The Need For Tactical Trainer Professional Organizations

Over the weekend, I shared a press release announcing the formation of the Firearms Trainers Association. The comments on that post here on SSD were as much questions about the program as complaints about its creation. However, on Facebook I saw a great deal of pushback.

Much of it was based on the personalities involved. Some, because the program hasn’t been fully disclosed. There were lots of concerns over the cost of the program as well as the idea that it was mandatory. I saw several people worried about the scope, pointing out that tactical firearms training is different than other types. Still others felt that it wasn’t needed, preferring the current situation. Then, there were those who opposed it, simply because it is.

Regardless of the organization, this is a good concept. Almost a decade ago, I sat down with Grey Group and suggested the creation of a trainer’s organization, offering certification and standardization. At the time, I mentioned that the training industry would soon grow drastically and along with that would come an increase in questionable training. It did, and then some.

S&S Plate Frame

Why Organize?

I believe in the voluntary professionalization of all pursuits, especially this one. I also believe, that in addition to the right to bear arms, we have a right to learn how to use them safely and effectively, even though it is not an enumerated right.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few trainers putting out bad info or are underqualified. Some are just downright unsafe. On the plus side, there are men and women who are excellent, professional tactical firearms trainers. They should be able to work together for self improvement as well as protection in the form of advocacy and insurance and to let customers know they meet a certain standard.

Multiple Organizations

I fully suspect that there will be multiple organizations created before the field shrinks to just a few. Primary & Secondary has been trying to get something going; cost free. Others will form groups of friends. Some will create very specialized organizations. Over time, some will rise to the top, others will combine, and some will fade away. Those who survive will do so by gaining the confidence of trainers and students alike. Eventually, there will be one or more effective professional organizations for tactical firearms trainers.


As I mentioned earlier, there is bad stuff being being put out by some firearms trainers. The industry needs to adopt a set of standards. It also needs to offer certifications based on those standards.


One thing I want to see in such an organization is advocacy. Earlier, I posed the idea that we have a right to learn how to use our firearms. That right must be protected as much as the firearms themselves.

I mentioned on Facebook that organized groups with standards for its members serve as a hedge against government regulation. Those regulations and the laws they are derived from originate at all levels of government. I was called paranoid because I mentioned this, with several people telling me the government would never try to regulate firearms training. My counter to this argument was the myriad gun laws already on the books as well as a slew of proposed regulation currently under debate around the nation. It’s only a matter of time before training comes to their attention. Best to organize now.

Acknowledging the American spirit of the rugged individualist, I understand that many instructors are wary of adopting a standard set by others. They will be concerned that it will stifle innovation. That’s why it’s so important for a trainer to find a group which advocates a similar mindset and let his voice be heard. It’s much easier to get in on the ground floor and participate in a voluntary endeavor than to later have to conform to a set of regulations imposed by others.

I also expect to see a true professional organization go to bat for the group’s members and interests. They need to be prepared to speak on behalf of their members to public and private interests and work to keep the industry free from government influence.

Once again, I am a fan of voluntary participation in groups which will improve a pursuit, such as tactical firearms training. The point here is to avoid mandatory requirements set later, by someone outside the industry.

That advocacy can also be used to enrich instructors through clinics and coaching, on the training as well as business sides. Some will think it’s horrible, but this is a business for many, no matter how passionate they are about the subject. It’s how they feed their families. While instructors generally get into it due to passion, they are rarely trained to run small businesses. Such an organization can provide mentorship for its members.


A professional organization could vet, or verify, the backgrounds of instructors, preventing ‘stolen valor’ incidents and other false claims. It could also serve as a clearing house for student feedback of instructors. This could be used for customer advocacy as well as mentorship of instructors.

Likewise, the organization could vet students on behalf of the instructors, helping to prevent a trainer from inadvertently training a prohibited person.

Perhaps, a whole slew of compliance services, like ITAR support could be available as well.


Not all trainers are full-time nor do they all have the same backgrounds. A professional trainer’s organization must be able to certify those with different backgrounds and offer something for all of them.


