Basic Pistol Qualification

Today I took an eight hour course sponsored by the National Rifle Association. It was a basic pistol qualification course, teaching the fundamentals of handgun safety, shooting, and cleaning.

The instructor was in artillery for the Marines for several years. When his time was up he started teaching firearm safety. He was incredibly knowledgeable about firearms, and had an incredibly dry sense of humor. Even when he was demonstrating for the class using a rubber gun he would demonstrate proper safety by pointing the rubber barrel at the ground and “firing” to the side of the classroom. When he switched to guns using dummy bullets he carefully explained the mechanisms of the single-action revolver, double-action revolver, and the pistol. He would cock the hammer back, pull the trigger, and give an exaggerate “BOOOOOM”. IT was hilarious, but educational at the same time.

First he passed around the dummy guns so we could practice proper handling and sighting. Next came spent casings from various rounds and exploded bullets half-formed and broken into pieces. He passed around dummy bullets so we could load a magazine with .22, .40, and .45 caliber rounds. It gave us practice with safe equipment, and no fear of handling live rounds while we were still getting used to the safety portion of class. We learned what could go wrong when a gun misfires, and what only happens in Hollywood and cartoons.

By the time we got around to the range portion of class I wasn’t the least bit nervous. I stepped up to be one of the first to fire. Loading the magazine with live rounds for the first round worked just like it did with the dummy rounds. At each step he let us know exactly what we should be doing and the proper way to react when something goes wrong.

My first few shots weren’t on my 9″ target, but every shot after was dead on. He even congratulated me on my dead center shot. The first target was thirty rounds at fifteen feet. I did rather well after making a few corrections. My second target was another thirty rounds at thirty feet. I fired twenty from the same Smith & Wesson pistol, and the other ten with a double-action revolver. There was such a difference, and it was great to be able to try both side-by-side.

We took a written test at the end and were presented with our Basic Pistol certificate and patch. It’s enormous. I don’t know that I would ever put it on anything, but it is kind of a cool thing to have. I was told that I’m not allowed to hang up the diploma unless it’s in my closet. There is no gun in my near future, but I can always go back to the range to rent a lane and a handgun for an hour. I can’t wait to go back and fire an entire box of rounds. I already knew that I loved shooting. Today just confirmed that shooting is just as addictive as it was fifteen years ago.

  1. I learned gun safety the hard way; my dad’s a hunter and gun enthusiast, and he had a bad habit of leaving guns laying around the house, so my mom insisted that he teach me to use them so I’d understand the dangers. I remember helping him make bullets once, and learning why double-priming is not a good idea (and also exactly how fast I can run when something explodes in my face). He used to let me practice at an outdoor range with my grandfather’s old revolver, and when I got fairly good they let me try out a .22 handgun, and that taught me how fast I can run when I get popped in the face by a slide (and how judgemental kindergarten teachers can be when you show up on the first day with a massive black eye). All in all though, I had a lot more good days at the range than bad and I agree. Shooting is fun.

  2. I’ve been around guns for many years which is the reason I chose to finally take this course. I didn’t know how to safely handle guns, or what to do if one of them jammed.

    You’re brave to make bullets! That is something I would never be able to do.

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