Since you’re here at NRAWomen, I’m assuming you own a gun, Or if not, you’re thinking hard about adding that tool to your arsenal for safety in these uncertain times.
But now that you have one, what’s next?
Guns aren’t terribly complicated to use, but it might not be completely obvious what you’re supposed to do the minute you take it out of the box. Sure, you can read the manual or, watch some select online videos by firearm experts for some direction. A friend or family member may be willing to show you how to load and fire it. But is that enough?
Many of you purchased a gun because you want to be able to protect yourself and, more specifically, carry it with you as you go about your everyday life. In much of the United States, that requires getting a concealed carry permit or a license. Obtaining a CCW can be as simple as having a background check performed and being issued a card, or it can involve a certain amount of time in a classroom on a range to meet state-mandated requirements. But what if you don’t have to take a class, or the class you took was brief and monotonous?
It’s true that you may already know how to operate your gun, but formal, structured reminders of the safety and legal rules that accompany gun handling and the skills required to use them are incredibly important. If nothing else, going to a good class will help remind you of things you may have learned in the past, like the basic rules of gun safety. You might also find that teaching methods have improved. You won’t know unless you go to that class.
Even if you have previously learned gun safety rules, where you live, who you live with and what you plan to do with your guns may have changed. Safety is different when you live in a house instead of an apartment, when you have kids running around or when you decide to carry concealed instead of hunt. An instructor can guide you to understanding the rules in your current circumstances, and your classmates can help you think of solutions to problems you might not have thought about before.
If a gun is new to you, or you just haven’t spent a lot of time with it, you may not know all of its features. It becomes a safety issue if you don’t know basic functions like how to load and unload it, or where the safety is located and how to operate it. Learning from the Internet is one thing, but nothing really replaces the experience of having a skilled instructor show you hands-on how to use and maintain your gun. This becomes especially true when it comes to more advanced topics like speed and accuracy, with the added complications of drawing from a holster, using cover and concealment, shooting while moving or at moving targets and more. It’s safer, faster and more effective to learn those from someone who knows what they are doing than trying to muddle along on your own.
A class is not only a safe and productive setting for us to learn these skills but, it may also be the only way we can practice them. Many ranges do not allow shooters to use holsters, incorporate movement into their practice or even shoot “too quickly.” Going to class can be a good way to sharpen those skills in a place that allows you to use them, and under the watchful eye of someone who can help. A good training experience can also push you beyond your comfort zone so that you can master skills that you are too nervous to try on your own or that you didn’t even know about.
Another benefit of professional training is learning where and when you can deploy your newfound tools and strategies. The legalities of armed self-defense aren’t always obvious, and it’s important to remain up to date on them so that you don’t get in trouble with the law when you’re trying to defend yourself or someone else. Making a mistake in the heat of the moment could cost you your freedom and reputation, not to mention a lot of money, so investing in appropriate training now can help you avoid that.
It may sound like you’re back in kindergarten, but don’t discount classes as a place to meet new friends too! Training can be fun and enjoyable all on its own because you’re learning new skills and improving your abilities, but it’s also fun and enjoyable because of your classmates. Meeting and spending time with like-minded people isn’t always easy to do in our modern lives, and going to a class means you will automatically find folks with which you have at least one thing in common. Take into account the camaraderie of thinking through challenges together, and you might make a friend for life.
Owning a gun for defensive purposes is an acknowledgment that you might have to use lethal force against another person. Firing a gun at someone means that they might be seriously injured or even killed. Even if you don’t intend to use your gun for self-defense, it’s an object that can have potentially deadly consequences if it’s not treated appropriately. For all of those reasons and more, being well-trained and well-practiced in using your firearm is an important safety measure. Plus, the enjoyment and confidence that comes from mastering a new move or hitting a bullseye with encouraging peers is unmatched! So what are you waiting for? It’s time to sign up for a class!
About the Author: Annette Evans is the Beauty Behind the Blast and founder of "On Her Own," a project for women navigating the world solo. When not studying shooting and self-defense, she is a competitive shooter who goes to the gym too much. Annette is also an NRA- and Rangemaster-certified firearms instructor, author of “The Dry Fire Primer,” and a commercial attorney in her spare time. Her cat's name is Tuna.