Guns for Beginners: How to Find Quality Self-Defense Firearm Training

Training Lifetime

Carrying a gun lawfully for self-defense can make the difference between life and death in a critical situation. Yet at the same time it can be fraught with risk to the carrier thanks to laws and land sharks. Training can help reduce those risks dramatically.

In a perfect world (and an increasing number of states), you wouldn’t need a license to carry. Or training in the effective use of a firearm for self-defense. Unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect and neither are we.

In the real world, mistakes happen. All it takes is a single moment of oversight, sloppy gun handling or lousy gear and you can find yourself jammed up and wearing handcuffs. Heaven help you if you have a negligent discharge or make a mistake in judgement about when to pull your gun. Make those kinds of mistakes and you risk everything, including prison.

With training, the risks attendant with carrying and using a firearm for self-defense are greatly diminished. You’ll become an expert at gun safety and can share those skills with your family to make them experts at safety as well. You’ll also learn better situational awareness.

The right classes will teach you body language and behaviors that will make you less likely to be “selected” for victimization by bad guys. Best of all, your odds of prevailing in a deadly force encounter will be significantly enhanced. But remember…

GSL DefenseTraining 1- 04a

All Training Isn’t Equal
With the growing numbers of new gun owners across America, many people are seeking classes, especially those wanting to apply for a carry license in the (dwindling number of) states that require it. These concealed carry classes tend to be plentiful where required, and are often conducted by National Rifle Association-certified instructors.

Classes run the gamut from incompetent to inadequate to well-presented to comprehensive learning programs.

As an example, in Illinois a year before right-to-carry was passed, there were approximately 42 NRA instructors who had taught ten or more people the previous year. Today, we have 3390 Illinois State Police-approved instructors (and 93 revoked instructors).

Almost all became certified thanks to their NRA credentials. It’s worth noting that ISP-revoked instructors aren’t all bad apples. While many were revoked because they defrauded the public through improper (or virtually no) training, others had their ticket pulled for a variety of other reasons unrelated to the quality of training services.

Beyond learning the basics from an introduction to concealed carry class, there are other programs out there for people looking to enhance their skills…everything from competition and marksmanship to hunting and self-defense.

When it comes to self-defense firearms training, easily the most common are those designed to teach self-defense fundamentals. The best of these “save your bacon” courses will incorporate all three of the following:

The Mindset
Mindset is the knowledge and attitudes needed to avoid and, if necessary, survive a confrontation. This includes the mental preparation for dealing with all aspects of a violent encounter at home or in public…and to never give up in a fight for your life.

This particular aspect of training emphasizes conflict avoidance, layering your defenses, and knowing the legal standard by which you will be judged for using lethal force against another. A well-taught class will help you avoid trouble through situational awareness and conflict de-escalation, and also keep you out of jail for inappropriately introducing a weapon – firearm or otherwise – into a situation.

Functional ability/training
Functional ability training consists of knowing how to make your gun work, the ability to use it safely and effectively, and the associated aspects of your gun’s proper care and feeding.

Any reputable course will inculcate you with basic firearm safety. Exercising proper muzzle discipline and keeping your finger off the trigger until you have decided to shoot should be as natural as breathing. Sadly, for those without formal training, poor muzzle control and trigger finger discipline are the norm.

Gun selection plays an important role as well. Some folks may have compatibility issues with a gun they like, making it a bad choice for them. If you can’t manipulate your preferred gun, then you should find another one. Arthritis, hand strength, or other physical limitations are common causes for these issues, but so are a lack of familiarity with a firearm’s controls.

Good schools will steer you away from poor gun choices without making fun of what you may already have. Just because you thought the Beretta 92 looked really cool in Lethal Weapon doesn’t mean it’s a good carry choice for you.

The Beretta 92FS, used by Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon 2, 3, and 4.

The Beretta 92FS, used by Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon 2, 3, and 4.

Tactical training
Tactical is not “tacticool” where people dress up in “cool guy” gear to pretend they’re something they aren’t. Instead, it’s the practical, hands-on study of the tactics needed to avoid conflict or, failing that, to fight with your personal defense tools.

This includes learning effective use of cover and concealment, proper presentation of the gun, situational awareness, proper force “application” strategies, malfunction clearing procedures, reloading techniques and so much more.

Reading a book or watching a video can serve to introduce these concepts, but there’s no substitute for doing it yourself under the tutelage of a skilled instructor who will ensure you’re using good technique and minimizing wasted movement. This allows you to act quickly and decisively, without “thinking” about the mechanics of what you’re going to do once you’ve decided to act.

