New Jersey – -(AmmoLand.com)- The number of new gun owners from 2020 to the present is estimated to be somewhere around ten million.
Suffice it to say there has been an influx of firearms-neophytes that have decided to step up to the plate and swing when it comes to taking responsibility for their own personal safety. Every single trainer I know has reported a large jump in the number of students they’ve been training.
Recently my colleague Lee Williams covered potentially fraudulent training companies in his piece “FRAUD ALERT: Online Scammers Targeting New Gun Owners Bogus CCW Scheme.” In it, he brought up the record number of those seeking training and the historic amount of new gun owners.
Many of these new gun owners want to carry their new handguns defensively. Demand for EDC handguns and concealed-carry training has never been higher. Some instructors say their classes are booked months in advance.
Unfortunately, whenever a goods or services become scarce, the scammers and fraudsters swoop in to take advantage of the situation by ripping off good, hardworking people.
“Have you heard of these guys – US Concealed Online?” a friend in the gun-rights community asked in an email. “They don’t seem legit.”
Williams continued in noting that the organization he was looking into seemed associated with several others, all registered at the same address in Las Vegas.
Picou’s name also is associated with similar online training groups, such as the Concealed Coalition, which uses the same Las Vegas address as US Concealed Online. This address – 848 North Rainbow Blvd, #508 Las Vegas, Nevada 89107 – is associated with a bunch of other online groups, including: Concealed Republic, Gavel and Gun, Primed Patriot, Freedom Force 21, College Learners, and more.
Get Your New Jersey CCW Permit!?
Over the last month, I have been following up with tips and leads which sent me looking into Concealed Coalition, a company mentioned in Williams’s article.
They advertised a “New Jersey” concealed carry class. Not only was this met with disbelief by many New Jersey gun owners but also anger. Several instructors expressed their displeasure when they read the advertisements and I personally talked to several about what the ads purported to be saying their class does for students.
If you know anything about New Jersey and the firearm situation, on paper they are a may-issue state when it comes to concealed carry permits. In reality, they are no issue. I can count on one hand the number of people in the state that I know that hold a permit and they have one for employment purposes. Essentially unless you’re politically connected or a former police officer, your prospects of getting a concealed carry permit are nil. The requirements to get a permit are so stringent, many say they’re usually issued posthumously.
The biggest problem I see with the above advertisement is the statement “Get Your New Jersey Concealed Carry Permit.” In my opinion, offering a class to someone and then sending them off to apply for a New Jersey carry permit is a fool’s errand. The other thing is there is no “NJ Official” certification. If you follow the “sign up” button it takes the user to another page with more information.
That page further advertises the “Onsite New Jersey CCW Certification” and that you can “Get Your NJ Multi-State Permit.” It affirms that their class is a “State Approved Curriculum.” Did the state actually approve their specific curriculum?
The instructor mentioned above, Jody Picou shares the same last name as the individual mentioned in Williams’s piece. I reached out to Picou’s Facebook account via direct message. Jody Picou did respond to me and urged me to reach out to his communications department about interviewing him. I was very upfront when they asked me what the content of the interview would be, I followed up with my needs on this and their response is kind of priceless.
From: John Petrolino [<redacted.]
To: Hannah [Redacted] <[redacted]>
Sent: Thursday, March 3, 2022, 02:06:31 PM EST
Subject: Re: Interview request
The classes being taught in New Jersey. Advertisements versus expectations of students. New Jersey’s law regarding the issuance of CCW permits and claims in Concealed Coalition’s advertising.
As noted earlier, the conversation would be recorded and all comms to be considered on the record.
From: Hannah [Redacted] <[redacted]>
To: John Petrolino <[email protected]>
Sent: Thursday, March 3, 2022, 03:44:40 PM EST
Subject: Re: Interview request
So due to the nature of the subject matter and the overall sentiment, Jody will not be available for a recorded interview. However, if you’d like to send over a list of questions, he would be more than happy to provide a response in writing.
I can also offer a statement on behalf of the company if you’d like.
