move it to about a 5 hour range day . . . and the product that would be sent forward to PPITH and PPOTH would be awesome! If the NRA wants to move forward with the online information – make it just that – supplemental online information . . . not required. Just a thought.
Another question revolved around folks that took the online course, passed it but know nothing when they come to class. Whether they pencil whipped it, had a friend do it – whatever, they just come to class essentially knowing little to nothing. What to do with them? Time taken to bring them up to speed will take away from folks who played by the rules, do we really want to take time away from them to bring the laggards up to speed? The general feeling was that they would be sent home, their money would be kept and they could come back to the next class actually prepared. Bottom line, this will need to be worked through.
So there you have it – BIT, BP Instructor and Phase II. A very busy weekend but honestly Phase II was a pleasant surprise. Very good piece of coursework, just have to see how the online stuff and it play together in the real world market place.
Photos are below . . . yep, it was nippy. Thanks to Braxton, Rod, Michael, Jim, Peter and Ron – very good job gents! Thanks for coming!!