Re-Taking the NC Concealed Handgun Permit Course at Apache Solutions

I dropped the ball. I was so busy this summer that I let my North Carolina concealed handgun permit expire. This cost me an additional $100 and about 10 hours of my time. It was not an inexpensive mistake.

Some time earlier this year, I received a letter from Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough saying it was time to renew my permit. I first got the permit in 2011, did a 5 year renewal in 2016, and needed to renew again in 2021. I set the letter aside and by the time I unearthed it on my desk in August, it was too late.

Having to apply for a new permit, however, did force/allow me to take a concealed handgun permit course with a training group I have been hearing more about in the past year or, Apache Solutions Firearms Training in nearby Yadkinville, NC. Although we have not yet crossed paths, the owner and chief instructor Tim Kelly and I have traveled in some of the same circles — e.g., he trains with Tom Givens of Rangemaster and hosts John Murphy of FPF Training. That’s what I call a clue, and it gave me some confidence going in to this class.

I paid my $80 tuition and took — and passed both the written and shooting “tests” for — the NC concealed handgun permit on Saturday, September 25th. On Monday, September 27th I submitted my paperwork and money at the Sheriff’s Office. At the time I was told that the office was taking the full 90 days allowed by law to process permit applications. In 2011 and 2016, I received my permits in weeks, not months.

If I get killed on the streets between now and Christmas, you know why and you know who to blame. No, not me for failing to renew my permit. Blame the State of North Carolina for requiring permit renewals in the first place.

Modern projection in a new classroom building at Apache Solutions in Yadkinville, NC, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane

I have written previously about the requirements to receive a concealed carry permit in the state of North Carolina. There is a prescribed classroom curriculum followed by a written test and a shooting test. In the case of Apache Solutions, they use the actual book produced by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, projecting quotes from the book and having students alternate reading sections out loud.

Frank Horvath, who taught the course, would intersperse his perspectives from time-to-time, often making clear “I am taking off my Apache hat and speaking for myself here.” For example, during the material on Castle Doctrine, he observed, “Just because you have a right to shoot someone in your home, doesn’t mean you should.” He gave examples of mistaken identity shootings in people’s houses to support his point. Another example: When one of the students suggested he would brandish a gun at someone approaching him at a gas station, Horvath suggested not going immediately to the gun but using “verbal judo” instead as a first line of defense.

Perhaps because the first firearms course I ever took was Massad Ayoob’s MAG-40 (Armed Citizens’ Rules of Engagement, back in 2012), I have always been interested in the legal and ethical dimensions of concealed carry and the use of lethal force in self-defense. So I actually don’t mind discussing these issues and reviewing the applicable state laws. It’s important for armed citizens to know the law and think about the ethics in advance. Not to mention the many practical considerations involved.

Active Self Protection video shown at Apache Solutions Firearms Training CCW Course, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane

To this end, Apache Solutions’ concealed carry course makes use of various videos to introduce the complexity of the decision-making that goes along with being an armed citizen. These include John Correia’s Active Self Protection videos. We watched and discussed two. The first showed a Good Samaritan intervening in a situation of social violence in Los Angeles and getting murdered for it, and the second was a Good Guy with a Gun intervening in an active killer situation in a Las Vegas and getting murdered for it. We also watched video of the Florida quick stop parking lot shooting involving Michael Drejka (now serving 20 years in jail for his actions) and the infamous Pennsylvania snow shoveling argument turned murder.

Each of these videos provided cautionary tales worth considering if you are going to keep and/or carry a firearm for self-defense.

After about 4 hours of instruction — including extremely brief mentions of required topics like types of firearms and ammo, presentation techniques, and gun cleaning — we took a 20 question written test. 16 questions were true/false, such as “Deadly force may be used to stop a simple assault” (false). 4 questions were multiple choice. Insofar as the test was open book, I thankfully scored 100% on it.

After a lunch break we reconvened on the Apache Solutions range just down the road from the classroom building. Horvath reviewed the basics of firearms safety, grip, stance, and trigger press. When we took our positions on the line, we did some dry practice under the supervision of Horvath and two assistant instructors (one of whom was, coincidentally, my chiropractor – “Doc” as he is called at Apache, on the far left in the picture below).

