My friend Chris Shoffner of Armed Missouri sent me an email back in December that he was hosting a Tactical Pistol class taught by Tacc Arms. They had very limited spaces but by the end of the evening I had secured a spot. Now, all I have to do is wait until February 9th to go “play”. Still – even this far out, I’m “packing my school bag” and getting ready. So let’s talk a bit about just that – “getting ready”. Courses – whether very basic or multi-day requiring an elevated skill set – cost money. Cost of the course, travel time, lodging in some cases (this one is probably 6 hours away so I’ll have at least 2 nights in a motel), gas – not to mention ammunition, your weapon (and a second in most cases – remember “1 is none and 2 is one”). So – take it serious, prepare, take good gear, put in range time prior to the course . . . . some areas of consideration.
Weapons: Take TWO!!! A Jeff Cooper saying was “One is non, two is one!” (not sure if he was the originator of this particular quip, but it comes up in many of his writings and video interviews). Meaning – have a backup. If you go to a weapons class with a single weapon . . . . it’ll break beyond repair. You’ll miss the class, miss the range time and be out your money. Not good.
So, for me, I am taking two Glock17s. I still love this weapon for a training class. It’s reliable, full sized, carries plenty of rounds and is more than accurate for any course I have ever taken. That’s why I have two of them. I have never had a catastrophic failure with either weapon – and I’m not expecting on in February. But . . . . I’m still taking two!
Holsters: I see my everyday carry holster as separate from the training holster. My carry holster needs to be very concealable, needs to securely hold my weapon until it’s needed and needs to be comfortable throughout the day. It does NOT have to survive hundreds of draws per day during a shooting course. My choice is the Blackhawk IWB leather holster – worn at the 4 o’clock position. It truly “fits like a glove”!
My training holster – meaning the one I wear to single or multi-day shooting schools MUST be able to stand up to hundreds of draws per day. For that I am very fond of Serpa holsters. (I know – I know . . . . boooooo . . . . Serpa . . . . bad!!! Honestly that has not been my experience!) I like the rigid Kydex form. I like to wear them at the 4 o’clock position but OWB. And, as with the Glock17 – I have two of them!
Range Bag: UPDATE I realized I left out a Range Bag. Honestly, mine lives in the Jeep, so I seldom think about it, it’s just always there. However, there are specific things I carry in it. I did a post on this almost a year ago. So, rather than repeating myself, just go here to find out the contents of my range bag.
Clothing – Waist-Up: I start with an UnderArmor T shirt. Their wicking ability is amazing! I cover that with a polypropylene long-sleeved shirt and then a fleece pullover. My outer layer is a Columbia Omni-Tech parka with the lining taken out (and the adjustment elastic strings removed). This gives me plenty of options to cover everything from a mild 70 degree day to a butt cold rainy day. Again – money, travel, purpose – make sure you can stay on the range and shoot the course regardless of the weather!
Clothing – Waist-Down: Inner layer is a polypropylene long john. These are great at wicking away moisture and have little chaffing throughout a long day. These are covered by “shooter pants” and the lovely Mrs. Bill says. I like the 5.11 TacLite Pro series. Double fabric in the knees, lots of pockets, comfortable fit – the kind I can wear all day. My alternative would be REI trail pants. I have a bunch of these as well for canoeing and backpacking. But, that’s what they are built for . . . . not shooting.
Feet: You would think people would know how to take care of their feet . . . . few do. Start with a polypropylene layer of sock covered by a wool layer. I love SmartWool for the outer sock though my favorite pair is a heavy duty pair of wool hiking socks – pure heaven. This is a great combination to wick perspiration away from your foot, that reduces friction and that can essentially eliminate blisters. And trust me – THAT is a very good thing.
Shoes: My standard comment is to wear “sturdy shoes”. Leave the frickin’ leather sandals, loafers and tennis shoes home. Wear something that can protect your foot and protect your ankles! My preferred boot is a leather Monarch hiking boot – decades old, layered and layered and layered with mink oil that wraps itself around my foot and keep it dry whether its dry and 100+ or raining buckets and the mud is ankle deep. Again, if you’re not prepared – you could sit on the sidelines for a whole day.
Outer Wear – Pants: I have a pair of Columbia OmniTech rain pants that has seen me through the worst downpours insuring that in under that parka and pant combo – I was nice and dry. Take a good quality rain pant. While the videos may look cool of shooters on the line getting rain drenched – a day like that sucks. Been there – done that – got the T-shirt. Not gonna do it again.
Belt: Invest is a good belt/belts. Both for every day carry and for your training. I am fond of the 5.11 nylon belts but there are many good ones out there. Don’t take a thin, floppy leather or cloth belt. They just cannot hold your holster and magazines in the right spot.
Magazine Carrier and Magazines: You should be able to step to the line with three magazines loaded for whatever drill is about to come your way, one in the gun and two on your support side in a magazine carrier. I found a nice dual-mag carrier. It doesn’t really matter who makes them – just that they are sturdy and stay in place. If you are a revolver guy – two pouches for your speed loaders is simply a must. Take spare magazines. I usually travel with six – three for each weapon.
Ammunition: I know this will probably insult some . . . . but take enough store-bought ammo to cover the course. If you are a re-loader, fine – think of it as adding to your brass collection. But again – cost, travel, time – if you have a bad bunch of primers, contaminated powder – whatever, you may end up watching a lot more than you are working drills and learning. I know, I know . . . . “I ain’t never had a bad reload” . . . . talk to murphy about that one. Use factory ammo.
And, just to be a nice guy – especially in today’s market – if you can take a few hundred rounds extra – do it. Some other shooter may not have been as lucky as you!
Research: Research the course you are taking. Look for reviews, videos, testimonials . . . . and then use this to help you prepare for the course. Spend extra dry-fire time polishing your draw, stance, presentation, trigger press. Use your .22 range gun (mine is the Ruger .22/45) to work on your marksmanship. Work on your polish so when you hit the range you can work on the course work they are presenting, not the basics you should know.
Nerves: I have yet to take any weapons course – whether the first day on the range back in the summer of ’68 to a Point-Shooting Progressions Course from Suarez last spring – than I haven’t felt a bit nervous. And, I take the advice I have always given my kids . . . . “It just means it’s important to you!” And so it is . . . . it’s important to me that I do well, that I not look stupid, that I remain open to learn what the instructor is trying to teach me, that I push my limits, that I continue to grow and develop as a shooter.
Of course you’ll be nervous . . . . no biggie.
Incidentals: Take your boo-boo kit. Take your blow out kit. Throw a handful of cliff bars in your range pack. Take a couple of Nalgenes of water and a couple of gallons of water as well. Throw a couple boxes of those little Crystal Lite packets to flavor the water (I hate the taste of water!!!) Throw in a good sized bag of jerky. Don’t forget sun screen and lip balm A day on the range can work you over pretty good!