Another advantage is for the student. He can identify a ‘seal of approval’ which informs him the trainer will teach to a standard. It will also hold him as a student to a common standard which is great for instructors to understand the student’s level of performance. For example, a student wants to take an advanced course but did not learn everything he needed in a basic course from another instructor. All too often, the instructor must spend extra time with the student to get him up to speed with the rest of the class. A common framework alleviates such problems.

Membership Fees

I belong to several organizations and they all require a membership fee. There’s nothing shocking about that. Some groups offer more than others and comsequently, cost more to join. Effective organizations cost money to run. But, the value of membership has to be there.

If insurance is available with a program of this scope, even better. In fact, that’s a great reason to join. Maybe, the primary reason.

To Join Or Not Join? That Is The Question

Join a group or start a group, but if you don’t participate on some level, you won’t have a voice. Shaking your fist in the air on Facebook isn’t going to influence the situation.

I Support The Concept

I am not endorsing the Firearms Trainers Association, or any other group at this point. I am however, endorsing the concept. Let’s watch it grow. It will be beneficial to students and instructors alike. Better trainers and better students make for stronger support for the Second Amendment.

42 Responses to “The Need For Tactical Trainer Professional Organizations”

  1. Gator Harvey says:

    Spot on article from Soldier Systems- concept is needed but the execution is far from being correct. Any LAV led effort is under scrutiny at this point post Alias debacle. The others; Hackathorn, Gonzales, Spaulding do have impressive resumes but are almost irrelevant in the present .gov or .mil market. No mention or association from FTA of the largest firearms training companies in the industry (by student numbers and gov contracts, both of which are vettable); Viking Tactics (I think we all know why on this one), Defoor Proformance or Northern Red. For FTA to be successful they will need to be a representation of the complete training industry and without Lamb, Defoor and Potynsky this effort is another Training.

    • Jake says:

      “Viking tactics (I thought no we all know why on this one)”

      For those of us who don’t know, can you expound on this statement? Not trying to start a fight or anything but that’s the only part of your response that didn’t totally make sense.

    • Mike says:

      Very true about the LAV crew you mentioned being a debacle and controversial. Along with VTac, Defoor, Northern Red, there are other more relevant with less “attitude” towards the community, like SOB, Green Eyes Tactical, Evergreen, Sage Dynamics, Presscheck, etc that don’t suffer from nepotism.

    • Joe says:

      I think we’ll see next to no response from the above. When your civilian open enrollment classes sell out 18months in advance who cares what someone else thinks of you?

    • SSD says:

      AFT is not another version of M4C or Alias.

      Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who can’t get along so they are fixated on the guy that made them feel bad. But that’s okay, just set up your own group. Encourage your trainers of choice to create a system of standards. Helping each other out with insurance and some of the other ideas I discuss in this article would be great too. Then, hope they didn’t upset a bunch of other people who fixate on them rather than the positives.

  2. JP says:

    I would posit that the .mil/.gov market would be a much smaller, focused segment than the private sector. I disagree with the relevance/irrelavance of the instructors. I know Dave Spaulding spends a metric ton of his year traveling from course to course, and is one of the best pistol instructors I’ve worked with, and recommend his courses to anyone looking to work on their skill set or fundamentals.
    I am curious to see how all this shakes out with regards to the rest of the industry and other instructors or companies. I can’t really disagree with anything SSD has said, but there were some great comments and concerns raised in the first article.
    Out of curiosity, can you elaborate on what happened with the above issues with other instructors or companies?

  3. John Canuck says:

    This is definitely needed – as long as there’s proper vetting, and not a mere “pay to get your membership and you’re in!” kinda thing.

  4. Buckaroomedic says:

    I think some sort of professional training organization is crucial in this day and age. Personally, I feel that Vickers, et al, are the “founding fathers” of this field and should be the impetus to get organized. Let the “newer” instructors” come and participate. The saying; “build it and they will come” will happen.

