The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

A Training Roadmap – one instructor’s suggestions (1 of 2)

Learning something new can difficult or confusing – shooting and defensive skills are no exception. We are seeing an increasing number of new shooters out there, as well as a rise in those who are awakening from “skill set maintenance hibernation.” That is a great thing.  This means more and more people are looking into training with firearms and other skills associated with a lifestyle of personal protection.  As with any new endeavor, figuring out exactly where to start can be a challenge. With the multitude of trainers and organizations out there it can even be, to some, intimidating.

The simple intent of this article suggest a path a new shooter may want to consider. It is based on understanding how adults learn skills while taking into account the reality of limited access to training assets – time, money and interest. While attempting to keep the perspective of probability, i.e. the skills that the average person is most likely to need, we have developed this suggested path to start the journey.

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General Philosophy

Training Basics

Most instructors post up a yearly schedule and some simply plug them in as the year goes along. Keep in mind some classes may have prerequisites for attendance. Be honest with yourself and always default to a lower level of mastery than you think you have. We generally tend to over-estimate our own capabilities in these areas. That leads to us not getting everything out the course we could  had arrived mentally and skillfully prepared. It can also hold the class up or create potential safety concerns. Don’t be “THAT GUY”.

I have seen 100% more people in intermediate or advanced application courses who were behind than I have seen people in basic level courses who had it mastered.

This roadmap will be divided into Rounds 1, 2 and 3. Round 1 will address the fundamentals and most probable skills. Round 2 will further affirm our fundamentals and begin to apply those fundamentals in advanced applications. Round 3 will reflect that we’re solid in our fundamentals and have an idea of advanced applications. It will begin to round out our knowledge base with other weapon systems, environmental variances, and less probable skill sets.

I have listed some instructors you may want to check out in each waypoint of your training voyage.  This is not necessarily an endorsement of any one instructor or training organization, but rather a semi-comprehensive list of people for YOU to research and see if their style and location will work for YOU.  Most of these can teach you most of the listed courses, so feel free to swap them around as you move along your journey.  As you begin to research instructors and training organizations, you will find that some have a solid reputation in certain areas. Keep in mind that it is the material the instructor is presenting that is of the utmost importance, not his celebrity status, endorsement deals, or following.  (We will talk further about the importance of not being a “guru chaser.”)

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NRA Courses / State Concealed Handgun Courses:

For someone with little to no experience with firearms, the NRA is a great place to start. They have a standardized, very basic program, that let’s new people ease into the learning experience. Immediately following that, one should attend their state required concealed handgun permit course, if such a course exists. Sometimes, the instructor will be teaching an NRA Basic Pistol Course or similar to meet that state requirement.

State mandated training is often a list of bureaucratically imposed hurdles to appease lawyers and legislatures who generally do not know the first thing about personal protection.  That said (and political arguments aside) it is a necessary step in many states for the goal of concealed carry, which is important for personal defense.  Information can be found generally with your state’s Department of Public Safety or State Police.

National Rifle Association

Basic Defensive Handgun Courses:

This is where the real training begins. There are a lot of quality instructors out there. Scour the internet and read reviews (sometimes called AARs) for a general idea of what to expect.

These classes will generally be 2-3 days long, require 500-1500 rounds of ammunition, and they will be a great opportunity to begin learning your equipment and honing your basic manipulation skills. You will see what gear works for you, which is of higher quality, and you will see what other people are using which will give you ideas of what will possibly work better for you.

Instructors generally fall into the better-known or more popular “national” instructors and more “local” instructors. There can be a wealth of hidden knowledge in these local instructors. Unfortunately you will have a better chance of knowing what you will get with a nationally recognized instructor, as there are generally more reviews of their classes available. Often the local instructors are more value priced, so you can try a couple of them out to find an instructor style you connect with.

DO NOT BE A GURU CHASER! There is a tendency for a new student to immediately latch onto the first instructor they have or the first one they make a connection with. Even worse, some students will devoutly follow the teachings of more popular instructors like lemmings because they see others they respect hanging on their every word.  Try to receive training from as many different instructors as possible in order to experience as many different teaching styles as possible.

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Keep in mind; this is where we stop playing intramurals and start playing major league. Make sure you have a solid grasp of the firearm safety rules and you know your gear. These are playgrounds where “big boy” rules apply. Demeanor will depend on the instructor; one might be a more aggressive pusher while another will hold your hand a little.

