REVIEW: The NRA Instructor Certification Program

I was a corporate leadership and teamwork trainer at Google spending many hours learning how to be a trainer and facilitator, and teaching Googlers the fundamentals of leadership and teamwork. My passion for learning and teaching is something I’ve wanted to continue developing in my marksmanship career. Naturally, I turned to the National Rifle Association’s Instructor Certification program. From the NRA training website:

Since 1871, a major objective of the National Rifle Association has been to provide education and training in the safe and proper use of firearms …

… From beginner to developing competitor, the NRA Training Department develops safe, ethical, responsible shooters through a network of more than 97,000 instructors.

The NRA website has a search field where an interested party can locate training sessions in their area. I decided to look for Instructor Certification classes in pistol, rifle, and shotgun. My search results put me in touch with Denise King of Defensive Accuracy and Ted Lidie of NorCal Firearms Instruction.

Denise and Ted were offering everything I was looking for in a five day course: Basic Instructor Training (BIT- a required course on NRA Instructor philosophy), and then three disciplines: Pistol, Rifle, and Shotgun Instructor training. You’re free to take BIT and then choose one discipline at time, or take two, three or more courses in succession, as your schedule and budget permits.

Denise King of Defensive Accuracy works with an NRA Instructor-candidate on the range.

Denise King of Defensive Accuracy works with an NRA Instructor-candidate on the range.

BIT reviews the ethics, policies and procedures, roles and responsibilities, course organization, publicity techniques, and teaching paradigms of the NRA. Oftentimes, an NRA Instructor is the first contact a new shooter has with firearms, and so one of our goals is to make sure that experience is a good one. With my corporate training background as a comparison, I was highly impressed with the depth, organization, and professionalism of the content. As a national organization teaching firearms safety and skills, it should be no surprise that the NRA training curriculum is top notch.

As we moved into Day 2 for shotgun instruction, we learned how an NRA course is generally structured into multiple two-hour lessons throughout the day. Of course, the Three Gun Safety Rules are up front and center throughout the day, both in class and on the firing line.

One thing that struck me as interesting is that the shotgun course for students revolves around trap shooting. My natural instinct for teaching new shotgunners is to have them first shoot at a static targets and then progress to moving targets, but we learned jumping right into trap is a great way to expose students to a shooting sport, which I think is a great idea.

Days 3 and 4 were for rifle instruction, and the format was similar to shotgun but spread out over two, eight hour days since there was more material to cover. We role played and performed mock presentations of course content as if we were giving an actual class. Receiving feedback from our peers was a core part of learning, and it was helpful to watch other instructor candidates deliver content with different styles.

The author explaining the proper rifle bench rest shooting technique, while a fellow instructor-candidate demonstrates to the class.

The author explaining the proper rifle benchrest shooting technique, while a fellow instructor-candidate demonstrates to the class.

Day 5 was pistol training, and it was another interesting day of learning how to teach things that have become so familiar to experienced shooters. We had a mixture of gun shop employees, hunters, police officers, and other aspiring instructors who were having fun learning the “correct” way to describe certain parts of a firearm when many of us have gotten used to just going through the motions without any thought.

My instructors, Denise and Ted, were fantastic, and they also arranged for a two-day turkey hunt before the course started. Our location for the week was Red Bank Outfitters in Red Bluff, CA – a beautiful 18,000 acre ranch which provides upland game, hogs, deer, and bass fishing all year round. The weather was unusually cold and windy so the turkeys weren’t very active, so unfortunately we didn’t get any gobblers — we didn’t fire a single shot over 9-10 hours out in the field. However, I still had a fun time on my first turkey hunt. I’ll hopefully post more about turkey hunting another time.

Ted Lidie of NorCal Firearms Instruction and I posing for a quick pic during our turkey hunt before class started for the week.

Ted Lidie of NorCal Firearms Instruction and I posing for a quick pic during our turkey hunt before class started for the week.

One thing to note about the NRA Instructors course is it assumed you are a decent shot, with prior shooting experience. The NRA Instructor Certification teaches you how to teach others to shoot. There is a qualification course of fire for each discipline, and you must pass an examination with 90% or better. Details on the course of fire is available at NRAinstructors.org – perform a search for a particular discipline and then “Click for details” for a pop-up document with the info. If you’re not confident you can pass the test and would like to improve your marksmanship, then you can take an NRA basic firearms course, or other formal instruction to prepare.

