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NRA Basic Pistol

The National Rifle Association gave an early Christmas present to their handgun instructors last year, announcing a rollback of “blended learning” NRA Basic Pistol classes. Details of that rollback have been announced at my pal Lee Williams’ “The Gun Writer” blog today. In short, effective April 4th, student packets for wholly instructor-led courses will become available. NRA instructors will once again be able to offer the NRA Basic Pistol class without the problematic online learning portion.

The NRA rolled out blended learning in 2015 for the NRA Basic Pistol offering. For years, NRA Basic Pistol has helped introduce thousands of people to shooting pistols. It serves to provide a solid foundation for future learning if done right.

Blended learning saw the classroom segments of the popular entry-level class taught on-line. Students would then find a local NRA-certified instructor to conduct the range aspects of the course.

That sounded like a great ideat to the wonks at NRA Training. The theory: standardize the “classroom” teaching and let dedicated instructors handle the live-fire training.

In reality, it made Baby Jesus weep. Enrollees found the online portions dull and uninspiring. Instructors hated it because students didn’t internalize the online materials well. As such, instructors had to re-teach much of the classroom material, effectively making a one-day class a two-day commitment for enrollees. To make matters worse, the NRA charged $60 for the online segment.

As a result, the NRA’s Training Division faced a whole lot of negative feedback from both instructors and training counselors. Waples Mill pretty much ignored all of the criticisms.

Until Lee Williams came along.

Lee, a former cop and longtime gun aficionado, took it upon himself to wage his own little insurgency against the new training paradigm. He sent a letter about the problem with this new hybrid training program to each of the NRA’s Board members a week or so before Christmas. A couple of days later, Lee got a call from the NRA’s Chief of Staff, Josh Powell. “We made a mistake,” he told Williams.

Kudos to the NRA for admitting their mistake and giving everyday Americans a choice of how they wish to take their NRA Basic Pistol class.

From the Gunwriter Blog.

Howard told me Thursday that the NRA is keeping the online “blended course,” but students will now have the option of taking the entire Basic Pistol course from an actual, live instructor.

The online program just became optional.

If the student still wants to take the first portion of basic pistol online, they can, but they’ll pay the instructor rather than NRA. The Instructor will give the student a password, which Howard called “control codes,” so the student can access the site.

This was planned, Howard said, so instructors, “will have control of the course from the beginning.” …


The new system will go live April 4 — the same day training packets become available.



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  1. Finally. I heard nothing good about the online portion. Fortunately, I haven’t held any classes since the “improvement”.

  2. Don’t kid yourself Mr. Boch. The Gun Writer, Lee Williams did not have any effect on this change. The focus groups were in process well before his first blog entry. The T&E department has been holding them monthly since December and also working with other training counselors on curriculum development, lesson plans et cetera…

    Why don’t you tell Lee Williams to produce a valid NRA law enforcement firearms instructor card. His ratings are expired and yet he still claims to be certified, too bad it is not a lifetime appointment. Have some integrity Lee Williams, produce the card or remove that claim from your bio on your blog.

    • *eats popcorn*

      I’ve interacted with Lee, and I think he has a bigger ego than his actual impact within the industry. For example he shot from the hip attacking a local gun club because the board relived a long time member from his duties. Well it turns out that the club was investigating if that member was improperly handling club guns, to the point that 38 were missing along with improperly handling club money.

      • Yep, that’s Lee Williams, a garden variety poser who claims to be more than he is in writing. He will never show his NRA law enforcement card because he doesn’t have one that is valid. #TheGunWriter #Fraud #NRA

    • KM Moore:

      Maybe it was merely just exquisite timing on Mr. Williams’ part. In any event, he surely seems to have done what a whole lot people more involved and invested in the NRA training division than I could not do.

      I know of at least two training counselors who are very outstanding instructors and trainers who were told to shut up about shortcomings of “blended learning” or they would lose their TC creds AND their instructor creds. I’ve read complaints from hundreds of instructors that the NRA’s training division brushed off.

      I personally relayed my experiences to the NRA training division about this blended learning scheme, along with my irritation at them not having training materials for NRA PPITH classes for months last fall. I called them out for the unprofessional manner with which their vendor was handling customer queries (in short, they weren’t). I asked for communication on when the materials would be back in stock. I got NOTHING back.

      I know they are busy, but they screwed the pooch on this one. They have – or at least had – the nation’s premiere training program for civilians. I hope they can continue to hold onto that title and that this miscue hasn’t harmed their “brand” permanently. We all make mistakes. Time will tell if this misadventure left permanent damage.


  3. I had to do the online portion in order to do the instructor class this past November. It was 11 hours or so of painful videos. Monumental waste of time. Good riddance to a bad teaching method.

  4. Seems like the NRA had to let the instructors make a living instead of porking them out of money. What an bunch of greedy dicks.

  5. IMO they should make the basic levels of the blended learning course free. They already spent the money to make them, and likely won’t recoup the costs since so few instructors are going to use it. Instead offer it for free as a service to the community.

    • That was my thought, too: the NRA should offer free videos on gun safety to everyone who can access them online.

      But make them quality, by people who know how to make such things.

  6. Speaking as an instructor with a current cert the whole basic whatever paired with the “we have to do something” requirement to pass in some states for a permit reeks of multilevel marketing pyramid scheme conartistry.

    I became certified after my friends and I sat through our useless 8 hours of bullshit at $200 a head so I could run people through at no cost. I didn’t phone it in. People learned what they needed and often much more but god damn the way the NRA, all nthese trainers and trainer trainers have taken advantage of state mandates to earn quick 0 effort cash is horrendous. They’re all criminals.

  7. Unfortunately for the NRA, the horse is already out of the barn and is not likely to come back. Most instructors had to come up with some alternative to the “blended” course that none would take, so now they have something they know well, can market and conduct without NRA ‘assistance.’ Looks like the blended learning courses did for shooting instruction what Obamacare did for healthcare.

  8. Too little, too late. I was never overly impressed with the NRA material, and this “blended” thing was the last straw. I have quite a bit of NRA material on hand, and don’t expect ever to buy any more of it. My membership has lapsed, and I will stop using the NRA cert on my cards as soon as that expires.

    Anyone who thinks all NRA trainers are doing it to get rich… check your premise. I have lost money each year for the last ten, and have conducted many a one-to-one session free to the trainee.

    I’m not going to stop teaching people how to use a gun safely and effectively for self defense, just won’t be including the NRA much in any of it from now on. A pox on their house.

    • Definitely. I’ve been part of two different groups that inquired about NRA training, and both times the different instructors asked what our needs were and what could we afford. One two-day course cost me $25, one half-day course cost me $20. In both cases the instructor could have made more moonlighting as a security person.

      The one time I had to go with whatever fees an instructor set, I found that by shopping around I could get an instructor with more training and background depth at a quarter of the cost of the standard figure, and I got eight hours of training for $50 from a guy with military, MP, rural sheriff deputy, and urban cop experience who had gone to he trouble of learning how to teach well.

  9. My wife and I took the class in person together. I don’t think the online class would of had us prepared as a live instructor. I have both of my kids going to a full on class to learn. It’s really the only effective way of teaching gun safety to people.

  10. The reason the NRA dropped blended learning as mandatory, was because they were losing tons of money because enrollment slammed.

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