You've seen them advertised in your area and others. Those "Get your pistol license certification here. Low cost!" Well, let us look at this phenomenon, and ask ourselves the big questions here from the angle of a Kel Tec owner who may be considering taking their pistol on the road.
What are CCW classes
In every state in the Union, finally, legal concealed carry of a weapon (CCW) is officially on the books. This trend has grown over the past 30-years and is now, at least in theory, possible from coast to coast. Each state of course, sets their own regs for issuing permits which range from Hawaii's nearly impossible to Vermont's constitutional carry law.
Likewise, the amounts of training required by the states vary. Some states do not require any training before getting a permit while others have a very specific requirement. For instance, Texas mandates 10-15 hours of classroom and range training including a written test and a live-fire course given by an approved firearms instructor. Whether it is a requirement in your state or not, odds are classes are being offered somewhere in your area code for these permits.
Why take one
As a step in being prepared, you need to realize that it's not just future scary contingencies you are planning for, but those of today. Currently over 8-million, Americans legally carry a concealed weapon. The thing is, simply strapping a gun on does not make you a gunfighter. There is a huge liability wrapped around the awesome responsibility involved with carrying a weapon. It's not to be done lightly. Each state has their own list of laws and subtle nuances that you may be unaware of.
For instance, holders of a concealed carry permit in Mississippi cannot enter into a private business that has a "no weapons" sign posted on their door, yet holders of an 'enhanced permit' are allowed to ignore this same sign. The price for both permits is the same; the enhanced one simply includes an 8-hour instructor certification. It's this type of information that can help you.
Should you ever be a part of a wrongful death lawsuit, or have to face questions as to whether or not you acted in accordance with state and federal laws in a justifiable homicide, do you really want to tell the other side's lawyer or a prosecutor while on the stand that you have no concealed carry training? Remember, while military training is great, as is police training, you really want to take a concealed carry course so someone does not accuse you of acting like a "soldier" or a "cop" in a situation where you were neither.
What to look for in a CCW instructor
You want an instructor who is, above all else, wise enough to know what they are talking about. The last thing you want is to get someone who is self-educated through first-person shooter games, Hollywood movies, and "things they read online."
In my area, there is a 22-year old CCW instructor who has no military or law enforcement training or background, and whose day job is working for a restaurant. On the weekends, he teaches, for a fee, "tactical" courses on a piece of wooded property he has access to. His online ads posted on Craigslist show multiple pictures of him decked out in airsoft camouflage and a TAPCO-enriched SKS. He has managed to garner an NRA Basic Pistol instructor certification and now offers 'Concealed Carry' classes.
Another instructor is a gentleman in his 50s who is a retired US Army military police sergeant who now teaches PE at a local middle school. At night, he is a certified reserve police officer with the city. He is an usher at his church and leads the armor bearer program there (an armed group of CCW holders who are members of the congregation in charge of church security). He also teaches 2-3 CCW classes to the public a month at a local shooting range as an NRA Basic Pistol Instructor. He doesn't have a flashy website, but teaches by word of mouth and a simple ad posted at the gun range on the bulletin board.
Yes, both are certified firearms instructors who charge roughly the same amount for their training, but which are you more inclined to learn from.
If possible, take both, as you will invariably take away something from each-- odds are on the things that matchup between both classes, they are likely to be the most important and trustworthy lessons. The things that are different require your own judgement.
Further, brush up on the requirements for these classes in your state and be sure to hold your instructor to them. Last month in Ohio, 170 concealed carry permit holders had their licenses invalidated after it became known that their instructor shorted them on their training and did not take them through the mandated live-fire portion. If you find that your instructor wants to cut corners, ask for a refund.
Ask around in the community and your local message boards about instructors. Perhaps call them and ask questions directly. If they are exceedingly foggy about experience or vague on their qualifications, keep looking.
In the end, whether it is a little, or a lot, all training helps.