Firearms Training Progression

NRA instructorIf I’ve learned one thing in my time as a firearms instructor, its that you can’t teach everyone everything they need to know at one time. If you could keep their attention for 40 hours straight it still wouldn’t matter. Students need time to assimilate the information you’re giving them, time to put it into practice in their lives, and time to reach perspective on how your training will play out in their various situations.  Simply put there is simply too much they need to know to simply progress from class to class, especially when we teach one thing in one course and then teach something different in the next course – and we do that for good reason; not just to confuse the student.

This has been on my mind a lot lately as I see students from various levels of proficiency working with firearms. I’ve come to the determination that students don’t really comprehend the difference between firing on the range and firing in a defense of life situation. For example, in most classes we teach pistol safety from the worst case-scenario standpoint, with safety being the absolute highest priority. If your firearm jams up, you hold the muzzle downrange for 30 seconds to be sure it’s not a hang-fire, then you invert the firearm, pull the slide back with your weak hand thumb and finger, and release the round away from you and out the top of the slide. In Concealed Carry, we teach an entire different strategy called Tap-Rack-Ready that leaves out the step of holding the firearm downrange for 30 seconds. Why? Simple. In a defense of life situation, you don’t have 30 seconds to tell the bad guy “Hold on while I make sure this isn’t a hangfire. I’ll be right with you again in a moment.” You have 3 seconds to remedy the situation and therefore your primary concern is getting your live firearm back on target within 1 second. Safety of your life trumps safety of your fingers in that scenario. And regardless what people think in their minds, your body will do what it has practiced 100 times out of 100, not what your mind knows is safest given the current scenario you’re facing -in that situation, your mind is disengaged from the fight in a very real sense. You’ve lost higher cognitive function, and are operating on dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline- three chemicals you’ve never had in your body before. So you might as well try practicing gun safety while on crack cocaine for all the good it will do you.

How do we as instructors, make our students truly ready for the world of firearm safety, train them to defend their lives, and train them to have safe fun while practicing on the range? That is the essence of the problem we face. No one training regimen prepares you for all these scenarios.

So,we have a plan – and it’s a good plan. It’s not a off-top-of-our-heads kind of plan. It’s the same plan the NRA uses to teach us instructors how to educate students. I’m just adopting it for student education and putting it into practice in the next level of training.

Basically we are going to run a cycle of programs for students. Students can get in on the ground level and work their way through the entire regimen of firearms training from the ground up. If you haven’t done step 1 with us or someone else equally certified, then you cant’ take step 2 because we’re not going to teach step 1 again and not having that knowledge can make it dangerous on the range for the other students. One student’s ignorance could cause another to be injured or killed, especially as you progress into the higher levels of firearms training.

At this time I’m thinking we’re going to start it with a maximum of 25 students and we’re going to run one class every three weeks. If you hear about the program and want to get in on the training, you can either catch up (if we’re on class 1 or 2) or you can enroll for the next cycle if we’re too far along for us to feel you can safely integrate.

This does a couple things for both the instructor and the class.

First, we as instructors REALLY get to know the students because we’re in multiple classes with them. We know their personalities, their weaknesses, and can better know what hardships a particular student will face in further courses and be able to help them prepare better than we could if they were a fresh student off the street going into their first course.

Second, and what I feel is most valuable as a student, they become a team. I see this in our own instructor classes all the time. When we roll into class for a new certification or a new range day, we all know each other and everyone is comfortable with each other. We’ve already had the embarrassing moments in previous classes, so we laugh with each other, sometimes pick on each other (kindly) and we have a camaraderie that can’t be instilled in one day.What seems to happen is that students become friends with other students with the same level of education and before you know it they are meeting each other after work to practice together, to run range drills together, and to self-correct each other outside of the classroom. THAT is what we want from our students- to truly be representative of the kind of firearms owner we ourselves try to be – to help others improve and to have a desire to improve themselves.


So, what’s the regimen going to be?

Well, it will go a little something like this:
(These are broad strokes about what the class is. If you want details, we have them on our course pages about each course, but this will give you an understanding of how you progress through a series of courses and what you learn to prepare you for the next class.)


Course 1: NRA Basic Pistol – 8 hours plus range time.

