DARKE COUNTY — Ohioans getting their concealed carry weapon (CCW) license in 2016 appear likely to spend more time at a computer than at a shooting range, at least initially.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) announced earlier in 2015 that it will be moving to a “blended learning” certification system to teach the NRA’s Basic Pistol Course nationwide. The organization expects the new e-learning class to be fully ready within the first quarter of the year.
Under the new setup, students will do the majority of their work online. After successful completion of the online course, would-be licensees will schedule the remainder of the course, including firearm handling and operation, with a live instructor.
Topics covered by the online course include “Gun Safety Rules,” “Types of Pistols,” “Proper Operation of Revolvers and Semi-Automatic Pistols” and “The Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting,” among many other lessons.
The NRA says that “students will be required to complete a quiz at the end in order to move on to the next section. Once students have successfully completed the e-learning portion of the course, they must enroll in the instructor-led training (ILT) portion and demonstrate their knowledge to a certified NRA Instructor to complete their certification.”
As of March 2015, Ohio lessened the overall CCW training time from 12 to eight hours. The NRA’s online course is expected to cover five to six hours of that time, with the remainder of the eight hours dedicated to live instruction by an NRA certified instructor, before the student can apply for his or her license. Other states’ time requirements vary.
NRA Director of Marketing/Media Relations Jeremy Greene says the online course will give students a larger window in which to learn, as opposed to sitting through hours of classroom instruction compacted into one or two days’ time.
“We’re trying to provide the best course for students who may have a busy schedule to complete the course on their own time,” he said.
Greene added, “With blended learning, students can also refer back to [the online course materials].”
According to NRA-certified instructor Tom McHale, writing on Outdoorhub.com, “This course will still include printed materials, and the “NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting” book will be mailed to the student when they register for the online class.”
“Once the student completes the online portion of the class,” McHale added, “they will receive a code and instructions which will enable them to schedule the live portion of the class at a mutually agreeable time with one of 125,000 NRA Certified Instructors. After meeting the student and completing the range portion of the class, the instructor can make a final evaluation as to whether the student has successfully earned a certificate of completion for that specific course.”
Some concealed carry instructors, however, appear to have misgivings regarding the new initiative.
Jerry Baker, a CCW instructor in Miami County, Ohio, expressed his concerns with blended learning.
“I honestly think it will mean that people will be learning less than they would had they taken a ‘hands-on’ type course,” he said. “It concerns me that people might have someone other than themselves do the online portion of the class for them, too.”
An instructor posting on a forum at buckeyefirearms.org stated, “My partner and I have discussed it and will not be moving to this format for our Ohio [Concealed Handgun License] classes. We believe the student – instructor and student – student interaction in a classroom setting is invaluable. The hands-on materials we use [and] the and one-on-one instruction we provide simply cannot be replicated in an online format. Plus, we go beyond the NRA Basic Pistol curriculum and exceed Ohio’s requirements by covering practical and legal aspects of carrying. Adding a couple of hours to the NRA class while you already have the students in the classroom is one thing, tacking it onto the range time is something else entirely.”
Another wrote, “I don’t think that you can replace the face-to-face interaction between student and instructor. While the online blended format might provide the same information, in my opinion, I don’t think that you can ascertain that your student has integrated the information that they’ve read online, even if they are tested.”
Some instructors have noted that the NRA isn’t the only nationally recognized firearms training organization and said they may seek certification through other groups, such as the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.
The NRA still has not announced the cost of its online course, although some speculate it will be $100 or even more based on the cost of other courses offered by the association. Instructors will be free to establish their own fees for a student’s remaining training time.
As for the cost of the CCW license itself, the state of Ohio currently charges $67 for the first license for Ohioans with five or more years of residency, and $91 for those with less than five years living in the state. License renewal fees are $50 and $74, respectively.