The old saw that ‘you don’t rise to the occasion, you fall to your level of training’ is pretty much true. Indecisiveness, wasted motion and/or poor skills seldom win competitions or gun battles.

Finding a good course
Better, more enjoyable courses will share many common attributes. Here’s how to find for them and some attributes to seek out.

Research the instructor/school.  Start with their website. Pictures will often tell the tale of how many people they’re training and how they do it. Is poor muzzle control or other questionable safety issues shown in the pictures? I’ve seen images of everything from people shooting inside a pole barn without proper ventilation to people walking in front of other shooters on an open range. If it’s the same three “students” in all of the photos, that’s a clue. If there are no photos, that should be a clue as well. No website? Why not?


Look for reviews online. Unless they are very small or very new, there will often be reviews of their training courses online at various gun forums or other locations. If there aren’t any reviews, that should tell you something.

Call and talk with them. Call and speak with the instructor ahead of sending in your money. Ask them any questions you might still have about anything from describing their previous experience, to inquiring about accommodations for those less-mobile or otherwise disabled. Ask them about how many instructors will be present and the expected ratio of staff to students.   Ask them why they became a firearms instructor. Good teachers should have good answers for your questions.

Look for experienced instructors. While everyone has to start somewhere, previous instructional experience measured in years — not months — will usually lead to a better end result for you, the consumer/student. If prospective instructors try to razzle-dazzle you with experience in the Boy Scouts, ROTC, or “personal interest,” look out.

Look for instructors who have continued their education especially if they’ve been to some of the nationally-known schools.  They will most likely bring lessons and techniques they’ve learned from the nationally-respected masters to your local class.

Instructors who carry. Do the instructors carry every day, or are they just teaching theoretical concepts to students?

“Team teaching” is a good thing, as instructors can teach to their strengths and students enjoy hearing a more diverse set of perspectives. The end result is usually a better educational experience for the students.


A team of instructors also offers greater opportunities for the student to get more one-on-one help as needed, particularly on the firing line during live fire or in other practical aspects of the class.

GSL DefenseTraining 12a

If there aren’t enough instructors, there’s little or no opportunity for one-on-one help to help learn, develop, and understand new skills, especially for those new to the gun world.

Previous law enforcement or military instructional experience is a bonus. Again, it’s about bringing applicable aspects of the latest tactics to the class. I’ve been teaching for two decades and seen first-hand that “military” and “police” listed in someone’s credentials, while a net positive, doesn’t necessarily mean a lot when it comes to teaching new skills to new shooters.

Your class isn’t (or shouldn’t be) boot camp or police academy. What matters is instructors’ ability to communicate with everyday people, teaching and empowering them with the skill sets they need to avoid becoming a statistic in the real world.

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High instructor-to-student ratios. I can’t stress this one enough, especially for range exercises. If you have one or two instructors trying to run a range with ten or twelve entry-level students on the firing line at once, you’re getting badly short-changed as a student and it’s not as safe as it could be.

Ability to communicate with everyday people outside of the gun culture.  Do schools try not to use jargon and are they willing to spend that extra time (and do they have the staff to do so) to work with new shooters, including women and children? Are they there for those who are a little slow at absorbing the subject material?

This one’s harder to assess outside of personal referrals or recommendations, but it’s especially important if you’re a novice, the lone woman in the class or you’re bringing your kids.

Courses that offer more than the minimum. Good instructors won’t cut corners, but in fact will supplement the minimum required material with valuable and useful (not to mention life-saving) information they’ve learned from other schools or instructors.

Loaner gun availability. Do they have loaner guns for folks who come with inappropriate or malfunctioning firearms, especially for basic firearm/home defense/CCW-type courses?

Sometimes they might even have an armorer on staff, but usually just having a loaner gun and gear (holster, ammo pouches, etc.) will be very helpful. You might have to pay a nominal fee, but loaner availability is a big plus.

Referrals, testimonials, and word of mouth are all things to look for in reputable, experienced instructors. Ask your friends who have been to a class what they thought of it. Visit your local gun club or gun rights organization and ask those present for recommendations on instructors and/or classes.


Red flags
With the booming popularity of firearm training, there are a lot of instructors — especially newly-minted ones — who vary significantly in skill, ability, and ethics. There are a number of red flags you can look for in entry level training to help you avoid a disappointing experience.

Unsafe gun handling: Do instructors demonstrate safe gun handling or do they routinely put their cotton pickin’ finger on the bang switch inappropriately? Are they careless about muzzle control or are there not enough of them to police muzzle discipline of untrained/careless students?


