“How much training do I need with my firearm?”

How much training do I need with my firearm? This is a question that I hear a lot from my clients. There are a lot of variables that go into answering this question. Have you ever shot a gun before? Is this a brand new firearm? Why did you buy that particular model? What is the reason you are looking for training? What is good enough? Does the client have a good gun fit? What is your training and ammunition budget? What are your goals for this training?

Most people purchase a firearm and then take it to a range somewhere. They are usually surprised to find out that they really suck at shooting a paper target. Hollywood makes it look so easy! While shooting looks easy, shooting well and accurately takes some time to learn the fundamentals and apply them consistently.

Others make the mistake of buying a new gun thinking it will make them a better shooter! This is a theme seen regularly by ALL instructors. The only thing that will make you a better shooter is training and doing it more. If you are buying a new gun thinking it will make you better (unless you are a competitor seeking out something specific), it won’t. You are better off investing that same money in ammunition and some training classes. Buy buying a new gun to get better, you are only delaying getting proficient because now you have to adjust to a different gun and start that journey all over again. Save the multiple purchases until you are much better and want to reward yourself.

Have you ever shot a gun before?

Even one time? If you have, great! Was it under the tutelage of a qualified instructor or a just a casual session with a friend or family member? Keep in mind that this type of learning isn’t learning how to shoot well. Some well-intentioned people may only have a couple of options for others to use resulting in some unpleasant experiences. Others that aren’t so well intentioned purposefully put a HUGE gun in a new person’s hand to see their reaction to the bang and think this is funny. If either of these was you, I would argue that you have no idea how to shoot a gun. Just pulling the trigger doesn’t equal getting good results.

If you haven’t, it would be best to take a private lesson or beginner class using a qualified instructors gun. Most instructors have lots of pistol options for men and women. Taking an intro class or lesson can keep you from purchasing a totally inappropriate choice and wasting a LOT of money in the process. It’s much better to get a little knowledge before you make a purchasing decision, regardless of what the person at the gun counter says. Remember, they are there to… SELL GUNS! Not determine the proper gun fit and best option for you. That is your job and the job of your instructor to help you.

Is this a brand new firearm?

All guns have a learning curve. You have to get used to the angle and feel of the grip, where the trigger breaks the shot, the way the sights look, how big the grip is and on and on. I never conceal a pistol that hasn’t had 1000 rounds through it without any malfunction that can be attributed to ammunition. And, you don’t really know what it’s capable of until you hit around the 3000 round mark when all parts are running smoother. By then, you’ve taken a number of training classes, learned to shoot faster, draw from a holster, etc. So, if you’ve purchased a new firearm, you need to understand that there is a time investment to train with it, especially if this is a new conceal carry pistol. Take a defensive training class using each pistol you intend to carry to really understand how it performs and feels with lots of reps in and out of the holster, the safety (if it has one), the feel in your hand and more.

And they all have a break-in period. I will use my Glock 19 as an example. When a gun is brand new everything is stiffer as the metal parts slide past each other. My glock trigger used to hurt my finger and had a few malfunctions in the very beginning. But, as I’ve used it over the years, the parts have smoothed each other out. My G19 has over 20,000 rounds through it (as does my black up G19) and now shoots like butter. Anyone that comes through my training academy with a new Glock and complains about the trigger gets to shoot my well broken-in Glock 19. They always say it’s much better and recognize that it will get there.

Why did you buy that particular model?

I always ask this question because it lets me know the amount of forethought someone has put into their purchase. It’s my job to meet them wherever they are with the gun they’ve brought. But, sometimes people have a gun that someone gave them, bought for them, told them to buy or something else entirely. Some purchase because the person selling them the gun recommended it. Others, because of a magazine ad or article. Women tend to buy a gun that’s smaller and “easier to operate”. Or that they can rack the slide back. And some people choose the best they can buy on their budget. Regardless of their reason, it helps me to understand why they’ve chosen a particular gun. I don’t ask this question to gear shame anyone. It is my job to help them perform with their gun of choice to best of their abilities.

Certain types of guns such as small guns and revolvers with a hard double action trigger pull simply take more training to be accurate on the target. The smaller the gun, the shorter the barrel and less accurate thus needing a longer training curve. The hard trigger pull of a double action revolver causes the sights to move during the trigger pull causing missed shots. This also requires more of a learning curve and hand strenthening exercises to shoot accurately.

As mentioned above, lots buy a different gun for the elusive skill of shooting much better. It’s better to be really good with the one you have and then branch out to different makes and models. I’m able to shoot nearly every make and model regularly. My gun of choice is the same it’s been for years, the Glock 19. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy shooting all types of pistols. I definitely do! But, I come back to my G19 every single time and it’s like breathing a sigh of relief when I pick it up? Why? It feels great in my hand and I’ve put more than 20,000 rounds through 2 of them that are set up exactly the same. So, that familiarity aids in my proficiency.

What is the reason you’re looking for training?

