Summer has more than arrived. The weather is nice. The pandemic is waning away. Permitless carry has become law in many states this year. Did you purchase your first firearm recently? Now is the time to consider training!
Welcome to gun ownership! If you’re reading this and are new to firearms, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans decided it was time to take self-defense personally and took the leap to become a gun owner. With that comes a whole new world to explore. A big part of what is going to help make you a successful shooter or be prepared for using your firearm should you need to is training. This can be overwhelming.
I’ve instructed more new gun owners in the last year and a half than I have since I became a trainer in 2014. Granted, firearm training is a side hustle for me, like many trainers, but I’ve worked with and talked to a lot of people about training and becoming a first time gun owner recently. Every single person I spoke to referenced self-defense as the reason for buying a gun. Between the rise in crime from the pandemic, civil unrest, calls to defund the police, and an assortment of reasons that are well known to anyone that’s paying attention to the news, people have taken to arms.
The best gift you can give yourself, your loved ones, and the public at large is quality training in using a firearm. This can be intimidating and you might not know where to go. There are plenty of resources out there, all you need to do is look into them a little. Here are a few options that you might want to consider.
National Rifle Association Classes
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been the premier training provider in the United States since right after the Civil War. As a matter of fact, the NRA was put together specifically to train people in marksmanship in the years proceeding the war.
The NRA offers a number of classes for beginners. If you’ve never fired a gun, this is a great place to start. The NRA programs focus on firearm safety, which is key, as well as all the fundamentals you need to know to safely and accurately fire a firearm. Instructors are not employees of the NRA but rather trained by certified councilors in the NRA methodologies.
The NRA Training website is one of the best places to go and see what you have available to you in your area. There you can plug in your ZIP code and set a radius of how far you’re willing to travel. Most people are new to handgun use, so scroll down to the pistol section and select one of the following:
- NRA FIRST Steps Pistol Orientation
- NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting – Blended
- NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting – Instructor Led Only
The FIRST Steps Orientation is a basic class to teach students about one pistol make and model. It’s a good primer to start newbies on their training journey.
The Basics of Pistol Blended class is a hybrid class that involves students taking an online module prior to meeting with an instructor. After the student completes the online portion and passes an exam they can then meet for a live fire shooting session. This program is successful for those that might be nervous about being with others when learning the ropes at first, or for people that would rather take in information from the comfort of their own home.
The Basics of Pistol Instructor Led only class would be the full 8+ hour class conducted by an instructor in a classroom and range setting.
The U.S. Concealed Carry Association
The U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) is a membership organization as well as a training provider. The USCCA classes focus more on the self-defense aspects of firearm use rather than just basic marksmanship. The beginner level classes all emphasize on firearm safety and subsequently the proficient use of a firearm from a self-defense angle. Like the NRA, the USCCA instructors are not employees of the USCCA but rather trained and certified in their methods. Different class options can be explored on the USCCA website.
The USCCA has both online and in person classes. If you’re more interested in exploring on your own first from the comfort of your own home, you can enroll in one of the several modules or class packages they offer. This is good for people that are apprehensive about being in a classroom when getting started. However, I’ll note it’s important to seek hands on training from an instructor in the flesh.
There are several different classes an individual instructor could teach. Aside from set programs by the USCCA, there are classes that instructors can put together from the materials to fit the specific needs of a student or group of students. These classes also focus on different awareness techniques as well as hardening yourself/your life to avoid bad situations and be ready should danger come knocking. Some of their pre-packaged basic classes:
- Basic Defensive Pistol
- Concealed Carry Fundamentals
- Home Defense Fundamentals
The Basic Defensive Pistol class is structured around exactly what the title would lead you to believe. The course gets shooters in the proper mentality and arms them with what they need to safely handle and use their firearm.
The Concealed Carry fundamentals will go over a lot of the material covered in Basic Defense Pistol but with a focus on carrying concealed. This class is great for those that are ready to actively carry a firearm for self-defense or those looking for the next step after taking a more elemental training offering.
The Home Defense Fundamentals covers many of the same fundamentals in the two other classes except the setting would be in the home. If you’re someone that is strictly interested in keeping your firearm in your home for the ready, this is a good program to explore. Like the concealed carry class, this could serve as a good second step or first introduction to firearms.
Public Ranges & Private Instruction
Many public ranges offer classes and or their own brand of class. Depending on what your needs are, something like this might be for you. Take a look and see what you have available in your area and see what is offered. There are also plenty of independent trainers out there that would be happy to give you one on one instruction.
If you’ve gone about to get your concealed carry permit, some states require a class in order to get them. That class is just your primer and keep in mind that further training is highly recommended. If you live in a permitless carry state, still seek training.
Regardless of what training route you decide to take, The NRA, USCCA, or other, you want to be sure you do your research on whoever and wherever you’re getting your training from. Read the reviews on facilities and instructors if there are any available. Some instructors lean on word of mouth, so ask your friends and family members if they know anyone.
The key here as a new gun owner or one that is a bit rusty, is being responsible and safe. Get training and practice what you’ve learned regularly. Do try to get to the range at least once a month to keep your skills sharp. Seek more and further training as time goes on. There is no reason to stop learning just because you’ve taken your first basic class.
Keep safe out there and think before you do!
Author’s Note: This article has not been reviewed by the NRA or USCCA. I’m certified by both organizations as an instructor and recommend them both. They have quality programs. What you choose is going to be a matter of what’s right for you. I have not been paid by or asked to write this article. Its intent is to guide you, the reader, in looking further into training.