Another instructor candidate and I shooting our rifle qualification course of fire. The lead instructor and other candidates look on.

An Instructor-candidate and me shooting our rifle qualification course of fire. The lead instructor and other candidates look on.

It was neat to meet other gun enthusiasts who were passionate about sharing their knowledge and love of  safe gun handling. The NRA Instructor culture is one of cooperation and teamwork where many of us were chatting about helping each other out in the future.

Our NRA trainers, Denise and Ted, with a batch of newly minted NRA Certified Instructors.

Our NRA trainers, Denise and Ted, with a batch of newly minted NRA Certified Instructors.

A huge thanks to the NRA for connecting me with Denise King of Defensive Accuracy and Ted Lidie of NorCal Firearms Instruction. They were great Training Counselors and I’m looking forward to teaching new shooters!

www.NRAinstructors.org.

www.DefensiveAccuracy.com.

www.NorCalFi.com.

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career. He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. www.TopShotChris.com.





Chris Cheng

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion and author of “Shoot to Win,” a book for beginning shooters. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. He resides in San Francisco, CA and works in Silicon Valley.

www.TopShotChris.com.


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  • Steve (TFB Editor)

    Have any of you guys done the course? A number of the TFB staff writers have competed an NRA instructors course. I personally would like to do it.

  • Eugene Berman

    I have completed the two-day NRA BIT and Pistol course in January. We are teaching the NRA 1st Step Pistol course at the Coyote Point range in San Mateo, CA.

  • Always enjoy Chris’ ‘regular guy’ reports. Thanks

  • Limonata

    I have completed the BIT Course and Pistol Course. I would love to have done the Rifle Portion but there is very little demand in CT for the Rifle Course.
    I feel it is a good progression to your skill level. It is one thing to shoot, it is another thing to teach someone else to shoot. You learn a lot about yourself and from students as well. I find that by teach others about bad habits, I catch my own as well.
    In CT, the practical requires that the student shoot something, what that something is is not specified. So, I teach using a 22lr, 380, 9mm, 40, 45 and 38/357 revolver. I find that this help students better a choose a first gun and some students come to class thinking they wanted one gun and leave with a different opinion.
    I have made a few shooting friends this way as well.
    I find prepping for the class takes some work however, and you cannot just show up.

  • DrDave

    I just received my certificates for BIT/RSO/Pistol and firearms safety in the mail yesterday

    NRA basic classes are good classes in some ways, and in others, I think they’re very doctronial, very politically correct, and less than useful in many ways.

    If you’re looking to learn how to not accidentally shoot yourself and others and the most very basic aspects of rifle and pistol craft, NRA classes are great.

    If you’re interested in learning how to defend yourself with a firearm, or shoot competitively, I’d suggest looking elsewhere.

    Most of their basic curriculum is incompatible with defensive pistol and rifle use, and what you learn there will not set you up for success in running a gun at a pace any faster than a crawl.

    I almost threw up in my mouth during the rifle instructors course, the instructor talked about how, as an example of a semiautomatic rifle you should bring a rifle, any rifle, other than an AR, as he thought that they would putt people off and scare them away.

    There is a lot of old fat white guy and fudd type doctrinal groupthink in the NRA, and I don’t like or agree with it…Or at least there was by the people who taught me. Your results may vary.

    • Scott S.

      If you look at the course name for the NRA courses you will find the BASIC in almost all of them. They are designed for basic instruction.

      Scott
      NRA Training Counselor

      • DrDave

        Scott, you ain’t lying.

        On the same token, you wont find ‘defensive’ in any of ’em, either. Just sayin’.

  • HSR47

    I’ve been an NRA instructor for several years now, and there are certainly benefits to the program. Some of the discounts are especially nice.

  • Nicks87

    I got mine just so I had another certification to put on my resume. Some of the older LEOs like to see that kind of stuff. I agree they are pretty basic courses but still full of good info and you might meet some pretty cool people attending the classes as well.