How to become a firearms Instructor

This is not an easy question, but I’ll try to answer the best I can according to my knowledge, experience, and taking into account my story of how I became one. It's a time-consuming life-long journey of constant development, going out of comfort zone on many occasions, but a well rewarding profession that I would not change for anything else. CLICK THE PICTURE to read FULL ARTICLE.

 

 

 

 

1.       First of all, you need to learn how to shoot yourself and be good at it.

The sad truth is that I see many students trying to sign up for advanced courses without completing a fundamental one. Everyone wants to be an advanced shooter and instructor straight away — too much of YouTube videos, computer games and Hollywood movies. This is not the way I see it. 

Get solid fundamentals, learn how to operate firearms safely, learn manual manipulation of the firearms of your choice. You need to know the tools of your craft and feel comfortable with them.

To do this, start from taking fundamentals Firearms Classes. Learning fundamentals is crucial, and this process can’t be skipped if you want to fully understand the weapon system you are planning to work with and become confident when operating them. This process takes some time and would be different for each individual, and it’s also related to how much time you spend on training, how many training classes you take per year, how often you are going to train and also how much effort you put into your training.

 

YOUR BACKGROUND.

Your background may be a good addition to your skills or it may be something that due to old school teaching methods will limit you as well. There is a common misconception in the industry that the firearms instructor role is reserved for those who served as police officers or military personnel only. We need to divide two things here: first the fact that you served does not make you a better instructor in terms of how you communicate with your students on the firearms class, how you pass the knowledge and how you guide them to become better shooters. Your military or police background may be a good addition to your teaching skills though. Being a good operator does not make you a good instructor, and being a good instructor does not mean that you will be a good operator. However, I know personally very good operators with vast experience in the battlefields who are also brilliant instructors. Another thing is if you are coming from the strong military background even as an instructor working in the private sector is way different - now you do not have a bunch of soldiers who will listen to our orders and whatever you scream at them, but you are dealing with private customers and this has to be taken into the account. You need to adapt also your teaching programme for your audience as for example military procedures may have no applications for a concealed carry permit holder in a civilian environment. Does your background really matter? Yes and no. I know guys with military experience teaching civilians and I know civilians teaching military and police units. It's only up to you which way you choose, how much time you spend on following your dream and how well you prepare yourself for the role. 

 

2.       You need to expand your knowledge.

Attend subject-based firearms workshops and classes such as:

  • -          Shooting on the move

  • -          Close Distance Shooting

  • -          Dynamic shooting

  • -          Precision Shooting

  • -          Low Light Workshop

  • -          Concealed Carry

  • -          Home Defence

  • -          CQB Close Quarter Battle

  • -          Etc.

Attending additional workshops designated to a specific subject are very important if you want to become a firearms instructor. You will not only expand your knowledge but also at this stage, you may choose the specific path of your interest. For example, you may find our that you are not interested in any tactics and you want to teach in the future only pistol and run precision shooting classes. You may also decide that your favourite weapon system is AR15 and you’d like to master that platform in the future and teach people how to use it in a dynamic environment. You may also choose you’ll focus on self-defence side of carrying a firearm and will teach concealed carry permit holders how to use a pistol for self-defence. The choice is yours. Just remember the fact that you need to have at least basic knowledge on most of the subjects that are available as your students will be asking questions, and you need to be confident to either answer it straight away or admit that you don’t know it and you’ll find out. Do not try to make the answers on the spot if you are not sure about it. It’s better to say “I do not know, but I’ll find out” or “This is an interesting question, but I never thought about it” than make a bullshit answer pretending that you know it all. I got those questions too, as students think that a firearms instructor is a walking Wikipedia and know everything from historical weapons to long-distance ballistics for every calibre. Be ready for that!

