NRA Basic Pistol Class Review
When looking at pistol class options I could have taken an “express” 1 1/2 hour class or a “regular” 3 hour class available every day to be eligible to apply for a concealed carry permit in Florida but since I had ZERO shooting experience I wanted to get the most in depth education possible, not just the bare minimum. For only $30 more I could take an 8 hour class that was more comprehensive so that was the first use I made of the gift card that my husband gave me for Christmas. This required waiting a few weeks for the next class but it was well worth it.
There is a textbook that was made available over a week before the class started and was required reading prior to the day. The book wasn’t great in my opinion; I didn’t find it engaging, the font was tiny and the editing was very dry and technical, if it hadn’t been for the pictures I would have been hopelessly lost. I hear that the book is on backorder right now as they as revising the course into a Blended Learning format so you may not have to worry about this if you decide to take this class in the future.
A big portion of the class was spent watching a DVD that summarized the book and but everything in an easy to understand format. The stuff that went over my head while reading the book was made clear easily with the video. This part took several hours as the instructor paused it many times to go more in depth on the discussion, point out parts that “should be a good idea to remember” (ie “it’s on the test”) and there was a lot of hands on practice.
While the instructor says that in many classes they use fake plastic pistols, he doesn’t believe in that and he brought an assortment from his personal collection for hands on practice that included over 6 revolvers and over 6 semi-automatic pistols of a variety of brands and calibers. It was fun to handle the model of revolver that Rick uses to kill zombies on The Walking Dead, the one that Agent 007 uses and the one from Die Hard, etc. This was great as I got to practice loading, unloading and dry firing (firing without ammunition) each type which helped me understand some of the many differences between brands and models, start to get an idea of what type to look for and helped me build confidence for the range portion to come later in the day. I don’t think that the course would have been as effective for me without this part so I am glad that my instructor did this.
The instructor also passed around and demonstrated an extensive collection of cartridges from a wide array of calibers, new, empty cases, shrapnel, misfired cartridges and more. He also did a hands on demonstration of disassembling a semi-automatic and cleaning it and the cleaning of a revolver that was a lot more in depth than the video and book and helped me feel confident in being able to clean my own pistol once I buy one saving me the expense of being overcharged by having somebody else do it.
When that was done there was a closed book written exam of 50 multiple choice and true/false questions with a minimum score of 90 to pass. There were several trick questions but the instructor gave us enough hints in advance, warning about tricky wording and told us which parts were important to remember in addition to doing a quick review before starting the test so I felt well prepared. The exam was graded on the spot (swapped among classmates to grade together) and once that part was complete it was range time for practice with live ammunition and qualification. You need to get a group of 5 shots close enough on the target to pass the course.
Our class size was large with 9 students so there was not enough time for everybody to have a turn that day so the instructor started with those that lived further away. At first I thought that I would have to come back for my qualification as the range was going to close soon but I was 3rd in line and the instructor was able to squeeze me in.
I was very nervous about this part even thought I had a perfect score in the written test because I am not known for hand eye coordination or good eyesight. Add to that the fact that the instructor says that I am “special” because I am a lefty that shoots with the right hand but my dominant eye is the left (aka cross-dominant for those of you knowledgeable about this) and he made it sound like it would be harder for me to get a hang of things and make it work. Thankfully he was wrong and I was able to shoot right handed using my left eye with no problem whatsoever requiring minimal adjustment on sighting so I started hitting bullseyes after my 3rd EVER shot.
While other students, some with previous shooting experience, had to have several practice rounds before qualifying. I was shocked that I did so well on my first practice round that my second target was my qualification one. In total I only had to shoot 15 rounds before he was ready to move on to the next student and in that process I got to experience a misfire (cartridge malfunction) and had a hot case fly into my t-shirt and burn my chest, fun, fun lol. It was quite the rush and I loved every second of it.
The class was very intense as it was long with no real breaks, not even to eat lunch. We ate lunch while watching part of a video and if you had to go to the bathroom you just got up and hoped that you didn’t miss anything important. Despite it being so long and busy it was always interesting and I felt that every bit of information given was valuable. I was never bored and I am glad that I didn’t take a shortcut by taking a shorter class.
The class demographics were different than I expected, I feared that I may be the only woman in the group but instead there were only 2 men vs 7 women. I was the youngest in the class in my 30s while everybody else was mid 40s to mid 60s.
My next step is now to try to get to the range to practice at least once a month. This part is tricky since I have kids and don’t have my own car so it requires the support of my husband by having him drop me off at the range on a weekend and keep the kids entertained for an hour each time.
The next time I go to the range I will rent different pistols to try to see what I like best before purchasing. Thankfully this range allows you to rent for only $10 per caliber (not per gun) and they carry most of the models that I was looking at so it will be very affordable for me to narrow down my choices. I am wanting to get a 9mm model but I worry about ease of concealment with my existing wardrobe as I am petite and don’t have much in terms of baggy clothes and layers are not suitable to Florida’s hot and humid weather. I did fall in love with the looks of a .380 model that is smaller (but more expensive) and I haven’t tried it yet so the winner is yet to be determined although I am sure that I’ll gush about it here once that happens.
I probably won’t be able to purchase a handgun for several months until I decide on the model and then save enough cash for the pistol, a safe, a holster, a cleaning kit, ammo and extra magazines if needed. First I plan to apply for the CCL as soon as I receive the certificate since that is over a hundred dollars and it can take a long time for the state to process.
Sometime down the road I want to take more advanced courses but due to budgetary constraints it will probably be a while before that happens. Meanwhile, it looks like my husband will be following my steps and taking the course soon.
Once we are ready to bring a gun into our house I will use the NRA Eddie Eagle Gunsafe curriculum for kids. Most of the resources including the video, workbook and activity sheets are available for free online or they can be purchased for a nominal cost.
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