Opinion: The government is subsidizing bad firearms training

Unless you live in one of the 14 truly free states that allow Constitutional Carry (AKA permit-less carry), if you want to exercise your God-given right to self defense and carry a concealed firearm legally, the government is forcing you to buy poor quality firearms training.

In other words, the government is subsidizing bad training.

How is this possible?

Concealed carry permits are the root cause.

Most state governments require a certain amount of training before they’ll issue a carry permit, and they only recognize certain types of credentials for instructors who teach these basic classes.

Almost always, the states require the instructor to be certified by the National Rifle Association.

The NRA and other credentialing organizations only allow their instructors to present a very specific course, with no deviation from the approved curriculum. If an instructor deviates from the lesson plan, there can be consequences. Remember: Once credentials are issued, they can be revoked.

To be clear, these introductory courses are a joke. The techniques they present are antiquated, stale and some are even downright dangerous when compared to modern best practices. These classes present very little real-world information, because most of the lessons have been scrubbed of any possible liability and lawyered to death.

There are far better training options, but they aren’t state-approved and therefore offer no certificates that can be exchanged for carry permits.

There is a group of instructors out there — a mere handful compared to the 100,000-plus NRA certified instructors — who don’t care about credentials or certification from NRA or anybody else. They teach gunfighting, and they don’t bother teaching the government-approved lesson plans.

The difference between the training they present and the state-approved dogma is night and day. They teach from experience not textbooks, and they’re not prohibited from showing students what really works and what really doesn’t.

Since these real-world guys and gals are not subsidized by the government like the officially sanctioned trainers, they face an economic hardship. Their numbers are small. And, unfortunately, some extremely qualified instructors — mostly veterans — are abandoning the less profitable real-world training and opting for civilian credentials just to make ends meet.

There are a few solutions, which would benefit both students and these instructors.

The NRA could up its game and raise its training to real world standards, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Obviously, Constitutional Carry would resolve most of this too, but unfortunately it will likely take many years before this becomes the law of the land.

The easiest fix would be to drop the training requirement for concealed carry permits.

Admittedly, there is a major stumbling block with this idea, since some folks wouldn’t seek training. Carrying a concealed handgun without good training is a stupid move, but you can never legislate away stupidity. To some extent they’re doing it already, mostly through gun show CCW classes, some of which are nothing more than 15-minute diploma mills.

In my humble opinion, if the states dropped the training requirement, the benefits would far outweigh the risks.

First, all firearms instructors would then be on a level playing field, and the market would pick the winners and the losers, not the government.

Firearms training would improve dramatically, since the emphasis would be on the quality of the instruction — not the instructor’s credentials.

We would see new techniques introduced and vetted, since the focus would shift away from an antiquated text book. Similarly, old techniques would be discarded, since the “we’ve always done it this way” mantra would disappear.

Students would save money by not having to attend a class only because it leads to a CCW permit, and then taking a real class because they want to learn how to defend themselves with a pistol.

And, most importantly, the students would become safer, more accurate and more confident shooters.

Besides, statistics show that most shooters stop training once they get a CCW permit. As stupid as this practice is — training should be ongoing and should never stop — if someone only takes one class, shouldn’t it be the best one available?

Admittedly, at least for now, this entire idea is little more than a lengthy, somewhat over-written Libertarian argument.

I guess a guy can still dream. At least some will start thinking about the idea.

I’d love to hear your feedback.

As always, thanks for your time.



About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. The two requirements for all states … regardless if the course is NRA Basic Pistol, USCCA, the state Department of Justice, etc. … should be a testable, interactive module on state gun laws. Even Constitutional Carry states should mandate the law module. At that point, gun owners stand a better chance of acting appropriately, and thus better defending themselves.

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