I have a NRA Basic Pistol Class tomorrow and virtually every person I spoke to who is taking the class asks the same question:
“What should I bring??”
So let’s chat about that a bit. The catch phrase the NRA uses to describe the purpose of their classes is to:
acquire “the Knowledge, Skills and Attitude . . . .” to safely use a pistol, rifle, shotgun
That is why you are coming to class – to learn new things, to begin to become skillful with them and to have a proper attitude when doing so. Of the three purposes, the most important, by far, is ATTITUDE. If you know everything about the firearm – and are interested in proving that – don’t come. If you are ready to teach the class – don’t come. If you really don’t want to be there and are being dragged by your feet kicking and screaming – don’t come.
Attitude, when I use the word, means that you are open listening, learning, asking questions, clarifying, trying new things . . . . just being open. I can work with this. I can teach you things I believe to be important. I can share myself with you. If you are unwilling to do these things, you will simply be a lump in the chair. I’ll still take your money, I’ll still say the words, you’ll probably still get your completion certificate – but you won’t learn as much, it won’t be as enjoyable and we’ll both get to the end say “what the heck was that???”
Bring a friendly, open and curious Attitude, I’ll do the rest.
Knowledge and Skills come with the course – I will share my knowledge and teach you a basic skill set that will allow you to safely handle a handgun and give you a foundation that you can use to become proficient with it. It is a BASIC course not a gun fighting course, there’s a difference.
“Do I need to bring a gun? I have this awesome old big-assed revolver that my great grand dad used in “the war” – is that ok???”
Honestly, this depends on the instructor. For me – mmmmmmm – not so much. I provide all handguns used in the training. They are all Ruger 22/45, maintained by me so I can be certain there is nothing dangerously wrong with them. I like a .22 because many of the folks that take my classes are new to fire arms and a .22 is not nearly as intimidating to shoot as a full-sized 1911. Even though the 1911 may have a larger “coolness factor”, that’s not the point of a basic course. So, I provide the firearm and all ammunition. Additionally, I provide all safety equipment – both eye and ear protection. Again, I can be certain of what I am providing rather than having to evaluate what you are bringing.
However, if your instructor allows you to bring your own firearm and gear, please, make sure it’s all functional. No one wants someone to get hurt. Bringing a defective firearm to a course can do a lot of harm - to you, others and the instructor as well.
What to wear, what to wear . . . .
It’s a firearms training course – not a nightclub. Dress appropriately.
For the Basic Pistol course, with limited range time, a full shirt – no halter tops, sleeveless T-Shirt, scoop-neck shirt – please. Brass coming out of the ejection port is hot and can easily go down your neck. Wear a baseball cap. You can pull it down over the tops of your safety glasses to keep the brass out of the area between the lens and your eyes. Pants or shorts are fine for a Basic Pistol class; however more advanced courses will always ask for sturdy long pants as movement, kneeling, lying prone will probably be involved in the course of fire.
Shoes for the Basic Pistol class are not real critical, but they should fully enclose your foot – brass – toes – pain – cover your feet. For more advanced courses you will again be asked to wear sturdy shoes – hiking boot, combat boot, work boot – or something similar.
Bring a bottle of water or two. Many courses at least provide a water cooler; if you have a bottle you can refill it. Basic Courses have limited range time so most thirst is anxiety related. Advanced courses can drain you of water in a matter of hours – a couple of gallons are a good thing to take.
Bring a snack – hunger is distracting and food bars of some type can keep the edge off. Again, advanced courses can drain you of energy quickly – pack accordingly.
Bring ID. We all check to make sure you are who you say you are when you sign in and that you are old enough for the training or accompanied by an appropriate adult.
Bring your money. A lot of instructors ask for advanced payment – honestly I don’t and have never been stiffed. I have had a few folks need to hit the teller machine over lunch, but never been stiffed.
Bring a friend if you can. Yep, for me it’s a way to get more students. But for you it gives you a shooting buddy. Once the course is over, it will be much easier to go to the range with a shooting buddy who is trained rather than by yourself. Learn together, shoot together and you will definitely teach each other things long after the course is over.
Finally, bring yourself! Learning about firearms presents a number of odd barriers. Friends will say “what the heck are you doin’???” You may be just plain nervous around them or a bit frightened by a firearm. You may be overwhelmed by the all the gadgetry available – what type of gun, which holster, which ammunition, what shooting glasses, single action revolver, double action revolver, semi-automatic pistol . . . .
That’s the point . . . . of the class . . . . to let you learn . . . .
Come, enjoy, learn and leave with . . .
“the knowledge, skill and attitude” to safely handle and shoot the firearm of your choice.