    The same thing happened years ago the EMS field. All the states and territories had different certification levels and standards. It was difficult to move from state to state. Then the private National Registry of EMTs got started, standardized the levels of training and offered actual low-cost certification. Very quickly most states adopted these standards. It is now very easy to work in different states with the standardized certifications. On the plus side; most states that have adopted these standards utilize them as their state standards and has ended up saving the states money and manpower.

    This private model of firearms training and safety could very well set the standard for the states to follow. This, as mentioned by SSD, will let us set standards and not some bureaucrat or even worse some politician!

  5. JM Gavin says:

    I concur that the concept is good. I also think it is probably too late for the concept to actually take hold and function in any meaningful form. The tactical training market (or whatever it is called) is now so large, and social media so prevalent, this will be a serious uphill battle.

  6. Mike Moore says:

    Thank goodness that those douchebags from Primary & Secondary like Matt Landfair, Aaron Cowan, Steve Fisher, Chuck Pressburg, Scott Jedlinski, Bill Blowers et. al. are not involved, oh that’s right they are just FB/IG social media instructors anyway, no real substance to what they do.

    • Joe_momma says:

      Futurama Fry: Not sure if serious

      • Mike Moore says:

        Yes, Joe_momma I’m serious. Those guys are a bunch of douchebags, they got their own little clique of followers who don’t know what they don’t know.

        • Moore Mike says:

          You’ll feel better when you just tell everyone how the internet hurt your feelings. Go on, tell us what you said and why they said you were wrong.

          • Mike says:

            You’re the one with the hurt feelings. Where were YOU touched?

            • Mike Moore says:

              Lookie here, Matt “Prime” Landfair’s fanboys coming to his rescue. How cute, show me where the internet hurt you. Funny how none of you fill any classes, your favorite words are “canceled” and “rescheduled.”

              Typical of you to bring your little posse of douchebags to attack, and hiding behind a fake screen name as well. Poor douchebags, go see if Mommy will make it all better for you.

              • Mike says:

                You have some serious issues and are completely wrong, but I’m sure you’ve been told this your entire life.

              • Moore Mike says:

                So nothing specifically that you disagree with, you just think they’re douche bags? Come on, Mike. What is your actual beef? You sign up for a class and it got canceled and you didn’t get refunded or something?

    • Russell Haynes says:

      Have you taken a course from any of the instructors you mentioned? Cowan, Fisher, Pressburg, Jedlinski, and Blowers all have training companies and offer courses year round, around the country. If you haven’t taken one from them, and are just basing your statement on your opinion of them via the social media you mentioned, you’re wrong. They all have extensive and knowledgeable backgrounds that have “real substance”, and I will have trained with all but Fisher and Pressberg by the beginning of the summer. Something something “your lane” something something…

    • SSD says:

      I’m not a fan of throwing rocks at people without specifics. There are some great guys working together over there and some outstanding capability. Generally, the issue is with personalities. I understand some people won’t get along. I think that’s okay because the market is a big place. Like I’ve said elsewhere, find an organization you like, work with them.

    • Joe says:

      Go home Mike, your drunk.

  7. Darkhorse says:

    I see a few issues with some of the concepts you mention.

    Some examples-

    “Student feedback”- I know of multiple individuals who have run down some of the above mentioned instructors and concepts they teach. The individuals who were being trained are nobodies that never served in any capacity and frankly, don’t know what the hell their talking about.

    “Standards”- What’s completely acceptable to one instructor might be a safety violation to another. Navy high ready (as an example) might be fine for Kyle DeFoor but not ok for JD Potynsky.

    “Students”- I believe this is the crux of the problem. It seems reasonable to me that if an instructor is rated to teach X curriculum, then the students would have to be rated themselves. Does every student get a certificate? How does the organization judge success? Are there course requirements and graded exercises that the STUDENTS must pass?

    If I’m a swat guy and my department sends me to train with X, does my department consider me trained at that task just because I attended the course? I’m not sure how this works currently but I can see an issue with that if that’s how it does work.

    If I take a few buddies out on the weekend and show them some stuff, am I a trainer? Would I get in trouble for “training” people without all of the accreditation?

