Monday, March 05, 2007


Advanced Handgun Skills Class

About two months after my first handgun training class, I've an "advanced handgun skills" class. The basic class was focused on familiarization and safety; this advanced class is more about how to use a gun in a self-defense situation.

It is difficult to practice "real-world" skills at a shooting range. Thanks to lawyers, insurers, and local politicians, most ranges have very restrictive rules. For example, at many ranges one is not allowed to draw a gun from a holster, shoot rapidly, or engage multiple targets. Some ranges won't even let you load more than one round at a time. Range practice is good for developing and maintaining the fundamentals, but really only prepares one for a situation where a stationary attacker appears in front of you when you already have your gun in your hand.

A nice thing about taking a class is that the range's rules are relaxed when there is an instructor present. So, for the first time, I got to draw a loaded gun from my holster and fire several rapid shots at a target.

The course started with some classroom time. First the instructor reviewed the safety rules and legal issues that everyone should have learned in previous training. He demonstrated various ways to carry a concealed weapon. He described a few basic tactical principles. Then it was time for the range.

The range exercises started with practicing the draw (with unloaded guns). Then, we were instructed to draw and fire a single shot at the target. After doing this a few times, we then drew and fired two shots at a time, then three at a time, and up to five at a time.

When shooting for accuracy, one wants all the hits to fall within a tight grouping of a few inches. But in a combat situation, it's best to shoot fast, so a group of 8-10 inches isn't bad. If your group is too tight, you're shooting too slowly. "Spread the love," the instructor advised.

When learning to shoot rapidly, you start by shooting slowly to get the motions right, then you increase the speed. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

We practiced shooting at multiple targets. This drill consisted of firing a few shots at the target in your own lane, then turning and shooting at the target in the next lane over.

The last group drill was "point shooting," which is firing without using the sights. In a self-defense situation, one will probably have time to aim carefully, and the attacker is going to be very close, so it is often best to just point the gun and keep shooting until the threat is gone.

Along the way, I had to keep reloading my pistol. This was my first experience of needing to count shots and switch magazines when getting low. I had three magazines with me, each capable of holding 15 rounds. I went through a little over 100 rounds, so my magazines and my loading fingers got a good workout. My pistol ran dry in the middle of a drill once, giving me an opportunity to practice a fast reload.

After a short break, we had the final exercise. The instructor set up some obstacles and targets on the range, dimmed the lights, and then led us each through the course one at a time. We weren't told exactly what would be there, we only knew that there would be some bad-guy targets and some no-shoot targets. I'm happy to report that I didn't shoot any good guys.

There were nine of us in the class: eight men and one woman. I got to chat with them during breaks, and all seemed like nice, reasonable people. The class ended at 9:00 PM (after three hours), and most of the students were anxious to get home to watch 24.

I really enjoyed the class. It was a lot more interesting than my typical trip to the range, and I learned a lot. I hope to take the "Tactical Handgun Skills" course when it is offered a few weeks from now.

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