The State of Michigan has a few requirements that must be met to get your Concealed Pistol License. Basically, you can’t be a criminal, insane, or addicted to drugs. You have to be over 21, and you have to have knowledge and training in the safe use and handling of a pistol, which is to be “certified” by the successful completion of a pistol safety training course or class that meets the requirements.
The requirements for this course are pretty simple. The course must be certified by a national or state firearms training organization, and provide at least 5 hours of instruction in the following:
- The safe storage, use, and handling of a pistol.
- Ammunition knowledge.
- Fundamentals of pistol shooting.
- Pistol shooting positions.
- Avoiding criminal attack and controlling a violent confrontation.
- Laws that apply to carrying a concealed pistol in this state.
The course must include at least 3 hours of instruction on a firing range and requires firing at a minimum of 30 rounds of ammunition. (How much do you think you will learn about defending yourself shooting 30 rounds?) You can read all the legal details here
So … you pass the minimum requirements of this “safety course” and now you should know everything there is that you would need to know to carry a concealed pistol, and use it to defend your life, right? Hardly. But that’s what some people think.
For example, I can use an hour of the class to talk to teach you about all the ways to store a pistol safely, or I can spend 10 minutes showing you a couple of your best options and give you the resources you need to make a good choice.
I can spend 2 hours teaching you about how bullets are designed and their history or I can recommend the best ammunition for you to use in your gun (and when) in about 5 minutes.
For shooting positions I could spend hours on the history and theory of dozens of target shooting positions and who developed them, but when it comes to fighting for your life don’t you want to know what works best?
Note that the law doesn’t require we teach you how to choose a firearm, but we have found that this is one of the most important areas people tend to need help with. Most training organizations rely heavily on paid advertisements in their magazines by gun companies, so they frown upon having their instructors give recommendations that might make their advertisers look bad. Most people that bring their own gun to class end up leaving knowing that that first gun they bought was not a good choice.
With the surge of firearm sales during the Obama administration and especially after the Sandy Hook school shooting, there was a huge influx of new firearms “instructors”. But not all “instructors” are created equally. There is a big difference between someone that can read information from a prepared outline and sign your certificate, and someone that is good at teaching, and the former can actually get you hurt or even get you in trouble with the law.
Every time we hold a class there are always people there that tell us their stories about how they went to another instructor’s CPL course but left there feeling like they didn’t really learn what they needed. Why did they choose them? Well, it’s usually because they were either the least expensive or they had the only openings on the day they wanted to take the class. Neither of these should be driving your decision.
If you want to learn about carrying a concealed pistol for self-defense, you shouldn’t care about someone’s hunting experience. And if personal protection is your goal, shooting at bulls-eye targets with a timer and other forms of competitive shooting techniques have little to do with what you will need to know to survive a violent encounter with a criminal. Even police or military experience won’t mean they have ever carried a concealed pistol. Most people in the military don’t actually carry guns, and you would be shocked at how poorly most police officers are trained in the use of firearms. Most people think that police officers have a lot of experience in using guns since they carry one for their job, but only about a quarter of all current police officers in the US have ever fired their guns while on duty even once! Most police officers will never shoot their gun anywhere but at the range, and only during required practice once or twice a year.
How many pistols do they own? How many have they carried concealed, and for how long? How often do they carry concealed in public? What kind of training have they had relating to self-defense for when they cannot carry? How many defensive firearms training courses have they attended (or did they just get their certificate to teach you about guns and that’s all)? I have met so many instructors that sincerely feel they have the experience to teach others that have only ever owned one pistol.
Did you know that most CPL “Instructors” get their training from a two or three-day course that doesn’t even require them to demonstrate the proper use of a holster? The minimal shooting they are required to do to earn that “Instructor” certificate is usually less than we are required to have you do to issue you yours (ask me how I know this?). You want an instructor who has been trained not just to hit a target at a static range but understands how to help others learn to outshoot a criminal under conditions most of us can only imagine.
What does your instructor carry? If your instructor doesn’t have experience in, and recommend to you, a wide variety of options to try and experience firsthand, you will probably not benefit much from hearing about what he carries. You should ask them questions like; what lead them to choose to carry the gun and caliber they currently carry? What guns have they carried in the past, and why did they change their minds about their previous choices?
In this day and age, you should be able to get references on-line from an independent source. Don’t believe what they say people say about them, read the reviews yourself. Did you know that on Facebook you can see if any of your friends have taken a course from the person? If they have a Facebook page with no reviews (or no business page at all) that should make you suspicious.
What range will you be shooting at? What kinds of safety measures have been taken? Do they have proper backstops (high enough to prevent an accident) or is the shooting done in someone’s barn or their backyard, using the woods as a backstop? Safe, and properly equipped ranges are expensive, and backyards are not the place to be running classes. They need to be insured, and to get insurance requires you to meet standards. If your instructor (and their range) is not insured there is a reason, and you don’t want to take any chances with your safety.
Once you pass the class, what will that instructor be doing for you? You will have questions, can you call and ask them? If you aren’t confident in your abilities can they help you get the experience you need to be confident? If you have a legal question do you want to ask it on a public forum, like Facebook, where every keyboard warrior is giving bad legal advice? After taking our course you will have direct access to some of the best attorneys in the State of Michigan.
Hopefully, by now you understand that cost should not be your first consideration. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for, but obviously, you shouldn’t just choose the most expensive course either.