When applying for a concealed-carry permit, many states require the successful completion of an approved firearms training course and the issuance of an instructor certificate.

If your priority is to acquire the training necessary to adequately defend yourself against an armed assailant, you need to search for an experienced tactical firearms instructor.

Finding the type of tactical firearms instructor that is the right fit for you is important.

Types of Firearms Instructors

There are different types of firearms instructors. In several of the NRA’s basic training courses, NRA instructors provide education and training on the fundamentals of firearms safety and marksmanship. However, the basic NRA pistol course is not designed to provide tactical training, which you may need for self-defense.

The ideal tactical firearms instructor has a law-enforcement or military background and extensive experience carrying and using firearms recreationally, competitively, or as part of their official duties.

Types of Training

If you’re new to firearms or want to introduce a friend or family member to shooting, a basic training program that teaches safe firearms handling, how to load and unload firearms, and how to operate handguns and rifles may be sufficient.

However, this kind of training does not prepare a gun owner to defend his or her life against an armed assailant or active shooter. Carrying a gun for personal protection requires a different approach.

Fundamentals of Marksmanship

Tactical Firearms

Every firearms instructor should teach the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship — grip, stance, sight picture, and trigger control — the necessary foundation for more advanced training.


Proper grip requires placing your dominant or strong hand as high on the weapon as possible to reduce leverage during recoil. The gun’s backstrap should fit into the “V” formed between the thumb and index finger.

The top of the beavertail or recoil shoulder should be flush with the webbing of your hand. The bones of the wrist and forearm should be aligned with the bore. Your support hand fingers should wrap around your strong hand and over the front strap. Depending on the stance, your support hand may either have a neutral or positive cant, and your thumbs may be high and overlapping or forward.


Stance refers to the position of your shoulders and feet in relation to the target. Your feet should generally be shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed toward the target. For example, in the Weaver stance, your dominant foot should be ahead of the other, akin to that of a boxer, with your torso rotated to the left. In Isosceles, your feet and shoulders are more square.

Sight picture

Aligning your front and rear sights vertically and horizontally is essential to accurate shooting. The tips of the two sights should be level with each other.

Trigger control

Pressing the trigger gradually and consistently to fire the weapon without disturbing your sight picture is called trigger control.

Real-World Conditions

Learning to shoot at stationary targets on a well-lit firing range is necessary for developing the fundamentals; however, it’s not reflective of real-world defensive conditions. A tactical pistol instructor should also teach you how to fire your weapon accurately from various positions, including from behind cover.

You should be taught how to engage and consistently hit moving targets while standing still and running. Shooting accurately while out of breath and exhausted also prepares you effectively for defensive shooting. Adding time pressure can help create a sense of urgency.

Identifying and Clearing Malfunctions

Part of tactical firearms training is identifying and clearing malfunctions under field conditions. If a handgun experiences a stoppage during range practice, the stakes are relatively low. You can investigate the cause of the malfunction at your leisure. However, if you’re defending your life against a deadly threat, a stoppage that lingers can be potentially fatal.

The standard response to a malfunction with a semi-automatic pistol is “tap, rack, bang.”

Then rack the slide — in one continuous motion, wrap the fingers of your support hand over the top of the slide and retract it forcefully. Release the slide, allowing the recoil spring to drive it forward. This clears a defective cartridge (failure to fire) or a stovepipe (failure to eject).

Finally, bang — press the trigger and fire the weapon if you need to.

Weak-Hand Drills

In a self-defense shooting, your dominant or strong hand may become injured. The instructor’s job is to teach you how to fire your weapon and clear malfunctions with only your support hand and, if necessary, the environment.

Legal Compliance

A tactical firearms instructor should not limit their instruction to handling and firing handguns. If you intend to carry a firearm for self-defense, you should also have a thorough understanding of the law regarding the use of deadly force, where you can and can’t carry a handgun, and when you can lawfully draw your weapon.

Deadly-force statutes differ from one jurisdiction to another, but you’re generally entitled to use or threaten to use a firearm if your assailant has the ability, opportunity, and intent to cause serious bodily injury or death.

Ammunition Selection

When you’re training in the use of self-defense firearms, your choice of ammunition plays a central role in the effectiveness of your weapon, including its reliability. Your firearms instructor should provide guidance regarding ammunition selection if you’re unfamiliar with applicable criteria.

For example, JHP (jacketed hollow-point) bullets are preferable for self-defense because they’re designed to expand in soft tissue. This reduces penetration and increases the diameter of the permanent wound cavity.


Your choice of holster directly affects your ability to carry and reliably retain your defensive firearm safely. It also affects your draw stroke and how accessible your weapon is when you need it most.

Your instructor should explore active vs. passive retention, IWB vs. OWB, adjustable cant and ride height, and materials to help you select the best holster for your defensive needs. When you settle on a holster you find comfortable; you can determine where you want to place the holster on your body and how you want to conceal it.

Where to Find an Instructor

At IFA Tactical Training, we provide tactical instructors to help you develop the skills and mindset necessary to defend yourself. Your safety and that of your loved ones is your responsibility.

To find out more about our instructors or enroll in one of our CPL classes, call us at (586) 275-2176.

Call Now Button