Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Training – Which Comes First? Carry gun or Range gun?


Phone Rings: Hello?

Nice Sounding Lady: Yes, are you the one Bob says gives gun classes?

Me: Yep, that’s me, can I help you?

NSL: Yes, I’m buying my first gun today and I want to sign up for your next class.

My next class is in about a month, it’s a NRA Basic Pistol class and exceeds all requirements for a carry permit in Iowa. I share these details with her.

Me: Can I ask what gun you are buying?

NSL: It’s a nice little Bersa .380. I like it because it’s small, I think it will be easy to carry – I just want to learn to shoot it and get my carry permit.

Me: Have you considered anything a bit larger? Something along the lines of a Glock 19, it’s a compact 9mm?

NSL: I’ve looked at them, but I’m going to get the Bersa this afternoon.

And, with that the conversation was essentially over. She’d made her decision about her very first firearm without a single range trip – but by simply “trying” different handguns in the store. So, provided she follows through, I’ll see her next month or in a private session for her and her husband which she also inquired about – time will tell.

Fast forward to a thread on a Facebook page for trainers this past week. One of the instructors has a person that had decided to get either a S&W Bodyguard with a laser or a Ruger LCP with a laser. They had absolutely no interest in any other firearm, just these two. Again, the person was a brand new shooter and was looking for a carry gun – he was wondering what other instructors would recommend. Most advice mirrored mine – start with something a bit “bigger” and then, as their skills improve, they could easily sell the gun and purchase one of the subcompacts. The person was having none of it.

So, let’s chat a bit about which comes first – a training (range) gun, or a carry gun.

Some definitions to make sure we are on the same page. A “training” or “range” gun is that gun you are going to take to all of your classes. It’s the one you use to learn grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press. It’s the one that, hopefully, you’ll send a thousand rounds or more down range during your first year to learn your new skill and to get “comfortable”. They need to be built like a brick crapper – able to handle this kind of punishment.

You have more options with your carry weapon. It DOES need to go “bang” EVERY TIME” you press the trigger. It does not need to withstand the rigors of a multiple heavy duty training sessions. For folks that carry subcompacts like the lady that called me – they are a nice choice for concealment and personal protection. But, I believe they fall short when called upon for rigorous training. That said – it takes time and experience to be able to reliably switch between “range” gun and “carry” gun.

And, for those who just take a course, get a carry permit, buy a subcompact and begin to carry . . . . with no additional training . . . . there are more holes than I can count in that “training” approach.

The ideal situation – “range” gun and “carry” gun are the same. There are the typical arguments – “It’s to big”, “I’m too small to hide all that gun!”, “It’s too heavy!”. Yep, we’ve heard them all. What is typically meant is that they have a crappy belt or a cheap holster or they haven’t sized their pants for IWB carry or they’re trying to jam it in a purse that needs to be designed for concealed carry. But, typically, it has little to do with the actual size of the gun.

If you are a new shooter and looking to go to the gun store to buy your first gun there are some other options you might want to consider first.

Talk to your chosen instructor or a local friend that carries or, at least shoots a pistol and try out some of their different handguns. There’s a big gap between the experience of dry fire in a store, and live fire on the range. Try your gun first.

Wrap your head around your need for training. The skillset involved in protecting yourself, your family or your friends with a handgun is much broader than simply getting your carry permit. A good goal is a training course of some type each year. This will keep you learning and make sure you have solid, guided trigger time.

As with any new skill – from riding a bike to downhill skiing – it takes practice. The art of personal defense has multiple skills involved – all of which takes range time and classroom time. You need to invest the time and the dollars to purchase good equipment and ammunition – period. Remember, if the situation arises where you need to defend yourself, your family or a friend – you only get one chance.

Finally – poor gun purchases are typically pretty “forgiving”. Provided you stick to well-known manufacturers – Glock, Springfield, Ruger, M&P, S&W – to name a very few, the resale value of your handgun seldom drops unless the gun is damaged. Get a range gun, learn the skills, then transition to different carry weapon if you feel you need to. You’ll lose little – if anything – in the sale.

So . . . what’s the answer to which comes first, a “training” gun or a “carry” gun . . .

. . . . you simply must train FIRST. Once you have integrated your new skillset into your life, you can find a carry weapon that is, perhaps, better suited to “carry”.


  1. Good advice, as always. I've expressed that opinion to a few 'noobs', but not as well as what you've written here. Now I can step up my game, too.

  2. The newbie thanks you for the wisdom imparted.

  3. Rev - Thanks sir . . . share away!! :)

    Brighid - More than welcome. As for "wisdom"?? How about "thoughts", or "advice" or "opinion" . . . "wisdom" is a bit much. :)

  4. Agreed! The folks I've 'helped' I have always recommended trips to the range to try various pistols BEFORE they buy one... So far everyone has taken that advice.

  5. Agreed! The folks I've 'helped' I have always recommended trips to the range to try various pistols BEFORE they buy one... So far everyone has taken that advice.