This instruction and supervision is actually more than I have seen in most concealed handgun permit courses I have observed over the past 10 years. It wasn’t like taking an actual pistol shooting course, but it was certainly more than they are required by law to teach. The other students and I appreciated it.

Frank Horvath (far right) and assistant instructors at Apache Solutions concealed handgun permit course, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane

The North Carolina live fire standards state: (a) The student shall fire 30 rounds of ammunition at a bulls-eye or silhouette target from three, five and seven yard distances; (b) At each yard distance the student shall fire ten rounds; (c) 21 of the 30 rounds fired by the student must hit the target.

Apache Solutions modifies this by using a smaller than required target for qualification. This conveys to the student the importance of accuracy and being responsible for every round fired. Although a more challenging target than legally required, Apache also promises to coach any student to passage for free.

I am happy to report that I shot this qualification course of fire much better in 2021 than in 2011, when I had only been a gun owner for a few months. I was only disappointed that I did not keep all my rounds in the 3×5 box, which would have entitled me to a free Apache Solutions patch.

Although I passed both the written and shooting tests for the NC concealed carry permit with flying colors, I don’t take much pride in this accomplishment. As I highlight in the chapter on training in my mini-book, Concealed Carry Revolution, “concealed carry is a licensing class, not a training class,” to quote Rob Jennings of Get Trained Be Ready in Arkansas. “If gun training is a ladder, a concealed carry course is just walking up to the ladder.”

Similarly, Karl Rehn and John Daub of KR Training argue in their book, Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training, that “state standards aren’t realistic minimum performance standards” because they “don’t include all the skills the average gun owner should be trained in” if they carry a handgun for self-defense.

And John Johnston of Citizens Defense Research and Ballistic Radio concludes, “It’s unrealistic to think I can give you an 8 hour class on a life-saving practice and think that class is going to be meaningful. Nothing about those classes teaches you how to carry a gun on a daily basis and defend your life with a gun if the need arises.”

To their credit, the folks at Apache Solutions appear to understand that teaching the NC concealed handgun permit course is a necessary evil. And perhaps a gateway to their other actual training courses. As their website states, owner Tim Kelly “understands that a simple eight-hour course and an NC CCH permit allows you to legally conceal carry a handgun in North Carolina. However, it does not prepare you for the use of deadly force incident. The one thing that will keep you safe is EDUCATION and TRAINING.”

I hope to have the opportunity to learn more about the education and training offered at Apache Solutions in the months and years to come. Don’t let their motto, “Train like a warrior,” dissuade you. There was no chest-pounding or knife-handing, and thankfully politics were checked at the door. Indeed, their mission statement better captures the vibe of the place in my experience.

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6 comments

  1. Very interesting. David, any chance I can see the written exam questions? We don’t have a written final in NM and I always thought that was a flaw in the process. Agree with the idea of this being “walking up to the ladder”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Had a similar issue earlier this past year. Knew I had to renew in January so about August of 2020 I got the form filled out and printed online and made a mental note to get a new picture taken. Renewals don’t require retraining so just the permit fee. I also confirmed I could renew 90 days prior and up to 60 days after my birthday (the date they use for driver’s and carry licenses).

    Welp, b-day came and went, but that was okay, plenty of time. I have _90_ days after all…

    Late March I remembered, “Oh. Hey. Gotta get on that. Only… checks website… negative 20 days left.

    So now I have to pay to retake a class at some point. But only for travel reciprocity and NICs exemption.

    Thanks Alaska Carry! 😉

    Like

  3. The Alaska model is where it’s at, though I would like to know how difficult it would be to process permit holders for disqualifying conditions every year and let everyone else’s permits auto-renew indefinitely until a disqualifying condition was flagged?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think, if a state used a modern relational database across the applicable agencies, then anything that would be disqualifying could automatically be reported to the licensing authority for individual investigation (need some due process). Involuntary psych confinement and the applicable arrests are defined in law and can be flagged automatically. No need to check every permit holder.

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