United States


USRA’s Intro to Defensive Handgun course is an intensive one-day course which introduces skills necessary for the safe and effective use of a handgun for personal defense. For those looking to get the training necessary to obtain an Florida (or someday, Illinois) carry permit in a single-day format, this course is a good choice and a grand bargain.


by John Boch

I’ve known about the United States Rifleman’s Association (USRA) “Introduction to Defensive Handgun” class for well over a year now and heard plenty of good things about it from both fellow instructors as well as non-instructors.

This weekend, I had a chance to put on my USRA instructor’s cap (fair disclosure, I’ve been a non-practicing USRA instructor since January 2012) at the Illinois State Rifle Association’s splendid ISRA Range near Bonfield, IL to check out this class and help teach. In short, I was impressed.

The content was packed with information and touched upon the major areas of defensive shooting and tactics as well as legal considerations. For the students, it was probably a bit like drinking from a firehose. Firearm safety was the first item of business and from there, the students were shooting right away and probably fired close to 200 rounds over the intense day of exercises.

The USRA teaches the Weaver Stance, but nobody’s knuckles got rapped with a ruler for using other stable stances. The course covered drawing from the holster, malfunction clearing, reloading and movement as well as assessing and more. Again, it was an intense day of exercises.

Tuition was a steal at $75, and the ladies were $65. Most NRA Basic Pistol courses, in comparison, offer nothing in the way of defensive pistolcraft and are typically twice the money or more. Even the non-shooting Utah classes are almost twice the money and offer zero training on the tactics of actually fighting with a gun.

A couple of friends of mine paid $200 for a 4-hour, non-shooting Utah class from a Wisconsin-based Utah instructor that was really a 2.5 hour class, including time for eating donuts, getting fingerprinted and rag chewing. For an additional $75 the same instructor would take students to a nearby range and watch them shoot a few rounds and sign off on the “live fire” training portion for a Florida carry permit.

For that same $75, these seven USRA students got no donuts, yapping or fingerprinting. Instead they were busy firing their guns, practicing on the fundamentals of how to defend their lives with their handgun and come out on top should they ever need to use deadly force, thanks to plentiful, quality instructors.

Usually, at most handgun classes, you’re lucky to have an instructor for every five or six students. At this USRA event, with seven students there were eight instructors – four experienced veterans and four newly certified in recent months. Anyone who needed assistance got as much assistance – or more – than they could have ever wanted.

Fair disclosure #2: I teach similar classes for GSL Defense Training, LLC and this USRA class is “competition” of sorts in terms who it’s tailored to. Having said that, if you don’t want to devote two days to securing the training Florida requires before getting your carry license, this USRA class is an good one-day class which will equip you with the fundamentals needed to defend yourself and your family from a predatory criminal attack.

As a prospective student, you are free to choose whether or not you want to cut corners on training necessary for getting a carry permit. It’s your life, after all. Sadly, there are no shortage of new instructors here in Illinois who excel at cutting corners and provide the bare minimums (or less with a wink and a nod), such as one group in Central Illinois offering five-hour Florida classes where students fire five rounds total.

That brings the old expression penny-wise, pound-foolish to mind. Good training will be priceless for your loved ones if it allows you to prevail in a life-threatening encounter. This USRA course, at a paltry $75, is good training and affordable too.

The USRA is offering this Defensive Handgun class again at Bonfield this summer, as well as at Waterman and Chillecothe. This course is likely to satisfy Illinois’ training requirement as currently proposed, in addition to Florida’s.

My advice? If you want a one-day class, sign up for this one before they become filled. At this price, for this quality of training, it won’t take long for that to happen now that I’ve let this cat out of the bag.

Their website: usrifleman.org

5 thoughts on “USRA’s Introduction to Defensive Handgun AAR”
  1. Excellent summary of the class. I’ve taken this course twice and was challenged both times in skill, speed and technique. There is no match in quality instructors and most of all safety. The leadership of USRA is unsurpassed when dealing with firearm training and personal defense. Every person who has any concern at all for self defense, family protection or just firearm safety needs to take this class! Family, friends and community.

  2. Great writeup John, and it was nice meeting you.
    I am an NRA Instructor and am planning on volunteering with USRA.
    I just taught a Basic Pistol class today an I know my students got pushed harder and shot more on the firing line learning as many skills as I could pass on. My students got a much better class because I took the USRA class as a student.
    USRA offers NRA Basic Pistol so they are a ‘competitor’ of mine also.
    And yet I can’t recommend their Defensive Pistol Class highly enough. I’m sure their other classes are just as good and I will be taking them in the future. And I will also be back and working towards my Red Hat as soon as I am ready.

    If this class can help me as an Instructor run a better class then just think how much it can help you.
    Come on out and join us at an event near you, you won’t find a better bang for the buck.

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