Tips For Your First Training Class

Squash The Jitters
9

Training gear

You also need to take care of the body. A trauma kit isn’t expensive, it’s easy to use and something every shooter should have. And yes, duct tape is a required piece of your gear.

You’ve decided to attend a firearms class for defensive training and are paid-up. Now it’s time to start putting together the gear you’ll need for the class. Details are critical, and can be the difference between a great class — or a frustrating experience for everyone involved.

Begin gathering gear early. Wait until the last minute to make ready and you may come up short. Start by printing out the equipment list provided by the school you’re attending. This way you can check items off as you go. Don’t rely on your memory — Gretchen is always correcting my memory, and rightly so. Most items will be commonplace, like eye and ear protection, but there may be some specific gear needed for the school or the class you’re attending.

If it’s on the list, bring it. “Hats” are on the list. “But,” you say, “I don’t wear/like/want a hat.” The hat prevents hot brass from falling down behind your eye protection. Elbow and kneepads are on the list, but back problems prevent you from using some firing positions. When questions come up contact the school for clarification, ensuring you’re fully prepared. Both you and your instructors will appreciate it.

Gear is selected according to application. A defensive class like concealed carry requires defensive gear. Training with a full size semi-auto when you normally carry a snub-nose revolver doesn’t make sense. Consistency is key for learning and application. Train and practice with the firearm you normally carry. What about carrying a subcompact pistol but training with a full size in the same format? The subcompact pistol may require repositioning the firing hand in order to seat the mag into the grip. You won’t learn this if you don’t train and practice with that particular pistol. Don’t cheat yourself on this.

Tactics gear

Start getting gear together for a class by checking to see what the school requires. It’s a lot easier if the items are steady staples living in your range bag. Add gear as necessary to get you through an extended trip.

The Right Stuff

Each piece of gear should be given the same consideration as your selection of firearm. With a properly designed holster you can acquire a firing grip on the pistol while holstered, and the mouth doesn’t collapse once the pistol is drawn, allowing you to holster using only your firing hand. Cheap, generic one-size-fits-all gear is unsafe, and you won’t be allowed to use it during class.

Some gear, like knee and elbow pads don’t have to be “tactical” black with Velcro. So long as it’s quality gear it doesn’t matter if you use work pads from the hardware store or skate/snowboarding pads. Test all your equipment prior to class. The right holster needs a proper belt. The belt has to fit the loops in the holster and the belt loops on your pants.

Please don’t take a brand new, unfired firearm to class. Test it with your magazines and ammunition. I’ve had students arrive for instruction only to discover the thousand rounds of ammo they saved 30 bucks on won’t function in their gun. Make sure there’s not any weak links in your “chain.”

Make a list of “personal” gear you’ll need during class, plus a “to-do list.” Again, print out a hard copy to work from. If you know from experience it’s easy to lose a certain spring or detent for your firearm, bring spares. Small items like this are not expensive, and having spares may save your class. The “to-do” list reminds you to put fresh batteries in your optics, flashlights and other accessories. The gear list reminds you to take spares. Your personal list also includes things like sunscreen, athletic tape, band-aids and other items needed for any trip or outdoor adventure.

There are items that may not be required, but will make things easier. I highly recommend electronic earmuffs. Plugs block the ear canal, but a lot of vibration causing hearing damage comes in behind the ear at the jawbone. Electronic muffs magnify “normal” sounds so you can easily hear range commands, then shut down when noise passes a certain level.

I’m also a big advocate of taking notes during the class. This creates a reference for after the class, and the act of writing notes helps implant the material into your mind — it actually helps you learn. Typing notes into your phone or pad doesn’t make the same connections so bring a note pad, and use it.

tactics gear

Be sure to test everything, especially any new gear. All of your gear is a link in the chain and it all has to fit and function together.

Post Class — Practice

after class is when the real learning begins. Training is the introduction of new techniques, modifying existing skills. Practice occurring after the class is when you get the repetitions necessary to actually learn these techniques and skills. During training you learn what equipment works and what needs to be modified or replaced. Practice confirms this, ensuring everything fits your specific application.

Once you’ve got plenty of repetitions, learned the material presented during your training and got your gear sorted, it’s time to determine what class to attend next. Learning how to use a firearm properly — safely and efficiently — is a life-long journey. We’ll help you
along that road.

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