Firearms training is not an event, it’s a process! And taking one or two classes is not going to cut it. Even worse, most who take “just a few” classes tend to never practice the skills they paid to learn. Did you know that without continual practice you will lose your entire firearms skill set within just 3 short weeks?
So how much training do you need? Honestly, you can never have too much firearms training. It is not like riding a bike. Success on the range (and in a self defense situation), will only come through repetitive drills that create muscle memory. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If you are not willing to do the work it takes to create the muscle memory needed for you to be able to draw and fire a gun both safely and accurately, instinctively, without thinking about it, you do not need to be carrying a gun.
Firearms Training: Instructor Led Classes
Most new gun owners start out with a Basic Pistol class, which offers both classroom and range time. Whether you are a brand new shooter or a seasoned one, this is a great class to take. I have found that most men overestimate their skills, while most women underestimate theirs. A good instructor will be able to keep everyone’s attention, and then cater range time to each individual shooter’s needs.
The next class to take after Basic Pistol is usually some sort of conceal carry class. Many states require this class in order for you to be issued a carry permit. In my state of Georgia, however, this class is not required. But as the leader of my local Well Armed Woman group, I had some ladies interested in taking it anyway. So, we all signed up, including myself!
This class was way below my skill set, and the instructor knew it after the first round of fire. As a result, he held me to a completely different standard than the rest of the class. While they were struggling with their holsters and just trying to get shots anywhere into the cardboard silhouette, he timed my shots and asked that they be all within the circumference of a quarter. He also encouraged me to change where I conceal carried on my body. This is the mark of a great instructor! He was able to give all of us one on one specialized attention, and we all came away better shooters.
So why would I take a class below my skill set? I honestly got more out of that class than any of my chapter members. I learned what they needed help with, what frustrated them, and how to encourage them not to give up. We will now be drawing from concealment at every monthly chapter shoot.
Firearms Training: Conceal Carry Is Not As Easy As It Looks
I was the only one in the class out of 12 people that had ever drawn from a holster. Considering that all conceal carry requires some sort of holster, even if you consider your purse the holster, you need to be comfortable and proficient drawing from it. Furthermore, you need both a gun and a holster that fits your hands, that you can operate with ease, and that can be easily concealed on your body. This is easier said than done, believe me.
Once you have your conceal carry gun and holster, you need to decide the best place to carry it. Most women choose their purse, which I do not recommend at all. Read this to find out why. Carrying on the body is best, but whatever method you use to carry your concealed firearm is how you should be practicing with it. Remember earlier reading about muscle memory?
You can do a lot of firearms training at home, never firing a single round. Always unload your gun before starting this drill. Draw from your concealment method, acquire your target, dry fire, and then return the gun to concealment. Do this over and over, at least 10 or more repetitions at a time 3-4 days a week. When it comes time to draw it in an emergency, you will instinctively know what to do. That is how you build muscle memory.
While at the range, do the same repetitive drill, but use live ammunition when you pull the trigger. Honestly, most of your firearms training will be done without an instructor present. Practice the skills you were taught in class!
Firearms Training: Dry Fire Drills And Range Time
Firearms training is so much more than classroom and range instruction! I am a huge fan of dry fire practice at home. Shooting is not cheap, and dry fire practice is just as good, if not better, than live fire practice! And it doesn’t cost a dime! There are so many cool new things coming out to make dry fire more exciting. I am testing a laser cartridge right now that works with a cell phone app. You just put the cartridge in, aim at a target on the wall, pull the trigger, and the app records where each shot hits! I will be reviewing this soon, so stay on the lookout for it!
Dry fire training is also a great way to identify and correct issues such as anticipation and trigger slapping. If you would like to learn more about dry fire training, click here!
While dry fire training is awesome, it is no substitute for range time. But what should you be doing at the range? If you just go and fire at a paper target, you are not doing yourself any favors. If you own a gun for self defense, you need to be practicing with it in self defense mode! Do you think the bad guy is just going to stand still there like the paper target and wait for you to sight and shoot? Ha! Draw from concealment. Walk or even run, while shooting at the target! It is not easy to do this even with practice, so how do you think you are going to be able to do it for real? The reality is that you will NOT be able too. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of continual firearms training.
Firearms Training: The Ammo You Fire In Practice Is What Will Save Your Life
Most people place all of their faith in firepower, but what happens when you run out of ammo? To put it bluntly, it should only take one shot. Then empty the magazine into him for good measure. What good does it do if you empty 3 magazines, miss with most of them, and the guy keeps coming? Your faith needs to be in your skills, not your cartridge count. The only way to be confident in your skills is to practice daily, or at least several times a week. Everyone can spare 10-15 minutes a day for a little dry fire practice. And then make the effort to get to the range at least once a month.
Firearms Training: A Never Ending Journey
Even as an instructor I am always taking classes. This month I not only took that conceal carry class but also took a Range Safety Officer class. I have two more intensive classes scheduled this year: The Well Armed Woman Instructor class and the USCCA instructor class. In 2018, I will have taken a dozen or so different kinds of classes! And I am always amazed at what I learn!
As a regular citizen like yourself, this may seem like overkill. But is it? What is your life worth? You will learn something from every class you take, even if it is “what not to do.” I took a class this year that did just that. Rob Pincus’s I.C.E. Training Class. I am still traumatized.
You are going to be very surprised at what you learn, even when training by yourself. The goal of firearms training is not always to “hit the bullseye.” In one class I learned that my favorite holster was just not going to cut it in real life. Every time I drew the gun out, the holster came with it! Little things like this are why you need to take training seriously. Seconds really do count.
I encourage you to never stop training and practicing! Make shooting fun, and remember that not all training requires money and instructors. Get the basics from a few classes and then practice on your own! Be safe my friends!