 

3.       It’s good to have a mentor.

I was lucky to have one, a former soldier with vast experience in the battlefield of Afganistan and Iraqi conflict. Your mentor will guide you and help you grow first as a student, then as an assistant instructor, and finally you’ll start running your drills, classes and workshops under his watchful eye. In the beginning, let’s say a year or two, it’s good to work with the same mentor. The reason being is that you’ll learn one system of teaching which you can easily adopt. If you choose however to have a few mentors you need to understand that they both may teach you different ways of firearms handling and sometimes there may be a conflict of specific techniques which can be performed in a few ways. For example, one mentor will show you slingshot slide release technique for your slide lock reload and say this is the best way to do it when on the other hand your mentor number two will show you powers stroke or slide release button technique and claim that this is the best way. They both have a right because no one technique works for all shooters and its efficiency varies from many factors, but you may get confused with it as a young firearms assistant or instructor. I was there too.

 

 

4.       Assist as a Junior Instructor/Assistant at as many courses as you can.

Running own class after let’s say completing only a few firearms courses and let’s say five days Instructor Course it’s for sure something that I do not recommend. Becoming proficient in running a quality class on the range requires time, practice and studying such as reading firearms designated books, reading online articles from valuable sources and being involved actively in the firearms community.

Being a firearms instructor is a journey which never ends. There is always something that can be improved, always something to learn, techniques and tactics are changing, and you need to be up to date with all of that if possible.

A good practice is to start from something small such as assisting Senior Instructor on the class, watching him, making notes and starting to run single drills. Doing admin stuff, sorting the ammunition and equipment for the class is also something that you can start with and slowly progress to taking more control over the class. Remember that we are dealing with deadly force weapons and you need to be prepared to control the class in full, recognise the students that need extra attention, those who do not behave safely on the range and react appropriately. It’s good first to get to watch how the Senior Instructor deals with those issues to learn additional solutions which have not been covered on your instructor course.

YOU AS AN INSTRUCTOR ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SAFETY OF EACH PARTICIPANT ON THE SHOOTING CLASS!!! IT'S A HUGE RESPONSIBILITY.

 

5.       Start running classes together with a more experienced instructor and stick to his company.

This is the next step. You prepare a class together, or Senior Instructor will do it, taking into account drills that you want or feel comfortable to run with the students. It can be some basic stuff such as teaching a pistol grip, trigger manipulation or explaining sight alignment on a pistol. It’s good practice after you finish talking to ask the senior instructor if he has something to add. If he has brilliant! Then you’ll learn the extra points that you have missed, and you can include it in your next presentation, and also you show him respect in front of the group. Plus you both look like a good team. Everybody benefits from this simple trick.

 

6.       Going on your own.

As a natural progression, you may choose to create your brand or even circumstances will force that one day you may decide that you want to run firearms courses on your own. How to do it? I understand that you are not planning to run firearms courses in the UK due to strict legislation and you'll be seeking to do it abroad. Poland is a good choice, but I've heard that some also run the courses in the Czech Republic. 

 

a)       LOGISTICS

 

  • RSO – RANGE SAFETY OFFICER

Depending on where you want to run your firearms course, there are always legal restrictions which you have to consider first. I can explain how it works in Poland, but you are responsible for checking it how it works in your own country. In Poland and probably in any other country, RSO (Range Safety Officer) has to be present. A person with RSO qualifications is, in fact, the one who runs the show. He’s responsible for the shooting class and safety of the participants. If you want to run a firearms course in Poland you need to have a local person with RSO qualifications to be present on the range at all times. This is required by Polish law.  Major shooting ranges in Poland can hire you RSO if you prove to be a trustworthy person and proof your Firearms Instructor Qualifications. I, of course, have RSO qualifications as well as recognised by Polish authority Instructor Qualifications, but I have many foreign firearms instructor friends who are coming to Poland and run their courses without having RSO and Polish Firearms Instructor Qualifications. Cost of hiring RSO is normally between 100 – 150 EURO per day considering that RSO is not acting as an instructor. If you want to hire an instructor as well to help you with the course costs are between 200 – 500 Euro per day.

 

  • THE SHOOTING RANGE

 You need to find a shooting range, which will be suitable for the content of your courses.

To start with basic pistol courses, you don’t need anything super sophisticated. Basic 15m line with 8 – 10 shooting stances would be enough. If you are planning to run a carbine course, of course, you need a range with at least 30m – 50m would be ideal. It’s good to find a range which can supply you RSO to work with that you have everything in one place. Whenever is the shooting range the RSO must be there! Cost of Hiring Shooting range depends on the range, and it can be anything between 100 – 500 EURO per day depending on the facility.

