Vet Your Instructors
I cannot stress this enough... VET YOUR FIREARM INSTRUCTORS!
With the recent increase in gun sales and the overwhelming growth of interest in self-defense and shooting sports, many "instructors" are popping up with the sole intent of making money while interest is high.
On the contrary, the best instructors are passionate about firearms and embedded in the gun culture. To ensure the safest and most enjoyable experience along your firearm journey, seek mentors and instructors who are vested in your overall success rather than those who are simply after your money.
Is their "company" legally registered? Check with your state's Secretary of State office or ask if you can write them a check. If they can't accept a check in the company's name, the legitimacy is questionable.
Do they have insurance? You can request documentation of an active policy.
Can they provide you a "resume"? What qualifications do they have?
Are they offering standardized, vetted courses? Many instructors "make up" classes to teach. Ensure they are qualified and certified to teach the course you are taking, including any specific topics being covered.
What courses can the instructor offer? While there's nothing inherently wrong with a new instructor, those who offer only one course of certification should be able to provide a list of references should the student desire to continue in their firearm education journey.
Can they do what they are teaching you to do? Ask the instructor what training they themselves have taken over the last six months.
Do they have legal documentation, including a waiver for you to sign?
Do they have a mentor or pedigree? Every instructor should be able to explain to you how they have been trained outside of a classroom, and by whom. And the best have shadowed with someone else for at least six months before venturing out to teach independently. Ask your instructor how long they've been shooting and what mentor(s) they have.
Is the instructor known within the firearms community? Are they connected through networking? "Lone rangers" can be dangerous, as the lack of interaction may signal a lack of accountability and willingness to grow.
Do they follow the rules? Or would they rather take shortcuts?
Does the instructor provide quality training? Are their course materials professionally polished? Do classes involve applicable examples? Do students have "hands-on" learning opportunities or only the benefit of reading or staring at a screen?
Check the reviews. What do others say about the course and instructor? Ask the instructor where reviews can be found. If there are none, that is a red flag. What percentage of their students are repeat customers?
Are they professional? How was the registration experience? Do you know the refund policy? Do they have customer service at all? What's the phone number to call if you have a question or issue? What's the email address? How quickly do they respond?
Check out their social media pages. Are they upstanding citizens that you would want to be associated with? After all, this person will become a part of YOUR firearm training pedigree.
Let's be real. Certification is easy. It requires only time and money. Certification alone does not make one a good instructor or trainer.
"It is incumbent upon instructors to complete continuing education, and it is something they must do on their own time with almost no governing guidance from a professional body. That is the great variance among instructors, who else they have trained with. Instructors with basic certifications, maintained by fee, who do not seek continuing education are common and have comparatively little to offer beyond whatever PowerPoint they are ‘certified’ to teach."