This was a 2 day course building upon the prior NRA Pistol courses I have taken. (NRA FIRST Steps Pistol, NRA Basic Pistol, NRA Personal Protection in the Home).
The first day was largely lecture. We re-reviewed the basics. For example the NRA’s three rules of safety. (Even though most shooters tend to be more fond of the four rules. Namely the Golden Rule of “Treat every gun as if it were loaded.”
We went over the states of awareness.
Though many are probably more familiar with the four colored system of “White, Yellow, Orange & Red”.
The course addressed the legal aspects of carrying concealed. And the aspects of mental fortitude needed for such responsibility. We also discussed the equipment that helps facilitate carrying. What options are available (external holsters, In the Waistband Holsters (IWB), shoulder holsters, purses/fanny packs, etc. First time I have ever drawn a pistol from a purse. ;-)
We then went through the procedures of drawing a firearm from a holster with and without cover. We practiced this technique as a “dry-fire” technique. For those unfamiliar with the term, this is where you utilize your firearm in it’s unloaded state. (Often without a magazine but my sidearm is one of the newer California rated pistols and has a magazine disconnect. Which disables the trigger mechanism when there is no magazine in the gun.)
While it can be broken down further the basics of the draw entail 4 steps (5 is you’re wearing covering). First was gripping the pistol with our strong hand while ensuring our weak hand was to our chest safely out of harm’s way (or at least any harm of our own doing). Second was the process of drawing the firearm from the holster and rotating the muzzle out and forward. [This position that a sidearm can be fired from.] Next we bring the pistol to a ready position in front of ourself; it is at this time our weak hand joins our grip on the pistol. The fourth stage being to extend the pistol forward while keeping it level so that you can sight in accurately. We would repeat this same process in reverse in order to re-holster. Helping to reinforce the patterns of movement.
Of course, as many states require conceal carry. We also addressed how to handle your external garmet; allowing you to access your firearm. This is really a pre-step, maybe even a side step. Because while it is the first step in drawing, it may not be the last step in re-holstering. As you likely have to move the garment before returning the sidearm to your holster.
A couple of advantages to this method is that step 3, the ready-position, can be advantageous to training. Many ranges prohibit or look down upon drawing from a holster and firing. However, by picking up the firearm from the table or bench and bring it to ready position (3) and then extending. You essentially are practicing half your draw and shooting. This combined with dry-fire practice can help reinforce your skills.
We were also shown proper techniques for picking a sidearm from the table. The advantage of setting it down so that your strong hand can easily pick it up and bring it to ready-stance. (In my case, being right-handed, this entails setting the sidearm down on it’s left side. So my right hand can grip the right side of the pistol.) We also went over recovery drills. The standard Tap, Rack, Shoot (or Access as the NRA terms it). As well as what to do when that does not work. Such as when a round is jammed next behind another and the magazine does not fall out. In this situation we locked the slide, then released the magazine. Which was followed by rapidly cycling the slide a few times and inserting a new magazine. The funny thing here is that we were using snap caps. And my sidearm stripped the edge of the snap cap. So it required a bit of additional action to be taken in order to dislode the snap cap. [FYI, a snap-cap is a non-firing replica of a given cartridge caliber. It is design facilitate gun’s function and behavior as if it were using a bullet(except for cycling as there is no discharge of force). It is also recommended by many when doing a large amount of dry firing to reduce the wear and stress on the firing pin.]
After all of this (and quite a bit more) we went out on the range for the last hour or two of day one. However, most of the second day was spent on the firing range.
The first thing that caught me off guard is that we did not shoot from the partitions. Rather our instructor had us all stand in front of the normal firing line, using an line on the ground as a demarker. This was one of those very odd feelings as even as a fairly new shooter, I have it ingrained in my mind that one does NOT shoot when downrange. But the value in doing so was quite clear. On the street there is no range, and there sure as heck ain’t no partitions to give you a comfort zone to either side. I just had to make the internals of my mind realize that I was not standing in front of the firing line. But rather we had denoted a new firing line.
During the two day course we practiced drawing from a holster and firing and returning to a holster. There were three stages in drawing that we were able to present the gun on target. These were the extended position of course. The ready position and the second stage upon drawing and rotating the pistol so the muzzle faced the target. Of course, accuracy was best when we had fully completed our draw. However as a great majority of engagements on the street occur at close range. We were shown how a standard human sized target could still be hit at close ranges from the other potential firing stages. We even did an exercise entailing drawing the pistol and begining to fire at after we’d pulled and pointed the gun. And continuing to fire as we moved to stage 3 “ready stage” and as we extended the firearm until we were in our standard shooting position.
Other drills included handling for failures. We interspersed snap caps in our magazines. So that we had random failures which would require that we ran through the tap, rack, assess/shoot drills. We also engaged in practice exercises addressing drawing when we are not directly facing the opponent. When the opponent is standing to your left, your right, or even behind you. We explored the options available and the advantages and disadvantages. From drawing and rotating, to drawing and passing the sidearm to the weak hand which may have easier access to the target. We had practiced how to properly pass a sidearm from one hand to the other and discussed the merits of weak hand shooting. Seeing that use of your weak hand is not limited only to situations in which your strong hand has been injured or immobilized.
As we went along, the exercises began to incorporate more and more of what we were learning. Including moving while drawing and firing. And eventually shooting from cover. There were four of us in the class and all found it beneficial. I know a couple of us were really enjoying ourselves by the end of it all.
I personally came away with a lot of new found skills. A lot of new knowledge and a boat load of things to practice and drill. Our instructor included a supplemental handout of dry-fire skill building drills which I am very appreciative for. If you carry, or are considering carrying, I strongly advise taking this course. I will throw out the caveat that your mileage may very depending on your instructor. I believe our course while covering the NRA material expanded the scope and depth of material a bit. And I am very glad for this. Just like when I took driver’s ed many years ago. My instructor made the following statement… “I am going to teach what you need to know to pass the test. I am also going to teach you what you need to know to drive and not get yourself killed.” And I’ve always preferred that approach. Why else am I paying for instruction? I can read a book and learn quite well. But I am one who likes to ask questions, interject thoughts, and really understand “Why” I am doing something. Courses that I have taken where the instructor was by the book, often left me with numerous questions. Such instructors are often merely parroting the book. They don’t have enough of an understanding to explain the mechanics or address the unsaid subtleties. An instructor who is at a level where they can expand upon a book, and say “Hey, when is this a good strategy. Is it still a good strategy in situation B? Maybe not, huh?” is always more beneficial to me. Firstly it satisfies my curiousity. Second, it facilitates my delving and self-learning. Lastly, it just gets you thinking and internalizing your understanding of the material.
So I am thankful that I have been blessed to have such an instructor for this course. It’s always a joy to learn and have fun. However, I have felt that taking such a course is part of my duty and responsibility as one who carries a firearm. I’ve endeavored to absorb much book knowledge over the past year. I’ve read a number of books by the likes of Massad Ayoob, Jeff Cooper and more. But the advantage of a course like this is put such knowledge in action and turn it from book knowledge into action knowledge. Taking a course such as this helps me to be more confident. By that, I do not mean more confident in my ability in a gunfight. (Albeit that does come into play a bit.) More so, I mean that it makes me more confident in my ability to learn, train, and hone the skills that will enable me to increase the odds that I come out on top were I ever to find myself in such a situation.