As we charge headlong into warmer weather and, of course, outdoor shooting classes and events, I thought I'd put pen to paper and give you a list of things to think about to make sure you're set up for success instead of embarrassment on the range the day(s) of the class. Let's talk about "intermediate pistol training."
What is "Intermediate Training"?
I consider "intermediate training" to be the training that comes after your basic pistol training. Hopefully, you took a great class like our MultiState Concealed Carry Class and got a good primer on safety, pistol actions and types, ammo, pistol shooting fundamentals, and an introduction to concealed carry. Hopefully you spent time on a range with an instructor or someone you know to be a good shooter and are now able to hit the target with consistency, make good shot groups, are comfortable with the function and actions of the pistol and, most importantly, can do all of the aforementioned safely! You've got that newly issued Concealed Handgun Permit and are ready to start carrying, right? Well, maybe.
What probably wasn't covered in your basic/intro class is how to draw from a holster and reholster safely, how to reload, how to use cover and concealment, and how to overall comport yourself while carrying in the world. That's where your intermediate training comes in. You've checked all the blocks to be allowed to carry, now it's time to really learn to carry competently, comfortably, and safely.
That's where Practical Pistol 1 comes into the equation.
Practical Pistol 1
As you can tell from the title, Practical Pistol 1 is all about how to carry a concealed firearm practically. You're going to learn to get the gun from the holster and onto the target as efficiently as possible and get that gun back into your holster as safely as possible. You're going to learn what happens when the gun runs dry and how to execute a slide-lock reload. We're going to teach you to shoot from behind cover because you can't protect yourself and your people if you're standing flat-footed on the "X". We're going to introduce the shot-timer and have you engage multiple targets in increasingly advanced, realistic scenarios. Finally, we're going to end the day with a great refresher on marksmanship fundamentals in a cool down exercise we do called "The Marksmanship Challenge." You can't miss fast enough to win a gunfight!
While many academies have different versions of "intermediate training" we here at P&D found that this is about the maximum amount of task loading we can put on a shooter and have it "stick."
How to be successful at Practical Pistol 1
Alright, you're sold. You want to check out Practical Pistol 1. How should you get ready and what should you bring?
Be Range Savvy
What does that mean? Put simply, it just means that you should have recently spent some time on a range and be overall competent with a firearm. Nothing crazy, but the Practical Pistol course definitely shouldn't be your first time on a range and it definitely shouldn't be your first time in months (and months) on a range. If you're struggling with things like basic marksmanship and manual of arms, you're going to have a much more stressful day and you'll hold the entire class back. Show up ready to shoot.
Owning your own gun isn't a hard and fast requirement - we can certainly set you up with a loaner gun and holster with prior notice - but you will definitely get more out of the course with your own kit. Not only will you have the confidence that you're good to go with your gun, you don't want to stress of learning how to make a gun you've never shot before work. Don't be that guy who stops at Cabella's and buys the cheapest mid-size 9mm pistol on his way to the class. We had that guy in class once and he did not have a good day.
On more than one occasion, a husband brought (or, maybe dragged is a better word) his wife to the class and you could tell she'd rather be doing almost anything. Worse, the husband had a quality, modern pistol and the wife was using his old hand-me down from the 80's with a weird decocker and 20 lb trigger. When I offered to swap the wife out with something that would be easier for her to use, the husband helpfully said "no, that's the gun that she's going to be carrying. She needs to train with that." I got news for you guys: she was never going to carry that gun. Whenever I see a husband who doesn't make sure his wife is happy with her gun first, I make it my point to sell the wife on one of my most expensive guns. I can do it, too. I'm goddamn gun dealer. You will be buying her something expensive.
I tell that vignette to say this: don't force someone to take the class and definitely don't force someone to take the class with outdated, unserviceable, or hand-me-down equipment. Be a gentleman.
The holster is every bit as important as the gun. We have three very rigid requirements for a holster:
- The holster must be specific to the make/model of the firearm you're using. Universal holsters universally suck. The only exceptions to this are duty-grade holsters like Safariland.
- The holster must completely protect the entire trigger guard of the firearm while the gun is holstered. You don't want ANYTHING touching the trigger except your finger when you're ready to shoot.
- The holster must stay open when the gun is drawn to enable effortless reholstering. Reholstering is, statistically, when you're most likely to have a negligent discharge. Having to wiggle and coax a gun into a holster that's pancaked itself shut makes a relatively dangerous operation extremely dangerous. Check out the video below:
I'm not going to let you shoot the course with dangerous equipment and holsters that don't meet that criteria are dangerous.
Speaking of dangerous... like many training organizations and most police departments, we do not allow SERPA holsters by BLACKHAWK! under any circumstances. While it technically meets the criteria above, it is an inherently flawed and dangerous design.
Don't believe me? I'll let John Correa over at Active Self Protection say it a little bit more bluntly:
Holster manufacturers we recommend and prefer are:
This is far from an exhaustive list of "good holsters", but you'll notice one thing universally about all those holsters: they're all kydex or injection molded plastic. Dollar for dollar, kydex is hard to beat when it comes to stiffness, fit, finish, retention, etc. You'll pay triple (or more) for a leather holster that has equivalent features and, don't worry, Kydex won't scratch up that new gun.
With prior planning, we do allow appendix carry in our Practical Pistol 1 class but it is definitely not preferred. Appendix carry is a decidedly advanced way to carry a pistol and requires some degree of training and competency that's a bit outside the scope of this intermediate class.
Your $9 Kenneth Cole reaction belt from TJ Maxx isn't going to cut it at this course or in day-to-day carry. You need a proper gun belt.
- Ares Gear
- Blue Alpha (their EDC Belt is my go-to for day-to-day carry)
- Voland Gear Works
- The Beltman (for those of you who need leather)
Spare Mag and Mag Pouch
You'll also need a spare mag and mag pouch. Many people chose to carry their spare mag in their pocket (since they don't carry a dedicated pouch in their daily concealed carry), which is fine. If you decide to go with a pouch (and I highly recommend it) look no further than Esstac Kiwis (for an outside-the-waistband option) or a Dark Star Koala (for an inside-the-waistband option).
While we sell ammo at competitive prices, you're welcome to bring your own, provided it's a lead bullet with no steel core. Unless you're using one of my guns. If I have to clean it, I get to decide what gets shot through it - so you'll be buying ammo from me!
- You'll want weather appropriate clothes and shoes. Never open-toed shoes. If rain is expected bring a rain jacket - we do not charge extra for bad weather.
- A water bottle/thermos. We provide water, you just need something to put it in.
- Sunblock. I'm a ginger. The sun is not my friend. I'm covered head-to-toe with sunblock.
- Snack food/lunch. We do take a quick lunch break but not really long enough to cook something. Bring a hoagie or some Cliff bars or beef jerky. The lunch break is also a great time for something with caffeine and sodium instead of just water.
- A good attitude. Nothing sucks the jam out of a class' donut like one of two people: the grump and the know-it-all. Be a nice, easy-going, conversational. Let the instructors instruct.
- A speed loader. While optional, you will be loading lots of magazines over the course of the day. A speed loader will help save your thumbs. You definitely want to practice with it before you come. I find speed loaders to be far more trouble than they're worth in most cases, and, until you get used to them, they take longer to load with than without.
As you can see, there's a bit more to this course than a quick trip to the range but it's worth it. Set yourself up for success - you'll have a miserable time if you're fighting your gear all day.
Did I miss anything? Hit me up in the comments below.