Even worse, do they stand downrange while students are shooting? If you see any of this first step is to bring those concerns to the staff. If these problems go unaddressed, it might be a good time to pack your bags and walk. Training-related accidents are very rare, but if those running classes are lackadaisical about safety, it’s time to make yourself scarce.

Airsoft: Do instructors attempt to replace live fire with shooting airsoft guns for the class? It happens.

Internet classes: Do instructors attempt to “teach” the classroom segments of the class on the internet? In general, that’s sub-optimal. Yes, the NRA is now teaching the classroom segments of their NRA Basic Pistol course online. I haven’t heard a single rave review of their new program from students or instructors. Maybe one will appear in comments below.

Cost: Expect to pay a little more for experienced instructors with solid reputations or classes in big cities where range space is at a premium. But any course that’s advertised for dramatically less than the normal market rate for similar training from similarly-credentialed instructors is a big red flag.

Example: If a hypothetical CCW class goes for $200-250 at most locations and someone’s advertising theirs for $50, beware. Find out why it falls so far outside the norm.

Charging for free items like license application packets: One firearms training group in Illinois charged students $20 each for Florida and Arizona license application packets, even when those respective states promptly send them out to anyone for free.

Cutting corners to do less than the minimum requirements:  If it’s supposed to be an eight-hour class and the instructor finishes in six  hours, that’s not good. In fact, it may constitute criminal fraud in state-mandated CCW classes depending on local laws.

“Instructors” who haven’t had training:  If the only formal training your prospective instructor has had was their “instructor certification” class, that’s a cause for concern. Good firearm handling skills and knowledge of self-defense, personal protection, and the judicious use of deadly force don’t come from on high. They are learned.

Instructors teaching flawed, out-of-date or just plain unsafe information: That could get students killed or injured, either from tactical or a safety perspective. Example: “You should carry your gun with an empty chamber and rack the slide on your pants.”

Courses that are unrealistic:  Do they teach you to hang upside down out of a pickup truck, firing one-handed under the door? Do they teach you barrel rolls while you hold your gun? Pack your gear and run. Worry about a refund later.


Things you can do to make your experience better

  1. Come bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Get a good night’s rest. Leave the drinking and nightlife alone the night before.
  2. Come with an open mind. Leave preconceived notions behind along with your man-card if you’re a guy. If they teach you something new, try it. You can always discard it later.
  3. Dress appropriately. Wear closed-toe shoes, long pants with a belt, and bring along a baseball cap or similar. Ladies, leave the low-cut shirts at home. Also bring rain gear or extra clothing for unseasonably cool weather.
  4. Bring your own eye and ear protection. Bring sunscreen and bug spray, just in case.
  5. Hydration should be provided by the class sponsors. Hydration is a safety issue, but bring some of your own just in case.  Avoid caffeine as it contributes to dehydration.
  6. Bring lunch, as necessary along with any medications or other personal needs.
  7. Bring your gun, gear and the required amount of ammunition, minimum. Check your gun and gear before the class. If a family of dust bunnies has taken residence in the barrel, clean it. If it’s filthy, clean it. If your ammo dates from the Spanish-American War era, looks corroded, or the lead has turned white, buy new ammo.
  8. Bring a backup gun in case your front-line gear goes down, especially for intermediate and advanced classes where you expect to shoot a lot. Ditto for any gear you know you’ll need.
  9. For rifle classes (or if you have a fancy optic on your pistol), come to class sighted in. Bring spare batteries for your holographic sights and a sling for your long gun.
  10. Bring a notepad and pens.
  11. Read the recommended gear list and follow those instructions.
  12. Turn your phone off or on completely silent mode before class starts.
  13. Everyone’s a range safety officer. If you see someone doing something unsafe, ask them to stop.  Report any safety concerns to the instructor(s) right away.
  14. Address any concerns or questions you might have privately before class or during breaks where possible. Don’t tie up class time.

Do your own research

There’s no need to settle to waste your hard-earned money on a course that will disappoint you. Use the information contained here to help guide your course selection. It’s not that difficult to find training that meets or exceeds your needs instead of settling for a marginal offering that falls short.


Life is precious. Training is cheap.

Remember, training is inexpensive compared to your life and it is not a place to cut corners. Good training that allows you to avoid becoming a victim and come out on top is truly priceless in the long run.


  1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    Are you dissin’ the 92F?

    1. avatar Mainspring says:

      No, I think they are dissing the homegrown learn’n to shoot with dad model that got us all the way to the 21st century. Is guns now leaning out the door of your pickup shooting sideways at bad guys? No wonder the antis have their panties in a wad. What happened to bonding and long walks with grandpa, and putting dinner on the table. Now is blasting bad guy while flat on your back in a pile of shotgun shell cases firing between you legs like the crescendo of a post-apocalyptic movie.

