The National Rifle Association may be one of the most effective -- and feared -- lobbies in the country, but it seems there's always room for improvement. Despite having won a major victory in Congress this week with final passage of the McClure-Volkmer gun decontrol bill, the NRA is dissatisfied with its effectiveness in getting its point of view across, particularly to the news media. So the organization yesterday terminated its 15-member public education division. In its place, an Oklahoma firm will handle public relations.

The public education employes, including John A. Aquilino, the director of the division, received a memo at 8:30 a.m. yesterday informing them of the decision and advising them to have their desks and offices cleared by noon, according to sources in the NRA.

"It was purely a business decision," said Mark Mumma, an NRA spokesman. "We decided to do it a different way, to farm it out the way Exxon and other corporations do. We wanted a more widespread impact, particularly with news organizations such as yours." He would not comment on the abruptness of the action, but said, "No one was fired. They're getting our normal severance package and we set up an out-placement service for them . . ."

The division had grown from two employes to a staff of 15 over the last eight years but had been "buffeted about in the organization," Mumma said, reporting at one time to the legislative and lobbying division, then to Executive Vice President G. Ray Arnett.

The Washington bureau of the Oklahoma contract firm, Ackerman & McQueen, begins representing its new client today.

Supreme Promise . . .

There was good news yesterday for Supreme Court buffs waiting for a chance to hear tapes of oral arguments.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that the justices discussed renewing the court's 20-year practice -- mysteriously suspended several years ago -- of sending tapes of oral arguments to the National Archives. Since 1976, the last year tapes were available, the reels have piled up at the court, under wraps.

O'Connor told Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.) that "resumption is imminent," although no formal agreement has been reached with the archives.

The Supreme Court is not budging, however, on its refusal to allow live television or radio coverage of oral arguments, no matter how newsworthy. And don't expect to buy copies to listen to while jogging -- there are likely to be restrictions on use of the tapes for "commercial purposes."

O'Connor, along with Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., were testifying before Rudman's committee on the court's budget request for fiscal 1987. Neither Rudman nor Sen. Ernest F. (Fritz) Hollings (D-S.C.), two-thirds of the famous budget-balancing trio, ventured to ask how the justices were coming along in deciding the constitutionality of the law.

Join the Crowd . . .

David B. Swoap, formerly undersecretary at the Department of Health and Human Services and secretary of health and welfare for the state of California -- and before those jobs, a high-ranking Republican staffer in the Senate -- has opened a lobbying and government relations firm with offices here and in San Francisco. Michael Franchetti, former chief deputy attorney general and director of finance for California, is Swoap's partner.