If you see pictures like this on a firearms training website, please consider whether you want to be IN this class. How can you teach firearm safety if you’re not practicing it yourself?
If you see pictures like this on a firearms training website, please consider whether you want to be IN this class. How can you teach firearm safety if you’re not practicing it yourself?
Are you a hobby shooter wanting more? When you go to a range, what are you practicing for…skill, defensive, or just out hangin’ around just to have fun! I was one that found myself going to indoor ranges to become a better aim, hit that center target and have fun while building my skills and then something clicked that I wanted more.
I started paying more attention, getting more serious about what I really wanted in my knowledge. Thinking long and hard about this hobby of mine and what I really wanted out of it. Do I just want to go to the gun range and shoot a hole in the center target or do I want to get serious about what I’m doing and go further, push myself, learn more, crave more, desire more?
At this point in my shooting skills, the want to move forward in learning the correct way of shooting hit me hard. Paying more attention to my stance, grip, trigger pull, front sights and target put me in the running for more knowledge and understanding the fundamentals. I noticed that I was craving more, something fun although structured in learning.
Being around the indoor range and always hearing about competition, it got me thinking…what really is competition? Now, I wanted to know more. I got myself into a women’s league and one of the facilitators does competition shooting along with a few women in the group and that piqued my curiosity.
Consequently, one night I went to the gun range when they were hosting an IDPA match and whoa, was I hooked! This is what I’ve been looking for. The structure, the thought process, and development of shooting skills. I watched eagerly to learn and wanted to know more. The next week, they were having an ASPSA match and I got myself the necessities to shoot that match. Belt, magazine holders, gun holster, and ammunition. I was set.
Not knowing what to expect, I signed up for my first match. Nervous and not understanding the commands, I asked questions, a lot! Listening to the squad leader and RO tell you what the match will be about and how it will be played, you then come up with your strategy to move forward in this match.
My first turn came up, all eyes were on me, the new comer to the game. My nerves were racked as I’m trying to understand and digest what to do, how to do it and make it count. My first trigger pull, my firearm stove pipe’s, I wanted to cringe, although I got through it and by the time I did, I was extremely proud of myself for shooting my first stage in the four stage match.
I get through the second stage with better timing and better accuracy and by this time I was floating on cloud 9! I was so proud of myself and I felt good. I was getting it down and the 3rd match came and it was my turn. I instantly got disqualified as I unholstered planning my strategy without thinking, when I knew better. That was a definite learning experience.
After I was DQ’d I stuck around, help paste the targets, clean up and tear down to still be apart of my team and show excellent sportsmanship. This is the kind of person that you want to be and your team mates need. That night when I left there, I couldn’t be more proud of myself and still am!
Now, I’ve got the bug. I’ve got to get the training although don’t know where to go. Because I’m still new in town, I really don’t know anyone so I join online women gun groups in South Carolina and I make an online friend who is more than willing to help me get to my next journey in life.
Craving more and more, I had to set myself back due to eye surgery. In the mean time, I was looking for someone I could talk to about learning the correct way of handling my gun, techniques and understanding the commands for competition.
I make some phone calls, sent some emails and I found a person who I thought was perfect for what I wanted. The more I conversed in email, the more I realized I didn’t want to learn more defensive, I wanted to learn competition. Back to the drawing board. I see a message through an online group and I decided to call this place and the person on the other end of the phone understood what I was looking for and teach competition and we set up a date for myself and my husband who has caught the bug to learn our new passion that we are now sharing together.
We went, we learned a wealth amount of education and we had fun. This is when truly I realized this is what I want to do. One step at a time learning as I want to do it right. Eager to move forward and excited, I’m hoping to find a mentor that will take me under their wing in my area to move onward with my new-found love, competition shooting! Earning the respect of my fellow shooters and making new friends who enjoy the same passion is where I want to be in life while enjoying….competition shooting!
Worried about picking an instructor? Here are some things to consider. At first I didn’t care if an instructor was male or female, all that mattered that the instructor was knowledgeable and safe. After more than a handful of classes under my belt and teaching others myself, I realize my expectations have grown.
