Since last week was all about selecting your first handgun, I figured I’d talk this week about what follows that purchase. After all, you can’t just buy a gun and suddenly the world is all puppies and daisies. It doesn’t work that way.
In fact, that attitude may be one of the more dangerous options out there.
So, instead, let’s talk about what should happen in the immediate aftermath of purchasing a firearm.
You’ve just gotten home and you have your first pistol. Maybe it’s a semi-auto, maybe it’s a revolver. It doesn’t matter. Either way, you now have the most efficient means one can carry on their person regularly to end a human life.
Quite the responsibility, isn’t it?
Keep that in mind, because the very first thing I’m going to tell you to do is to get training in how to handle the firearm safely. Read the Four Rules of Firearm Safety. Memorize them. Internalize them. Live them.
At first, they should be as sacrosanct as marital vows. They should mean everything.
As you gain experience and learn about things like dry firing (that’s a topic for another day), you’ll see there are times when you may point your weapon at something you don’t intend to destroy, but still isn’t a human being or animal you have no intention of shooting.
(Note: Don’t try dry firing until you at least understand how to do it safely and to minimize the risk of a negligent discharge.)
Now that you’ve read the Four Rules and have them taken to heart, you now need to spend a little time learning how to shoot.
The best way, in my opinion, is to take a beginners class at a local range if at all possible. These are basic courses that will teach you how to safely operate your gun and give you lessons on basic marksmanship. I tend to recommend the NRA’s basic pistol course.
From here, it’s not overly difficult to see where to go. You buy up a bunch of ammo, go to the range, and burn some powder, right?
Well, yes and no.
You see, marksmanship is very important. You have to be able to hit what you’re aiming at, after all, but it’s just the first step. You have quite a bit of training ahead of you moving forward.
For one thing, basic marksmanship is great, but it’s not everything. It doesn’t teach you how to fight with a handgun, and that’s kind of why you have it, right?
That means still more training.
There are two primary means of training, more or less, so let’s take a look at the types.
Video training is awesome. Not only does it tend to be cheaper than a class, but you also don’t have to arrange time off from work, get a hotel room, or worry about having to eat out and wreck your nutrition while you’re gone.
With videos, you can sit down and watch at your leisure and get the lessons, then go out to the range at your convenience and get to shooting.
But there are significant downsides to video training.
For one thing, there’s no instructor. Now, this seems obvious but think about it in more detail. If you’re at the range shooting and your instructor is there and notices a biomechanical problem, he or she can correct it. If you watched a video and then started shooting, that instructor can’t do a damn thing to help you.
Another problem is that best practices can change over time. What is the cutting edge when the video is produced may not be the best practice ten years later.
Yet you may buy a video that has tons of great reviews on it, only to find out after a while that those techniques aren’t really the best of ideas. Video is kind of forever, after all.
Going to a formal class can be kind of a pain in the butt. After all, you have to go somewhere–you’re fortunate if the class is in your town–and spend a whole lot of money.
However, the instructor is there to give you all the information and answer questions if anything is unclear. They can work with you to deal with problems on the range and they can answer questions that may not be covered by the course material.
Additionally, they often have enough experience to offer informed thoughts on equipment.
However, this isn’t the slam dunk you might think.
You see, there’s no formal accreditation body for firearm instructors. While the NRA offers some courses, their basic courses are basic and their Carry Guard instruction is limited at the moment. I can’t speak for the quality of the Carry Guard courses, though I expect they’re excellent.
Beyond that, though, it’s kind of the Wild West.
There are a handful of very well-known instructors who you can definitely trust. I’d also trust anyone those guys recommend. Travis Haily, Rob Pincus, Chris Costa, Pat Macnamara, and a few others all have solid reputations.
They’re also more expensive, so the temptation is there to take a less costly class. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. A lot of those guys teaching the lower-cost classes are quality guys who do know what they’re talking about. They just don’t have the standing to charge big dollar amounts for their courses.
Do your research, though. The last thing you want is to get a guy like the one shown at the bottom of this post. And yes, this jackwagon is still teaching firearms.
The Hybrid Approach?
Something the NRA is playing with a bit, something I think will become huge in time, is something of a hybrid approach.
What this means is that some classes take what the NRA calls a “blended” approach to instruction. Some of the instruction is on the internet while the rest is in person. This lets people get a good bit of instructional time done at times that are most convenient with them.
Because of this, the idea of making a day trip for the range portion that might be a single day isn’t such a bad thing.
Not only that, but I suspect many instructors will start keeping videos up behind a paywall that will let students stay up-to-date with current thinking while also allowing them the benefits of video training. Old information would be pulled down and updated regularly so students will have the current thinking at all times.
Of course, I don’t know if anyone is currently doing this or not. I suspect someone is, though I’m not sure who.
It’s not over when the class is finished
When I created the Warrior Pyramid, I put guns at the top for two reasons. One was that I believe it’s certainly possible to go your entire life without ever needing to utilize firearm skills, but the other is that I argued you could gain weapon proficiency in an incredibly short period of time. I continue to believe that.
That said, though, I also think that there’s a difference between “proficiency” and “mastery.”
When it comes to protecting the things that matter, mastery is always preferable. The thing is, you’re not going to gain mastery with a single class.
Not only that, but I recommend you hit as many different instructors as you can. Learn from the big boys. Learn from the locals. Learn from them all. After a while, you’ll be able to sniff the BS just as well as anyone.
While you may not be a master, you’ll be closer than pretty much anyone you’ll encounter on the other side of a gun.
Tom’s Note: There’s still a lot to talk about, but this sucker ran long enough as it is. I’ll have to cover this either next week or later this week.