Should You Become a Firearm’s Instructor?

In a world where an Instagram account with a ton of followers can make you a “firearm’s instructor” you may be asking, “Why can’t I do that?” I was in the same boat a few years ago. I spent a lot of time teaching a wide range of people machine guns during my time as a Marine and I always enjoyed it, so why not take my shot at the civilian side. Becoming an NRA instructor seemed like a simple enough idea, so I did it. 

On the media side, I’ve had a lot of time to meet and work with dozens of awesome instructors from around the world. I do interviews, ask their opinions on products and a lot of the time the conversation drifts to instruction and instructors.

In speaking, and interviewing instructors I’ve found a pattern emerge, and through my own experience in teaching and taking classes I like to think I have a solid opinion on what makes a good firearm’s instructor.

There are a million reasons why you should be a firearm’s instructor, but I feel there are a few traits you need to have or develop to become a rock solid firearms instructor.

The Traits of an Effective Firearm’s Instructor

5. Patience and Understanding

Here is a fun one that’s hard to develop if you don’t have it naturally. The ability to remain cool after showing someone the same thing a dozen times. I’ve had students who use a cross thumbs grip with an automatic handgun who just can’t seem to grasp not to do that.

I’ve corrected students ten times over only for them to cross their thumbs on the 11th shot. Does it get under my skin? Yep. Do I let that show? Nope. I stay calm, cool, and collected as I make the correction over and over.

That’s Gonna Hurt

Being able to stop, breathe, and understand where the student comes from is the key to being understanding. The first (and last) time I ever golfed I learned a huge lesson regarding being a student. Lord knows how many times I was corrected in stance, form, and how I gripped the club. It woke me up and taught me a lesson I’ve always held onto.

4. Competent Level of Skill

If you are teaching someone how to shoot a handgun, you should know how to shoot a handgun right? You can’t explain what you don’t know. You don’t need to be an ‘Operator’ to teach a basic pistol class, but you need to be able to handle a gun competently.

Maintaining this level of skill is a must. If you can’t demonstrate your skills to your students, you won’t be taken seriously, and you’ll be left feeling embarrassed.

As an instructor, you need to hold yourself at a higher level and keep your skills sharp. This also means being able to present and instruct competently. Public speaking skills are a must, as is the ability to perform under the watchful eye of others.

3. Safety Minded

Being safety minded isn’t just about teaching the 4 Rules, but enforcing them in class. Safety is the only thing you shouldn’t have patience and understanding about. Safety is always paramount, and like skills, you need to set the example when it comes to safety. From the moment the class starts safety should be the number 1 priority. Do not just relay the four safety rules, actually teach them, explain them. I’ve found people learn a lot better when they understand the why behind a concept.

Fingers and Triggers

Also part of being safe is exercising the safety you teach without exception. During displays, examples, and other training situations apply the utmost degree of safety. Be the good example a student needs.

2. A Desire to Keep Learning

Firearms training and medical training have one big thing in common, the techniques, skills, and tactics are constantly changing. Sometime ago Travis Haley came out against the Magpul DVDs that made him a household name. He reasoned that they are seven years old and things have changed. A Firearm’s instructor should be a student. If you think you know it all, and your way is the only way, you’ve already failed.  

1. The Ability to Convey Information

Whenever I speak with professional firearm’s instructors this is the skill they always convey to me is the most critical for an instructor. Can you take a concept from the firearm’s world and apply it to a homemaker, or a plumber, or an accountant? As a firearm’s instructor, you’ll have to relay information in an understandable format to everyone. This can be difficult and is why its good to spend time in an almost apprentice like position with more capable instructors, and another reason why you should continue to take classes from a wide berth of instructors.

The Firearm’s Instructor Life

Being a firearm’s instructor isn’t for everyone. It can be frustrating, confusing, and has the potential to make you hate shooting. Regardless of how deep you want to go being an instructor can also be immensely rewarding, fun, and open up a variety of opportunities for you in the industry.

In my opinion, the best place to start is the NRA. Their courses are basic, but they do allow you to learn a bit about teaching and opens up an entire world of possibilities. If its a path you want to take I wish you luck, and hopefully, you’ll love it.


Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.