It doesn't matter if it your first class or an advanced class, the right instructor can be the difference between a great experience and a frustrating one.
You have identified a couple classes or instructors that look interesting, but how do you know you have found “the one”? Talk to him or her. If they are not willing to spend a few minutes answering questions, move on to the next instructor on your list. If you have to leave a message, or send an email, give them at least 24 hours to get back to you. Most of us have day jobs, and we teach shooting because it is our passion. We love it! But, that means it can take us a day to get back to you. Once you get in contact, what questions should you ask? Following are some suggestions that should help you get a sense of the instructor and their personality so you can judge if you would be comfortable with them.
· Are you a NRA Certified Pistol Instructor?
· Are you following a NRA approved curriculum?
· How many students are in an average class?
· Is there range time included in this class?
· What is the ratio of instructors to students on the range? (If it is less than one instructor for every two or three students consider going to the next instructor on your list.)
· Do I have to have my own pistol or will you have guns I can shoot?
· Are you the one who will be teaching my class, and if not, what can you tell me about the instructor I will have?
· How long have you been teaching?
· What kind of shooting do you do? (The answer you are looking for here can vary depending on the type of shooting you want to do. If you are learning for defense, you want someone who practices defensive shooting techniques. If you are interested in competing, you might want someone who competes.)
· What is the number one priority for this class? (SAFETY!)
· Where will the class be held?
· What range do you use?
· Does the range have eye and ear protection I can borrow?
· Are there any additional costs above the tuition? (This may include having to provide your own ammunition or targets, or pay a range fee.)
· If you have any physical limitations or restrictions you may ask if they have experience with your particular needs.
These should give you a sense of the instructor, and how you will respond to him or her. Ask any other questions you may have, such as; “How do you handle nervous students?” Are you comfortable with the person you spoke with, their answers, and attitude? The introduction to shooting can be a little scary and you want someone to lead you through the first shots that you feel comfortable with and trust. If you are not satisfied, keep looking! I promise there is an instructor out there for you. The adage “You have to kiss a lot of toads to find a Prince” applies to finding the perfect instructor. We all have different needs, and there is at least one perfect toad, or instructor, out there for you. Your first class can set the tone for the rest of your shooting experience. If you leave with a huge grin thinking, “That was AWESOME!” your instructors job was done well and you will want to come back and do it again! If not, returning to the range can be a little intimidating and might not be a high priority.
Good luck and keep training!