      Guns for beginners? Hows about guns for city folks who just want piece of mind. The gun is not the moving part here, merely the tool at hand. Personally I think just a down-home appreciation for quality firearm use is a better starting point. But alas, that’s why I live where I do. The mountain west. What America is when we think of what America was.

      1. avatar IYearn4nARnCali says:

        Damn, you sure as heck put succinctly exactly why I want to move from my current state. Thank you truly for your post.

        “What America is when we think of what America was.” man, that gives me the throat lump. You reaffirm my love of our country and our 2nd Amendment.

      2. My dad didn’t shoot and both of my granddad’s passed away before I was born.

        Is it ok if I take classes?

        Seriously though, I know what your’e getting at, but for those of us who didn’t grow up around guns but have since for whatever reason become interested in gaining proficiency, classes with a solid instructor are a godsend.

        I’m really lucky in that I have an amazing group of instructors in my immediate vicinity. I can’t speak to other firearms instructors, but I can tell you the class fee I’ve paid for these guys to teach me was way cheaper than all the ammo I would have wasted getting there on my own.

        EDIT: Not sure why it turned “ammo” into a link when I posted this. I didn’t link to anything in my comment.

        1. avatar Randal Vincent says:

          My thoughts exactly. My mom was so gun phobic that she basically had me believe that if I held a gun it would blow up like a pipe-bomb.
          I’m interested in learning how guns really are and I live in the middle of a city with no good ol’ boy gun totin’ friends. I think professional classes will be worth their weight in gold.

    2. avatar Cliff H says:

      Not dissin’ the 92F (not that there’s anything wrong with that), only sayin’ that just because a particular gun is currently popular or fashionable (S&W in .44 mag/Dirty Harry) or the pistol the U.S. military has decided is the best fit for the average soldier doesn’t mean that it will be the best fit for you.

      I mentioned this fact in a comment a few days ago – When I was in the army I could not consistently shoot well with the M1911, it just did not sit naturally in my hand. When I made the mistake of buying the Taurus clone of the 92F I had exactly the same problem. But EVERY Ruger pistol I have ever owned or shot fit me perfectly.

      An average is a bell-curve and the army chooses equipment based on the average soldier. Some of us will fall at the low end of that curve, some at the high end. For us the average piece of equipment will just be unusable. Don’t buy a gun for self protection based on fashion. Try it first, either by borrowing one or renting one, and make sure it works for you.

      1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

        I just assumed somebody would be be irritated and got the comment in and over with. I can’t remember not only if I ever held one but if there was some big complaint about them or not.

  2. avatar strych9 says:

    Another thing to consider if your group is local and offers more than one class is prerequisites and how they stack up compared to what you want to do (ie you’re not traveling out of state for this).

    A friend of mine was extremely annoyed when a local group which shall not be named, told him casually that the CCW course covered all the materials of the NRA basic pistol course and was a prereq for a class he wanted to take. Well, he wanted his CCW and since it was a prereq, why not do it with them right?

    Well, as it turned out the class he wanted to take had two prereq’s and one of them was basically a rehash of a CCW course but wasn’t actually the CCW course. He was ticked to find out that he paid for a CCW class and it didn’t count towards getting him into the class he wanted and now he had to drop another $300 for a class he had, in effect, already taken.

    Was that a trap? Bad information from the clerk? A miscommunication? I don’t know. Do your research and make sure you get info like this from the instructors and not some cash register jockey.

    Oh and also be wary of classes that say “can be obtained on the day of class” or something similar. They’re likely not offering to loan you something, you’re gonna have to buy it (at a considerable markup usually)

  3. avatar Mike Crognale says:

    Solve all the problems mentioned. Go here:
    Guardian Member here and love it.

    1. avatar jim says:

      Before anyone gets offended…this is coming from the perspective of a retired LEO, now an Instructor and FFL. This is my professional observation.

      While I realize that front sight is extremely popular, and rakes in cash from tons of deprived California shooters and under informed shooters from all over…it IS NOT professional level training. It is entertainment packaged as professional level training.

      That is not necessarily a bad thing, if that is what you want…to be entertained, while receiving firearms “training”. It is effectively the gun training equivalent of a resort destination vacation, or a canned “hunt”. You get to feel like you are doing that thing, and tell people you did it, but you aren’t getting the benefit of the real thing.

      On the business side of it…it’s one step above a pyramid scheme, with the exorbitantly overpriced memberships (you know, a $20,000 membership with a resale street value of $100) in exchange for unlimited opportunities for marginal training.