Manager of Public Relations & Social
I did not want some carefully prepared statements with mitigated speech from their legal department. This is not a conversation about the “fine print”, this is about optics and opinions. The instructor should be able to talk about New Jersey’s laws, whether they knew what it’s like to apply for a permit in NJ, and the insanely small numbers of people that have one in the state. Massachusetts’s (who has notoriously stringent firearm laws) concealed carry license rate is 6% of the population and New Jersey’s is .01%.
If that’s all not enough for you on the tactics, perhaps this advertisement of theirs will make your ears wiggle a little:
“Carry LEGALLY in NEW JERSEY…” is in my opinion about as misleading as it gets.
The range where the live-fire training was listed to be taking place was Recoil in Monroe, New Jersey (a nice facility by the way with a great staff). I got a hold of one of the managers over there, David Tarantino. I asked Tarantino if he was familiar with Concealed Coalition and if they teach classes at his facility. He told me that they leased the facility from them before. It was then that I told him about the advertisements that I and others in New Jersey had run into. He laughed and said, “There is no New Jersey concealed carry class.” And I have chatted about the absurdity of New Jersey’s laws and how something like this does not really exist.
I subsequently ended up at Recoil the following week after reaching out and got a chance to shake hands with and introduce myself to Tarantino. He said that a group did come through recently since I spoke and said that one guy did say he expected he’d be able to get his New Jersey concealed carry permit after taking the class.
Tarantino had the following to say about the business relationship:
“Recoil has no affiliation with Concealed Coalition besides renting the classroom to them once in February which we have done with several other instructors and training companies. As a member and supporter of the firearms community, we want people to know that getting a NJ concealed carry license is not realistic for civilians. Unless the laws change dramatically, we do not and will not run a NJ concealed carry class here at Recoil.”
Concealed Coalition uses the Cabela’s and Bass Pro logos in their advertising. I did reach out to Cabela’s on two separate occasions to question this apparent approval. I wanted to know what their relationship was with Concealed Coalition. I emailed them my query, as well as called their communications department leaving them a message. What’s the relationship? I cannot corroborate anything as Cabela’s/Bass Pro has yet to reply.
I chatted with an instructor from Massachusetts and when I mentioned them, right away they noted they have heard of them. In fact, they recounted to me a story where a representative from the company was courting them in an attempt to get them to work for them. They said I could share what they had to say but anonymity was a condition of putting them on the record.
“Concealed Coalition reached out to me as a possible instructor in Massachusetts for them. After explaining to them the process to get a MA LTC, I don’t think they quite understood that there are only certain classes that are accepted courses and I don’t think what they were going to be offering is one of the accepted courses.”
I had a rather illuminating and long conversation with an instructor in Michigan. Christie Bass, the owner and chief instructor of Phoenix Rising Firearm Academy LLC (who unlike the company being discussed does have a 100% satisfaction guaranteed policy for concealed carry classes, or you get your money back) and I discussed training companies including Concealed Coalition. I asked her if she had any comments on the companies advertising, and this is what she had to say:
“It’s not just that one, it’s all of them in general. There are a few of them that are constantly promoting their stuff on social media. And the courses do not meet the requirements here…
I get people all the time calling. And it’s things like “I took my class online, I haven’t gotten anything in the mail yet. Who am I supposed to call to get my CPL?”. Then I have to break the bad news to them that they basically just wasted their money. That class is not valid here.
You see it a lot in Detroit. I will have people come into classes because a judge or probation officer has mandated that they take the class. Usually because they got pulled over carrying, and they thought that this online class was their concealed carry license. So they end up going through court, and then the court orders them to take this class as part of their judgment.”
I talked at length about some of her experiences with out-of-state firearms trainers. Bass ended our conversation with some sentiments that pretty much parrot the consensus that I’ve received from other bona fide trainers and firearm instructors:
“It’s awful because these otherwise innocent people are getting into major legal trouble because of it. It’s very predatory to have somebody thinking that it’s okay for them to carry a gun because they pass this online class, and then they find out that they’re not eligible to be carrying.”