  • We drill pistol safety into the heads of the students on this day – they practice it and repeat it back to us until we are comfortable in the knowledge that they will wake up the next day having dreamt all the steps to operating a firearm safety.
  • Semi-Automatic or Revolver – how to choose the proper firearm for you.
  • How to size a handgun to your body type – how to “fit” the proper gun for you.
  • How to choose a handgun based on the use you intend it for – range practice, target shooting, concealed carry, open carry, etc.
  • Modifiers – what if you are really weak in your off-hand and can’t rack a slide? (happens a lot with people over 50)
  • The basics of ammunition – what makes it go bang, what prevents it from going bang when it’s supposed to?
  • How to choose ammunition based on your needs.
  • Basics of proper grip, sight alignment, follow through, stance and other criteria that make you a better shooter.
  • A range practical where each student fires 50 rounds and meets the criteria we have for “passing” the firing aspect of the class.

Course 2: Refuse to Be a Victim (not required, but recommended) – 4 hours, no range requirement.

  • How to make modifications to your home or style of living that do NOT require firearms. There are in fact no firearms allowed or ever mentioned in this course.
  • How to identify a threat in your immediate area – things to look for.
  • How to secure your home in a manner that makes you unattractive as a target to an invader.
  • How to develop a family safety plan and put it into action (This is a CRITICAL step if you have kids that isn’t taught in any other course. Many parents freeze when the situation calls for a firearm in the home because they don’t have a plan for their family to know what to do. Where is safe to shoot? Is my son or daughter behind that wall? Do I have a way to initiate the plan instantly in my home?)

Course 3: North Carolina Concealed Carry – 8 hours plus range time.

  • The legal aspects of concealed carry – where you can and can not carry.
  • How to deal with the police when at a traffic stop carrying a firearm.
  • How to deal with the police/civilians when out in public and you’re forced to draw your firearm.
  • The mental and physical aspects of firing a handgun at another human being – what to expect. (The 5 stages of psychological reactions you go through)
  • Basic pistol safety is discussed in this course again because of the need to be on the range with live ammo.
  • How to select a concealed carry firearm that fits YOUR needs.
  • Pros and cons of certain types of firearms for concealed carry.
  • Pros and cons of certain types of ammunition for concealed carry. (You didn’t think about that one did you? Yes, there are definite NO-NO’s when it comes to ammo for defensive concealed carry, such as no reloaded ammo, EVER!)
  • Firing Range Practical – each student will fire 30-50 rounds and pass the range qualification.

Course 4: Personal Protection Inside the Home – 8 hours plus range time.

  • You’ve already had Refuse to be a Victim by this point so we’re teaching firearms for defensive use inside the home.
  • Where you can and can’t shoot in your particular home – due to construction, location of family members, etc.
  • Developing a safety plan that incorporates the use of firearms for self defense in the home.
  • How do arrange items or furniture in your home to provide cover or concealment.
  • The important distinction between concealment and cover. (Both of them hide you from an attacker, but only one stops a bullet being fired at you)
  • Understanding the psychological impacts on yourself and how to recognize them (Freeze, Submit, Posture, Fight, Flight)
  • Firearm basics from a defensive angle – you no longer have time for sight alightment, trigger control, follow through, proper posture, etc. The mechanics are completely different and more more complex, requiring MUCH more practice both on the range and at home.
  • A range practical that involves shooting from 7 yards, shooting from cover, shooting from concealment, shooting weak-handed when your strong hand isn’t available to you (hurt or otherwise engaged).
  • Shooting while approaching cover.
  • Shooting while retreating.
  • Close range shooting from 1-2 yards (which is what will likely happen inside your home).

Course 5: Personal Protection Outside the Home – 10 hours plus 6-8 hours range time. (this course requires Personal Protection Inside the Home AND a concealed carry permit, or proof you have taken a Basic Pistol Safety course.)

