Where do I start?
Well, that depends on how you plan to use your training. Did you just purchase a new pistol (or plan to buy one) and not sure what to do next? You should first take the Basics of Pistol Shooting course. This will teach you how alll the parts of a handgun work, all about ammunition, cleaning a handgun, and best yet - how to safely shoot your handgun. Even if you have shot handguns for a long time, you willl learn something in this course. Senior law enforcement officers who have taken this course have surprisingly commented that "none of this was taught at the academy!"
Similarly, you can opt to take a Basics of Rifle Shooting or Basics of Shotgun Shooting course. The rifle course teaches you many of the same skill sets but specifically for a rifle and how to shoot it. Rifle shooting at targets generally is done at much farther distances than pistol. Shotgun shooting is all about learning how to shoot moving clay targets. This simulates hunting, and can be a lot of fun.
Once you have had a chance to successfully shoot your firearm and practice with it, you might consider taking the Range Safety Officer course. Students learn how to help others safely operate a firearm at a shooting range by learning safety procedures, how to set up and operate a range, and how to coach a shooter through any firearm issues they may have while at the range.
I want to learn to handle my handgun for personal protection. What course do I need to take?
With today's growing crime problems, many people want to carry a gun for self protection. NRA offers three terrific courses for this purpose - Personal Protection Inside the Home, Personal Protection Outside the Home, and NRA CCW. If you plan on applying for a license to carry concealed (LTCC), you should consider the NRA CCW student course. Taken after you have passed the Basics of Pistol Shooting course, CCW teaches students how to safely carry and draw a handgun from a holster. Topics in the course include important topics like mindset, carry modes, defensive pistol skills, and more. There is also a shooting qualifier that includes drawing from a holster and emergency reloading. Even "top shot" pistol shooters have said that they learned a lot from this course.
I want to become an Instructor. What do I need to do?
First take the Basic course for the specific shooting discipline that you want to teach. You can't teach a course you've never taught! Next, take a Basic Instructor Training course. Instructor Candidates learn how to organize and teach NRA courses. Once you take this course, you may take an Instructor discipline-specific course within the next 24 months - assuming you have already successfully taken the Basic course first.
Next, the Instructor course allows Instructor Candidates to do "teach backs" with a training team - a small group of other Instructor Candidates in your course. You will have an opportunity to speak and teach in front of others, learning skills from one another as you proceed through the course. Once certified, you will be able to order materials and teach NRA courses to others.
What's a Training Counselor?
A Training Counselor (TC for short) is an individual who has taught a number of classes as a Certified Instructor and then successfully completed a Training Counselor Development Workshop. Today's newest TCs have demonstrated a mastery of defensive pistol skills, shown they have developed advanced speaking and teaching skills, and can pass on knowledge and skills to new Instructor Candidates. After successfully completing their workshop, TCs are appointed by the NRA's Education and Training Department staff.
So how do you fit into this stuff?
Well, I'm an appointed TC. I've also been appointed as a State Training Counselor Liaison for Pennsylvania. That means that I'm responsible for mentoring, guiding, and finding ways to remediate issues for our 4,400 Certified Instructors and 112 TCs across the state. It's an unpaid position - just like my position on the NRA Board of Directors.