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NRA Carry Guard: 21st Century Training

NRA Carry Guard: 21st Century Training

This feature appears in the June ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.  

The National Rifle Association introduced its new NRA Carry Guard program at April’s NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits. To learn more about the program, we sat down with Lt. Cmdr. George Severence, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and national director of NRA Carry Guard.

America’s 1st Freedom: Thanks for taking time out to give us a look at where NRA Training is headed. How did you get yourself on this particular hot seat?

George Severence: I expect the origins aren’t that different from many others who choose to wear our country’s uniform: Family tradition. My grandfather was a Marine aviator in World War II, killed in May of 1945 off Okinawa.

I grew up in a family where shooting well and safely was a priority. When I got to college, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with a professor who was a Ph.D. student in criminal justice and former Special Forces soldier (Project Delta in Vietnam). He gave me a solid foundation in both the mechanical skills of shooting proficiently as well as the lessons he and his teammates learned in blood in the jungles of southeast Asia. As soon as I turned 21, I qualified for a concealed-carry permit. Soon after college, I pursued my dream of becoming a Navy SEAL. My background in tactical shooting provided me with a solid foundation on which to build.

A1F: In light of the recent hoopla around “Blended Training” (combined online and in-person), what will be the variations from the established curricula?

GS: There’s still a solid place for much of the NRA’s current training, but NRA Carry Guard acknowledges that the conflict space continues to evolve. Our training needs to evolve, too, and meet the demands of that changing environment

I think it was Jeff Cooper who suggested the most likely engagement distance was “the length of a pick-up truck.” And when he said it, he was correct. Assailants were most likely to be small in number, their intent being assault and/or robbery. But the conflict space has changed to the point where our responsibilities and training as armed citizens must change as well. We want to provide citizens with the skills necessary to responsibly carry a concealed weapon for self-defense, defense of family and defense of innocent third parties in a new and arguably more dangerous environment.

A1F: Would you elaborate there?

GS: Sure. Legal considerations are extremely important. Castle Doctrine and “Stand Your Ground” laws have ramifications that may seem easy to understand on the surface but can get exceedingly complex under the stress of a lethal force engagement. Shooting needs to be a last resort. Just because one can exercise lethal force does not necessarily mean one should. In the aftermath of an encounter, you will be held accountable to the law, which is not necessarily the same thing as justice. Legal is about procedure. Justice is about substance. This is where judgment comes into play.

NRA Carry Guard acknowledges that the conflict space continues to evolve. Our training needs to evolve, too.Situational awareness, avoidance and de-escalation are skills that will be emphasized in our courses. When there is no other option than a firearm to stop a threat, we want our students to know their levels of competency and proficiency as well as their limitations.

Naturally, this has some implications not only about what we’ll teach, but how we’ll teach it. We are very fortunate to have serious students of the gun involved in vetting our content. We did not want to plan in a bubble. Our goal was to provide the gold standard in CCW training, and we therefore welcomed the evaluations and critiques of industry leaders with law enforcement and military backgrounds, as well as citizens with varying life experiences.

This is also training that will continue to evolve. Just as adapting to the enemy on the battlefield was and continues to be an important component of successful military operations, we do not want to stagnate. We’ll continue to study and evolve our programs to incorporate case studies and best practices.

A1F: That sounds like it’s going to get well beyond the traditional classroom and “x shots in y seconds at z yards.”

GS: Definitely. There will be pre-course work that lays out the intellectual foundation for taking on the responsibility of carrying a concealed weapon. A module titled “Lethal Force: Rights and Responsibilities” will cover this in detail. Level I will combine live fire with classwork on other concealed-carry considerations, including suspect control, low-light live fire, and Airsoft scenario, judgment-based training.

If people choose to “off-ramp” after Level I, they will understand the limits of their skills as well as their obligations before the law. Their evaluations will come from a precise scoring system, too; a student will know if they passed with a 97.5 percent, or if they squeaked by with a 75. As in life, not everyone gets a trophy. Students will get honest, constructive feedback so they are aware of their limitations and have a clear understanding of what they need to do in order to improve.

A1F: This anticipates a Level II and beyond?

Our goal was to provide the gold standard in CCW training and we therefore welcomed the evaluations and critiques of industry leaders with law enforcement and military backgrounds, as well as citizens with varying life experiences.GS: A “pass” at Level I will prepare a student to move on to a future Level II, yes. Here, the manipulations will get more demanding, as will the scenarios—longer shots, as well as what to do when opposing long guns and other asymmetrical factors. We’ll be trying to expand the range of decision-making tools people have, and also how to make that correct call in compressed timeframes.

Again, the goal is to give students the tools to more effectively meet the demands of that evolving conflict space. 

Any other levels will follow suit. Students will continue to build all their skills while being tested on their time/distance courses of fire and suspect control, and through more complex scenario-based training.

There’s one other point that it is worthwhile to make, or perhaps reiterate. While we’re being careful not to create any confusion or problematic expectations, it is important for NRA members and potential students to understand that NRA Carry Guard will have cross-endorsement by other training organizations both inside and outside the NRA. We won’t be doing rifle, shotgun, combatives or vehicle training as part of our curriculum, but we’re in no way opposed to them—in fact, quite the opposite. Cross-endorsed partners will be vetted carefully, and when their standards meet ours (and vice versa), we’ll encourage our students to seek out those instructors and schools as they continue their training and evolution both as shooters and responsible citizens.

We do, however, think our curriculum will be an unparalleled place to start.