  • Defensive Shooting Safety
  • Strategies for Personal Awareness – teaching the defensive mindset.
  • If you must shoot…
  • Aftermath of a defensive shooting.
  • Dealing with multiple assailants.
  • Shooting from cover and concealment, strong and weak handed shooting.
  • Shooting from the sides, behind, etc.
  • Principles of concealed carry for defensive shooting.
  • Presenting the handgun from concealment (totally different than any other kind of drawing and target acquisition)
  • Firing on the move, forward and rearward.
  • Handgun retention- maintaining your firearm.
  • Choosing a firearm for concealed carry/outside the home defense.
  • Engaging targets at extended range.
  • Legal aspects of concealed carry.
  • Dealing with the police.
  • The psychological aspects of shooting another human being.

Why this approach?

You should be able to notice a definite increase in the severity and tone of the courses listed above. Beginning students learn how to shoot a gun, how to clean a gun, how to put holes on paper. By the end of these courses, you are trained in rapid-action thinking in defense of your life or others and are often dealing with Close Quarters Shooting. The principles learned in the beginning are enough if you want to progress as a competition target shooter, but are not enough to save your life. Conversely the way you carry your firearm to defend your life are NOT methods acceptable on your local firing range. And finally, the last course requires serious and diligent students that we deem safe enough to have a live firearm on the range with ourselves and other students – while working on defensive drills involving turning, moving, and engaging multiple targets. In short, we aren’t letting you into that course regimen unless we already feel you are 100% safe with a firearm. By the time you set foot into a class on Personal Protection Outside the Home, you already need to know if you’re willing to take a human life in defense of your own or someone else. If you’re not, you don’t need to take this course. If you are mentally prepared, this course is a good way to insure that fact, and to teach you how to deal with the hundreds of things that will occur in the 1.5 seconds you have to make the decision if you’re ever faced with it. In short, that is not a course for the faint of heart. Many people say “You’re teaching someone how to kill somebody… you should be ashamed of yourself.” As an instructor I vehemently disagree. We are fundamentally teaching you how to NOT have your life taken by another human being, and when all else fails you and you have no other options to resort to, to preserve your own life above that of the person trying to take yours. Those are two vastly different ways of calling a spade a spade.

Do I have to take them all?

Any student can feel free to stop with however many courses they feel like taking. There is no pressure or need to take every course offered. We’re just offering it in this format to allow those that want to have chance to progress to do so. Most every class is filled with questions that we simply can’t answer – a concealed carry class is NOT the time to be asking what end of the gun the bullets come out of or how to load your magazine. If you don’t already have those skills, you have no business carrying a firearm for defense yet. You need more training. Each course builds on things that we’ve already taught those particular students in previous courses. We won’t let a random person sign up for course 4 or 5 without some serious knowledge of that person’s background. For example, prior military service in a MOS that involved you carrying a firearm would be acceptable, as would law enforcement.

Prepare to Spend Money

Shooting costs money. Firearms cost money. Learning to shoot firearms costs a lot of money. Ammo ain’t cheap these days. We will be staggering these courses probably three weeks apart, both to allow students time to register between classes, to absorb what they’ve learned in the previous course, and to save money to buy more ammunition. I know you’re going to ask, so here’s the expenses you can plan on incurring if you want to go through this kind of course progression.

  • NRA Basic Pistol – $75 plus 1 box of ammo in your caliber (22-.45 ACP)
  • Refuse to Be a Victim – $25, no other costs.
  • NC Concealed Carry – $75 plus 50 rounds of ammo in your caliber (.380, or above). No .22’s allowed in concealed carry unless you have special permission from the instructor.
  • Personal Protection Inside the Home – $125 plus 50 rounds of ammo in your caliber, .380 or above.
  • Personal Protection Outside the Home- $150 plus 200 rounds of ammo in your caliber, .380 or above.

To to through the courses from beginning to end will cost an average student (without referral discounts, etc) about $450 in course fees and I’d expect to pay another $200 in ammunition over the various courses. Factory ammo only, no reloads. (That’s an insurance requirement, and a basic NRA rule, and there are other reason we’ll teach you throughout the classes why you never carry reloads for defense.)


The entire program from beginning to end will take you around 4 months to complete, every third weekend on Saturdays and probably some time on Sunday for the last course.

So… NOW are you interested in getting some real firearms education?

Let us know. Send an email to or fill out the contact form on the website here and I’ll see about putting a class together to start a new class of students.