      I was gifted a diamond membership, and after one visit (observing numerous classes for the day), I have never returned, thanks to the quality of training observed. It is literally free, and I can’t be bothered, as I don’t see anything to be gained.

      If you like it, great…have fun and enjoy yourself…just understand it is NOT professional training. It is entertainment packaged as professional level training.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        Never heard of them before this thread. $15K someone gifted you? I wish I had friends like that.

        Personally I don’t know anything about Front Sight but I have to say I’m sick of the “train this”, “train that” that goes on in the gun community. Half of this training is crap and the parts that aren’t crap will cost you your first born. You think $15K for a life time membership is bad? There are places that charge $15K/week/person. An all inclusive Heli-hog hunting package with MG’s isn’t that expensive!

        In my experience most of this training is way, way, way overpriced. Your local range won’t let you shoot on the move? Go to the woods!

        1. avatar jim says:

          I wish I had that good of friends also…gift memberships are a perk of buying the expensive ass memberships, they aren’t actually worth any actual money. I appriciated the gesture though.

          I completely agree with there being a problem with training fads and arguments about who to train with…go SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE, and TRAIN. I just don’t want people to waste their limited training dollar on BS or dangerously inadequate training, thinking it is high speed, or truly preparing them to defend themselves.

          I do disagree with “going to woods” to do dynamic training…most people don’t have either
          1. Access to a sufficiently remote area, or
          2. The ability to assess and manage a training space safely.

          Just “going to the woods” really isn’t a safe alternative for most people. I say this as someone who owns and has access to all the “woods” I can use….

        2. avatar strych9 says:

          “The woods” depends on where you live obviously.

          What qualifies as a training space and how does it really need to be managed? The requirements are actually pretty darn minimal. You can tack a target to a tree, lie down and shoot from various prone positions. You can move in relation to the tree (walking, skipping, “tactical rolling” whatever). It ain’t hard.

          As hard as the truth is to hear: you don’t need all this tactical training. James Yeager or [insert major instructor here] is an asshole out to take your money as are most of these other people.

          If you want to take the class for fun, awesome, have at it but the chances you’re actually gonna deploy your plate carrier, operator helmet and rifle and “go loud” IRL are virtually zero unless you’ve signed on the line with a certain uncle of ours. Does the training have something useful in it? Sure, but what a lot of these people are not telling you is that this is all small unit or squad based tactics and running that against half a dozen haji terrorists without your crew is likely gonna get you smoked. IIRC two people are four times more effective than one in a combat environment. You vs. what many of these courses are “training” you for, without backup, is a suicide mission. You don’t need this training for a run-of-the-mill DGU and when you do need this training you need your buddies with their rifles.

          Look, I’ve said this before and I hate to be the bearer of bad news but let’s get down to brass tacks. If you’re in a situation like the Baticlan or Pulse or a major shooting at say, a mall, the statistics say your handgun isn’t worth much because you’re going up against a rifle or multiple rifles. Unless you somehow end up behind the asshole or one of the assholes and can bust them in the grape and take their rifle you’re likely fucked if you engage them because they have the overwhelming firepower. 2x this if you’re relying on a .380 (sorry, I pick on .380 relentlessly and I shouldn’t compacts all have a similar problem) or some other compact gun. That thing is meant for a mugging not a terror attack.

          So, you generally have two choices. You can try to escape and attempt to shoot a BG that gets between you and the exit or you can use your gun to trade your life for the lives of others who are getting out while the BG’s are focused on you.

          Long story short: You don’t need all this high priced training for “high speed, low drag” operations. Unless you roll with a crew who are all trained the same way at all times the training isn’t very useful. A basic pistol class will suffice for 99.99% of the situations you’ll face and for the rest you’re already fucked anyway.

        3. avatar neiowa says:

          strych9 – you sure have a lot of opinions for a young’un still hanging out in Peter Pan land of “grade school”. Can you provide the unwashed with your resume so we might better appreciate and benefit from your wisdom?

      2. avatar jwm says:

        Grown up Disneyland. Which is cool so long as you keep it in perspective.

        Personally, I like to go to rental ranges and blow the funds shooting guns I don’t normally get to access, living in CA and all. Utah and Nevada have machine gun ranges.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          Every time you remind us that you live in California I feel even worse for you.

          One day I’m gonna read a comment like that drunk, get all emo and set up a “Go Fund Me” page to get you back from behind enemy lines.

        2. avatar jwm says:

          Appreciate the thought, S9. But it can’t happen. All my grand kids are here. I’m not going to be a long distance grandpa.

        3. avatar strych9 says:

          Leave it to you jwm to turn this into “Tears of the Sun”. ROFL!

