If you’re old enough to have good memories of the 1980’s you’ll remember the dojo and martial arts wars that went on. About the same time as the Karate Kid movie was released, there was a massive surge in number of dojos that opened as well as all the new so called martial arts disciplines that popped up. It really became a “my karate is better than your karate” circular argument. Most of these pop up McDojos were run by charlatans looking to quickly cash in on a crazy.
I think we’re seeing the same thing today in the firearms training business.
Everyday I see a new firearms training center or academy opening up and teaching questionable things. One thing these firearms trainers share with the former karate teachers is that they’re all teaching “systems” and things with no practical application for most firearms owners.
Here are some tips for vetting a potential firearms instructor.
1. A special forces resume. This is the number one fraud in the firearms training business. There are too many of these guys out there lying about what they did in the past. Always ask to see a DD-214 from anyone making these claims. Someone that’s legit will produce the DD-214 right away, a fraud will give you the run around and make excuses.
2. Ask to see a copy of their professional liability insurance. A quality instructor will have insurance and a legitimate business. The frauds will form an LLC and think that will shield them from all liability for any issues that may arise in a class they are teaching.
3. Ask to the trainer's firearms training record. What classes have they taken? Who did they take the classes with? Has any organization certified them? Beware, there are some fake organizations out there selling instructor certifications for $40 to look like they’re part of a legitimate training organization (the same thing went on in the 80’s dojo wars).
4. Do they require prerequisites before they let you take one of their classes? If they’re teaching basic firearms safety class then nothing should be required. If they’re teaching advanced firearms techniques they should require that participants show prior formal training or demonstrated skills such as USPSA or IDPA classification. Instructors that will just let anyone show up with a new pistol or AR and shoot on the move or practice room clearing are neither safe nor professional.
5. Watch out for the training ladder. Some instructors will tell you that you have to take their handgun 01 class before you can take their handgun 02 class and you have to have both of them before you take take the elite international handgun operator class they offer. They do this to get you to keep coming back or force you into taking all their classes if you’re just interested in one class. (This was another common 80’s dojo trick)
6. What are they teaching you? Shooting from moving vehicles sure sounds cool, but is it practical? Clearing rooms is another fun thing, but not too practical. Many of the questionable instructors will teach dangerous techniques that are nothing more than dancing with guns (Google: American Defensive Enterprises). A quality instructor will teach recognized fundamentals and then work on making you more accurate and faster.
7. “The System”. Just like the 80’s, there are all kinds of instructors teaching a proprietary firearms fighting system. This is nothing more than rex-quan-do (Napoleon Dynamite fans will get the reference) bullshit designed to sound cool and elite. (Google “Hammerfour” to see how this scam works - tactical training from people with no LEO/MIL or firearms background - the internet may have put this group down for the count)
8. The instructor bashes competitive shooting or says things like the the streets are not like competition. Remember, competition gave us the Weaver stance as well as the modern isosceles. Competition pushes people to excel and pushes them to innovate. If it doesn’t work in competition it sure as heck won’t work in the streets under stress. Instructors who are afraid to put their skills to the test in competition usually know what would happen if they did - an thus why they bash and avoid.
9. The Tactifool. Watch out for the combat bearded digicam wearing buzz term talking guys. These guys think basics, safety, and fundamentals are less important than gear, how you look, and how you sound.
10. Magpul on steroids. Keep an eye out for the guys who watched the Magpul DVDs and then decided to do everything faster, harder, and more accentuated. He really has no idea why he’s teaching it, what use it has, but he knows it looks badass.
While this isn't an exhaustive list, it's really good start to weed out the many dangerous and incompetent instructors who are out there teaching useless nonsense or thing that will get you killed or injured.