 

  • WEAPONS

 The facility can hire firearms. It’s good to find a facility which got firearms you need to run the class. Cost of firearms hire is usually between £10 – 30 EURO per day depending on the weapon system and lace. The facility should supply holsters for the pistols and mag pouches for FREE when you hire pistols for your class. Some facilities charge an extra 5 – 10 EUROS for hiring additional equipment such as carbine slings and plate carriers.

Ear and Eye protection should be provided by the facility for FREE.

 

  • AMMUNITION 

You going to need it.  Find a facility which can supply you with ammunition as well. It should not be a problem. Cost of ammo is depending on the calibre and type between 0.4 Euro for 9mm to 2 Euros for .223 FX Simunition per round.

 

  • ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

 You need to provide those for your clients if you are selling training packages and take people to shoot abroad. The facility should arrange this for you. Contact the manager and let him know about your requirements. Cost is between 20 – 50 EURO per person per night in double rooms. (Prices in Poland)

 

  • AIRPORT TRANSFERS

 You can use an external company or ask the facility manager to arrange that for you. Depending on the group and distance from the airport it should be something between. 100 – 180 EURO per transfer. You need to double it up for a return journey.

 

b)      YOUR OWN BRANDING 

If you want to create your branding and work as an independent instructor you have a lot of work to do. You need to create a website with courses description, prices and logistics. You can also use Facebook to promote your events. People must start trusting you before they will decide to go and have firearms training under your logo. You need to prove your credibility, experience and background, so your customers will be sure that you are the right person to learn from and spend money with. You need to give top value to your clients too.

Creating your own branding takes time and money, you need promotional materials, maybe T-shirts and patches, business cards, professional diplomas and certificates to give to your students. Good to have a professional photographer and/of video maker to create some promos from your courses. This is a long way which requires lot’s of time – I know something about this, cos I’ve been through this process.

 

c)       CONSTANT PROGRESS AND INVOLVEMENT

 

To grow as a firearms instructor, you need to increase your qualifications constantly. I can tell you straight away that this hobby is not a cheap thing. Not to mention costs of tactical equipment and professional tactical clothing from top brands, but also professional firearms courses you want to attend are cheap neither. Probably you need to travel to other countries to participate in quality courses, so consider travelling costs, accommodation and life support on top of the prices of the courses. I personally have been travelling for my development courses to countries such as Israel, Ukraine and the USA and spend countless £££. Not to mention my personal training in Poland where I usually get 500 – 1000 rounds for a day on the range.

 

 

 

7.       CAN I EARN DECENT MONEY?

 

First thing first here: in my personal opinion being a firearms instructor is not the way to make money. I never thought about becoming a firearms instructor in categories of how much money I’ll earn. For me, it is a passion, hobby and a lifestyle. If you become very good at what you are doing money will come to you – this is the point that many miss and want immediate gratification after passing their instructor course. It’s lot’s of hard work, sometimes for FREE as you don’t get enough students for a course to even cover the costs of it. You have taken it into account and run the course anyway and give the best possible experience for your students regardless. Even if you are super good at it you won’t become a millionaire – I do not know any firearms instructors who drive brand new Ferrari. For me always the most important was contact with the students on the range, possibility to share the information with them and watching them progress. Of course like anybody else I need to make a living and cover my everyday costs, and I can tell you like this: yes you can earn money here. Too bad that most of the money I earn I re-invest with new weapons, equipment and my training😊.  At least my hobby pays for itself. 

 

END WORD.

To summerise becoming a certified firearms instructor just to have a nice piece of paper is quite an easy task, but becoming a real one who teach the others from his heart, brings the value to the shooting community and constantly develop himself it’s another long, full of hops, bumps and issues that you need to overcome story. However, once you start the journey and enjoy it it’s a very satisfying and great experience. You meet great people from various background who share the same passion and specific sense of humour, make a great connection and sometimes even earn a few good friends for life! I wouldn't change it for anything else!

 

If you are still thinking after reading this article about becoming a firearms instructor, please check the Semi-Auto Pistol Instructor Course we run in June 2020.

 

Bartosz Zukowski

BZ Academy Training Coordinator

Sig Sauer Instructor