Recently, a gentleman pointed out to me that my Michigan Concealed Pistol License class was overpriced at $150. He informed me he could get the same class for only $99. I gently inquired if he knew anything about my course. He didn’t and this prompted a conversation that lasted a few minutes whereby I explained why he should never settle for the cheapest price, especially in personal defense training.
It has become commonplace in my home state of Michigan for firearm instructors to undercut other instructors by offering prospective clients a $99 class, free lunch, and anything else they can to entice the unsuspecting consumer to their courses. In my travels, I have the opportunity to talk to other instructors and invariably we get into the conversation about training standards and marketing, including pricing and course content. Some believe price doesn’t matter and they like to recite the worn out edict that all instructors use the same course outline and therefore we all teach the same course. Others will give a lengthy speech about their law enforcement or military background and how that makes them a better instructor to teach civilian personal defense. Still, a few others don’t care and they simply want the money.
I am not against a free market society. However, more often than not, price is usually the deciding factor. Many variables exist when comparing how an instructor teaches a course and the content being presented. For example, if an instructor presents the “nationally recognized” course popular in Michigan and elsewhere, very little is taught about concealed carry and how to mitigate a lethal force situation outside the home. It is a course focused on personal defense inside your home, not on the street where you will carry concealed.
I am well aware of the fact that this course meets the minimum state law on concealed carry. I am also aware that because a training program meets minimum standards or law, the minimum may not be enough. I am not naïve and I know many people who take these courses simply do so to obtain a concealed carry license – they are not interested in actually learning to use their firearm defensively. Many are not interested in advanced classes nor are they informed as to the real risks in a real world. I hear complaints, often from instructors who teach advanced classes, that students can’t load their magazines properly. Or, perhaps, they do not know nor understand the basic function of the firearm they are carrying concealed in public for personal defense. This is truly a travesty that will one get someone killed because they have a false sense of security, training, and preparedness.
If we truly compare apples with apples, the “national” course does not come close to what some of us are teaching in our concealed carry classes. For example, I include a classroom and range module on concealment techniques, drawing from a holster, utilizing the startle response in our training, balancing speed and precision drills, additional information on the physics and physiology of being in a dynamic critical incident, and more. This is why my class is longer than 8 hours. This is why it cost $150. Although the “extras” are not an official part of the NRA course (I add them as an optional supplement), I find that most of my students enjoy the added training and find value in it.
Many consumers don’t know what they don’t know. They believe the instructor to be someone of authority on the topic of firearms and training; after all they’re the instructor!
Allow me to add a note about the NRA. I am an ardent supporter of the NRA, and a Life Member. It is not their fault nor responsibility that the law in Michigan dictates that the minimum training standards to carry a concealed firearm in public is simply not adequate. Nor is it their fault that it has very little to do with concealed carry. The NRA produces fine courses; Michigan is simply not using the right one for the purpose intended.
Bottom line – ask questions. Ask the instructor about the last time they took a training course. Ask them if they teach to minimum standards. Ask the instructor if the class they will teach will provide you with real-world defensive shooting skills or is it a gloried marksmanship class. Human nature dictates that most instructors will not spend the extra few hours teaching you real defensive skills for $99. They simply won’t.