A policy change by the NRA as exclusively reported by The Gun Writer came to fruition today. Lee Williams, a senior investigative reporter for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, FL, reported in December 2016 that the NRA was going to change the Blended Basic Pistol Course. The NRA stopped selling the student packs to their Instructors at the beginning of 2016. In May 2016 the NRA replaced the Instructor Led Basic Pistol Course with a Blended course. The Blended course made students complete an on-line course and then take a live fire course from an Instructor.
The majority of responses to this change by Certified NRA Basic Pistol Instructors who posted on blogs and social media was not positive. The Training department at the NRA eventually took notice (perhaps because of a sudden drop in Basic Pistol Students and the follow on Personal Protection Inside the Home and Personal Protection Outside the Home courses. That is speculation on my part since the NRA does not publish student statistics. Direct contact to the Board of Directors as supplied by Mr. Williams and possibly others may have also motivated the NRA to act.
Lee Williams stated that he sent emails to all 76 Board Members of the NRA. On December 23, 2016 he wrote that he received a response from Josh Powell. Mr. Powell is the NRA Chief of Staff and he stated to Mr. Williams that a fix would be announced in 60 days. I exchanged a couple of emails with Mr. Williams and though the 60 days did slip he notified me the change would come on April 4, 2017.
At 6:00am Eastern this morning, the NRA instructors web site was modified to present a Memorandum of Understanding to their Certified Pistol Instructors who logged into their accounts. Instructors are then asked to acknowledge the contents of the Memorandum and adhere to the policies and expectations of the National Rifle Association.
Essentially the NRA has made the Blended course optional and transferred the control of the access to it to their Instructors. Those Students and Instructors who preferred this method can continue to use it and those Students and Instructors who prefer Instructor Led Training can get it again. The course is now referred to as the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting – ILT (Instructor Led Training).
The NRA did not bring back the First STEPS course but have provided the option of teaching the Basic Course with a single action type. There is a requirement to note this on the course description and on course completion certificates.
The updated NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting – ILT is incorporating the live fire rating that was introduced in the Blended course. This represents a skill level the student is able to obtain in the class and it is documented on the completion certificate.
A Performance Requirements Checklist has been added to the course for the Instructor to document the Students reaching specified objectives during the course. A 90% score on the course exam is now required for completion. Five attempts are allowed.
Students must also qualify by shooting a course of fire consisting of four five shot groups. Pre-Blended courses left the live fire qualification to the discretion of the Instructor. Now the minimum to obtain a course completion certificate is Level 1 Red. This requires the Student to put five shots in a 4 inch circle at a distance of 10 feet.
Once the Student completes this level they may be encouraged to attempt Level 2: White which is five shots in a 4 inch circle at 15 feet four times. Level 3: Blue is four 5 shot groups in a 4 inch circle at 20 feet.
If you have Students that achieve Level 3, there is an additional challenge, Level 4 Instructor Level Qualification. This is the same qualification that Instructors were required to shot before receiving their Certification to teach this course. The requirement is to place 16 of 20 shots inside a 6 inch circle at 45 feet. The scale of the circle can be adjusted down if the range is shorter than 45 feet.
The student packages have been reduced to just the student book and the student exam. The Winchester/NRA Qualification program booklet is now sold separately as is the safety card.
The coveted certificates of completion are no longer included in the student packages. These have to be printed through the instructors account. This should help reduce fraud which was one of the factors in developing the Blended course. The NRA needed to control the distribution of the certification because some unscrupulous instructors were copying the certificates.
The integrity of the course is very important to the NRA since it is many Students first contact with the NRA. The content is excellent for it’s intended audience and the NRA wants to ensure that each Student is provided the basics in a consistent manner. By re-establishing the Instructor Led Training, the NRA has re-opened a gateway to potential Students.
The materials ordering center was also updated today and I was able to order six student packs. These were not available before today. I have been checking since the end of February. In the blended course the Student book was sent to the student when they signed up for the on-line course.
As a Certified Pistol Instructor I am happy with the changes the NRA Training Department has made available today. I think the two solution approach is the best way to keep NRA Instructors from seeking other Certifications. It also gives Students an option for obtaining nationally recognized firearms training.