Training evolves. No matter how good a training program might be, there’s always some way to tweak things to improve a lesson or even add brand new sections. Given that in mind, please remember that what I describe is accurate as of October 2020. I expect it will become less relevant as the years go by. Even so I hope it will still be of benefit to future NRA Training Counselor Candidates, much like I found Chris Shoffner's after action report and Andy Lander’s podcast useful. Instead of reviewing the course material (although this will naturally go over some of that), I want to go over the items that I think will help make you successful in the workshop.
First and foremost, you must be able to shoot the NRA Basic Pistol Instructor qual. That’s 20 shots with no time limit at an 8 inch circle at 15 yards, with at least 16 of those shots in a 6 inch group inside the designated target circle. You get two tries on two separate days and if you fail you fail the entire workshop. You shoot the qual cold—meaning they are the first rounds you fire in the morning—so you must be confident in your ability. If you think you can not pass, if you can’t consistently pass shooting cold, then why spend over a thousand dollars on training, travel and lodging just to fail? There are unknowns you will be evaluated on at the workshop but this is one of the two things they tell you about up front that you know (or should know) exactly what’s required to pass. Having said that, more people fail the workshop because they can’t shoot the qual than any other reason. I don’t understand that.
The prac-app (loading/unloading semi-auto pistol, double-action and single-action revolver) is the second thing you can practice beforehand. It isn’t as critical because they give you several opportunities throughout the workshop to practice if you don’t get it right the first time. But why not lock it down beforehand so it’s one less thing to stress about during the workshop itself? Most people are good with the semi-auto but way too many Candidates struggle with both the double-action and single-action revolver. I think they’re working on videos to demonstrate the NRA method for each, but until then here’s the written description for both revolvers which many people seem to struggle with:
- Some single-action revolvers must be at half-cock to rotate the cylinder. Some don’t. You need to identify which you are working with beforehand. These instructions assume half-cock isn’t necessary.
- Regardless of whether you are right or left handed, hold the revolver in your left hand to load and unload. On the load command, cradle the frame in your left hand with your index finger in front of the frame just under the barrel, and your thumb over the topstrap. This should be a secure one-handed hold. Your index finger should not be touching the trigger guard, but your other fingers can.
- Rotate the cylinder with either your left thumb, right fingers, or a combination of the two to index a chamber for loading. The loading gate should already be open.
- Use your right hand to load a dummy round. Rotate the cylinder to load all remaining dummy rounds.
- After all dummy rounds are loaded, close the loading gate and assume a one-handed grip on the pistol with your trigger finger along the side of the frame. Your trigger finger should either be along the side of the frame or on the trigger. If it ever comes of the revolver and stays floating in the air, that’s a fail.
- Then assume a two-handed grip, with your support thumb on top of your strong hand thumb.
- On the cock command, use your support thumb to cock the hammer so the revolver is ready to fire. Then resume a two-handed shooting position with your support thumb on top of your strong hand thumb.
- On the decock and unload command, if you are left handed transfer the gun to your right hand first keeping your right index finger along the side of the frame. Right or left-handed you then hold the revolver in your left hand with your left thumb over the firing pin (in front of the hammer) and your index finger in front of the frame and directly under the barrel. Place your right thumb on the hammer spur, then your right index finger on the trigger. Pull the trigger and slowly lower the hammer with your right thumb. Once the hammer starts to move take your right index finger off the trigger and put it back on the side of the frame. Don’t leave your right index finger floating. That’s an automatic fail.
- Once the hammer touches your left thumb, slowly move your left thumb away and continue to lower the hammer until it’s all the way down. Do not take your thumb off the hammer during this process until after the hammer is completely down.
- After the hammer has been lowered, use your right hand to open the loading gate and tilt the barrel slightly up so gravity helps eject the dummy rounds. Rotate the cylinder so you can eject the first dummy round. Use your right index finger to either reach along the side or under the revolver to pull the ejector. Don’t reach over the top of the revolver.
- If you only loaded a couple dummy rounds, rotate the cylinder to visually inspect all chambers to verify it’s unloaded before putting the revolver down.
- Regardless of whether you are right or left handed, start by holding the revolver in your right hand with your right index finger along the side of the frame. As your right thumb activates the cylinder release latch, your left hand in a “rock star” position (index and pinky fingers fully extended wrapped over the topstrap, middle two fingers curled pushing the cylinder out) securely holds the revolver.
- Let go with your right hand and use it to load the dummy rounds. You can use your left thumb and middle fingers to rotate the cylinder if needed to make loading easier.
- Once the cylinder is loaded resume a right-handed grip on the revolver with your right index finger along the side of the frame and use your left thumb to close the cylinder. If you are left handed at this point you can transfer the revolver into your left hand, making sure to have your left index finger along the side of the frame.
- Then assume a proper two-handed grip with your support thumb on top of your strong hand thumb.
- On the cock command, use your support thumb to cock the hammer back and then resume a two-handed grip.