Range Master – Tom and Lynn Givens

Haley Strategic Partners – Travis Haley

Way of the Gun Performance – Frank Proctor

Bearco Training – Barrett Kendrick

NOLATAC Training  – Brannon LeBouef

Sage Dynamics – Aaron Cowen

Victory First – Matt Jacques

Hard Corps Tactical – Joseph James

SOLO Defense Training Group – Aaron Brumley

M3 Strategies – Stephen Pineau

Tactical Response – James Yeager

Range Time Tactical Shooting  – Cory and Erika

Arrowhead Firearms Training – Jay Howard

Cole Partnerships and Training – Matthew Cole

Firearms Academy of Seattle – Marty and Gila Hayes

VATA Group – Destin Mounts and Greg Lapin

Gunsite Academy – various instructors

Thunder Ranch – Clint and Heidi Smith

A Training Roadmap   one instructors suggestions (1 of 2) photoMedical Trauma Courses:

“If you are going to develop the skills to create trauma (gunshots), you have the moral responsibility to maintain the skills to relieve trauma (medical skills). “ Furthermore, here is where probability kicks in big time; you are more likely to use medical equipment to save a life than you will your firearm. Having the tools and skills to do so are very important.

Combative Weapons Solutions – Lee Vernon

Dark Angel Medical – Kerry Davis

NOLATAC Training  – Brannon LeBouef

Defensive Legal Concepts:

This is where we take what was hopefully covered in your state required concealed handgun course and really delve into the Dos and Don’ts of the legalities that surround carrying and potentially using a firearm for defense.

Massad Ayoob Group – Massad Ayoob – Judicious Use of Force Course

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Force-on-force Courses:

Now that you have a solid foundation in firearms safety and basic handgun manipulation, you are fairly sure in your gear selection, and you know when you should and should not use lethal force, it is time to put it into action.

Force-on-force training is as close as we can get in a training environment to simulating real life stress. While there is little risk of injury, there is pain compliance associated with making poor decisions. Even with the minimal stress that this type of training offers, you will start to see the leaks in your training and skills become gushing floods. You will also see shortfalls in your gear selection.

SHIVWORKS – Craig Douglas (SOUTHNARC) – ECQC Course

Sage Dynamics – Aaron Cowen

Tactical Response  – James Yeager

A Training Roadmap   one instructors suggestions (1 of 2) photoLess-lethal Courses:

“If all you have is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail.” Not every threat legally or morally warrants a reaction involving a firearm. Therefore, we need the tools and skills to still stop a threat, but without causing serious bodily injury or death. This is where things like pepper spray, Tasers, impact devices, and unarmed defensive tactics come in.

Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute

Affordable Realistic Tactical Training –  Jerry Stanton

Performance Edge Training – Aaron Little

Knife Defense Course:

There are places in our society where we simply cannot legally carry a firearm. However, in some of those places, we can have a simple pocket knife. Understanding how to use this everyday tool as a secondary, or sometimes primary tool for self-defense is an invaluable skill.

Tactical Defense Institute


Modern Defense Training Systems

Active Response Training – Greg Ellifritz

A Training Roadmap   one instructors suggestions (1 of 2) photoBasic Defensive Handgun …Again:

If you took your initial Basic Defensive Handgun Course with a local instructor, perhaps it is time to take it with someone who has a more aggressive program. If you took a 2-Day course, take a  3-day course. You will learn things you never picked up the first go around, and you will have the chance to sharpen that which you already know.

Be sure to take a class from a different instructor than the one you initially took to get a variety of teaching styles and viewpoints.

Defoor Proformance Training – Kyle Defoor

Shooting – Performance – Mike Seeklander

A Training Roadmap   one instructors suggestions (1 of 2) photoThis concludes Round 1 of your training roadmap. You have established a core set of skills and knowledge based on the most important and probable things you need to know to protect yourself and others. Now it is time to embed those fundamentals and begin working on some of the skills that, while valuable and potentially life-saving, are less likely to be called upon.

Tomorrow we will discuss ‘Intermediate Defensive Handgun’, low-light techniques, long gun courses (carbine and shotgun), advanced medical trauma classes, advanced handgun courses, defensive/evasive driving and some specialty courses. We’re also going to look at some key bullet points that should always be kept in mind when training.

About the Author: Newest RECOILweb contributor Brannon LeBouef is the founder and CEO of NOLATAC Training and Consulting, as well as the owner/operator of The St Bernard Indoor Shooting Center. Brannon spent 11 years as a United States Marine where he trained Primary Marksmanship Instructors. He has been in law enforcement for over 15 years, actively trains people across the country, and continues to work in the Criminal Justice and Defensive communities. He can be reached at Brannon (at) nolatac.com.  Check out his YouTube Channel.