Beyond if the instructor is male or female, I consider these elements:
1. Does the instructor ask about my training plans?
An instructor who only cares about booking one class with you is probably not the best one to learn from. Unfortunately there are retirees out there teaching just to have something to do, make a little extra money, and to feel relevant. A good instructor will put the emphasis on your needs. Where do you see yourself going in training? Do you wish to learn more about self-defense? Would you like to participate in shooting competitions? Would you like to learn trap shooting?
2. Does the instructor ask about my previous training?
Where you have been helps identify where you might need to retrace. Training without practice is a good time on a day long ago. Practice is what keeps your skills fresh and strong. Unpracticed skills are not skills but knowledge. Knowledge without application is nice but a good instructor will make sure you practice that knowledge to bring it back to the forefront.
3. Does the instructor seem approachable?
Why would you want to learn from someone you don’t feel comfortable talking to? Not everyone is an extrovert and ready to ask anyone questions, some are introverts but still want to learn. I have had classes with people who do not talk during the class, I learn more from the ones who ask questions. Don’t choose an instructor you will not be comfortable with. This is important.
4. Does the instructor talk more about him/herself than ask me questions?
I learned this with experience of talking to many instructors. If they talk more about themselves than they allow their students to talk, it is time to say, thank you for the information and make your leave. A laundry list of trainings & certifications does not make an instructor good, it means they have spent time and money to learn from someone else. Your instructor should care more about learning about you than telling you about them.
5. How many people will be in the class?
I have a hard time believing an instructor cares about 50 students equally and gives them individual time. When someone says 20-50 students to me, I immediately think cash farm. A Range Safety Officer shouldn’t be handling that many students on a range. I would look for classes that have 10 or less, unless there is a team of instructors and then I would be certain it was a class with an excellent reputation from past participants.
6. Are there videos to watch of the instructor?
Another sign an instructor’s ego has gotten the better of them, they have videos on their website of them teaching. Before you object, yes there are good instructors with videos and great instructors that participate on YouTube or others. However, watch the instructor’s videos, see what is happening. Is there firearm safety being practiced? Is the instructor yelling at students? Do you see skills being taught that you want to learn? If the videos are focused mostly on the instructor, you know why they are there…for themselves.
7. What is the reputation of the instructor?
Read reviews, ask around but mind the opinions you receive. Previous students would be best to learn from about any instructor. This is dependent on who you ask so be leery of others opinions but consider them in your decision.
8. What are the credentials of the instructor?
What has your instructor learned and how long ago? Who did they entrust their learning to? I would not recommend taking a Defensive Handgun class from someone who hasn’t invested time in learning from a reputable source. There is more to consider than just firearm training, what is the instructor teaching you as far as attitude, legal issues, and all the other real world trappings?
9. Does the instructor offer further training tips and helps?
Why would you want an instructor that doesn’t offer further helps and tips after the class? There are so many resources out there! At some point in your class, your instructor should make a recommendation for more resources. You can ask them before the class too!
10. Does the instructor offer a path of recommended training?
You should feel at ease that there is a path to follow for learning with your chosen instructor. If there isn’t, it should be a part of the conversation! Where are you now, where do you want to go? Go back to #1 on the list! Is the instructor concerned about you having a plan?
If you are in a class or private instruction and the instructor wants to show you “how it’s done” find another instructor. There is nothing to be learned by showboating to your students just how far they have to go in their training to get to your skill level. Also your instructor should be participating in classes themselves, ask about their next class they will attend!
Training is a journey and is always happening.
Stay Safe, Stay Aware,
You are scared, you know it’s your turn next and you’ve watched Jill and Bob accomplish the feat before you. They were fine, Bob even made a mistake, you can do this. Your hands are sweaty, you feel nervous, and you wonder if you can convince David behind you to take your place, to go next.
It’s now your turn. You take your place, you begin to speak and it’s happening. Next thing you know it’s over. You survived and apparently you did well. You feel accomplished and ready to learn the next part. Oh, the next part is something else you’ve never done before. Whew, David and Kelly are in front of you this time you can see what they do and get ready for your time. You still feel nervous but not like before, you know everything will be fine in the end. You know you can do this, you step up and accomplish the next step.