      3. avatar Mike says:

        Wow, professional opinion. After one visit. OK I disagree. May I ask what course, if any, you took?

        1. avatar jim says:

          Mike, I my comments are not designed to sh*t on your parade, personally, so please don’t take it that way. Like I said, any training is good, and if you like what you are doing, have fun…I simply want others who read this to understand the context of the training provider you mentioned, so they can make informed decisions about how to spend their limited training budget.

          Also, professional observation is what I said, not opinion. I selected that word specifically. What I observed, measured against the thousands of professional training hours I have participated in, or instructed, was (credit to JWT) Adult Disneyland with guns. No offense meant. It is exactly what I said, a professional (meaning detached, non-personal, qualitative) observation.

          That said, I had a very good friend (may God rest his soul) who adored FS…I disagreed professionally with his choice, but it was his money and time and he liked it. That is why America is great. Freedom of choice. That freedom is even better when tempered with knowledge.

        2. avatar jim says:

          I meant to credit JWM (above)…my phone apparently disagreed.

        3. avatar Johannes Paulsen says:

          @Jim: What, specifically, did you see that made you consider it more ‘entertainment’ than education?

          I’ve no dog in this fight; I have never been to Front Sight (my training has largely been either at Gunsite, or trainers who cut their teeth at Gunsite – though I’m hoping to diversify that a little in future) and have no opinion or basis to judge anything about F/S. The impression I’ve gotten from people who’ve been there is that Front Sight’s marketing is horrendously aggressive, but their training actually was solid.

          You clearly disagree — and that’s cool, I’d just like to know what, specifically, was driving your judgment.

        4. avatar jim says:

          The general feeling of the atmosphere was the first indicator…the armed guard at the gate, and the strict rules for being on site, look and sound a lot like many of the .gov schools I have attended, but the actual course material was a lot closer to below average local CCW classes I have observed.

          The two main issues I noticed are:
          1. After talking with the cadre, it was very clear that they are hiring people who likely would have been your friendly neighborhood NRA Instructor at home, but by virtue of a 4-day class were now “professional” instructors.
          2. They seemed rather light on repetitive fundamentals, which simply must be ingrained for any high-stress skill. They instead provided a lot of “high speed, low drag” drills to students that are, frankly, mostly weekend sport shooters, who don’t have the experience or foundation to absorb that level of training. While exposing students to a broad range of skills isn’t bad, they didn’t really seem to focus enough on ingraining the fundamentals into amateur students to even sort of prepare them for a high stress situation.

          The bottom line is that they present training that looks, sounds, and feels like professional training to an amateur. But they charge ultra – premium pricing for that feeling, not for what you really take home from it.

          Also, any business that needs that aggressive of advertising requires a hard second look about why.

      4. avatar Fidel says:

        As an instructor who went there to be an instructor, I can’t agree with you more!

    2. avatar Fidel says:

      I’m an Instructor here in CA. I went to Frontsight to be an instructor for them. After day ONE of 4, I packed up my gear and left!
      They are a well marketed amateur act!

    3. avatar John Boch says:

      Mike Crognale says:
      “Solve all the problems mentioned. Go here:
      Guardian Member here and love it.”

      Nobody’s got any lock on the Mystical Order of Secret “Stuff” to making average people shoot very well. Including FrontSight.

      The basics are the basics no matter where you get them. FrontSight does some pretty good training and you can find certificates for free classes here and there around the Interwebz. Even a “free” class, for me living thousand plus miles away, isn’t really free. Not by a long shot.

      You can learn the basics locally and affordably. And aside from Strych9 who seems to have a burr under his saddle about formalized training as a waste of time (I too would like to see his resume), most prudent people serious about the firearm as a self-defense tool see the benefit of training.

      Absolutely, there’s no need to fly or drive a gazillion miles to get training unless you just love travel. There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars. Not when there’s a lot of classes throughout most of the nation less than an hour or two for most Americans.

      Once you’ve got some local training under your belt, you can seek out people like John Farnam and Massad Ayoob who travel the country so you don’t have to. Ditto for Costa, Haley, SouthNarc, and a dozen other ones. Any of the above, frankly, are going to give you as good or better product than FrontSight.


    4. avatar Paul Bass says:

      does he still charge $50 for a records check before each class you take? even when you have a ccw from another state?

  4. avatar Tile floor says:

    If you know someone that has quality experience (especially occupationally) or that you know to be a established and quality shooter, see if they’d be willing to show you some basic stuff.

    Even a couple hours dry firing/moving with someone who legit knows what he’s doing is a good cost effective alternative to an expensive class.

