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Choosing Your CCW Trainer

Updated: Jun 30

We commend you for taking the steps to obtain your CCW permit. Since this is a significant investment of your time and money, we want you to choose the best CCW training program. Hopefully, you will never find yourself in a violent encounter while carrying your pistol. However, if you do, it is undeniable that your performance will be directly related to your training. Improper training can lead to mistakes that can cost you your life, incarceration, financial loss, and more. It’s imperative that you choose wisely when it comes to your training provider.

(If you haven't applied for your CCW yet, click here for an overview of the process. It's easier than you think.)

Who is your Instructor?

Choosing the right instructor is the most important element in training. This is not always easy to do because some training vendors may not provide you enough information to make an informed decision. Before you register for a class, ensure you know who is teaching YOUR CLASS. It should be plainly listed on the website. Beware of the “About” page on the website which may list instructors with excellent pedigrees. This doesn’t mean one of them will be teaching your class - you may be disappointed about who actually shows up to teach you. Some companies will not identify an instructors by name, but only provide a vague statement that they have military and law enforcement backgrounds. Beware of vendors which will not identify the instructor for YOUR CLASS.


CCW instructors will generally list their certifications. As a consumer, you should know what the certification process entails. NRA-certified instructor classes are only 8-24 hours long. Once certified in a particular curriculum (i.e. CCW, Pistol, Rifle, etc.), the instructor will be certified indefinitely, unless he/she ceases paying the instructor dues.

In contrast, FBI-certified instructor courses are 80-hours long. FBI agents have to demonstrate high performance just to be selected to attend the instructor course. As they progress through the two weeks, they must show proficiency in shooting performance and safe handling of firearms. While employed, FBI instructors must repeat a recertification course every 3-5 years to maintain their instructor status.

California law enforcement officers have a different track; they can obtain POST Firearms Instructor certificates. These courses are 40-hours long.

The California Department of Justice (DOJ) certification is a paperwork exercise. It only entails passing a background investigation and forwarding an instructor certification from other agencies to the DOJ. There are no additional training or performance standards required for a DOJ certification.

As an example of the level of training of Paladin instructors, Dan is an FBI Firearms Instructor, a state of California DOJ-CCW, POST and BSIS Firearms Instructor, and an NRA-certified Instructor. He is also a Sig Sauer Academy Master Instructor in both pistol and rifle.

Training Experience

Experience matters more than a list of certifications. A freshly minted NRA certified instructor is not the same as a certified instructor with 20-30 years under his/her belt. Those with decades of experience have learned various methods to explain and demonstrate techniques to students. The certification process is only the beginning, regularly working with students is the key to excellence in teaching. We are constantly learning new training methods and updating our curriculum. Please choose an instructor dedicated to perfecting his craft. Avoid the weekend hobbyists who want to make a few bucks on the side.

Subject Matter Expertise

Dovetailing with experience, subject matter expertise is what makes one training program rise above others. For example, when it comes to the legalities of self-defense, from whom would you rather receive legal training: 1) a part-time instructor reading from a slide deck, or 2) a retired Deputy District Attorney with 30 years of prosecutorial experience who specialized in “use of force” cases. Paladin actually offers choice #2, with Barry Grove providing lectures on the legalities of self-defense..

Members of our training cadre continue to actively train top-tier law enforcement tactical teams when not teaching your CCW/Firearms courses. Seek those with “real-world” expertise, not just instructors who can “check the box.”


For beginning CCW courses, you will find that most companies have similar curriculums listed on their websites. This is due to the state legislature issuing broad guidelines for CCW training. However, the details of the curriculum are what separate the good trainers from the bad. Unfortunately, you won’t know what you’re getting until you’re sitting in class. We've seen presenters just read off of the “cookie-cutter” slides provided by the NRA, the USCCA or other training organizations. At Paladin, we’ve created our own presentations which are constantly evolving as new information is developed. We cover more than the state requirements; we will provide practical knowledge to help you pick the best equipment, as well as understand how to deal with violent encounters.


"You get what you pay for.” The cliche is true when it comes to CCW training. Choosing experienced instructors will cost more. You are not just paying for their time in that 8-hour class, but for the decades of accrual of knowledge. Budget rate classes will not have a 30-year prosecutor teach you about self-defense laws; it will be that part-time guy reading off of the slide deck. Saving that $100 may not work out for you in the end if you wind up making bad decisions based on faulty information. Poor decision-making can cost you a lot more than $100.


We understand busy Bay Area roads make travel difficult, but be careful to not fall into the convenience trap. Many are choosing their trainer based on travel times rather than competence. People who are dedicated to improving themselves will travel throughout the United States or across the globe to get the best training. Will you not travel an extra few minutes to get the right CCW provider? Centrally located in Concord and Novato, Paladin classes are less than an hour away throughout the Bay Area. See the travel times between the USI range and various cities below:

Further training

The 16-hour initial course or the 8-hour renewal course should only be the beginning of your firearms/self-defense training. Paladin offers more than 10 firearms-related courses so that you can continue to build up competence and confidence in your skills. In addition to the CCW curriculum, we have the Vehicle Counter-Ambush Tactics (VCAT) series and carbine classes for advanced study. Why just “check the box” every two years when you can go well beyond with Paladin.

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