ADVANCING THE KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS OF PROFESSIONAL FIREARMS INSTRUCTORS
The NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation Training Division (SAFTD), and the United States Conceal Carry Association (USCCA) all provide a firearms instructor (FI) certification...typically a 2-day / 16-hour course. They are what I refer to as "civilian certifications". However, the NRA Law Enforcement Division, along with various state law enforcement regulatory agencies, provide firearms instructor courses that are typically between 40-80 hours in length. They are what I refer to as "LE certifications". Is there a difference between them? Yes, a significant one...
LE certification courses are designed to train candidates not only how to be an effective instructor, but also how to develop their own training programs or utilize any existing training program. A specific training curriculum is not provided in these courses because these instructors may have to conduct training that ranges anywhere from basic recruit training...to advance in-service training...to tactical SWAT training. In addition, many of these certification courses require the candidates to pass a shooting qualification with a 90% or better on the first day to stay in the class. That's because the course is not about teaching them how to be better shooters, it's about teaching them how to be effective instructors. They should already be good shooters when they arrive...meaning they already understand how to manipulate the firearm and apply the fundamentals of marksmanship.
Now, civilian certifications are different. Although they are referred to as "instructor" certifications, they're not...by LE standards. In the LE community we call these "Train-the-Trainer" certification. A Train-the-Trainer certification simply means the applicant is certified to teach a specific curriculum that was developed by an organization or entity. They are not allowed to deviate from the established curriculum, and they are certainly not certified to create their own curriculum or training program. Candidates have to teach from the organization's outline, using their Powerpoint presentation, and often times required to follow their established training drills. That's why the training is shorter.
Now, these are great programs to attend...I have a few LE Train-the-Trainer certification on my resume. As an instructor, they're easy to implement and teach because someone else has done all the work to create the curriculum and training materials...but you have to follow the program. I have seen many training company websites with instructors listing a civilian firearms instructor certification in their bio page but are offering "advance" or "tactical" firearms courses...courses they created themselves.
The problem is if someone gets seriously injured during a training course that was created by an instructor that only has a civilian FI certification, and the victim of the injury files a civil lawsuit, the instructor will likely refer to their FI cert to state they were qualified to conduct the training. Here is the risk...if the instructor conducted training that was "outside" the established curriculum, and the certifying organization gets pulled into the lawsuit, then the certifying organization has the option to denounce the instructor and claim they were never certified to conduct that level of training...bad news for the instructor.
This is why NLEFIA only accepts LE instructor certifications for membership credentials. Instructors who have obtained an LE certification have received more training than those who have obtained a civilian certification...and it shows. Although there are "exceptions to the rule", LE instructors that have attended courses with civilian instructors in it have likely witnessed the disparity in both shooting and teaching capabilities.
In our training courses, we push our members (LE certified instructors) to be better. So instructors with a civilian certification are likely to be behind the power curve. And, we would not be able to push our training like we do if we had to focus our efforts on bringing the individuals with civilian certs up to the level of those with LE certs.
Most, if not all, LE agencies do not accept civilian FI certifications. Their officers have to attend an LE certification course. That should be an indication that the level of training between a civilian certification and an LE certification is significantly different.
So, not all FI certifications are the same. However, those individuals with a civilian FI certification, that follow the established curriculum they were trained on, provide a great service to the civilian population. Unfortunately, their certification training does not meet the minimum standard we require to become a member of NLEFIA.
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National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor Association (NLEFIA)