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NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch appears in promotional material for the group's new Carry Guard program. [NRA]

National Rifle Association

The NRA’s New ‘Carry Guard’ Program Has Some Certified Trainers Seeing Red

They worry that the hard-core regimen for self-defense shooters leaves them behind — and could put members at risk.

Carry Guard is the National Rifle Association’s new product for handgunners who want to be ultra-prepared should the need to shoot someone ever arise. It has been a source of speculation and controversy within the gun world ever since its debut this spring, when the NRA, clearing a path for the offering, cancelled the vendor permits of two existing competitors just days prior to its annual convention in Atlanta.

Four months later, Carry Guard has become a particularly sore subject among NRA-certified firearms instructors, one of the group’s most valued constituencies. That backlash is now spilling into public view.

At the heart of Carry Guard is an unorthodox insurance product that covers legal costs of subscribers who shoot others while claiming self-defense. An ad promoting the product says, “You should never be forced to choose between defending your life…and putting yourself and your family in financial ruin.”

The program also includes a training initiative, and it’s this second component that is provoking concerns among instructors and gun bloggers.

The NRA has not yet released the curriculum that Carry Guard instructors will follow. But the tone of its marketing — which references “today’s evolving conflict environment” — and its implications regarding the insufficiency or inferiority of existing gun courses has some trainers stepping forward to voice outrage.

The Carry Guard website launched in May with just four instructors listed as associated with the new program. Each of them are U.S. Special Forces veterans, who bring a battlefield skillset, and mindset, in sharp contrast with most of the 125,000 civilian instructors who have been teaching the NRA’s basic gun course around the country.

“Do I really need military training?” Kevin Creighton, a gun marketer who blogs at misfiresandlightstrikes.com asked. “What does suiting up and kicking in doors with an M4 in my hands have to do with me keeping my family safe at home?”

On Friday, an NRA-certified instructor from New Hampshire named Robert Boilard asked a similar question, if less politely.

On his site, Defensivestrategies.org, he tore into the NRA for teaching an approach that could land both Carry Guard pupils and the group itself in trouble.

Military training is offensive in nature but in the civilian world it is defensive training. Military and law enforcement are trained to run to gun fire while civilians should be going the other way. Civilians using military tactics will get you in trouble really fast with the law, if not dead.

To Boilard, it also seemed that the NRA was being blind to the public relations headaches it was creating — not just for itself, but for the whole concealed-carry industry.

Think of the way it looks to the public that now the “NRA is using Navy Seals to teach civilians on how to kill people.” This is how the headlines are going to read once the anti-gunners figure it out, and they will. This is truly not the image that NRA wants to portray for the average homeowner or concealed carrier that simply wants to protect himself and his family.

Finally, Boilard took strong issue with a boast the NRA had made about Carry Guard, which it has billed as the “ONLY Firearms Carry Program developed and supported by the National Rifle Association.”

Boilard read the line as an affront to his credentials and an attack on his business.

With that single post NRA immediately negated every one of the 125,000 NRA trainers (Instructors, Training Counselors & Coaches) out there and the entire NRA Training & Education Department including its advanced pistol and personal protection outside the home courses…It’s like none of us exists!

Other NRA-certified instructors have also wondered where Carry Guard leaves them.

In June, an Illinois instructor and gun activist named John Boch used an editorial on the popular site Thetruthaboutguns.com to take the NRA to task for promoting Carry Guard as “the best carry firearms training on the planet.” Boch felt there was no basis for a fair comparison between Carry Guard’s commando-esque focus and the kind of course that trainers have been leading everyday gun owners through.

Civilian classes, Boch argued, have nothing to do with teaching students how to “hunt the Crips or the Taliban.” He added: “We teach civilians the strategies and skills, including firearms proficiency, to avoid victimization in their daily lives.”

Boilard, in his missive, sought to place responsibility for Carry Guard on Josh Powell, an NRA executive who took over as the group’s Director of General Operations in January. Powell, the NRA’s third highest-ranking official, replaced Kyle Weaver, a 21-year NRA veteran who, as The Trace previously reported, was quietly and unceremoniously fired in October.  

Weaver, who was said to be well-liked within the organization, had made a point of counterbalancing his employer’s more incendiary aspects, sounding variations on the message that “everyone knows we also have something for everyone” at the NRA.