First, why do you need an instructor, what could be easier than pointing the gun and pulling the trigger?
Ah, if only it were that simple, we would all be experts! A good instructor can help you be comfortable and safe when you are starting out. He, or she, can help tweak your technique if you are experienced and help you be a better shooter, or show you new drills and techniques to improve your practice time and ultimately, make you a better shooter.
Anyone can call themselves an Instructor, however, you want to know if they truly know what they are doing. NRA Certifications as the Gold Standard, but there are also some well established training institutions that provide excellent instruction. It depends where you are, and what type of instruction you would like. Many women think having their significant other teach them is fine. However, would you want your spouse to teach you to drive? Also, are they doing all the right things? In my experience, and I’ve had a lot of couples come to a class, it is actually easier to learn from a stranger than from someone you know well.
So, how do you start finding an instructor? First, you can search on NRA Instructors, or save yourself a step and go to http://www.nrainstructors.org/ where you can look up classes in your geographic area and see a list of instructors and their current offerings. Once you have found a couple that look reasonable, call the instructor and talk to them. If you have to leave a message, please understand, most of us have day jobs, this is our passion not our primary income, so give us 24 hours to get back to you. If you haven’t heard back, move on to the next one. Ask questions about who will teach the class you are interested in, it may not be the person you are talking to. Make sure there is range time included so you can get some individual attention. Get a sense of who they are, how long they’ve been teaching, what their philosophy is and if you can be comfortable with them. Instructors are a lot like shoes. Some fit perfectly, some irritate and rub the wrong way. My perfect instructor may not be your best fit.
If you prefer a women only class, they are popping up all over now. You can look at the NRA’s Women on Target program for ideas. Personally, I enjoy mixed gender classes. I think a lot of the men are a little intimidated, especially because the ladies tend to out shoot them in the beginning. But I have also seen a level of respect from the men in my classes toward their female classmates. And toward me as an instructor. It is personal preference, whatever you are comfortable with.
Don’t be tempted by the on-line classes. I’ve done some college courses, and professional certifications on line, but never a gun class. I want someone to show me how to perform a task, then have them watch me and correct me where I need it. It may be tempting, and you can learn a lot, but nothing takes the place of having an experienced instructor at your side, encouraging, correcting and supporting you.
As more women come to the shooting sports, there will be more opportunities to train with other women, if that is what you are interested in. Also, once you get proficient, we need more women instructors! Teaching is incredibly rewarding, not financially, but emotionally. There is nothing like having a student on the range, nervous, tentative, never having fired a gun, and you talk them through it, they take that first shot and…the SMILE!
As we take this journey, please don’t hesitate to post your questions and I will try to answer them in future blogs. Also you can view different content on my blog, www.femaleandarmed.blogspot.com or follow me on Twitter @FemaleandArmed.
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