- On the decock command, if you are left handed transfer the gun to your right hand first keeping your right index finger along the side of the frame. Use your right thumb to activate the cylinder release latch while your left hand uses the “rock star” grip to open the cylinder and securely hold the revolver.
- Holding the revolver in a “rock star” grip using just your left hand, point the barrel straight up and use the palm of your right hand to push down on the ejector rod to unload the cylinders. Once the revolver is empty place it on the table.
It’s important to remember not to muzzle yourself when you collect the dummy rounds on the table. If one of the pistol on the table is pointing at a dummy round, lift the pistol up or move it aside before grabbing that dummy round. Don’t get tunnel vision on that dummy round and fail due to a safety violation.
You will give at least three presentations. On the first day everyone does the speaker introduction (either as an NRA trainer or guest speaker) and later days you present teaching BIT and the 5-Step Process. You may also be asked to present for buzz groups or do other presentations cold. The NRA has a specific method they want you to use when presenting which is the meat of the workshop.
- The guiding principle for all presentation is facilitate and conduct. Have the students do the heavy lifting. Just like the Chief Trainer relies upon a training team to help run a course, as a presenter you can use the students to present the lesson. Do it right and you spend less than half the time talking yourself.
- Ask individual students in turn to read each bullet point on a slide. When you ask them use phrases like “Please tell me…” or “Someone tell me…”. Don’t say “Can you tell me…”, “Will you…” or “Who can…”. This is the hardest habit to break and the hardest technique to learn. Consider the difference between “Can you tell me answer?” “Yes I can.” and “Please tell me the answer.” “The answer is 25.” Don’t give the student a chance to just say yes or no.
- After a student reads a bullet point, ask them what it means or provide an example. You can then follow up with your own commentary afterwards.
- If the bullet points don’t have numbers, don’t say “Bullet #1.” You can say first, second, third or next bullet.
- Conclude the lesson by having the class read each learning objective bullet and ask a probing question about it to verify learning took place.
- The final thing you do is ask, “What are your questions?” Never skip this.
- If the lesson description starts with “Teaching” then it’s a 5-Step lesson. Otherwise it’s a Socratic lesson.
- The 5-Step Process is Introduce, Assign, Present, Evaluate, Conclude. The current mnemonic to help you remember this is “I Am Proficient, Experienced and Capable.” I prefer a modified version of the old mnemonic, “I Am Presently Easily Confused—What?”. I’ll explain the “What” part at the end.
- Introduce: There are two sets of Learning Objectives—as a Training Counselor you have LOs you want the Instructor Candidates to learn. Then the Instructors have a set of LOs they want their students to learn.
- Assign: Divide the ICs into groups, ask them to read their assignments and tell them how long they have to prepare and present. Some lessons also require use of training aids. While they prepare wander the room to see how they are doing. Give them advice if you think they’re going down the wrong path or remind them how much time is left if they’re going too slowly.
- Present: Each group gives their presentation. After each presentation you conduct an evaluation.
- Evaluate: Use PIP (something positive, an improvement, something positive). Start by asking a question like “Tell me one thing you liked from their presentation.” Note you are asking for feedback about the presentation, not the presenter. After you get some positives, ask for improvements. “Give me one thing that would make their presentation even better.” Finally wrap up by asking, “Tell me what you liked best from their presentation.”
- Conclude: Review the LOs by asking Candidates to read them and ask a probing question after each one.
- Finally, always end the lesson by asking “What are your questions?”
On the first day of the class there’s some administrative paperwork to fill out. Once you choose a seat look at the projector. Follow its instructions on how to fill out the name card and other paperwork. One set of paperwork is the Training Counselor Candidate Evaluation. It lists everything you will be graded on and what you need to do for each. Take a picture of all three pages to help remind you what you need to cover. If you brought a notebook computer you may want to have an extension cord as well.
You do not need to bring training aids or any other hardcopy. Some people find sticky notes and highighters useful to mark important sections of the TC Guide or add notes to specific pages. Some don’t.
On the final day there’s an exit quiz on the 5 Step Process and important legal issues. Here’s what that could look like:
- Q: “What is the 5-Step Process?”
- A: “First I introduce the lesson, going over the TC LOs and IC LOs. I then divide the students into groups and give assignments. While they are preparing I wander between groups to see how they’re doing and offer suggestions if needed. Each group then gives their presentation. After each presentation I conduct an evaluation using PIP (positive, improvement, positive). I then conclude the lesson by having students read each LO and I ask probing questions about each. Finally I ask, “What are your questions?”
- Q: “What are some legal issues you need to consider?”
- A: “There’s ITAR—International Traffic in Arms Regulations which limits who I can teach to US Persons. US Persons are US citizens, foreigners with green cards, refugees and political asylum. The Americans with Disabilities Act means I need to make every reasonable accommodation to teach people with disabilities, and finally I need to be aware of sexual harassment.”
- Q: "Who could you ask for more information?"
- A: "An attorney."
Being a TC can be a rewarding experience. Taking the Training Counselor Development Workshop can be a stressful experience but it doesn’t have to be. I hope you find this useful to prepare and helps make your experience a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable. Good luck.