Our Second Amendment heritage has made firearms an everyday part of American life, driving innovation in their design and their use. Over the years, the United States has pioneered the art of the combat handgun as US inventors drove the development of the pistol from a single-shot affair to revolvers of various design, the enclosed metallic cartridge, and the semiautomatic pistol.

Beyond advances in the hardware, shooters from the US have continuously evolved the way that gear was employed by continually improving on lessons learned. One such pioneer was Col. Jeff Cooper, known as the ‘Father of Modern Pistolcraft.’

Cooper’s teachings live on today as the foundation for almost all training school programs to build on. His color codes of awareness and architecture of the draw stroke are still taught today by a number of his contemporaries and their protégés. Many of these living resources are approaching the end of their teaching careers and are an opportunity to be taken sooner rather than later. Others have recently hung their shingle and peddle their take on current trends based on their experiences in the military or law enforcement.

shooting instructor

Not all trainers teach all applicable skills – if you are an aspiring IPSC shooter, then you train with Taran Butler like Keanu Reeves. If you need to do a pre-deployment workup before heading over to the ‘sandbox,’ then Kyle Lamb or Dave Harrington are your guys. Patrol Officer? Go check in with the Sig Academy. For John/Jane Q Public looking to learn the ins and outs of concealed carry, there are a number of quality trainers who can provide instruction directly relevant to your needs.

John Farnham – Defense Training International

John Farnham is one of those legendary resources that is approaching retirement, meaning that serious students of self-defense should register for one of his classes sooner rather than later. A Vietnam veteran, John has authored many publications related to defensive shooting and proper mindset. He regularly lectures at tactical conferences worldwide and is an adept trainer of civilian shooters.

Tom Givens – Rangemaster

Another industry veteran, Tom Givens opened his training facility in Memphis, TN in 1996 after a 25-year career in law enforcement. Rangemaster became the primary source of carry permit certifications for the greater Memphis area, with almost 60 students successfully putting their skills to the test.  Together with his wife and partner Lynn, they now form Rangemaster Firearms Training Services where they now travel worldwide delivering instruction to students in their region.

Rob Pincus – I.C.E. Training Company

Rob Pincus is a professional trainer, author, and consultant, and is one of the founders of the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors. I.C.E. provides training to armed professionals and civilian shooters alike.

Rob provides efficient training methodologies to those interested in developing firearms and defensive skills. His methods maximize limited training resources and focus on what the body does naturally under real-world conditions.

Conducting over 50 courses a year in over 40 locations, Pincus travels over 300 days a year, bringing cutting-edge personal defense information to students ranging from military and law enforcement personnel to those who are just entering the concealed carry arena.

Clint Smith – Thunder Ranch

Clint Smith is the President and Director of Thunder Ranch. A two-tour Marine veteran of Vietnam, his experience includes seven years as a police officer during which he served as head of the Firearms Training Division.

Smith left law enforcement to lead Operations for Jeff Cooper’s American Pistol Institute, where he was Dean of instruction and heavily contributed to range and curriculum development.

In 1993, Clint opened Thunder Ranch®, Inc. to showcase innovative training and numerous range designs not seen before. Clint is a contributor to American Handgunner, American Cop, GUNS, and SWAT magazines and has appeared in many other national and international publications.

His wife and partner Heidi Smith has been Vice President of TR since 1999. An experienced instructor in her own right, she has been active in the field since the late 1980s.

Kathy Jackson

Kathy began training at the Firearms Academy of Seattle with FAS Director Marty Hayes and his wife, Gila. In 2003, she became a lead instructor at FAS in 2005, working with thousands of students at this professional firearms training facility over the years.

Kathy has been a professional student as well as an instructor for almost 20 years, having trained with many of the great names in the industry.  She is also an adjunct instructor for Massad Ayoob, qualified to teach Ayoob’s MAG-20 range class and Judicious Use of Deadly Force.

From 2012 through 2017, Kathy offered firearms training nationwide for both men and women through Cornered Cat LLC.

shooting instructor

Gunsite Academy – Where it all began

While not a specific instructor, Gunsite is one of those places where the staff instructors teach a program developed by an industry pioneer. Jeff Cooper founded Gunsite as the American Pistol Institute (API) in 1976 to teach the modern technique of shooting. At that time the firearms training school industry did not exist.

Gunsite changed hands twice since Cooper first sold it, and Cooper acolyte Buzz Mills now runs it. Mills maintains the curriculum as close to Cooper’s original philosophy as possible.

Firearms Training Academy of Seattle

At the Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc. Director Marty Hayes believes safety begins with the individual. As a career law enforcement officer, he knows that the police can’t protect you.

Marty, working with his wife Gila, creates a training environment that enables the student to maximize his or her training hours. Real-world dangers present themselves in a 360-degree panorama — not only the down-range orientation of the traditional firing range training venue. F.A.S. moves the student into less-static training drills as early in the curriculum as it is safe and productive to do so.

Sig Academy

Officially launched in 1990 for training law enforcement and military clients, the Sig Academy has become a significant source of quality firearm instruction for all. Moving to their current facility in 1996 in Epping, NH they created the first-ever non-toxic, frangible indoor range.

In 2001 SIGARMS Academy introduced specialized civilian training for select organizations and businesses. Shortly after that, the demand from the civilian population grew, and the Academy audience became Armed Professionals and Responsible Citizens. Sig defines a ‘Responsible Citizen’ as anyone who can legally possess a firearm.

The major difference is defined in the tactics and disposition of an armed encounter. In Sig’s view, an Armed Professional is required to contain, control, and render proper dispensation of an armed confrontation in their jurisdiction. The Responsible Citizen has no responsibility as such and is encouraged to disengage from an armed confrontation when possible, but be prepared to act with lethal force when no other option is available.

Shooting Instructor

No matter which instructor you choose to work with, be sure to check out their equipment lists before you head to class. Make sure your Kydex holster and gun belt meet the requirements of the course as many instructors will limit the kind of gear allowed on the range. Many schools prohibit certain holster designs or carry methods depending on instruction level, so plan ahead.

* This guest post is brought to you by Benji Menez and our friends over at Concealment Express. *

Concealment Express is a rising star in the firearms community and is the place to go for high-quality holsters.

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

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