Things have been pretty crazy so far this year, but it is exciting to see so many new gun owners. Being a gun owner is a hefty responsibility and not to be taken lightly. Even if you are a long time gun owner, this message is for you: Get quality training! Doing something you have never done before can be scary, so we have put together these quick tips for attending your first firearms class.
Why Taking Firearms Class is Important
We hear people talking all the time about the importance of training in careers that carry guns. No doubt that is important, but why would it be any less important for a civilian who owns a gun to be trained also? As we said, owning a gun is a big responsibility.
Many people think that attending a conceal carry class is all the training they need to be a safe gun owner. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most conceal carry requirements are woefully inadequate. Check out this opinion piece that was published in the New York Times for example. Being a safe and responsible gun owner requires a commitment to training and regular practice.
Types of Training Available
There are a wide variety of classes and training options out there. Most gun ranges either have a training staff or companies they work with to provide training. Classes can be indoors or out. They run the gamut from basic introductory pistol classes to more advance defensive classes. There are classes for shotguns and rifles as well.
There are also private instructors that do one on one training. If it's in your budget, private lessons can be a huge help in increasing your skills. I personally have experienced incredible improvements working with my private instructor.
What to Look For in a Class
Unfortunately not all classes or instructors are created equally. There are many good courses out there, some amazing courses, and some absolutely terrible ones. So how are you supposed to know what is a good choice and what is not? Look at the instructor's credentials. Ask about their curriculum. If possible get referrals from people who have taken training. There are several well-known trainers that travel and offer quality training, as well as quality local training if you look around.
Here at Primer Peak we have reviewed a few classes over the years. Check out our training review page here for a place to start. You can also join our Discord Server and get tons of advice, ideas, and more gun talk than you can shake a stick at.
Whatever you do, make sure the advice given is qualified advice. Everyone's first class is the best class ever. Don't just take one word answers as gospel. Get details from those you speak with! If someone can't provide a solid explanation of why they like something, then likely they don't know what they're talking about.
What to Expect During Your Firearms Class
It can be intimidating attending your first firearms class. Heck, doing anything for the first time is usually intimidating. However, there isn't any reason to worry. In my experience members of the gun community are some of the nicest most helpful people you will ever meet. Irresponsible and dangerous gun owners reflect badly on all of us, so we're always ready to help someone new out.
Depending on the type of class, most start in the classroom setting. Safety rules and procedures will be reviewed. Waivers will be signed. Class goals and expectations will be shared. Some instruction takes place in the classroom setting, but much of the training will take place on the range. Just listen and do what the instructor says and you'll be just fine!
What to Wear and What to Bring
Deciding what to wear will be impacted by the kind of class you are taking. Wearing the wrong clothes can substantially impact your experience when attending your first firearms class. Classes at indoor ranges are easy to prepare for. You want to wear comfortable clothing that is easy to move in but not too loose. You don't want to wear things like tank tops or low cut blouses because burns from ejected brass are a thing and they hurt like hell. Every range I have ever been too, indoors or out, require closed toes shoes. Leave the sandals and flip flops at home. For outdoor classes you'll want to dress for the weather. Make sure you have a ball cap and put on sunscreen (trust me). Some classes have specific requirements for attire so make sure you read the class information closely in advance.
Obviously the most important thing to bring to class with you is your firearm. I'm not a fan of classes that make you use their firearms. The purpose of training is to become comfortable with your gun. Again, check the class information to make sure you have all of the required gear. A quality gun belt and holster are important. Know how much ammunition you are expected to bring. Bring a notebook and pen so you can take notes during classroom sessions. If the class is all day plan to pack a light but healthy lunch (and make sure you have a healthy breakfast). Most importantly, bring lots of water. Hydration and nutrition can have a major impact on your shooting and stamina.
Get Your Mindset Right
Finally, make sure you are in the right mindset to learn. Studies have shown that men tend to over-estimate their skills while women underestimate them. Both need to be open to instruction and not get offended by being corrected. Don't get frustrated when you don't do as well as you would like. Remember that you are there to learn. If you were perfect you wouldn't need a class. Even well-known, highly respected instructors take classes from other instructors. Have fun, enjoy the process, appreciate that you get to be at the range while others are stuck at home, and always try to leave being a little better than you were when you arrived. Attending your first firearms class doesn't have to be stressful. Just remember these few simple tips and hopefully we'll see you in class someday!