As I perused the Outfitter Hall at the Great American Outdoor Show this weekend—dreaming of hunting adventures that are probably a bit above my pay grade, no doubt—I eventually happened upon the NRA Outdoor booth, which was manned by my colleague Greg Ray. Suffice to say, if you're an NRA member, you've heard of the program. It was conceived to help connect NRA members with some of the finest outfitters and guides in the outdoor industry. And it has done so with gusto since its inception. What some folks haven't yet realized, though—the kind folks in Harrisburg, Pa., among them—is that NRA Outdoors is no longer just your portal to outfitters. Training courses are on the docket now, too.
Don't worry, now. You can still call Greg and his people and access their inside dope on the finest big game guides on just about any continent. It's just that now you can ask them to help sharpen your skills, too. The courses offered are hosted at top-notch facilities and overseen by only the finest instructors available, which I can attest to personally. I attended the "Practical Hunting Rifleman School" last summer, and found that it helped clean up a few mechanical errors that might have cost me this fall on an elk hunt, had they not been addressed. That said, don't go thinking that everything being offered in hunting specific. Quite the contrary. Don't believe me? Here's a rundown of what they're currently offering.
Long Range School The Long Range School, predictably, helps prepare you to reach out and hit targets at farther distances than ever before. It's the original NRA Outdoors course, and is available in three locations: Utah/Wyoming, West Virginia and Texas.
Wilderness Survival School Here's a new course that I think should catch the eye of hunters and "preppers" alike. The Survival Skills School takes students into the backcountry, where they learn the ins and outs of the wilderness from hand-selected U.S. Military Special Operations personnel, plant experts and firearm instructors.
3-Gun Introduction School Interest in the 3-Gun circuit has boomed in recent years. Don't know how to start your own competitive career? Then this is the course for you. The NRA Outdoors 3-Gun School will walk you through the entirety of 3-Gun competitions, from set up to mastering your marksmanship with each firearm.
Tactical Carbine School The Tactical Carbine course may be called introductory, but it's an introductory course of the highest degree. Led by hand-selected senior level U.S. Military Special Operations personnel that are federally accredited instructors, students will learn the basics of defensive tactical shooting. Want to make sure you're ready to defend yourself and your loved ones? This is the place to be.
Defensive Handgun Academy This one kind of speaks for itself. Think the Tactical Carbine course, but with handguns. At the same time, though, students will be taught defensive mindset and defensive technique, which are critical skills to have in a high-stress situation. The course focuses on proper and relevant handgun techniques, safety and more.
And, like I said, the NRA Outdoors folks will still be there to help you book that once in a lifetime hunt, too. Just don't sell them short.