The next task is presented, you volunteer to go first. At this point, you are still nervous but you know everything will work out, even if you make a mistake. You get comfortable and the fear that you first had is gone by the end of the event. You have new knowledge not only about the subject you were learning but also about your ability to learn.
This article is about how to break out of your comfort zone. It’s a fabulous read and will help anyone teetering on a decision point. I often push myself past uncertainty by telling myself that it will take only 20 seconds of courage to get the phone call done, the question I’m afraid to hear to no about, and the task I’ve never done before. I also tell myself that I am learning and it’s okay to make a mistake. As long as you learn from the mistake, it’s all good. The failure is in not trying at all. So I urge you to give it 20 seconds!
I completed another training class yesterday and I decided to write what I have learned from fellow classmates. At all times we are all novices and experienced – skills HAVE to be practiced to be sustained. We have a great mix of experience among our classmates and goals for taking the class.
Jason was quiet and unassuming, but easy going. Jason had been shooting only since December, he decided that he needed to learn how to defend himself and his wife and started taking classes. He has a twitching trigger finger, it wants to be in the trigger guard a little too quickly and a little too long. He did admit that he doesn’t practice often and that the last time he shot was the last class he took one month ago, which I also attended with him. He apologized to me for making me nervous, I responded that any with a live firearm would have me on alert.
Jason was the one I watched the most for muzzle control and safety issues. He caught me watching him a few times. He has only been shooting for 3 months and hasn’t found his confidence yet he is still grasping the fundamentals. Jason wants to learn, he wants to do well although he is a bit slow in mastering, I know he will get there. His steadfast desire to correct his mistakes and his awareness that I was uneasy a couple of times (with good reason), I have no doubt he will be successful as long as he practices in-between classes. I worry that he may get discouraged if he doesn’t practice the skills he learns in class.
I had been in class with Brian before as well. He was a bit more vocal this class then a previous, indicating he was feeling more comfortable. I recognized that he is a gun fan (aficionado) or however you wish to say it. Anyone who is aware of current happening in the firearm industry and watches YouTube videos, takes their hobby a bit more seriously than occasional shooters. His gear was all matching, neat and tidy, he had on new shooting pants. He brought his 1911 and a couple of different magazine capacities, including a few 30 rounders. I could tell he is genuinely interested in becoming better, and takes himself pretty seriously. He is a good shot and you could tell he has practiced and used the same gun for a while. In fact, there was a bit of discussion about using a 1911, and he said he has shot it for a year now.
Brian didn’t seem pleased when he was warned by our instructors that not using the safety on the 1911 could lead to a negligent discharge, especially when re-holstering. He was thrown a bit off by trying to engage and disengage the safety as he holstered his hammered tool. I recognized the importance of getting to know your firearm and practicing with it by watching him. I hope I am not describing him wrong, he didn’t have the cocky ego that some may have, I could tell he took the instructors’ comments seriously but he also quipped back that he didn’t want to use the safety even if it meant a higher chance of discharge. I noticed that he uses a weaver stance that has been practiced, his motions were smooth. He was applying what he was learning systematically and it was showing.
There was a husband and wife in the class together which made me wish my husband was with me. It was obvious that he has been shooting for a while or at least more comfortable with guns for a longer time than she was but she is gaining ground in shooting skill. Kelly was smooth with her presentation, solid in her stance and you could see she was locking her arm. At the beginning of the class we were shooting static and she was not doing well, as the class when on, she became very proficient with her shots. Her husband, Jet did the opposite. He did very well at the beginning of the class during static shooting and as the class progressed his shots weren’t making their aim. He was quiet throughout the class, seemed to be one to keep to his own. Seeing a couple together going through a skills class, it is a reminder to be supportive of your partner through the good and the bad. Kelly did exceptionally well towards the end of the class, she was shining bright. Jet went from being vocal to being reserved as the class proceeded throughout the day. He wasn’t moody just quiet. I could only imagine if my husband was there outperforming me, how that might feel.
