Recently I took my first ever formal gun class. I was taught to shoot out in a farm field, and have developed my understanding of guns and shooting through books, magazines, television shows, YouTube videos, and podcasts. But I have never had a formal, systematic introduction to firearms. I was excited to attend this class at a local gun range — all the more so because the range offered the 3 hour class for FREE!
The class was taught by the range’s chief instructor, who has extensive experience as a police officer, SWAT team member, and firearms trainer for a local police force.
The class began at 5:30 in the range’s modern classroom (computer connected to a large projector) with 13 people in attendance — 5 pairs and 3 individuals (2 women and 1 man). Of the pairs, 4 were male/female and one was a mother and her 19 year old son. So, there were 7 women and 6 men in attendance — suggesting the range is doing a good job of reaching out to women. In fact, one of the women in attendance noted she participates in the Lady Hot Shots, the range’s women’s shooting group.
Our instructor’s opening comments suggested his view of why most people would attend a first shots class. He divided the world into wolves (bad guys), sheep (defenseless victims), and sheep dogs (good guys taking responsibility for their own defense). By taking the class we were on the road to being sheep dogs.
The class had four major parts: gun safety, types of handguns and ammo, how to select a gun, and shooting on the range.
I was impressed that the first part of the class on gun safety took up a good 40 minutes of the class. The instructor reviewed the “four cardinal rules of gun safety,” showing and telling stories about the number of ways these rules can be violated and the consequences of doing so. For example, for the first rule — always assume a gun is loaded — he grabbed a gun and set it on the desk in front of him. He asked the class, “Is this gun loaded?” We all looked at it for a moment, studying it, and he asked again, “Is this gun loaded?” All at once it clicked and we responded out loud, “Yes!” It was a good demonstration of the principle. He also demonstrated — humorously and frighteningly — the numerous ways people muzzle themselves, and suggested that by far the most violated of the rules is to keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
The second part of the class was dedicated to understanding different types of handguns and ammunition. In showing how the action of a revolver and semi-automatic pistol work, he drew on some nice computer graphic animations from the Maryland Hunter Safety website and a computer program HE Tools.
The third part of the class was supposed to cover selecting a handgun, but we were running short of time at this point and the class leader wanted to get us out to the range. He did spend about 5 minutes talking about this in response to questions from the group.
The other area that received a number of questions from the group concerned the legalities of carrying a firearm – questions that would be answered in a typical concealed carry class. For example, the mother who was with her son had a concern about whether her son could concealed carry while in his apartment at college. The instructor said that as long as the apartment was off-campus, carrying a handgun was not a problem, but the fact that her son was only 19 would potentially be a problem.
We concluded the evening on the range. Assisted by one of the range’s other instructors, two lanes were opened. On one lane, we had the chance to shoot a 9mm semi-automatic and .38 revolver, and on the other lane a .22 semi-automatic pistol. The range provided the guns and ammo We were given a few basic pointers on grips, stance, and aim and off we went.
All in all this was a fun and informative way to spend a few hours on a weekday evening. I appreciate the time and resources the range dedicated to this class, and was impressed that they did not use it as an opportunity just to sell their goods and services. I never felt any pressure to buy their stuff or take their regular classes. In fact, by the time the classroom portion of the evening was over, the range was closed and we couldn’t buy anything if we wanted to!
This really is a new shooter friendly range, and they understand that it is good business to get new shooters involved (whatever their ideological commitments to shooting). I think alot of ranges could learn from this place.