I reached out to Concealed Coalition via Facebook messenger on Feb 14, 2022, 15:00 EST, and here’s our conversation:
- Petrolino: Hi. I saw an ad for ccw classes. Where can I get more details?
- Concealed Coalition: Hi! Absolutely, we offer state-specific educational safety and live fire training across the country that allows Americans to take the first step in applying for their concealed carry permits. Can I ask where you are located? That way I can give you a better idea of the training opportunities near you!
- Petrolino: New Jersey
- Concealed Coalition: Currently we have an upcoming class in Monroe Township that is open for registration. The class will be on 4/3 from 8am-4pm at the Monroe Recoil Indoor Range. There will also be an additional class at this location on 4/24, and registration for that one will open as we approach the date.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to give us a call at 800-990-5594 or check out the link below: https://www.concealedcoalition.com/classes/new-jersey
I called the number on February 14, 2022, at 15:25 EST, only a short while after our private message exchange to inquire further.
Here’s the important thing, if I thought this was a legitimate path for me to get my New Jersey CCW, I would have signed up for their class without hesitation and reported back to the world that it’s just that easy to get a permit in New Jersey. If you, the reader, think that this is a legitimate path, I say go for it. By all means, take classes from this company if you think this is the best option for you. I however am not convinced.
I told them “I live in New Jersey and I want to get more information about the class.” It was explained to me that the class is six hours long and included live fire for $149.99. They corroborated that the location they do their training is in Monroe, New Jersey. I specifically asked, “What is this class good for?” The representative on the other end said “Concealed carry…” and explained it teaches gun safety and everything that’s needed in order to apply for your concealed carry permit. I followed up by asking if the class satisfies the requirement to get a concealed carry permit and the representative said: “In order to apply for one.” There was some dancing around going on, but by the end of the conversation, I was basically told that yes, I would have to go through the application process and they “don’t guarantee” CCW issuance, however, the class would meet the requirements.
What does Concealed Coalition’s “management” have to say about the class offering in New Jersey? I called up the customer service number on their web page, 1800-805-2238 at 15:49 EST on February 18, 2022, and asked for Jennifer, the person another associate said was a manager. Our introduction went like this:
- Jennifer: Hi, this is Jennifer, how can I help you?
- Petrolino: Hi, Jennifer, how are you today?
- Jennifer: Um I’m fine. How can I help you?
- Petrolino: My name is John Petrolino. I’m with AmmoLand News. And I’m recording this call. I had a couple of questions I wanted to ask you about some of the classes that you offer if you’re able to.
- Jennifer: Okay, I’m confused why you asked for me, but I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.
- Petrolino: I asked for a supervisor and and your name was the one that I was given for the supervisor. So I’m assuming you’re in charge in some capacity at the company.
- Jennifer: I…I’m a supervisor of our contact center. Yes
- Petrolino: Of just the contact center? Okay, is there anybody available that I may speak to about the classes and the content of the classes or anything like that?
- Jennifer: No, sir, but like I said, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.
Some of the things Jennifer said when I asked about the class and challenged the validity claiming that the class being offered as “an official New Jersey approved concealed carry class” are as follows:
- Petrolino: Okay, so you guys are advertising a New Jersey concealed carry class? Correct?
- Jennifer: Do we have classes in the state of New Jersey for concealed carry training? Yes.
- Petrolino: Okay. Yeah. So that’s exactly what this is about. So I mean, I read the advertisements. And the advertisements say that they are New Jersey concealed carry classes, and also that they are official New Jersey concealed carry classes. And I wanted to get your company’s position on this because there is no New Jersey concealed carry class.
- Jennifer: Okay, so we have instructors that are licensed by the state of New Jersey, and we hold classes that meet the New Jersey State requirement for concealed carry permits.
- Petrolino: So what license do they have to teach in New Jersey? Because there’s no license to teach in New Jersey?
- Jennifer: Have you done research on this? Because there absolutely is.
