Primary Arms

So You Got A Gun For The Holidays, Now What? Training.

GLOCK 45 9mm and Winchester 9mm NATO 124 Grain

So your holiday tidings included something of a ballistic nature. A shiny new pistol, rifle, or shotgun made it’s way under the tree or beside the menorah. You took some of my advice in Part I and got some magazines, ammo, cleaning supplies, a quality holster, and a safe place to stow it.

But, do you know how to use it?

Learning How To Use Your Gun

Safe firearms handling and marksmanship isn’t handed down through the generations like it used to be. Especially in urban areas, the basics of firearms handling and self-reliance in general aren’t taught as much as they should be. A big thanks to Maj Toure and others for working on changing that. But anyways, you have a gun - you need to know how to use it.

Train, Train, Train

If you’re lucky, the person who gifted you the firearm is themselves familiar with the the basics of firearm handling and the ironclad rules of real gun safety. He or she would be a good place to start. Have them demonstrate safe handling and the manual of arms if necessary.

OK, then what? You’re going to want to actually shoot your gun. What to do?

The Indoor Range

If you live in an area where there’s minimal to no impediments to firearms ownership, chances are there’s an indoor gun range nearby. From your basic converted warehouses to posh “guntry clubs”, there’s a range out there for every personality type it seems. As a first-time gun owner, you’re going to want to find a place that’s staffed with friendly and helpful staff, but not overbearingly so. You want to fell comfortable, and not lectured to death or out of your element. In this case, Google around, check your local firearms-related web forums, and ask people you know. Try to structure your visit at a not-so-busy time so you’re not risking being next to the one guy with the obnoxious muzzle brake. You want a little space to get to know your gun.

Also, at the range, check if they offer classes such as the NRA’s Basics of Pistol Shooting. In a lot of cases, taking the “BOPS” class will also satisfy any state requirements for obtaining a carry permit. Even if you live in a Constitutional Carry state (lucky!) - you’ll still want to at least take a BOPS-level class at first.

And yes, classes cost money. But it’s well worth it. At the bare minimum though, for your first trip out to the range, you’ll want to bring someone experienced with you. I’d actually recommend an “informal” visit before you take a class. That way you have some trigger time and a few fundamentals squared away in your head.

Indoor ranges are great to learn in since you’re eliminating the variables of the environment and can concentrate on the fundamentals. Even if you’re experienced, a trip to the indoor range is always useful.

Carlos from CW Gunwerks running a CZ Scorpion EVO submachine gun

The Outdoor Range

Outdoor ranges are usually where you can do some “graduate” level work with regards to your firearm. Also, if you’re looking to learn your long gun, I’d recommend an outdoor range if possible. You can usually go beyond 25 yards and work on shooting at a distance. The only downside for someone new to the firearms scene is that the outdoor ranges tend to bring the “hardcore” gun people, which can be a little intimidating at first glance. That being said, the “hardcore” element is likely the friendliest bunch of people you’ll meet. You’ll find yourself getting some free education in most cases. Plus you get to check out the real cool toys like suppressors.

Outdoor ranges can also be a little more flexible in terms of cost. Often you can pay a flat fee and spend the entire day. Also, as you move along in your firearms education, you’ll get to learn about environmental variables. It won’t always be bright and sunny for an unexpected encounter.

A student training with UTM training ammunition at DA1 in Miami


It’s one thing to go with a friend and work on the fundamentals. It’s another thing entirely to take a class with an experienced instructor. Instructors span the whole spectrum, from the guy teaching Basics of Pistol Shooting, to the advanced force-on-force classes offered by people such as DA1 Training here in Miami.

When looking for an instructor, you’ll want to seek out one who is certified (yes, by the NRA usually) for whatever it is you are looking to learn. For example, you aren’t going to contact a “masters-level” instructor for your concealed carry pistol class. For something like that, someone offering the BOPS class will suffice. You’ll go over fundamentals, and concentrate on the basics like grip, stance, recoil management, etc.

As you move on, you’ll seek out more advanced trainers. Shooting on the move, force-on-force, and so on. As an aside, I can’t say enough about taking a force-on-force class. A force-on-force class, such as the ones taught by DA1 Training, will use Simunition firearms in their training. Simunition, or “sims”, are basically firearms expressly built to fire low-velocity paint marker rounds. You get the “bang” and recoil of a real firearm, and also the experience of dealing with an opponent who is shooting back. There’s the noise and the “pain penalty” when you get hit. You’ll learn about cover and concealment real quick! Getting my ass handed to me in a force-on-force class taught me more than days of square range exercises.

Specialized instructors abound as well, for specific firearm platforms and use cases. Into long range? There’s instructors out there for that. Into speed and competition? Someone’s out there for you. Even better, there’s a burgeoning scene of “non-traditional” instructors out there for the unique threats that women and LGBT people face. The right to keep and bear arms is universal and absolute.

Owning A Gun Is More Than Just Possessing It

Owning a firearm comes along with the responsibility of knowing how to use it. Besides, training with your gun is always fun. Even a so-so day at the range is better than a good day at work, as they say.

Part 1 - The Basics

Part 3 - The Philosophy

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A 9mm AK submachinegun by CW Gunwerks