    I’m all for weeding out the bad apples, don’t get me wrong. But I think having businesses rate other businesses is a bad thing. If the board of advisors were all retired and not gaining any income from their profession, it might be more palatable. As is, it’s like Ford, Chevy, and Toyota rating/judging/certifying Porsche, Dodge, and GM.

    • SSD says:

      That’s an interesting idea. On the other side of that coin we’ve got guys who are concerned such graybeards would be out of touch.

      • Darkhorse says:

        I think one has to differentiate tactics/concepts that are being taught from who’s safe, who’s experienced, who’s got a great reputation of being able to teach, which group is teaching at the .mil/federal/state level etc. Tactics vary depending on who the instructor is and what that instructors background is. I would propose (as a former Unit guy with as many years in as Larry) that there is only ONE way to do CQB (as an example). But I am smart enough to understand that teaching a rural police dept a simplified version of the CQB I practiced and conducted on hundreds of real world targets is probably the best approach.

        In the firearms instruction industry, fads come and go as does equipment. I can foresee some bleedover from WHO the founders endorse to what EQUIPMENT they endorse as reliable, safe, etc. That’s an issue as many and probably ALL of the founders have endorsements with whatever brands. Again, why I propose they retire from their field and be non partisan. They could probably be a great resource in that regard but if they’re being paid by or endorsed by a brand, that creates a conflict of interest.

        I learned more from Rob Leatham (a non combat veteran) about shooting than ANY other instructor I’ve had over the years. I did learn something from everyone I had the pleasure of training with and would take away something from everyone.

  8. I was completely unaware of the scope (and outright hazards) of the commercial tactical-entertainment training industry until the mid 2010’s when I left the military. Since then I’ve been a proponent of an idea such as a FTA. However, more recently, I’ve acknowledged that it will only happen after some massive hurdles are cleared.??

    The liberalism (not political Liberal) of free markets ensure that people vote with their wallets. It’s not that consumers are not concerned with legitimacy, it’s that the current state of the commercial industry has equipped them with evaluation tools that place a premium on emotion. Consequently, legitimacy is subjective, and completely left up to how a company or individual’s marketing makes you feel about their services.

    ??Second, the ability to evaluate quality training is only a skill learned after years of professional experience (most importantly failures) and the participation in both good and bad training. As a result, those equipped with proper evaluation tools will always be a smaller pool than those without. Contemporarily we see this in individuals (both professionals and civilians) that are overwhelmed by the excitement of doing something “cool” that it completely erodes their objective reasoning.

    For these individuals, “cool” training is an outlet for their ambition, which they feel is otherwise not satisfied by their day-to-day job. This results in the proliferation of outright bad material. Not because individuals acknowledge they are trafficking in flimsy methodology, but because they had so much “fun” doing so in the process. Once positive emotion is attached to an event, it can be very hard to challenge its validity otherwise.

    Third, the phenomena of the hyper-empowered individual created by social media has been both good and bad. Good in that the monopoly once possessed by retired SGM’s or SWAT cops has been broken up to allow for new voices in the tactical training community. This increased competition and forced out individuals that albeit might be good guys, but were practically loitering into sales due to lack of an available talent pool.

    However, on the down side, the hyper-empowerment of social media has also facilitated the much larger and complete destabilization of credentialing. Consumers do not care about your background, they care about how you make them feel. There are plenty of outright “never-weres” or individuals that obtained the least credentials necessary to be considered an employee of the state, who enjoy fan fare from an audience that doesn’t care about fraud.??

    Because of the above circumstances, the much larger collective hurdle the FTA—or equivalent body—will need to clear is its own relevancy. A poorly selected group of cadre will push away otherwise legitimate individuals. This forces a type of leadership on the tactical community that has yet to be enforced in that an individual, although he might be a nice guy or gal, will need to be told they do not meet the standard regardless of their prior body of work and personal relationships.

    The absence of doing so ensures that the FTA will never be relevant outside of its own members, and will devolve into a group troubled by treehouse politics and masked cronyism.

    • Misplaced question marks are my fault from copy/paste formatting.