    Or join the Army/Marines etc if you want the immersive experience : P

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      join the Army/Marines etc if you want the immersive experience

      Not really. You’ll not get to do all that much live fire even in an Inf unit. Gate guard, bn motor stables, EO/Chick respect/AIDS/Kumbah briefings until you butt is worn out yes. Range time NO and it will be very formal scripted stuff. Can’t be wasting $ on ammo for the Infantry when the AirFarce needs – stuff. TDY rooms at the airport Hilton are expensive.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    Learning to safely handle your weapon of choice is an absolute must. Tactics and marksmanship mean nothing if you’re qualifying yourself for the Idiot Gun User of the Day Award. We handle our guns a lot more than we use them. I haven’t been shot at since 1987. But I handled a loaded j frame today. And everyday.

    When to shoot is a must, also. A class with no guns and no range time would be worth it’s price if you get a basic grounding in the legalities of shooting.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      “A class with no guns and no range time would be worth it’s price if you get a basic grounding in the legalities of shooting.”

      110% agree. Also the legalities of carrying in your state. Many revocations of CCW permits happen because someone “forgot” they couldn’t carry somewhere and got caught or got caught carrying without their permit on them.

      Good classes have someone from the DA’s office show up and tell you what’s what about the law. The CCW class I took in Ohio had that and I thought it was the best part.

  6. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Okay. I’ll put on the Nomex suit and go for it.

    What you need is basic training in gun safety and handling. You get that on most gun and hunter safety courses.

    I’m gething the vibe that folks believe you need tactics training to be able to defend yourself with a gun. This is bullshit.

    How many people have even been to a defensive driving school let alone a tactical driving school. And yet we are far more likely to be in a car accident since we drive every day. City dwellers maybe not so much.

    I think training is good. I think it is dangerous and counter productive to imply that everyone has to have formal training beyond the basics to carry a gun. The antis love to see stuff like this to push for massive formal training to be considered for carry in public.

    You can say “training is cheap” all you want, but 300 bucks is lot of money to a lot of people. Keep in mind that everyone doesn’t drink 12 year old Scotch and Drive a 6 series BMW.

    I was a rifle instructor for 4H for 4 years. I spent my money to be certified in the NRA program. The train I did could have been done by anyone with basic knowledge of firearms. The NRA program is fine, but it is the same information that I used to teach friends and family to shoot for years before becoming “certified”

    1. avatar jim says:

      Who the hell drinks 12 year old scotch? Keep this in mind…if the scotch was a woman, and she isn’t old enough to screw, don’t bother drinking it…subjective, but a solid guideline.

      Don’t pay attention to the movies and tv…12 year old scotch is not good, don’t waste your money. Just buy cheap bourbon if you can’t afford good scotch.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        Ha! Don’t have to worry about me. I only drink beer and homemade wine.

        Just a slight poke on my part to some folks of more sufficient means.

        Don’t want TTAG to get all “Jim Crow” on what you need to tote a piece.

        1. avatar jim says:

          I actually agree with you, in part…there should be no REQUIREMENT for training to own, carry, or use a gun. However, there should be a cultural imperative to obtain minimum safety training, and to seek professional instruction at the highest attainable level.

          TTAG isn’t who I worry about with racist “Jim crow” restrictions on self defense or gun ownership…the democratic party has a strong historical monopoly on keeping racial minorities and the poor disarmed.

          TTAG giving guidelines to help people select the right place to spend their training dollar is a valuable service. I frequently weep when I find out where my clients have spent money to “train” before they came to me or my colleagues. Any effort to help people avoid sh*tty training is fine with me.

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    I’m untrainable. But I am teachable. There’s a difference.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      You’re unflappable Ralph. That’s why we like you.

  8. avatar Rick Olson says:

    This is a really good article. I’ve been following Jim’s comments and feedback. I like your thoughts, Jim. In training new folks, I tend to focus on the foundational skills in my classes. Being able to explain to a student why one holds a pistol this way versus that way, standing this way instead of that way, etc., is an important component in building the relationship, trust and validity of the subject matter.

    1. avatar jim says:

      Thanks, Rick. Even if I am preaching to the (mostly) converted, hopefully some poor noob can make a better informed decision.

      Your training mentality sounds pretty similar to mine…some clients hate it, because it’s like going to a DI-esque personal trainer, when you make them do the same thing 50 times, by the numbers. But if you can explain and show WHY they need to do that…they usually want more. Building fundamentals into muscle memory is paramount to performing a skill under stress, but most people have to be taught why so they buy into the effort.

  9. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    I took a class with a guy who shot the 92F, which was his only gun, carry and HD. He was a good shot, but I wondered how much he actually hauled it around all day. There are much better guns out there for CC and HD, IMHO.