Since the war started in Israel my phone has been ringing a lot with people looking for training and having a general unease that things are going badly and will get worse. Top 5 reasons are: 1. crime in the community; 2. the world has gone crazy; 3. already have a gun but not comfortable with it; 4. always been interested in shooting; 5. want to get my conceal handgun license.

Regardless of the reason, seeking out training with your firearm is a very good idea. Most who practice on their own or go with friends to their club don’t have the eagle eyes of a competent instructor. Sadly, safety issues usually go along with this type of practice. Safety training is essential to operate a firearm competently and responsibly. Working with an instructor and taking training classes is a great way to fast-track your progress. But, you shouldn’t expect fantastic results without also putting in the time to do all the other stuff such as regular practice, dry-fire, and more.

Being prepared by having a gun and knowing how to competently use it is a fantastic first step to protecting yourself and your family against those who would harm innocents wherever you may go.

What is good enough?

Again, that depends! If you just want to pass the Texas Handgun License shooting proficiency then being able to pass that is good enough for you. The Handgun license qualification is a minimum standard and doesn’t even cover drawing from a holster. Which, since there is an assumption people will be open or conceal carrying their firearm in a holster, isn’t a requirement to obtain your permit in Texas. Unholstering and holstering a firearm is where most negligent discharges happen. There are lots of wrong and unsafe ways to to that. Get extra training so you don’t negligently shoot yourself or someone else.

If you come to us to learn how to use your red dot optic, good enough is finding the dot on pistol presentation quickly and automatically to get good hits on target. If coming for defensive pistol training, a 2-hour intro class is just that, an intro! Good enough is getting the gun out quickly, safely and getting accurate hits on the target. Time after time after time…

Shooting is a perishable skill. What I mean by that is that your skill degrades the longer you don’t use it. It takes regular practice to keep your skills sharp. And, carrying a firearm out and about on your person is a huge responsibility! We owe it to the public and our families to be as proficient with it as we can be. Don’t forget, you are responsible for every single round that leaves your gun and you can’t call it back. If your pistol craft is excellent but you haven’t done any work on the mindset or understand the legal use of force, then you still need training, just a different kind.

Ultimately, good enough is very subjective to the person seeking training. As an instructor, it’s my job to help you meet YOUR goals. Keep asking the question “How much training do I need with my firearm?”

Does the client have a good gun fit?

If someone is using a gun that is a poor fit choice, they will definitely need more training to learn to overcome the incorrect fit. Incorrect fit happens for a lot of reasons. Incorrect fit can be overcome to a point. I will use myself as an example. My gun of choice is a Glock 19. My hands are fairly small. So, in order to reach the trigger, I have to use an adaptive grip which took extra training to know where my hands needed to be and to automatically grip the gun that way every time.

Also, people don’t know what kind of gun to buy, they buy too small of a gun or too large of a gun, the caliber selected is too powerful and hurts their hands, etc. Proper gun fit alleviates so many things that cause trouble for newer shooters. I help those in my community that ask for it and visit the gun store with them to explain different features. I also hold regular Ladies Day at local gun stores brining several women instructors with me to help ladies make a more informed choice.

What is your training and ammunition budget?

If you have a large training and ammunition budget gets lots of training! First, it’s super fun but with a purpose. Second, you will really know your pistol and how to utilize it effectively in a number of situations. Third, you will meet other awesome people in your area that love to do what you like to do.

If you don’t have a large budget, all the above still applies but your gun choice is much more critical so you don’t make the wrong choice and have to turn around quickly and purchase that better choice out there. But, if you’ve made a solid choice, it’s much better to invest in training than other guns until you get proficient. I advise people to stick with their choice for a year before buying another gun if you have a limited budget. Or, trade it at the gun show for something better for you. You don’t have to live with it if it’s clearly a bad option for you.

What are your goals for this training?

Training goals were touched on above but having a goal will keep you focused on why you sought out training in the first place. Having goals will make you a better shooter, faster. And once you achieve that goal, set another training goal to get to a higher level. Or go in a different direction like seeking out training with a defensive rifle such as an AR-15. See lots of our classes and our AR-15 classes here.

Getting the training and having the wheels fall off the bus during a training class is much more preferable to not training and you need it on your worst day. Training is where you can safely push the envelope to see what you are capable of doing so that you know how AND that you can perform when needed.

Most new people are happy to come and learn the fundamentals on the range under supervision using their chosen firearm. It helps them feel more comfortable handling their firearm and gives them the confidence to take a class.

Whatever your goals are, communicate them with your instructor. I ask every person what their goals are for this training session and then I make sure to help them meet and most times, exceed that goal.

How much training do I need with my firearm? Start slow with a basic goal. Learn the fundamentals and practice them until they are second nature. Then, set a new goal such as doing it faster, going to a local practice match, learn more about defensive shooting. There are so many directions in which to go. So, start by setting any goal and get out there and start working on it!

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