Local classes are relatively cheap, and accessible to even the newest shooters. I recently attended my first firearm class at a local range, and I took my conceal carry class so I could apply for my conceal carry permit! I was incredibly nervous and didn't feel ready for either class. Less than a year ago I shot my first handgun, I didn't think there was any way I would do well. Unfortunately I've discovered the local classes around me are not good, and pose a greater risk than a benefit to local students.
The first class was a "defensive pistol" class with about eight students. There were three girls, including myself. One of the girls was also there with her partner. During introductions everyone had been shooting longer than me, and seemed confident in their knowledge of shooting.
The conceal carry class I was in had six students, with one other lady in attendance with her husband. The instructor did not take the time to get to know his students, their skill level, nor what gun they plan on conceal carrying.
Safety issues were a common theme in the defensive pistol class. There were so many fingers on triggers. I am surprised, but glad there were no NDs in class. On multiple occasions the other students (mostly the other two women) would muzzle my husband, other shooters, the instructor, and themselves. I left feeling less safe around other shooters, and am even more conscious of where my medical kit is while on the range.
After we left the defensive pistol class, I was upset when my husband informed me that safety issues are common in local classes. The instructors rarely, if ever, send students out from class when they are not being safe. If I had to guess, this would be because you won't get many repeat students doing that.
My conceal carry class spent a total of 10 minutes on the range. In the classroom the instructor said he would bring a medical bag in with him, however once we got there he did not have a medical bag. I keep a tourniquet, chest seal, hemostatic gauze, and a compression bandage in my purse at all times, and an additional tourniquet in the range bag. Our class likely would have been fine with what I carried, but it is negligent for a firearms instructor to not carry medical on the range.
In the defensive pistol class there were no objectives, nor standards to meet during the entire class. It is very hard to establish where you are and how you are performing without both. Everyone in class left with a certificate of completion, which was considered "good enough". If I were to ever take the class again, I would have no idea if I improved from the last class or not.
The standards in my conceal carry class were very low, but attainable. I had to pass a 10 question written test that we completed together and out loud. The shooting portion in my state is to place 15/20 shots on an 8 inch circle at 7 yards. The standards feel low, but are achievable for new shooters which is important. I passed with 17/20. Under stress and with an unfamiliar gun, I am pleased with how I scored.
Some other local classes likely have standards and objectives. Lack of instructor training may be a possible issue of that. Just because you know how to shoot, or you train law enforcement, does not mean those skills translate to instructing civilians. Teaching truly is an art, and you need it if you want to see your students grow in your class.
No Real Feedback
I am new to shooting. My husband is a Rangemaster and NRA certified instructor, and I trust his teaching skills. After our range sessions he facilitates conversation about what I did, and what I need to work on. While shooting, my husband will help correct any issues I have.
During defensive pistol, the only feedback I got from the instructor or his assistant was "you're doing great". Doing great at what? I've been actively shooting for about a month, I know there are things I need to improve on, but what? While it felt great to hear, "you're doing great", it wasn't practical feedback.
Good teachers know how to give clear and effective feedback to their students. A lack of instructor training would likely be the reason behind poor feedback. You never want to discourage your students, but knowing how to give constructive criticism is crucial for any instructor.
A lot of the skills taught in the defensive pistol class were not practical for the average gun owner. We learned how to shoot on the move, and shoot around barricades. While that is very "tacticool", I feel like that skill is geared more towards law enforcement. This was supported by all of his examples being exclusively for police officers.
My biggest complaint after my conceal carry class is that I did not learn when I am legally justified to draw and fire my weapon. My husband has taught conceal carry classes, and made sure I knew that information before I began constitutionally carrying. Unfortunately, no one else in class knows my husband and his wealth of knowledge. Another issue was that the instructor did not understand the laws in our state and jurisdiction enough to even adequately explain where we can and cannot carry. After spending months researching for The Armed Teacher series, I became very familiar with how and when you can carry in a school zone. The conceal carry instructor gave information that was wrong.
Know your audience, and know your curriculum. Local classes are not filled with LEOs completing required training. These classes have local people who are interested in knowing more, teach practical skills, and know what you are teaching.
Unsafe and Cringe Equipment
Hybrid holsters, open carry, Olight, and more! I didn't realize how privileged I was to live with a man who preaches that this stuff is cringe, which has built a great foundation of knowledge for me. In all seriousness, hybrid holsters are not safe, open carrying is anti-tactical, and Olights spontaneously combust. Subpar equipment is apparently a devastating norm among local classes.
While going over different concealment options in the conceal carry class, the instructor suggested belly bands, tactical leggings, flashbang bras, and more. He did acknowledge that kydex holsters with belt attachments are best, so I will give him some credit.
I genuinely thought the norm was for gun owners to make safe decisions in their equipment. I had no idea so many people actually conceal carry in hybrid holsters. A lot of gun owners listen to their favorite YouTube shills for gear advice, and I am concerned. I am blessed to have sound gear advice in my home.
The instructor in the defensive pistol class insisted that shooters "ride the trigger". Meaning, only release the trigger until it resets. This is bad advice because the trigger reset is different for every handgun, and it isn't actually any faster. The instructor also insisted that your hands must be up in a surrender position before drawing because then it is obvious you are the victim. There are situations where you will obviously be the victim without taking a "surrendering stance", and teaching people to always start that way could add to their draw time if they ever actually have to draw their gun.
The conceal carry instructor shared dangerous opinions, which the average gun owner might think is a wise choice for themselves as well. For example, our conceal carry instructor while sharing his EDC included that he either carries a tourniquet, or a bandana. During class, his bandana was in his shoe. To make matters worse, he is currently an EMT. I internally screamed when I heard this. He also said, on several occasions, that he would apply medical aid to someone he had to shoot. I personally am against this because if I had to shoot you, I don't want to be up close to you afterward. I don't know if you have other weapons on you, or what you would do to me if I were to get close enough to apply a tourniquet, or chest seal.
It is relatively easy to become an instructor and many people create and exist in echo chambers. When those are both combined you have a sheltered, and fairly unexperienced person instructing others on using guns. Eek! If you aren't regularly involved with higher level instructors, you are going to eventually provide dated information to your students. Teachers are lifelong learners, stay up to date.
What went well?
Both classes had redeeming moments, and overall I am glad that I participated in both.
I left the defensive pistol class feeling more confident. For the day I shot around 200-250 rounds, which was my most in a single session yet. I shot in positions that I didn't find comfortable, and overall went way outside of my comfort zone. I got an entire day's worth of practice drawing and firing from concealment, and clearing stoppages. My favorite part of the day was when I hit a target at 100 yards, using my support hand, and non-dominant eye. I used my Glock factory iron sights, and outshot my husband with his red dot optic on that stage. I was the only person in class to make it, and I got a free hat!
After conceal carry I left with a paper I can use to apply for my conceal carry permit! Our instructor did take the time to share, from personal experience, the social and emotional aftermath of firing your weapon at an attacker. He encouraged further education, dry and live fire practice, and offered tips to practice awareness. He encouraged us to be aware of what goes on around us, and to avoid situations that may lead to us drawing our weapons.
Local classes and the people who attend them are not that great, but it's still worth attending. Practice is always good, even if the instructing and feedback isn't great. Just make sure that you are continuing to practice well so you aren't solidifying bad habits. Be careful when you do go, and maybe consider carrying your medical in your pocket while on the firing line.
Editor's Note: Looking for some quality training? Check out these reviews of courses taken by Primer Peak staff!