Chuck, my last classmate, I had never met before. I learned in class that he had recently had foot surgery and in talking to him, he was only a week out from wearing a boot. He was walking great, I would never have guessed! His shooting skills were a bit rusty but he took it all in stride. Chuck is a bit older and I could tell he takes the class seriously as well. He was quiet throughout the class and he sat next to me. He had a few grip issues with his Glock, which indicated to me that he probably doesn’t practice much outside of class. With his foot, he probably didn’t go to the range but I wasn’t able to get a feel for if he would dry fire at home or not.
I have recently changed my everyday carry, and its sights. I recognized the value of using the same firearm for consistent training. There was a point in the class I couldn’t hit a target 10 yards away although I was consistently shooting well before that. I got over the crisis in confidence and started doing well. I haven’t had much chance to shoot while moving and was surprised how well I did. We had to walk through a path in the woods with steel targets hidden through out and eliminate the threats. Ping, ping, ping…what a beautiful sound. In the moment, you don’t have time to worry about how you’re doing, you are moving and shooting and focused on the front sight. No time for anything else. It felt like time was standing still while you are shooting at the targets, moving to the next after you hear the ping. Ducking and crouching around trees to shield yourself from the pretend enemies. There was a golf ball that I wanted to hit, after wasting 2 shots on it- I moved on. My instructor warned against wasting resources and time on a missed target, serve them all, he said.
While the instructors are teaching the class, I was also learning how they responded to our questions, how they encourage and correct us, and what they leave alone for the time being. This is my 5th class with these instructors, I am very comfortable with them, to the point of ribbing them when the opportunity arises. GRIN!
When others make a mistake, I find myself taking care not to make the same mistake. I made my own mistakes during the class, I forgot to scan and assess a few times, I got my shirt stuck in my holster as I was trying to re-holster, and each time I worked harder not to continue the mistake. It was a great class, we all had a good time and learned a lot. I look forward to seeing my classmates in another class soon!
When I started attending classes I was nervous. I wouldn’t be able to sleep well the night before, as I was excited and worried how the class would go. Would I be good enough? Am I making a bad decision? Who am I kidding?
I would wake up early and be in go mode until I got to the class. The nervous energy would continue until fifteen minutes into class and we’ve done introductions and the usual, why we are there. That cloud of comfort starts to descend upon us as we settle in to learn and the gifts begin!
Gift #1: COMMUNITY. You are taking a class with other people who have the same purpose for being there. You are learning the same material! You are not alone! You may even find a new shooting friend to meet at the range with.
Gift #2: FREEDOM TO MAKE MISTAKES. You are learning, you can make mistakes and learn from them. You may call a magazine a clip and you will learn to call it a magazine. If you are slapping your trigger, you may not be the only one.
Gift #3: SAME CLASS, DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE, EVERY TIME. Every class is a different experience no matter how many times you take the same class. Your experience in a class is largely dependent on the other people taking your class. Someone who makes a lot of mistakes will have more instruction and you may learn more than you would have if no one made a mistake. Questions asked in class will only improve everyone’s understanding. Best part, you may have something to contribute to the class and enhance it from your experiences! Always respect the instructor, there is a HUGE difference between sharing and teaching.
Personally, I have learned many military and law enforcement terms I wouldn’t have normally been exposed to. While this doesn’t necessarily enhance my learning of a subject, it does add to being able to relate to others and understand what they are saying.
Gift #4: FUNDAMENTALS. We all need the fundamentals, even someone who has gone down another learning path. A refresh in the fundamentals can help identify weak areas in your training. No matter how much of an expert you become, the fundamentals will always reign supreme.
Gift #5 LAUGHTER. Being in a group of people will allow for laughter which will lighten anyone taking themselves too seriously. A certain level of focus is demanded in firearms training but there is a point where you take yourself too seriously and become your own enemy. Group classes allow the environment to prevent this.
