Of all of my friends and co-workers that own guns, I can count on one hand the number that have taken more than the basic class required to get their permit. I can only speculate at the reasons for this, but instead, I want to talk about why you should spend your hard earned time and money on some training. Now, I’m not suggesting some high speed class or what the late great Louis Awerbuck called “Entertrainment.” Rather, I’m just asking all gun owners to go and take a basic class or two from a reputable instructor.


What will you get out of a class? While that is entirely dependent on the individual, I think there may be some specifics to strive for. To that point, what I hope most gun owners would learn from such a class is relatively simple stuff. Specifically, how to safely handle a gun, the fundamentals of marksmanship, and robust manipulations for loading, unloading, and clearing malfunctions. If we’re discussing pistols, then add working from a holster to my list. And finally, taking a class should be a fun way to connect with like-minded people and potential training partners.


Choosing to own and carry a firearm for personal protection is a cherished right for many of us in America, but it is a right that entails much responsibility. I think taking a class is part of that responsibility. Increasing numbers of people are becoming new gun owners as adults, having had no formal introduction to firearms in childhood. Others have been around guns all their life and may feel confident in their abilities without realizing how much they don’t know. Either way, as gun owners, we should all strive to become more responsible in our gun ownership. One really good way to become more responsible with your gun is to take a training class with it. In order to get better at anything, you have to practice. A lot. But first, you have to know what to practice.

The bare minimum?

I suggest taking such a class because most carry permit courses only have enough time allotted to address the state specific legal requirements for carrying a gun. Instead, what I’m suggesting is actually becoming competent with a gun, whether it’s a pistol, rifle, or shotgun. In my opinion, competent gun handling is the foundation upon which everything else is built. The reality, however, is that many gun owners fall short of this ideal. Simply google “gun accidents” if you doubt this.


I mentioned being safe with a gun first because it is the cornerstone of the foundation. Competent gun owners are generally safe gun owners. Safe gun owners can go a long way towards challenging the anti-gun belief that guns are bad and dangerous. Yes, a gun is dangerous, but so is a chainsaw. Knowing how to safely operate either is key to successfully working with it. If you rigorously observe some essential safety rules, you can largely avoid destroying something that you don’t intend to!


When it comes time to build upon your foundation, you should also understand that “advanced” gun handling is little more than mastery of the fundamentals applied under increasingly difficult conditions and scenarios. To further build upon this analogy, you are creating a structure that can weather a storm. But how do you master those underlying fundamentals? By taking classes and practicing what you learn until it is second nature.

Evil is real

Another part of choosing to own or carry a gun for protection is understanding that evil exists in the world and being prepared to fight back. While you may not go looking for trouble, trouble may indeed find you with little warning! If and when that day comes, having taken some formal training and having practiced the skills you’ve learned will go a long way toward achieving a successful outcome. Carrying a gun is serious business. Treat the decision to do so accordingly.


To approach this from a different angle, if we look at gun owners through the lens of the “conscious competence” learning model, I suspect the majority of the gun owning public is unconsciously incompetent. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. As a demographic, I would prefer that we were instead unconsciously competent. Now, there are a couple of intermediate steps in that process, but again, that is why I recommend gun owners take classes!

Building unbreakable habits

I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again. If you choose to own and carry a gun for protection, then handling your gun should be as familiar to you as driving your car, or perhaps even better, riding a motorcycle. In my mind, that represents unconscious competence with your firearm. I am of the firm opinion that the best way to achieve that is through good initial training, with subsequent learning occurring through additional training and frequent practice. Handgun skills are especially perishable and need to be refreshed from time to time. That is one reason that I take at least one handgun class every year. As well, a tangential but significant observation has been made by more than one instructor that training with a handgun seems to also benefit proficiency with long guns. So if you have both, prioritize training with your handgun.


Whether you choose to compete with your gun, carry it concealed for protection, or just have it in the home just in case, knowing how to use it is fundamental. A training class is a good first step towards becoming competent with your firearm. Owning a gun is simple, right up until it’s not! When that time comes, you will subconsciously default to how you’ve trained and what you’ve practiced. Are you going to fumble? Or are you going to be competent and capable?


Thanks for reading. If you found this article worthwhile, more of my writing is available at the Civilian Gunfighter Blog that I co-founded. There you can find class and equipment reviews, a recommended reading list, current events commentary, and other posts on topics related to firearms and self-defense.

About the Author

John is just a regular guy. He’s never been in the military and he’s not a cop, although he does have a lot of friends that were in the military and he works alongside cops every day. He’s been involved in emergency medical services one way or another long enough to remember Pneumatic Anti-Shock Garments and defibrillation with paddles. He currently works as a paramedic and lives on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line with his wife and two children.

For all of his adult life, John has been interested in guns, shooting, and self-defense with firearms. He’s been carrying a concealed handgun since 1997, and he’s been blessed to train with some of the best in the industry. In addition, he is co-founder of the Civilian Gunfighter Blog, where he writes about guns, self-defense, and training.

He can be reached at civiliangunfighter.john@gmail.com

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