7 investments worth every penny for firearms instructors

My range bag used to be packed. After becoming a firearms instructor, I had to buy a bigger bag. Firearms instructors aren’t just carrying supplies for themselves, they’re carrying supplies for their students as well. For the first few years of my teaching career, I added one or two elements to my kit every few classes. These are the investments I consider worth every penny for the firearms instructor: 

1. Small cleaning kit 

You will likely have students who don’t take care of their equipment or bring low-quality ammunition that gums up their pistol. You will also have students who don’t know how to clean their gun or what items are needed to do so. You’ll also have students will show up to class with filthy guns that will barely function at the beginning of classes. At a bare minimum, have some good quality oil, a cleaning rod, some solvent and some patches.  

The author has found that some tools are worth every penny at the range.
The author has found that some tools are worth every penny at the range. (Photo/Warren Wilson)

Police1 resource: 5 important lessons about firearms maintenance

2. Shot timer 

“Smooth is fast and fast is slow. That’s rubbish. The intent of that saying is that the more you minimize phrenetic motion, the faster you will be. The phrase has been bastardized into an excuse for some shooters to be slow and “speed will come.” Shot timers are a must for firearms training. If you can’t measure where you are in your speed to first shot and between shots, you have no idea where you are and where you need to go. Today, I would never teach a class without a shot timer. There are so many drills that must be timed but not run on a par time where the turning targets won’t work such as the Casino Drill or the FAST drill

3. Tools and parts 

Every year, we see guns break or need adjustments of some kind. The tools I’ve found useful are punches, small screwdrivers, hex drivers and sight tools. If you have no way to fix an officer’s gun on the range, training must stop unless you have a spare firearm for them.  

4. Spare gun 

Speaking of which: It’s a good idea to know what your students are bringing to class and bring a spare or two from the armory. Bring a few extra magazines and corresponding holsters, as well. I’ve seen a lot of training time wasted from firearms breakages.  

5. Spare other stuff 

We are seeing more and more cops who are not shooters come into the business. They are unaccustomed to firearms and the equipment necessary for a range session. I try to keep some spare ball caps, eye protection and hearing protection; especially electronic hearing protection to allow the student to hear range commands. 

6. Regular other stuff 

Over the years, I’ve come across some non-traditional items I’ve found valuable for firearms training. One such item is magazine follower blocks from TRT Tap Rack. These nifty little gadgets keep the slide on a pistol or the bolt on an AR from locking back with an empty magazine. That allows the student to safely practice slide manipulations during dry fire practice.  

7. Education 

Continuing, regular education is imperative for the firearms instructor. ​​​​​​
Continuing, regular education is imperative for the firearms instructor. ​​​​​​ (Photo/Warren Wilson)

When the term “institutional inertia” is used, they’re talking about law enforcement. We rarely step outside of law enforcement for training, concepts or tactics. That keeps the profession behind as techniques evolve around us. The money I’ve spent on training outside of law enforcement classes has been worth every penny. When an officer gets paid to go to training, they don’t have the same motivation to learn. When I pay for my own training and use vacation time to attend, I make certain to get every penny’s worth out of it.  

In my home state – from start to finish – the firearms instructor program is 266 hours in length when you include basic instructor development and AR-15 carbine instructor to the total. It’s a longer and more arduous course than any other I’m aware of. To be accepted, into the program, one must shoot a 480/600 on the PPC (Practical Police Pistol) course. That test is considered phase one of the six phases. The second phase is to score a 540/600 (90%) on the same course. The instructor candidate has seven chances during the three-day class to make the score. About 50% consistently wash out. We believe it’s among the most difficult and arduous law enforcement firearms instructor programs in the country.

That said, I’ve still attended hundreds of hours of training since then on the topic of defensive firearms use including two other firearms instructor certifications. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from those classes. You see, it’s impossible to learn everything you need to know about being a firearms instructor from one course no matter its quality. There is always more to learn. Education through books, classes or articles is truly worth every penny.  

Police1 resource: How to buy firearms training equipment

That’s my list. What’s on yours? Complete the form below to list the investment you think is worth every penny for firearms instructors. 

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