Gift #6 RESOURCES. Your instructor will provide resources to teach the class that may be outside your budget, plus your fellow classmates will be bringing their own for the purpose of the class. A class is a great place to compare and contrast, learn a little more without being at a gun store. You may not know what to look for when buying your first handgun or your concealed carry firearm. In a class, not only do you have the instructor’s resources, you also have your fellow classmates. Resources can be anything from checking out someone else’s firearm, their ammunition choice, to where they shoot and what they have found works for them.
Each class I take provides a wealth of knowledge beyond the class description. Taking a class in a subject you have a passion about is a reciprocal gift, as you attend, you are being a gift to others as well. Is it worth the class fees? You betcha! Get out there and take a class today!
We all want to push the limits, to see what we can do. The trouble with shooting at a longer distance before establishing strong fundamentals is that even though you hit the target at 15, 20, 25 yards, you have no idea how you did it. Inconsistent results can frustrate new shooters and be discouraging. Mastering the seven fundamentals of marksmanship is more important than shooting at a distance, if you understand what you are doing and why, you will be able to shoot at a distance, consistently.
Visit a range and hang back, you will see it all. The weird grips, the distance shots that barely hit the target, and a ton of ammo being used. All new shooters should work within 3-7 yards because they should not be target centric at all. We want to be successful but the focus should be on aligning the sights, having the proper grip, and establishing a strong stance- then where the shots land. As an instructor, I am looking to see where your shots are landing and what you are doing while shooting, I am not concerned with how far you can shoot a large target.
Being focused on the target to see if you are shooting well when you don’t understand what it means to shoot well is a folly most new shooters make. Most are just happy to be hitting somewhere near where they were intending, while I would rather you be glad you were able to hit your intended mark at whatever distance you are shooting at. Also, most self-defense situations will occur between 3-10 yards, anything further could be construed that you are the aggressor in the situation.
Be wary of people who push you to shoot at far distances especially during your first few times shooting. If you decide to push that target further out, realize it is in vain and just for fun. You have not developed the skills yet to get consistent results. Shooting is a skill that is learned and practiced, new shooters do not have the proper skill set to be consistent. Instructors that push new shooters beyond 7 yards are doing it for vanity and to keep a new shooter excited, it is not because in the last hour the new shooter has mastered the fundamentals and is ready to shoot at the further distances. If your instructor seems more concerned about distance than the fundamentals, find another instructor.
None of this matters if the shooter is not interested in learning how to shoot well, I think that is a rare finding. We all want to do well at what we attempt to do. I will tell brand new shooters that the focus of the first lesson is not the target but how they are doing with their stance, grip, and sight picture. The target will provide results on those three things and where improvements or adjustments need to be made.
If you are taking a new shooter to the range, here is an excellent article by Kathy Jackson.
I never thought it would be easy. I knew it would be a struggle. Being a woman in the firearms field is still challenging. Julie Golob and other women like her have been doing it a long time. They have opened doors but each journey is different depending on your area. Stepping into the firearm community with a plan is not what most do. Having goals to achieve while others are just slinging brass down the lane is not common. I would meet many obstacles which I was not prepared for, I blindly trusted instructors and learned from that as well.
Since I decided to take this journey into the shooting world, I have met many personalities. The very predictable ‘southern gentleman’ who is all sweetness and condescension about how this is a man’s world but you can have the smaller guns to practice with. Here you go, take this very nice pink pistol that will fit in your purse.
The ‘how dare you’ men who either are supportive but limiting or the plain outright, I have 20+ years of experiences, how dare you think you can you can do what I do! Let me explain the supportive but limiting part, these people will encourage you to the point they feel comfortable with in your growth.
Once you reach that threshold, they treat you as if you cannot grow anyone until you stay in your current condition for a period of time. It doesn’t matter how much you practice, how hard you work. Their mental peak for you is your current training peak. How do you like those limitations?
‘I support the NRA but loathe the NRA type’. At some point in this person’s life they have gotten upset at the NRA and played that broken record until it has become a part of their training. It can be an instructor from another walk of life such as law enforcement, military, etc. that doesn’t value the education the NRA provides to civilians because they feel they could do it better.
