Prepping for a shooting class

Over at LooseRounds.com, Howard wrote up a short article: “Getting ready for a shooting class”.

I thought the list was a good start, and wanted to expand on it. Over my 7 years with KR Training, as well as all the classes I’ve taken myself, I’ve picked up a few things.

I agree with Howard on #1 – look at the class’ required equipment list. Whatever it is the instructor/school is telling you to bring, bring it! If you’re unsure or have questions, contact the instructor/school and ask. For example, when I recently attended CSAT’s Rifle class I wasn’t sure about mag pouches or chest rigs, so I contacted Paul and he told me what I did and didn’t need. Saved me a lot of trouble and money.

Howard’s #2 was water/electrolyte drinks. I’d expand upon that to include some food. What food? Depends. All-day class? You’ll probably want to bring a meal or two (depending upon class timing and your dietary needs). Just a few hours? At least some sort of snack (granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, etc.). One of my favorites is Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds, because: they taste good, protein and fat goes a long way for sustained energy, and the salt and other goodness within the nut is a good replenisher when you’re on the range and sweating all day. It can also be worthwhile to check with the instructor/range about off-campus meal options; CSAT? many restaurants within minutes of the range. KR Training? maybe after-class supper, but you won’t be able to make a lunch run anywhere nearby. Besides, bringing food and eating on-campus can be useful for casual socializing with instructors and other students, and there’s often gems of information you get to pick up.

I would bump up Howard’s last comment to #3: sunscreen. Even if the range has a covered shooting area, you’ll likely spend a lot of time uncovered in the sun. Getting sunburned will detract from your ability to learn. In addition to sunscreen, consider covering clothing. Me? I often like to wear long-sleeve, light-colored Under Armour shirts because they cover me fully but remain pretty cool even in the Texas summer heat. Long pants are good too. Brimmed hats can also be good. Note: do not equate sunscreen/sunburns with summertime and heat; just as snow skiers. If it’s an all-day class, reapply at lunchtime.

To that end, clothing should be weather appropriate. If it’s going to be raining, wear a raincoat, boots that can handle water and mud, etc.. If it’s going to be cold, wear layers of clothing and see how gloves will affect your ability to shoot (could be a good time to learn about such options). Be mindful of zippers, drawstrings, and other dangling things that could get caught in holsters and trigger guards – they can lead to bad results, so just take a knife and cut them off (do you ever tighten those drawstrings anyways?).

Final bit on clothing is to have range-appropriate clothing. Close-toed, sturdy shoes. Shirts should be close around the neck (even for you guys, because hot-brass down the shirt is no fun whether you have cleavage or not). If the class works drawing from concealment, clothing appropriate to such a task (how do you or will you normally carry?).

As for guns, ammo, and gear…

Guns. Bring your gun, cleaned and oiled and ready to go. If you don’t know how to do these things, check with the instructor as you may be able to arrange coming early to class so they can help you get set up. If you happen to have a second gun, it may not hurt to bring that second set of gear in case something goes wrong with the first gun. I’d avoid using it as a way to just switch and try different guns during class as that tends to be disruptive to class: pick one gun and set of gear, use it for the whole class. Just have a backup in the off-chance something goes wrong (or ensure the facility has loaner equipment in such an event).

Ammo. Whatever the class requirement is? Bring more. You never know. If the class says 100 rounds, I’d bring 200. If it says 1000, I’d probably bring 1200-1500. You won’t be upset if you go home with ammo, but you will be bummed if you run out.

Magazines. The more the merrier. My habit is any time I am at a store (brick-and-mortar, or online) that sells magazines for my guns, I buy 1 magazine. If I do this every time I shop, over time I build up a nice supply of magazines. Many I keep in the closet for when I need it, but I have 10 M&P9 mags in my range bag ready to go. Yes, load mags before you come to class, so you’re all ready to go (an UpLULA is your friend). I find I typically only use 3-4 mags during the course of class because I’ll use a mag, then break in the action, reload the mag, and keep going throughout class. But having all those other pre-loaded mags? If something causes me to be unable to get a mag reloaded (e.g. I had to run to the bathroom), I can just grab another mag from my bag and stay in the flow of class. Buy more mags, have more mags.

Eye protection and hearing protection. Must-haves. If you don’t know what’s appropriate, talk with the instructor before class. They may even have loaner gear to help you get started. And even if they could have loaners, you really do want your own for your own practice sessions.

Holsters, mag pouches, and belts. This depends upon the nature of the class if you need these or not (again, check with the instructor). But make sure you have them. Should you have them on before arriving in class? That depends upon the class. A competition class is unlikely to be a class you could wear your gear to, so you’ll have to suit up at the range. A self-defense class, especially a higher-level one where you’re expected to have a carry license in order to attend the class? You’ll probably be expected to have your carry rig on when you arrived to class. But do expect the instructors will have a gear check to ensure all is good and quality gear. If the instructors suggest changes to your gear, listen to them. For example, holsters where the mouth collapses are not ideal. But this could be a subject of a multi-part article series. For the purposes here, just be sure you have solid gear and ask if you don’t know what that means.

Other stuff? Depends upon the nature of the class, coupled with your own needs. Bad knees? You may want to consider knee-pads, but there’s no harm in asking the instructor beforehand (there may be no kneeling so it’s irrelevant). How about a folding/camp chair? Maybe; but ask first (facility may have benches so no need to trot out your own). Small first aid kit? the range/instructor should have something, but no harm in bringing your own, especially if you might have special needs. To that end, if you do have special medical needs, be sure to alert the instructor before class so they can be aware and prepared.

Before you head to class? Check in with the instructor. Maybe not directly, but check your email or phone or whatever other means the instructor is using for class notifications. It may be possible the class was cancelled (weather suddenly turned and holding class is impossible), so save yourself an unnecessary trip.

And all of these things? Try to prepare as far in advance as possible. If you have to obtain stuff, the more time you have to find it, order it, get it delivered, or otherwise obtain it may take a while. No need to do last-minute scrambles.

Finally…

Be mentally prepared for the class.

You’re taking this class because you want to learn. Be open and receptive to the teaching. Maybe they do something different than you already know, but be willing to try it their way because you came to learn from them so be willing to be taught and try… you don’t know what you might pick up from it. If you have questions, ask. Be mindful to not be disruptive or “that guy” (you can always ask questions later, or during breaks), but don’t be afraid to ask for explanations to help you better understand the material.  Have the right mindset for learning.

And most of all? Have the right mindset of having fun. 🙂

So what did I miss?

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