    As far as classes, I take training and really enjoy it. I don’t see myself hanging out of truck upside down anytime soon though.

  10. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    I’ve been a certified NRA instructor for nearly 10 years. I’m also a graduate of two other professional gun “schools.” I’ve instructed hundreds of ordinary people to shoot safely in the 15 hour (classroom/live fire) program called “Basic Pistol.” Few ever come back for the subsequent classes. I charge for materials and range fee only.

    What I found through my own experience with training and shooting is that NO “class” or even multi-day training experience is going to be truly effective alone. Dry fire and range practice ongoing is essential to developing the skills learned in the classes. Yet most people I know, including most of my former students, simply will not make time for this vital follow through.

    I spend a lot of time getting students to really think about the mind set, the will to fight and survive. Actually, that’s pretty much hard wired into humans, but their “education” and socialization has a lot of people fighting that, denying it. But not all. This is clearly indicated by those who do not train (or not much), do not practice, and do not carry… but successfully defend themselves – even if they are injured. Training is good. Practice is essential to make the most use of the training. Carrying a gun after doing so makes the most sense to me.

    But the essential factors remain. Have a gun. Have the will to use it. Everything after that is gravy.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      How much formal training did you have before you defended yourself with your .410?

      1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

        That’s the point, jwm… I had zero formal training at that point. I had learned how to use the shotgun on the farm, and not pointing it at people, finger off the trigger sort of came naturally, I guess. My husband taught me how to use the shotgun and my Marlin 30-30 in the beginning, but he was not careful with much of anything. I didn’t really understand the “rules” or much of anything about guns until years later. I bought a small handgun after the shooting incident – still have it – had one “basic pistol” class at that point, then put the gun in a drawer.

        Have you read my book? (Link goes to the page with the story and how to get the small book free in email.) I cover all of the serious mistakes I made in the process. But the bottom line is that I survived in spite of it all.

        The training I’ve had since has made me a much better and safer shooter, but having the gun when I needed it got the job done without that.

  11. I agree, you should definitely call in ahead of time to speak with an instructor ahead of signing up for a class. You can then determine what kind of person the instructor is. You hear so many horror stories of damn near illiterate instructors, guys just telling stories about their glory days for 8 hours.

  12. avatar A Brit in TX says:

    I think if you’re going to carry a firearm, practice with that firearm, learn its foibles, manual of arms etc. If you’re uncomfortable with it, do some basic handgun lessons with a proper trainer. Do a lot of thinking, become patient and self aware. If you’re at home, put some thought into what you’ll do in the event of that ‘bump in the night’. I’m sure that all of that tactical training is fun but but I’m not sure if it’s worth the expense.

    My other worry is that if one day (god forbid) you have a DGU and the local prosecutor wants to make some sort of political statement, all your time learning to shoot hanging out of a truck or while barrel rolling across a field may be used to make you look like some sort of wannabe Rambo operator…….

    Just my 5c worth!!

  13. avatar jmf552 says:

    My number one tip for finding good training is avoid NRA courses. About a third of the training time I’ve had has been in NRA courses and they are by far the worst. Here’s what I’ve seen: 1) NRA instructors spewing BS on topics, like SD Law, when they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. 2) Boring: Cramming an hour’s worth of information into two hours of slides. 3) Range safety violations I would not have imagined. 4) Unrealistic training scenarios and techniques. 5) If you show up with a revolver, you are a pariah and they really can’t help you. I could go on…

    1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

      So sorry you’ve had a bad experience… or several. Doesn’t sound like those “instructors” are any good at all. But don’t toss the baby out with the bath. There are a great many good NRA instructors around, and it is the student’s responsibility to verify that as the article describes.

      For a great many people, the NRA Basic Pistol is all the training they will ever have, and most of us do our best to give them the actual basics they need, plus encouragement to get other, more advance training. The NRA program won’t ever be a match for “Gunsight” or any of the others… but it is probably all most people will ever encounter.

      If you KNOW, and especially if you can prove the totally unethical and hideous actions of the instructors you mentioned… by all means report this to the NRA training people. They don’t want unethical and inaccurate training going on at all, and especially not with their name attached. Don’t just complain… do something.

      1. avatar Tom O'Connor says:

        There is a $50 PER YEAR background check fee. If you have a membership, this is all you pay to attend any class.

  14. avatar John Muskit says:

    Hey there! great post very informative and awareness creator for the masses looking to get good firearms training I have a suggestion for a pistol training course in WY that is very professional and provides good overall training. If someone wishes to check them out here’s a link to their website!

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