Or the NRA critics that feel the training is not sufficient for their liking. These critics are dangerous, if they are so critical of a firearms training program that has been informing and encouraging shooters for decades then using them as an instructor should come with a warning label. The NRA training program is nationally recognized and professionally developed whereas it is a crap shoot with some instructors and their homegrown curricula.
Each student I teach is a learning experience for me. I learn what is effective for each student and I can add that to my teaching toolbox. Using the NRA’s curriculum provides a solid base of knowledge for all shooters. The NRA curricula only goes so far, but for most it is all they want. Not everyone wants to become a tactical shooter or shoot in competition.
I have also met some of the most giving and caring people while on this journey. People who will cheer you on and encourage you because they enjoy seeing other succeed and want to encourage you to do so. Ones that will find any way to compliment you so that you feel encouraged. Instructors that will share their knowledge and experience without being egotistical. The women instructors who have been down this path and encourage new shooters and instructors on their journey, too many to name to fully effectively thank them but one in particular is Kathy Jackson.
I doubted my journey when I ran into the ‘support the NRA but loathe the NRA type’ – I almost gave up because I kept hearing that even though you achieve a level you’re not ready to move on the next level until you spend x amount of time in the current level. I call BS. If you feel you are ready, go for it. If you’re not ready you will realize it and step back and re-evaluate.
I pledge to be one of the supportive voices, to be an encourager, I will tell you if you need an instructor past my experience level. No one’s ego should be a part of your training, you are in training for you, not the instructor. I will give you my best for you to be able to do your best, that is my pledge.
You want to have a firearm in your vehicle but you are afraid of how to secure it, especially with children in the vehicle with you. Each state has its own laws regarding carrying in your vehicle, consider your state laws as you look for viable options for your needs. There are many places within your vehicle to store a firearm, yet there are pros and cons to each.
A glove compartment can be a tricky place to store your firearm. Yes, it may have a lock- one that can be broken into with a bit of force. Plus, the glove box will be the first place a thief will look. You could measure your glove box and put a lock box inside of your locked glove box but this provides little security. A thief could still take the lock box and force it open elsewhere. There is no way to anchor a lock box to the glove compartment. Here are a few options for a lock box for your vehicle. The SnapSafe and Gun Vault models are amongst the well-known and most used.
Most of the lock boxes above have a security cable so you can lash them to the vehicle such as an anchor point on the floor or a secure bar under your seat. You can see these are not super expensive options and would secure your firearm from others being able to access it. How about if you want to be able to access your firearm?
I feel your console this is the most secure, accessible location for storing a firearm in your vehicle. These options are more expensive and most of them are tailored to your vehicle. The first option is an universal console vault that has a tray with cup holders to disguise it. Look at Console Vault’s options for your vehicle. Tuffy also has options for vehicle’s consoles.
Backseat in a truck? Only if you’re going to get a locked option… Tuffy has options for your vehicle. This option would not be easily accessible and most thieves wouldn’t waste their time lifting the backseat of a truck. With the across the seat option, you can also securely transport your long guns, no matter who your passengers are.
A trunk is also an option not easily accessible, hopefully you have anchor points within your space so you can tether your lock box to the vehicle. If you have a vehicle you feel comfortable modifying, you could anchor a larger vault to your trunk.
Lastly, no matter your storage options in your vehicle, leaving a firearm in your vehicle overnight or longer is not the safest option. You want to secure your firearms and leaving them in a vehicle unattended is not securing them. A vehicle is temporary storage, for when you have to go into the post office, liquor store, or your child’s school.
Exploring your options for securing your firearm is just what responsible gun owners do. If you need further convincing that securing your firearm in your vehicle is the best choice for you and your potential occupants, read this: https://www.thetrace.org/2016/03/kids-cars-unsecured-guns-deadly-mix/
Men have it so easy! I’m serious, they could wear khaki pants and polo shirts with close toed shoes and be all set for the range, either in/outdoors! For women, there is much more to consider. Well, there may be some useful tips for men too…
Let’s take this Head to Toe…
Cardinal Rule: Comfort is #1 while shooting.