• Phil Nelsen

Online Firearm Training? Many States Say Yes, Does Yours?

Does your state allow you to take an online training course to qualify for a concealed carry permit? Is online training a good way for gun owners to obtain training? With the recent disruptions to business caused by COVID-19 many people have began looking to online education as an option to obtain their concealed carry permit or for continuing education. This article will explain what training options are available in all 50 states as well as discuss the pros and cons of online training.


In recent years many states (13 as of this writing) have opened up to accepting online courses for some, or all, of the training required to obtain a permit. This should not be a surprise to anyone who is familiar with education trends, particularly college education. In America today 28% of college students are taking some, or all, of their classes online (source). The rate of students moving to online courses is speeding up significantly each year. For example, while the overall growth rate in higher education approached 2% this past decade, the growth rate for online education was nearly 21% during the same period (source). With the recent COVID-19 pandemic an even brighter spotlight has been cast on the need for quality online education and training.


Can Firearm Training Be Taught Effectively Online?


Many in the firearm industry are initially opposed to the idea of online training. “You can’t teach someone how to shoot a gun online” is a common response I get when discussing this topic. Although I certainly agree there are some skills that are best taught in-person, it might be helpful to those who share that perspective to keep in mind four key points.


First, we teach people how to perform brain surgeries and fly space shuttles online. In fact, the most complex human tasks ever accomplished have first been taught and tested in an online digital environment.


Second, most of the information taught in concealed firearm permit training courses is concept and law based. Very few states require any in-depth hands-on training in order to obtain a permit. Most are introductory classes that teach basic firearm safety principles and legal compliance. In that regard these courses lend themselves very well to an online training format.


Third, online learning offers uniform delivery of accurate information. If you were to sit through 20 different firearm training courses (which I have done), you would hear 20 very different explanations of the law (at least 19 of which will be incorrect). The entire reason I became a firearm instructor is because at 21 years old my instructor taught me that if someone was stealing my lawnmower I couldn’t shoot them, unless I ran out in front of the lawnmower then I could claim he was trying to run me over and it would be justified self-defense.


Fourth and finally, a properly designed online training course will require a student to demonstrate understanding of each principle prior to moving on to the next lesson. All of our Legal Heat online courses, for example, require students to complete specific concept-based exercises prior to advancing through the class. In a standard lecture class that is not the case. The instructor has very little idea if students are paying attention to what he/she is saying, or if they are dead behind the eyes daydreaming.

I have been a tenure-track college professor, teaching law and business, for many years. I am also a certified online course designer for college courses and a Quality Matters (QM) course reviewer. Spending a significant amount of time in the online education arena for the past several years has opened my eyes to the many benefits, and few drawbacks, of online education. Particularly, I want to highlight three core benefits that online education offers.

  • Benefit 1: Statistically A Preferred Way To Learn. As mentioned above, online learning is not only quickly becoming the preferred method for higher education, but it is also the way businesses transmit information. Forbes reports that globally, the mobile learning market is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of over 36 percent in coming years (source).

  • Benefit 2: Better Knowledge Retention & Learning Experience. The Research Institute of America found that eLearning increases retention rates 25% to 60% while retention rates of face-to-face training are very low in comparison: 8% to 10% (source). Additionally, the Department of Education has found that, “Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

  • Benefit 3: On-Demand Mobile Learning Works For More People. For a variety of reasons, many people find it difficult to schedule a training course on a specific day and at a specific time. Family and work commitments, health and mobility problems, or simply a lack of desire to sit in a classroom are all reasons why many people prefer mobile on-demand learning. With an on-demand course students can complete it at their own pace and their own timeline.

What States Have Online Training Available & What Options Are Available For Me?


As mentioned previously, there are at least 13 states where online training is an option for those seeking a concealed carry permit or other license/certificate. A summary of the states who currently offer online training is included below. Even if you don’t live in one of those states, however, there are still online options available for you. For example, the Virginia permit training is available online and having the Virginia permit will allow you to carry a firearm in at least 30 states (see below). A Virginia permit would be a perfect additional permit for people in at least two situations. First, for those who live in a state who’s permit has low reciprocity and want to carry in more states. For example, Oregon’s permit is only valid in 24 states. Someone from Oregon who obtains a Virginia permit on top of their Oregon permit will pick up an additional 8 states where they can carry, including hard to get Nevada.

Second, a Virginia permit is ideal for someone who lives in a state where it is either very difficult, or impossible, to obtain a permit (i.e. California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, etc.). Someone from California who obtains a permit from Virginia won’t be able to use it to carry in California, but they can use it to carry in 30 other states including almost every Western State (plus a Californian could take our online Oregon & Virginia combo class and pick up almost all of the Western States). See the below maps for an example of what adding additional permits can do for you.



A state by state summary of what online training options are currently available is included below (click on each state to view options), along with links directly to the courses.



Online Training Not For You?


If online training is not for you don't worry, Legal Heat offers over 300 in-person training classes per month among 35 states and 200+ locations. For a complete list of available in-person training classes please click here.


Phil Nelsen is a nationally recognized firearms law attorney, expert witness, college professor, author and co-founder of Legal Heat, the nation’s largest firearms training firm.

Legal Heat offers CCW classes nationwide, and also publishes the industry leading Legal Heat 50 State Guide to Firearm Laws and Regulations which can be downloaded for free on iTunes, GooglePlay and Kindle App stores. You can purchase the paperback version of the Legal Heat 50 State Guide or sign up for a class at https://mylegalheat.com

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© 2018 by Phillip Nelsen