Training 8/1/2018

Intermediate Course AAR

by Keith Wood

I have been a lifelong firearm enthusiast. I joined NRA as a teenager and have been an unapologetic supporter of the organization for my entire adult life. The time that I spent at NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action as a state liaison, working in the state capitols on behalf of gun owners, remains the highlight of my professional career. More than a decade as a contributor to NRA Publications has built my technical and practical knowledge base and allowed me to pass along some of what I’ve learned to readers. That said, I had not taken an NRA training course in many years. Once I progressed beyond the NRA Basic Pistol Instructor and Range Safety Officer courses, I sought out training opportunities outside of the universe. NRA’s course curriculum was focused on a student population that, correctly or not, I felt that I had moved beyond. That was before NRA Carry Guard.   

This spring, I attended the three-day NRA Carry Guard Intermediate training course. I had high hopes for the course, given my respect for the individuals who built the program, but I reserved judgment until I saw it from a student’s perspective. I went into it with an open mind but was prepared to provide critical feedback if it was warranted. After experiencing the course firsthand, I can say without hesitation that NRA has developed a training program that takes a backseat to no other organization or company. In my mind, this course is the standard by which other defensive handgun courses should and will be judged.

I have attended some excellent training courses at various shooting schools in the past but, when viewed holistically, none of them consistently provided this level of instruction. Some schools are very strong in one subject area but lacking in others, which is not the case with NRA Carry Guard. Every element of the training was equally strong: the shooting fundamentals, weapon manipulations, gear selection, the moral/ethical/legal considerations, and the situational elements of the training. The NRA Carry Guard course is informative and challenging and is a good use of the students’ time and resources. In short, the curriculum was excellent. The shooting test was a humbling experience for many of the students and was an invaluable part of the program. Participation awards give students a false sense of security and confidence: Every student that shot the qualification, myself included, now has a precise benchmark by which to measure their performance.

My instructors for the course were Jeff Houston and Eddie Penney. Jeff served overseas in Army Special Forces and has applied his private security expertise to serve clients both in the U.S. and abroad. Eddie is a Navy SEAL veteran with significant combat experience who has specialized in international security consultation. I have trained under some of the “big names” in the industry but, candidly, none hold a candle to these two individuals. The confidence and competence of these men ensured that the students were immediately engaged and kept the usual pontification and storytelling among the students to a minimum. Their lectures were informative and enjoyable and their balance of professionalism and sense of humor kept the class’ attention. Their skills on the range during the demonstrations quickly established their credibility. The learning environment was safe but realistic. Though they weren’t standing around telling war stories, their real-world experience was evident and added significant weight and credibility to the material. As this program expands, I would highly recommend resisting any action that might dilute the quality of the instructor cadre—they are a key component of what will set NRA Carry Guard apart and should be treated as such.

It isn’t always easy for young men and women, particularly those with families, to dedicate the time and resources to attend a firearms training course; trust me, I get it. Many of the courses that I have attended in recent years have been filled with retired individuals who had the time and resources to train—I’m all for it but would love to see a younger generation embrace the value of training. I’m happy to see that this is beginning to evolve and I hope that the NRA Carry Guard courses continue to attract younger students. If a young professional who carries a firearm knew that they could show up to this course and receive excellent instruction from the strongest cadre of firearms instructors in the industry, they would be lining up to do it.

The decision to build a more introductory course into the framework was definitely a good move: Some of the students in my class struggled to perform under the demands of the training, and building an onramp before the Intermediate and Advanced courses was a good plan. The NRA Carry Guard Basic training course will ensure that students have the skills and confidence necessary to proceed to the more advanced courses.

I will close by saying that NRA Carry Guard is a program to be proud of and I am honored to be affiliated with its magazine. Our only challenge at this point is to help spread the gospel so that others can see what has been built by the hard work of Jack Carr, Eric Frohardt, Jeff Houston, James Jarrett, and everyone else who was involved in its development.

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