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NRA Online Training Review: Basic Pistol

Not sure if NRA's Basic Pistol online training is for you? I took it recently and review the curriculum, teaching methods, and testing procedures.

Not sure if NRA’s Basic Pistol online training course is right for you?

NRA Basics of Pistol
NRA Basics of Pistol

I took it as a prerequisite to getting my NRA teaching certification and I’ll cover what I think of the curriculum, teaching methods, and testing procedures.

By the end you’ll have the best idea if it’s the best way for you to learn about firearms.

What is NRA’s Basic Pistol?

Basic Pistol started in 2015 as NRA’s attempt at “blended learning.”

This is where students would take a standardized online portion taught by awesome instructors, before meeting up with a local NRA Instructor for live-fire range practice.

Blended Learning
Blended Learning

Before, there was only the option to meet face-to-face with instructors who would run through both the materials and range shooting.

Great idea and lots of progress has been made in the math/science aspect.

So how did NRA’s version do?

Fast forward to the end of 2016…and they dumped it.

It was due to a variety of factors, but some gripes I’ve read were:

  • The $60 course fee went directly to the NRA, so instructors couldn’t charge full price anymore (since they were teaching half a course)
  • Students would show up to the live section without having completed the online segment
  • Some things need to be held in hand, and instructors wanted to see in the students’ eyes if they were understanding

So it didn’t survive the real world logistics…but how was the course?


The course runs about 7-8 hours of videos and quizzes.

And I’ll admit…there were a couple things that even I didn’t know.  All in all…super comprehensive fact-wise.

It went over all the basics and safety was a big component which I liked.

NRA Curriculum, Part 1
NRA Curriculum, Part 1

And even more important things such as shooting errors and stoppages.

NRA Curriculum, Part 2
NRA Curriculum, Part 2

I did find it lacking in the selecting pistols arena since I’m guessing they didn’t want to specifically recommend anything.

I know when I was a beginner…I wanted someone to tell me exactly what to get (or at least a couple choices…like in our Best Handgun for Beginners).

So the curriculum was super in-depth…how about the actual teaching?


There was a mixture of slides, pictures, animations, and live action.

NRA Basic Pistol Screencap
NRA Basic Pistol, Picture

I’d say the majority of it was slides and pictures.  And most of the live action wasn’t super necessary:

NRA Basic Pistol, Screencap
NRA Basic Pistol, Live Action

But some did help such as actual firing:

Trigger Control, NRA Basic Pistol
Trigger Control, NRA Basic Pistol

Was it boring?  

It wasn’t super boring since I love the material…but it wasn’t super engaging either.

The best word I have is “clinical.”  It would have helped with personal anecdotes or jokes that I hope a real instructor would incorporate.

I got tired about 40 minutes in each time and really had to spread it out.

And the quizzes…don’t get me started about the quizzes!

Basic Pistol Testing
Basic Pistol Testing

For the most part they were good…but some were just…I dunno…look above!

The most annoying part was that there were several questions.  If you answered one wrong…you would still continue through all questions.

But you had to get 100%.

So guess what…you’d have to take the entire quiz again.

There were definitely bouts of frustration when I reached questions that were super detailed about things that in my opinion, do not matter.


Everything felt a little old…if you told me it was started in 2009…I’d be ok with it.

But for instance…you couldn’t move onto other chapters without returning to the main menu.

Basic Pistol, Return to Course Menu
Basic Pistol, Return to Course Menu

If you’re on a phone (like most these days)…forget about it.

And even on a full-sized Apple laptop there were bugs that prevented me from moving onwards.  It seems like it was made for PC and Internet Explorer *shudder*.

Who Is It For?

I would say two groups of people:

  1. You’re getting your NRA Teaching Certification so you have to take it.  Suck it up…there’s a lot of good info in there still despite my complaints.
  2. You’re starting out and know you really like guns…and want to learn everything about them before touching one.

For anyone else…such as those who know they learn better hands-on, or who don’t have the discipline to sit through 7-8 hours of lessons and quizzes (plus a final exam), you might be better suited for a completely in-person NRA course.

Or check out our guide to Gun Training: Choosing Your First Course where we cover other online and in-person options.

What do you think?  Did you take the online course…or did you go in-person immediately?

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