By John Naese
(Guns Save Life) – Gun safety, basic pistol, and personal protection classes used to be few and far between. There were a lot fewer opportunities and locations to take such classes even 10 years ago.
Not anymore. The rise of the concealed carry movement (49 states and counting now) has led to a huge expansion of the availability of such classes. The fact that some state’s non-resident permits, such as Florida and Utah, are widely recognized has led to many more such classes being offered, by many more instructors.
Most states that issue concealed carry permits have some sort of training requirement. Florida’s requirement is completion of a hunter safety or NRA class or the equivalent (generally about eight hours). Utah’s permit only requires about 4 hours of training, one hour of which must be on Utah law.
Is that enough? Depends on how you define “enough”. Yes, these classes meet the minimum legal requirements for permits to be issued by their respective states.
But we’re talking here about getting a permit (and using it where it’s legal) to carry a concealed defensive firearm. Just because a class meets the minimum training requirement doesn’t mean I would feel comfortable staking my liberty on it.
Full disclosure: I teach one of the longer courses (two days) you will find to meet the requirements of a Florida permit. But I choose to teach such courses instead of shorter ones for the very reasons I’m about to discuss.
The minimum is very minimal
Many folks are eligible to obtain the Florida permit without any further training. A skeet or trap shooter, for example, could send in proof of their competitive status to meet that requirement. A person who served in the Armed Forces can send in their DD-214 to meet the training requirement. They might be legally qualified, but they understand how or when they might legally be able to use deadly force? They also may never have been briefed about some of the dicey situations they might encounter. For example, how do you interact with a law enforcement officer while you are legally armed? Handle that one wrong in some states and you’re subject to arrest for a felony!
Even if there’s not legal requirement to do so, I think prudent gun owners would agree that it’s a good idea to get concealed-carry specific training if you’re going to carry a concealed handgun.
Is four hours enough?
Since the Utah permit became popular, lots of four-hour Utah classes are available. One reason so many are available is that there is no live fire requirement; the class can be held anywhere, not just at a gun range. Often they assume their students are adept in safety and gun handling skills. Sometimes they aren’t.
Is eight hours enough?
It depends on what’s in those eight hours. Even with some live fire practice, there’s a big difference between target shooting on a square range and fighting with a handgun in the real world. In real life, the most likely encounter will be at night or in poor light conditions, with your gun concealed under a coat, and you won’t know until the last minute if you will need to draw and maybe even fire. They typical basic pistol class, even if it lasts all day, will address few of these real-world conditions.
Is this a class or a diploma mill?
While most trainers are conscientious, I have heard several stories of ones who are not. Several Utah class participants have told me that their classes were not very exciting; the instructor plowed through the material and they said they really didn’t learn a lot or have a lot of interaction with the instructor. Some who spoke to me of their experiences at the short class lamented the fact there was no live fire training.
One student told me of his Florida CCW class, in Florida. The class was held at a gun show where instructors were doing one class in the morning and another in the afternoon. They offered an option for a “live fire” section, for which you had to pay an extra $10. For that extra fee, you went down the road to a local gun range where they handed you a gun and one bullet. That’s right; one round fired counted as the “live fire” component of the class.
Some do more than the minimum
A Utah class held at the Danville Rifle and Pistol Club last December went beyond the minimum for a Utah class. In addition to the four hours of classroom time, there was a good solid two hour live fire portion, with about 40 rounds fired; ample time for questions, and lots of assistance from experienced club members. Many classes are out there that give you much more than the minimum, and this was one of them.
Why you might consider a longer class
Longer classes take more of your valuable time, obviously. They also sometimes cost more. But to justify the added costs in time and money, you should look at what it might cost you NOT to take such a class. Suppose you already meet the minimum requirements, get a permit and start carrying (where legal). If you make just one small mistake, such as taking your firearm into a prohibited area, showing a firearm when it should be concealed, or brandishing a firearm when you are not on solid legal ground, it could cost you your permit, lawyer fees, and even your future right to possess any firearm. Even a totally justified use of deadly force can cost you plenty in psychological trauma and legal fees to defend your actions. Many longer classes cover these situations thoroughly, while in a short class they may get only perfunctory or no treatment due to time constraints.
As far as shooting goes, there is a world of difference between target shooting and shooting to survive a deadly encounter. The skills you need for the latter should be learned and practiced, if you pick the right class and take the time to do it right.
I don’t care if you go to my class, but if you’re going to carry a defensive firearm, you owe it to yourself and your family to get top-notch training; to go beyond the minimum legal requirement. Get training that will serve you and those around you well for the rest of your lives.