Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Training – Your Range Gun


Way back in January I put up a post about purchasing your first gun – “So you want to buy a gun . . . now what?” The purpose was to walk a new shooter through the process of evaluating a number of different styles of weapons as their personal defensive weapon. There is, however, another criterion that has kinda poked its head up recently – how “range friendly” is it??

Two stories (you knew one was comin’, right??)

In my last defensive pistol class June brought her very small .380 semi-automatic pistol. This is her carry weapon and there is no better choice a shooter can make than to really ring out their carry weapon on the range – in a class – that requires hundreds of rounds, hundreds of draws and hundreds of magazine changes. We both learned a lot – for example the small, lightweight clip-on holsters look cool, but have a tendency to detach with the draw and remain firmly mounted on the weapon as you bring it up to engage a threat. A 7+1 small semi-automatic weapon makes for a crap load of magazine changes. The practice is great but the distraction of short engagements can be a real . . . . well . . . . distraction.

My good friend Brad sent me a note the other day. He’d attended one of the many 4-hour CCW courses here in Iowa and was ready to buy his carry weapon. He was trying to choose between a couple different .380 semi-automatic pistols for ease of carry. I replied that “we needed to talk” before his purchase and chat about a “range gun”  –  I have not heard from him yet. But, to the best of my knowledge, this is his first experience with carrying a weapon. I’ve made my standard “pitch” to him about the courses I offer but have not seen him. I may or perhaps not – time, money, kids . . . . lots of distractions to get in the way. Regardless, assuming he actually purchases a .380 – I am hopeful he will find a significant amount of time for the range.

What these two folks have in common is a small caliber weapon, well suited for personal carry but . . . . IMNSHO . . . . NOT well suited for serious range time to truly learn the skills they may well need to save the lives of their family, their friends or perhaps their own.

So, what do I want in a range gun??

I want a range gun to have a number of features:

  • Sizable capacity – 10 rounds minimum on up.
  • Multiple magazines – minimum of three – more is better
  • It should be easily “simulated” by a similar sized .22 Cal pistol
  • It should be VERY RELIABLE – new shooters that are discouraged by their weapon are much more difficult to teach or just stop shooting altogether
  • It should be usable for their initial carry weapon
  • I am very fond of 9mm Cal weapons – cheaper ammunition yet solid stopping power
  • It should fit a carry holster that closely mimics their carry weapon’s holster
  • It should be “beefy” enough for the toughest course – 1,000+ rounds per day
  • Maintenance should be simple – again – new shooters – minimum frustration

I’m sure there are other items to consider, feel free to add what you think in the comments.

There are a number of platforms that meet these criteria. It should be no secret by now I am very happy with a Glock as a range weapon. Yes, I know – “trigger . . . .”, “polymer . . . .”, “Doesn’t begin with a 4 . . . .” – heavy sigh. Consider this – this is a “beginner weapon”, a first-timer’s gun – I believe a Glock is hard to beat. My choice – a Glock 17 or 19; either will shoot all day long, have high enough capacity to run multiple drills and can easily pump out 1,000+ rounds in a single day. In fact, my G-17 has been my current carry weapon since my LC9 took a dump and I wanted more capacity than my G-36.

I have had a number of folks use Springfield’s XDM platform or Smith and Wesson’s M&P platform – I give both high marks. The idea here is to get a weapon in the new shooter’s hand that can be used to teach “The Draw”, speed reloads, tactical reloads, clearing malfunctions, a broad assortment of training drills, meet the basic needs of multiple training courses and the expectations of the associated instructors.

And, while you’re at it, the weapon should nicely fill the niche of your personal defensive weapon.

Bottom line – get a range weapon . . . .

Train with it – frequently . . . .

Learn your new craft, take it seriously, focus on it, read about it, take courses from a broad range of knowledgeable instructors, become deadly with your new tool . . . . .

And some day it may save your life or that of your spouse, child or friend . . . .


  1. I would say FIVE magazines for ANY gun is the absolute minimum...

  2. I'd have to agree more is better, 5 is as good as any number. I'm a little embarrassed to even admit how many mags I have for the 1911, Glock 17 or Ruger .22/45 - but it's considerably more than 5. I've also gotten in the habit of dumping a box of ammo in my pocket (50 rounds) to fill the "spare time" while there are shooters on the line and I reload/top-off any mags I have on me.

  3. I carry a G36 (with the 15# Wolf springs I've eliminated the gun's tendency to FTE) but I want a G19 for range time because

    1) cheaper to feed
    2) more capacity
    3) same basic size as the 36


    1. Hi Larry, I have no problem with the G19 as a range gun or a carry gun, for that matter. I use a G17 (two actually) for range guns and training, I really like them. Since my LC9 took a dump awhile back, I've switched to carrying the G17 and find it fits and conceals just fine.

      I tend to Glocks because most of my shooters are new. They are very reliable, it's easy to clear the standard malfunctions and easy to strip and clean the weapon. And, they hold value well. If a year down the road that want something different, they have no problem recovering their initial investment.

      I think your reasons are right on, I can get 1,000 rounds here for about $249, you can get a 10 round or 15 round version and the size is comprable to your carry gun.

      I think it's a good choice for you.