On our last show, we had a caller with an excellent question that we totally fumbled. Why that was can’t really be explained other than to say no one’s brain was engaged at that moment in the studio. At issue was, how do you know whether or not you’re going to a good (properly accredited and competent) concealed handgun license(CHL) instructor?
Well, let’s start with the basics. All CHL instructors in Texas are certified by the Department of Public Safety in the materials required for CHL class. And until very recently, that certification alone was all that DPS required to teach a CHL class. However, this was based on an incomplete interpretation/enforcement of the law. Going forward, that has been corrected. At issue was the fact that law specifically states that to be a qualified handgun instructor, one must;
- …be certified by the Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education or under Chapter 1702, Occupations Code, to instruct others in the use of handguns
- … be a person who regularly instructs others in the use of handguns and has graduated from a handgun instructor school that uses a nationally accepted course designed to train persons as handgun instructors
- …or be certified by the National Rifle Association of America as a handgun instructor.
This has in fact, always been the law but, it hasn’t been enforced. DPS is correcting that going forward and requiring that all instructors and instructor applicants have or otherwise obtain at least one of the above certifications. The good news is that most CHL instructors have long carried these certifications but, some may have allowed them to lapse and will have to renew to maintain their current accreditation as a CHL instructor.
In my case, I have been previously certified an NRA Basic Pistol/Rifle Instructor, formerly a Hoffner Certified Tactical Handgun Instructor, and an assistant instructor for Defense Training International with John Farnam among other things. As I’ve been focusing on USPSA/IDPA competition and my own personal training rather than teaching in recent years, I’ll admit that I let some of these lapse since I wasn’t spending every weekend in a classroom. But, I will be renewing my NRA Pistol Instructor and CHL instructor certifications at a minimum this year as demand for my time as an instructor has increased.
So what makes someone a “good” CHL instructor besides these basic requirements? Does one have to be a cop, soldier, or snake-eating, certified bad-ass? In a word, no. A long time ago, a shooting instructor told me there are three kinds of people involved in any profession or activity. First, there are “performers.” Those who display a very high degree of proficiency but, they aren’t necessarily good at sharing their knowledge with others…Many performance artists fall into this category. Then you have “teachers.” Those who may not be able to perform an activity with the utmost grace/proficiency but, they are competent with a knack for breaking a concept into its base elements and offering that information to others in a comprehensive manner to help them perform at a high level…(think Bela Karolyi, the famous olympic gymnastics coach). And finally, there are people who can perform and teach at a high level…These people might be the golf pros at your local golf course, for example. Ideally, you’d want your instructor to be the latter but, at a minimum, you want him to be a good teacher.
Beyond the basic certifications I mentioned earlier, this last concept is difficult to discern without actually interviewing your potential instructor and/or asking for references. Good instructors are more than happy to provide references if asked. Some instructors are staff/resident instructors for your local range. More often than not, this means the person has already been vetted by the range owner. No range owner wants an instructor who is causing customers to leave in tears, scared, or feeling they didn’t get their money’s worth out of a class.
On a final note, there are some red flags that may not by themselves be automatic disqualifiers but, they may indicate you could do better. Beware of the instructor who is “giving away” a CHL class far below market price. Right now, that’s $75-$150 per person for a first time CHL and $45-$85 for renewal. An instructor who is THE in house instructor for an range might be able to offer a cheaper class. The $59 class at famously advertised at a local range is an example of a staff instructor being cheaper than the market rate but, this is the exception rather than the rule. Also beware of the instructor who, other than CHL, has no other association with shooting or the firearms industry. This would be the hairdresser/minister/shoe-shine guy who moonlights as a CHL instructor and has no other previous background related to shooting. At the other end of the spectrum is the phony tough guy who claims to be something he’s clearly not (i.e. a colonel in the US Navy, part-time US Marshall, Mossad, SOF-Delta, super-secret ninja squirrel, etc). And in the end, if it feels wrong, it probably is wrong…Your instructor should inspire confidence and understanding, not fear and ignorance.