The conversation did not go exactly north from there, but I did get some more information from Jennifer about the class and what the company claims. I told her that there essentially are no concealed carry permits in the state of New Jersey.
- Jennifer: There are there are permits in New Jersey it’s a shall-issue state…Sir, please go do your research on the state laws. I’m not going to I can’t answer questions about New Jersey state laws.
- Petrolino: I’m saying there’s 1200 carry permits in the state of New Jersey, and your customer service reps claim that half of your participants in the classes get granted a concealed carry permit. And I think this is predatory.
- Jennifer: Oh well, that’s your opinion. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Jennifer was correct. That was my opinion. As for the facts? NJ is not a shall-issue state. USA Carry says:
May Issue to Residents and Non-Residents:
Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York
Here are some other “facts” that the customer service representatives have put out there on Facebook to those wanting more information.
Some of the claims (“facts”) the customer service reps at Concealed Coalition made, as pictured above are:
- New Jersey does honor a number of out-of-state permits…
- We do not offer refunds because you will have already received a service from us in the form of educational safety and live-fire training.
- …we are proud to provide the necessary training to secure your concealed carry permit in NJ! Following the completion of our course, you can apply for the permit itself through your local law enforcement.
- While NJ may be harder than other states to secure your permit in, it is not impossible! In the past over half our applicants received their permit following the completion of this course.
About that reciprocity mentioned where NJ honors “a number of sate’s permits”? According to USA Carry, New Jersey does NOT honor permits from any other state or territory in the Union. Claiming that New Jersey will honor other states’ concealed carry permits is false. New Jersey does not honor the Bill of Rights, never mind concealed carry permits from other states.
I reached out to the New Jersey State Police firearms division. Here is my correspondence with the NJSP:
From: John Petrolino <[redacted]>
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2022 11:37 AM
To: NJSP Firearms Investigation Unit <[email protected]>
Subject: Concealed Carry Class in NJ
I’m writing about a class being offered by a company called Concealed Coalition. They advertise a NJ State Police Approved Concealed Carry Class that they’re licensed to teach in the state of New Jersey. See attached.
Can you please help me on this on the record? I’m working on a piece for AmmoLand News and I’m trying to get to the bottom of what they’re advertising.
Thank you in advance for your time.
From: NJSP Firearms Investigation Unit <[email protected]>
To: John Petrolino; NJSP Firearms Investigation Unit <[email protected]>
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2022, 12:18:18 PM EST
Subject: Re: [EXTERNAL] Concealed Carry Class in NJ
New Jersey does not differentiate between concealed carry and open carry. We do not provide or certify any outside entity with a New Jersey State Police approved concealed carry class, however there are several private facilities throughout the state that do provide the proper NJ firearms qualification to be submitted when applying for a NJ Permit to Carry application.
Tpr. I. S. Mathew [redacted]
Firearms Investigation Unit
New Jersey State Police
PO Box 7068
West Trenton, NJ 08628-0068
We can take from that what we will. I was quite specific in my question and that was the answer I received.
There’s enough tap dancing going on around this topic we might as well film a musical.
What’s the verdict? The verdict is for you to decide. I know what I think about the advertising methods of this company and the reputation they have. I’ve shared with the readers as much information as I could.
If you, a customer seeking training, thinks that this company will meet your needs, then have at it. They do appear to provide firearms training. That decision is 100% yours.
Are you one of the people that may have gotten into legal trouble from taking a class from this company or companies like it? Do sound off and send us a message. We’d love to report on it if you’ll go on the record.
Those of you that are trainers out there, I know you (we) put the work in and spend time making sure your business and training is reputable.
What do you think? I’ve given you my opinion, what’s yours? Sound off in the comments.
Note before this article was posted: Concealed Coalition recently addressed some of what they have claimed through a recent FaceBook post, however, they still fall short in not stating the near absolute impossibility of getting an NJ CCW.
About John Petrolino
John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use and NRA certified pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on the web at www.johnpetrolino.com on twitter at @johnpetrolino, facebook at @thepenpatriot and on instagram @jpetrolinoiii .