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I attended my first NRA law enforcement instructor course in September of 1990. It was a mentally and physically demanding experience that took place in the 100-degree-plus heat of Tucson, Ariz. To this day, I regard it as a formative experience in my evolution as a police trainer.
I had attended a few firearms instructor courses before, but this one was different in many ways. First, there was the sheer volume of good information provided during the course not only from the curriculum but also from interacting with other students.
Even more important in my book was the quality of the instructors. I still remember them—John Recknor and Tom Vivarino. These guys stand among my training role models. They were committed to providing a full and thorough training experience despite the oppressive heat. In addition, they monitored our wellbeing and kept a keen eye on our safety.
When I screwed up and fired an unintentional round, I was impressed by how it was handled. I was embarrassed by my mistake in front of my peers. But instead of adding to my sense of embarrassment, Tom talked to me in a low, calm voice making sure that I was OK and telling me to not let it happen again. I had fully expected a more aggressive and degrading response, but, like I said, I was dealing with professionals. Had I done it again, I’m sure our interaction would have progressed even more. But that wasn’t necessary. I attribute a big part of this to the way that instructor handled my firearms faux pas.
Over the years since, I’ve attended more NRA Law Enforcement schools and eventually was lucky enough to be invited to join their adjunct instructor staff. It’s an honor that I remain proud of to this day. This cadre is made up of good folks who regularly travel to big cities and out-of-the way places throughout America, carrying on the mission of providing contemporary law enforcement training.
Being part of this team has been a definite plus in my life. It never fails to provide me with new learning and valuable experience when I get out on the road for the NRA Law Enforcement Division.
The courses offered are all focused on developing good instructors. They range from a basic Handgun course to Patrol Rifle, Tactical Shooting, Precision Rifle and Select Fire (full auto) classes. Each one runs at 48 hours and includes stringent requirements that have to be met before students are handed their certificates. No one graduates unless they earn the right to identify themselves as firearms instructors through hard work in the classroom and on the range. It reflects the Law Enforcement Division’s commitment to quality.
I suggest that if you haven’t already experienced this first hand, you put attending at least one of the courses on your trainer’s bucket list.