The NRA has started up a new program, the Practical Pistol Coach certification, that focuses on the NRA’s Defensive Pistol training Module, taking Basic Pistol level instructors and developing their skills to coach shooters through skills such as drawing from concealment, reloading and malfunction clearing.
In the past use of the Defensive Pistol Module was restricted to NRA Advanced Pistol instructors, a rating that earned by being certified in NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home and providing NRA with proof of completion of private sector training beyond the PPOTH level.
One challenge the NRA is trying to address is the disconnect between the skill level and proficiency required to pass law enforcement instructor courses and private sector instructor development courses, such the excellent Rangemaster Instructor Development course KR Training is hosting in April 2018.
To pass the PP Coach course, participants must re-shoot the NRA Basic Pistol instructor course of fire and the Defensive Pistol module course of fire, and pass both. The Defensive Pistol course of fire, by standards of the typical 2 day “tactical pistol” courses offered by the private sector, still has generously long par times for drawing, shooting, reloading and malfunction clearing, but is much more challenging than any state’s carry permit qualification course of fire. Compared to what it takes to shoot a 100% score on an USPSA classifier stage, the Defensive Pistol Module requires roughly 40% (USPSA low C class or IDPA Sharpshooter) level shooting.
Class attendees interested in being considered for a new national Practical Pistol coaching team have the option to shoot a more difficult qualification course of fire that requires higher skill to pass, probably around 60% of GM/low B class/IDPA Expert level based on my subjective impression of it. Both that course of fire and the Defensive Pistol course of fire use the NRA D-1 target, which is a neutered, lawyer-safe target with 4″, 8″ and 12″ scoring rings. The FBI Q “bottle” target can also be used, providing a more humanoid shape and more realism, but we didn’t use that target in our course. The target below was my target from the advanced coaching qual. I had a good run with very few shots outside the X ring and was told that I “super-passed” the qual. The requirement was all 20 shots inside the 8 ring. The advanced qual included 15 yard shooting.
I attended a session taught at NPSI in San Antonio, using their classroom and the Bullet Hole range. There were 15 students, coming from as far as Alaska, Washington State, Florida, and Arizona, every corner of the country, to attend. This was only the 3rd time this course had been taught, and as were told, the material is still in development and under revision.
Two days were spent in the classroom, with lecture material heavily derived from traditional athletics coaching instruction and generic “how to coach an athlete” information. The 3rd day was spent on the range, first shooting the qualification courses of fire and then in exercises coaching others through drills from the Defensive Pistol Module.
Many attending the course were experienced instructors with 15 or more years involved with the NRA pistol training program. A few were new instructors just meeting the 5 years experience requirement to attend the class. After my experience at the November 2017 Rangemaster instructor conference, where the level of shooting by attendees was uniformly high, I was disappointed to see a surprising number of those attending this course struggle with the shooting drills, including some that did not pass.
I do a lot of coaching, both in private lessons, answering email questions from students, and in classes. I’ve learned how to train others to coach by developing my assistant instructors on my training team to recognize and correct gunhandling and shooting errors. I’ve written about common gunhandling errors. I’ve developed a block of instruction for the A Girl and a Gun national conference teaching their facilitators how to identify and fix shooting problems. This course contained no material similar to that, which is the core task a pistol shooting coach does. It doesn’t improve attendees’ ability to be better at coaching pistol skills on the range. It does a fair job of certifying them to teach the Defensive Pistol module.
For a basic pistol-level instructor wanting to get certified to teach the Defensive Pistol module, this class is appropriate. For someone wanting to learn how to coach shooters better, it’s not useful, at least in its current level of development. It needs significant revision, replacing a full day of classroom material with a day of additional range and dry fire activities, to cover the kind of material I’ve used (and developed) to train others to coach effectively.
I wrote my recommendations and am providing them to the NRA E&T department for consideration. If I’m invited to be on the national coaching staff for this program, I may be involved in making those improvements.
If you plan to attend the course
Practice before you go. Make sure you can shoot 20 shots out of 20 into the 8″ circle on the NRA D-1 with no time limit. Make sure you can draw from concealment and hit the 8″ circle of the D-1, from 7 yards, in under 3 seconds (preferably 2 seconds). Make sure you can reload your pistol in under 3 seconds (preferably 2 seconds) and clear a failure to fire malfunction (tap rack assess/bang) quickly. Don’t invest money and time attending the course if your skills aren’t up to par, just to get another rating or certificate or patch for your vest.
Be your own coach
Step 1 in being a good coach is to coach yourself. Learn how to analyze your own performance, how to plan practice sessions designed to achieve measurable performance improvements. That means using a target and a timer. Buy a shooting timer if you don’t have one. Record video of your performance and analyze it. Study what top shooters do and how they do it. Study how they train and practice. There’s no shortage of high quality information available today for self-study.
Those wanting to get better at pistol shooting or coaching others should seek out Ben Stoeger’s dry fire books and manuals, and Mike Seeklander’s pistol program book and Annette Evans’ new dryfire book. Take a course from a top tier instructor and pay attention not only to what they teach but how they teach it.