Firearms training is our passion and we have developed a series of articles to help newcomers get into their first training class. This post is designed to help readers narrow down what gear is needed for a training class. Just as important is identifying gear that is not necessary, especially for the beginner.
The title of this post is meant to underline the fact that much of the gear that you need to bring to your class will always apply. The investments that you make in this gear will serve you well if you take care to buy the right gear the first time. However, mistakes in equipment selection and preparation will always be part of the equation. It’s important to learn from those mistakes so that your future training classes will go smoothly. I’m a firm believer that one of the greatest pieces of education you get from a training class is how to identify what gear you really do and do not need.
Much of the loss of value in a training class comes down to gear, whether that is bringing the wrong gear, or gear failures. These problems slow down the student and often the entire class. Paying attention to choosing the right equipment is just as important as choosing the right class. Take care, do your research, and invest in quality equipment where your budget allows. My fundamental guiding principle when choosing my own gear is, “Buy once, cry once.” Don’t break the bank, but don’t buy cheap just to save a buck. If you train as often as you should, you will eventually regret buying cheap equipment.
Gun: This is the obvious place to start for a firearms training class. Whether you are taking a beginner’s handgun class, or an elite operator level super over-hyped tactical rifle class, there are some principles for choosing the right gun for the class.
First, prioritize quality according to your budget. When it comes to getting the most out of your gun, as well as out of your training, it’s in your best interest to invest most of your equipment budget into a high-quality firearm. That quality will pay for itself over time. Sometimes you can save some money buying a used gun that is of a higher quality. It is recommended that you buy from reputable dealers, as it can be hard for a new gun owner to know what to watch out for in a used firearm.
Second, define the purpose of the gun, and buy the right gun for that purpose. If you are just getting started, it will be hard for you to know exactly what you need. But to the best of your ability, do your research and then pay attention to the lessons you learn in your training. Many people buy their gun based on what the guy behind the counter told them that they needed. Then after taking a training class it becomes obvious to them that the gun doesn’t fit their needs. You could look at this as just an excuse to buy another gun. But if your budget is tight, this isn’t a mistake you want to make too many times.
Finally, make sure that your gun is clean and in good working order. This is true for all your equipment but it is most important for the primary tool that you are using. Nothing ruins a training class for you faster than a broken or poorly functioning gun. Learn how to field strip it, clean it, inspect it, and put it back together. This is vital. Your gun should include a manual, but even if it doesn’t, Youtube is your friend here.
Ammunition: There are different types of ammunition for different purposes. For most training classes you will want to use target ammo. Target ammunition is full metal jacket, which may mean little to you at this point but is easily researched or explained by your instructor. All you need to know is that usually this is the ammo you need for your class. If other types of ammo are required, it should be specifically pointed out prior to your class.
Depending on your class, you may or may not need to bring a lot of ammo. In most states, you can buy online in bulk and I recommend this for two reasons. First, it’s usually cheaper. And second, it puts you in the mindset that you will have plenty of ammo for practice after you finish your class. You don’t need to buy the best ammo out there. This is a case where generally speaking placing quantity over quality isn’t a bad idea. But you should still do your research and stay away from brands that have a bad reputation. Bad ammo can ruin your gun, your biggest investment in this equation.
Personal protective equipment: Eye and ear protection are critical, and you need to buy your own. Why do I say “buy” instead of “bring”? Because if I just say “bring”, you will rely on the range or the instructor to provide it. It’s critical equipment and you need to have your own.
Magazines and Holsters: Magazines are crucial. Buy more magazines before you buy anything else. Many new gun owners do not realize that unlike their gun, magazines are not going to last forever. They are dropped, stepped on, cracked, chipped, bent, and otherwise abused. If you are in a training class with only the two magazines that came with your gun, you are setting yourself up for a show stopping failure. Buy quality, and buy more than you think you’ll need. Based on my experience, I recommend a minimum of 3 magazines for each gun you bring to your training class. You may not need them all, but if you should need them and not have them, you will lose a lot of the value of the training.
Not every class will require a holster for your gun, but if it does, buy a quality holster that fits your gun specifically. I cannot stress this enough. Bringing a subpar holster will not only waste your time and energy in the class, but it can potentially be dangerous. Watch someone struggle with a cheap holster and you will understand what I’m talking about. In addition, a sturdy, high quality belt is just as important. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your instructor for recommendations.
Clothing: I can’t tell you how to dress. I wish I could because some of you need a serious lesson in style. But for your training class, pay attention to what your instructor says. If you have questions about the environments you’ll be learning in then ask them ahead of time. Here are a few principles for choosing the right clothing.
Layer up. I don’t care if it’s summer in the Amazon, dress in layers. Layers improve your ability to stay comfortable. If you are not comfortable, you will not learn as much in your class. You don’t need to show up wearing 8 layers of clothing, you can always bring your layers and add them if you need them.
Wear comfortable, closed shoes. Maybe you’re one of those weirdos who wears sandals when it’s 12 degrees outside, but that is not a good idea in a training class.
Always bring a hat. You don’t have to wear it, but you’ll miss it if you need it.
Accessories: AR15’s have been called “Barbies for men,” because of all the accessorizing that you can do. It’s a funny comparison, until you get to your training class and half the class is fighting with accessories that they don’t need, don’t understand, or simply don’t work. There are certainly many accessories you can bolt on to your gun to improve its effectiveness, but don’t be in a hurry to dress up your gun. The more you attach, the more can (AND WILL) go wrong in your training. Again, we will stick with some basic principles for choosing accessories rather than go over everything you can possibly bring to a class.
The guiding principle for all gear is this: Does it apply to what I am planning to use this gun for and what this training class is covering, and if it fails (“when” it fails is more like it), do I have a way to fix it or get around it? The more accessories you bring, the more that can go wrong and the more backup plans you need.
Take care to bring the right gear to your training class. You will get more value for your money and your time.