    • Arrow 4 says:

      Aaron, I’ve never met you, but after reading your post, I’m ready to vote you King for the day….that’s meant as a compliment. For the last 6 years I have restricted my courses to LE/Mil with very few exceptions for retired guys I personally know. This will be interesting to watch. Your post made me think of the Better Business Bureau, I think the only time people search their sight for ratings/complaints on a business is after they have selected a company based on their name and how the website looks. Then when things go bad, they check the BBB website.

  9. AJ says:

    A vetting organization helmed and chaired by a wider spectrum of industry professionals and not just but a chosen few can and will benefit the community. Nuff said by Aaron ! Skills , content , ability , achievements, can never be monopolized by any one cabal . The newer generation of instructors out there mostly have been forged in fire during high tempo operational deployments and now seek to impart lessons learned and skill sets to their brothers in arms and the responsible armed citizenry.

  10. Kit Badger says:

    Well written SSD. I’m totally with you on the market deciding. I think people are getting wrapped up on the idea of FTA being “it” rather than one contender in the ring.

    The concept has in part already been done with people like Panteao Productions. They aren’t putting videos of random people out, they in turn have created their own vetting of sorts…

    The market will settle it and the more groups that enter into the arena the better.

    • SSD says:

      I understand your thinking but Panteao isn’t this. It hasn’t established standards or created credentials.

  11. Joe_momma says:

    Alias 2.0?

  12. Russell Haynes says:

    I agree with most points, but the student/instructor members of any such organization will decide how relevant (or not relevant) the organization becomes. If you have a bunch of fudds espousing the superiority of the 1911 because they have done so well with a $4k model in competition for the last 2 decades and another telling the masses that AIWB is not allowed in any training accredited by said organization will turn away a lot of the “new age” dollars that comes along with innovation and evolution of the industry as a whole. What a moon rock of an idea, though.

  13. SSD says:

    I don’t see this article is a place to talk smack about one trainer or another. Some of you guys look at this as a firearms version of Wrestlemania. I think there is a lot of myopia because of this fixation on trainers which keeps folks from considering the possibilities of the professionalization of tactical firearms training.

  14. Joe says:

    The founding fathers were fans of this concept, except it was called the militia. Unfortunately today when we hear the term militia, everyone thinks of a bunch of cousin loving, backwoods, mullet sporting, SKS toting Jim Bob Cletus’s. It’s time to make Militias great again. Monthly shoots, courses, Appleseed type events designed to educate and initiate newer members, all members would have to swear or affirm allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, a set of rules, and meet basic standards, as well as contribute something, money, ammo, land use for said training. There would be standardized equipment similar to how the Militia act of 1792 required Militiamen to maintain certain types of Arms and quantities of ammo. Make it a national thing instead of a regional thing. Then lobby at the state level to have infringing laws overturned. If the National Modern Day Militia requires it’s members to maintain an AR15, 7 Loaded 30 round magazine’s, 1000 rounds of additional ammunition in caliber 5.56 mm, a Glock 9 mm handgun with five loaded standard capacity magazines and 500 rounds of additional ammunition at all times it would be tough for Maryland, Connecticut, California, or Colorado to restrict its citizens from doing so.

  15. nodoginthefight says:

    Cool concept, only two problems I see would be:

    1. The customers, who are the volume of the enterprise, wont know the accreditation program exists. It would be hard to get the info out to anyone not reading Recoil or stuck on YouTube fanboys.

    2. As soon as Tactical Response gets a accreditation above a Level 1, a significant portion of other Instructors will blow it off as a silly idea.

    Just a thought

  16. bloke_from_ohio says:

    My comments are not meant as a specific criticism of any trainer interested in the idea in particular but, but this has the potential for cronyism and abuse written all over it. It may take a few “generations” of trainers to get there, but as soon as any organization like this gets large enough to exclude those who disagree with them, they will. Sometime after that, the organization will start using their influence within the market to crowd out competitors. Eventually if the group is able to get any kind of political favor, you will see it use the force of government against their competitors. The gun culture is as tribal as any. I just don’t see it going well. I could be wrong, and for the sake of the industry and armed Americans, I hope I am.

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