When I signed up to take the NRA Pistol Instructor Course, I didn't really intend to start instructing right away. I wanted to get certified so that I could get insurance to protect myself just in case. I help manage a local chapter of Pink Pistols, an organization for LGBTQ people and allies. As a gun owner, I believe the Second Amendment is for all Americans and do whatever I can to encourage all people to learn about and become proficient in firearms use. So I registered for a class and kicked off a journey I could never have imagined.
NRA Pistol Instructor classes are offered all over the county. The class I registered for was held at Nebraska Shooters in Firth, Nebraska, about 30 miles South of Lincoln. The property consists of the owner's personal home, a combo bunkhouse/classroom/storage space, and a couple of range areas. There's a lot of potential for the space, but it's a little rough at the time of this writing.
Where the heck am I?
The bunkhouse was on the second floor of the multipurpose building. I appreciated that there was a bunk house that we could take advantage of for no additional cost, but it was pretty rough. Four of the five bedrooms in our section each contained two beds, and the 5th had a double for couples. There was at least one other section with sleeping quarters that I did not go in. There were several amenities like a kitchen, seating area, and areas for entertainment but no one in class took advantage of them. We were either in class, sleeping, or downstairs visiting. The walls were unfinished plywood which was a little creepy in the sleeping rooms. I woke up the 1st morning and panicked a bit, briefly wondering if I was dead and in a pinewood box before remembering where I was.
Nebraska Shooters had two ranges we used and I believe there was a third, longer range, in another area. Shooting at the closer distances for the basic pistol class portion was fine, and it was nice to have a covered area to to get out of the sun. However, the range was not set up well for the instructor qualification portion of shooting. The firing line at 15 yards was partially inside the building, and partially on uneven ground at an odd angle to the target stands. It made shooting uncomfortable and difficult to do, and I believe it contributed to problems for more than one candidate, myself included.
I took my Glock 48 to class in the Tenicor Velo holster. Shooting is done from ready so holster choice has little impact, but a quality holster is always a good idea. I shot Browning 115 grain 9mm ammo. The big change for this class was the addition of a Holosun 507K and a Brownell's pre-milled slide. In hindsight taking a brand new optic to a class with high stakes like my instructor certification on the line wasn't the best decision. Fortunately it ended up being okay in the long run.
Nebraska Shooters is owned by Justin and Dorothy Grusing. Both are NRA Counselors (instructors that teach others to become instructors), but Justin is the lead trainer. He handled all classroom learning while Dorothy mostly ran the range. They had some ideas that were a little outdated based on my experience with other trainers. There were also no safety briefings or assigning of safety related rolls prior to range time. Overall though, Justin and Dorothy were incredibly nice and enjoyable to take classes from.
This NRA Pistol Instructor course had 18 people attending. Five were women and the rest men. Experience varied from no previous formal training to current or retired military/LEO. There were several people that I honestly could not figure out why they were registered for an instructor level course. One big complaint I have was there was a LOT of smoking in the buildings and on the range. If you have an allergy or are sensitive to smoke, Nebraska Shooters is not the place for you.
When you take the NRA Pistol Instructor course, you simultaneously take the class you will be teaching. It's an interesting way to learn, but got a little convoluted. There were times I wasn't sure if the material being covered was part of the instructor course or the pistol course itself. Between the two courses there was a ton a great information shared.
Classroom time generally started with a lecture followed by a breakout into small group work. Every attendee had the opportunity to act as student and instructor. This was nice with a larger group like ours because you got to see a wide variety of styles. Many attendees had no previous public speaking experience and struggled a bit. I use to teach First Aid, CPR, and AED for the Red Cross and have trained over 1,000 people, so the teaching part was easy for me.
Time spent in the classroom is incredibly important. Just because you are a good shooter does not mean you will be a great teacher. Teaching, no matter the subject matter, requires certain skills such as patience, the ability to explain things in a clear and understandable manner, and a deeper understanding of your subject. The classroom portion of the course helps you begin developing and refining those skills. You will also cover in depth the rules and regulations required to teach an official NRA certified course, as well as tips and tricks for organizing and advertising.
The first range trip is spent shooting the qualification that that your future students will have to shoot. It's a pretty simple and straightforward drill. Future range trips are spent shooting the instructor qualification drill. It is a challenging qualification but not overly so. I practiced several times leading up to class and had no issues meeting standards at home.
Then we got to the range at Nebraska Shooters. My primary shooting experience (away from formal classes) is at a pretty Gucci indoor range. As previously mentioned, the range at Nebraska Shooters leaves a little something to be desired. When shooting at distance is was impossible to get exactly square with your target because the ground was so uneven.
I missed my first qualification by ½ an inch on one shot. After that I got in my head a bit and completely blew my second attempt. You are allowed 2 attempts to qualify in a 24 hour period. On my final attempt before heading back home after class, I felt I had qualified but Jason said no. I had not missed paper all weekend but he could not find one bullet hole and said I missed. Despite the disagreement there was nothing I could do.
Despite perfect scores on all tests and teaching practices, I left that day without my certification. I had the option of returning to Nebraska at a later date to reshoot or make arrangements with a Counselor closer to home that was willing to finish my qualification. I chose to make arrangements with our local counselor. We met at his classroom then went to a super cool range in a cave in Kansas City to shoot. I easily passed the qualification and got my instructor certification this time around.
I definitely recommend the NRA Pistol Instructor Course for anyone who is interested in teaching. Even if you aren't teaching formally, there is a ton of great information you can apply when taking friends to the range. I would not, however, recommend taking it at Nebraska Shooters. Justin and Dorothy are great instructors, but I can't in good conscience recommend the range for a class with such high stakes. I'd absolutely take another class there, just not something that requires a shooting qualification. Their range is a work in progress so maybe it will be better in the future.
As I said before, I had no intention of instructing right away and just took the class for insurance reasons. However, the range I work at in KC needed a female instructor and offered me the opportunity to teach so I took it. As of this writing I'm already coming up on 100 students instructed! There is a major need for instructors, especially female instructors. If you have a passion for firearms and teaching you should look into it.