In October, Don became a USCCA Instructor for the Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals course. This course is accepted by the State of Michigan as suitable to obtain a concealed pistol license. The switch was made for a number of reasons, including more up to date and relevant information, better informational flow, and more support from the parent organization to run classes to assist instructors and students alike.
We have been running the NRA’s Personal Protection in the Home (PPitH) course for almost a decade now. Honestly, it’s a good course, and covers what it intends to rather well. The State of Michigan asked for a few things as training standards, including justifiable use of force education, at least 30 rounds downrange, and basic protective strategies. The NRA PPitH course covered these, and the State chose it as an acceptable course for a CPL.
The noticeable gap the state created here was that an in-the-home intent course was being used to cover beyond situations. While many of the strategies taught in PPitH were equally applicable in either paradigm, more could be done to help bridge that gap. We continue to respect theNRA PPitH course for what it is intended. It is a solid course. The state simply misapplied it.
When we made the choice to switch to the USCCA curriculum for a CPL, it was done with a few measurables in mind:
Must emphasize SAFETY repeatedly.
Both courses do this well, but the USCCA uses the better updated Jeff Cooper rules of gun safety (and a modern application of them). The reason the Cooper rules are better is that they apply ‘going forward’ into much more advanced training. The NRA rules are more than fine for the average Joe, but we’d like to ensure our students have the opportunities to experience “well above average” Joe.
The NRA Rules of Gun Safety
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction: A solid rule. In fact, it is repeated in the Cooper’s Rules
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot: Again, a solid rule, and also repeated in the Cooper rules.
- Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use: When storing a gun, it should most definitely be unloaded. Clarification needs to be added that when it is holstered and being carried protectively, the gun ids “in use” and should be loaded.
The Cooper Rules of Gun Safety
- Treat every firearm as if it were loaded: A VERY important concept that the NRA rules miss. Always having the same respect for the firearm regardless of its state of load is a very important training and mindset consideration.
- Never allow the muzzle to sweep anything you are not willing to destroy: A slightly more detailed version of the NRA rule, with the connotation of added consequence.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and have made the decision to fire: Again, a very similar rule to the NRA rule, with added purposefulness and emphasis on the deliberate.
- Be aware of your target, what is behind it, and what is in front of it: A very important extrapolation of “Never allow the muzzle to sweep anything you are not willing to destroy”. But instead of focus only on the target, it forces a consideration of everything along the potential cone of effect.
Ultimately, both sets of rules are adequate. NRA advocates will argue that their rules set is general enough to encompass everything in the Cooper’s rules, and they’re probably right.
Should safety be ‘general’, though?
Must emphasize conflict avoidance and violence-as-last-resort
Both curriculums do this, and both do it well. Both stress that lethal force is an absolute last resort tool, and the need for such a tool is a life-changing consideration.
I am admittedly a compartmentalizer. Things need to go in their spot. And the NRA’s curriculum is very neatly done. As such, the stress on these concepts appear in a couple spots in the class. Definitely in the first module discussing force and survival, again in the legal portion, and here and there throughout.
What I liked about the USCCA class is that these concepts of conflict avoidance and last-resort are mentioned throughout the curriculum. It is a repeating theme. It is visited and revisited at least 10 times in various areas of the curriculum. Circling back to these fundamentals through all the various facets of personal protection strategy shows a maturity of thought in how the curriculum is ordered, and better serves the student.
Must prepare the trainee for concealed carry*
….. *as much as 8 hours allow.
This is where the USCCA curriculum outpaces the NRA curriculum. And honestly, it’s no fault of the NRA curriculum, it’s what the State of Michigan decided to use. The NRA PPitH is IN THE HOME. No holster work. No real out-and-about strategies (you can extrapolate the in the home strategies to beyond the home). The NRA has an outside-the-home course that is well regarded. The USCCA curriculum is intended for concealed carry. Out-and-about strategies are a part of it. Holster selection is a part of it. Use of force continuum is a part of it.
The truth is that 8 hours isn’t enough for mastery of these topics. And if that fateful day ever befalls us, mastery is what we will wish we had. 8 hours is the minimum set by standard. So it comes down to one simple question:
I have 8 hours with my trainees. What do I instruct them to maximize their survival while minimizing their risk?
If I start with a blank 8 hour canvas, what would I put there? In short, the USCCA course puts more of what I think it’s important to cover. Both courses have some decent stuff, but slide-for-slide, topic-for-topic, ther USCCA curriculum is more relevant overall.
A better use of our 8 hours together.
Both are great courses. Berge and Don absolutely stand behind every minute of every hour of every class we have instructed. We pour our knowledge and energy into each course to maximize trainee benefit. And while no two courses can ever be exactly alike, we maintain the highest standards of information and safety we can possibly achieve. We believe that, going forward, the USCCA curriculum positions us more able to continue to achieve this.