You took the leap and registered for your first pistol class. Now what? First, read through the instructor’s course description and look for a list of items needed. This list usually includes the following items: the amount of ammunition, number of magazines, eye and ear protection, belt, holster and, of course, your firearm.
Always bring extra. Although most professional instructors can judge the amount of ammo needed, depending on the particpants’ overall abilities, it may vary a bit. You don’t want to run out of ammo while everyone else continues shooting. It’s not like it will go to waste if you don’t use it that day. Right?
Again, like with the ammunition, it doesn’t hurt to have extra. Sometimes magazines stop functioning properly and things break. If this happens, you may end up one short of what the instructor required, wasting both your and everyone else’s time prepping magazines.
Make sure your eye protection meets ballistic protection standards. I’ve had near-misses with ricochets and it could have been much worse without proper glasses. For ear protection, I highly recommend electronic ears. Whether inside the ear or muffs, they make a huge difference during a class. Not only can I hear the instructor’s directions, but I also avoid having to remove the device to hear. More then once I’ve seen students forget to put them back on when the gunfire starts again. Ouch!
I always use a sturdy belt when wearing a holster. It fits tight against my body and keeps the holster from sagging or coming up along with the gun when I draw. Be cautious of standard leather and dress belts; they tend to wear, stretch and crack. Fumbling on the draw or while re-holstering is a disaster waiting to happen.
Bring a holster conducive to the type of training you are attending. Understandably, many people use inside the waistband holsters, leather holsters, belly bands, etc. for their daily carry. Although these holsters are practical and necessary for concealed carry, they may not be the best choice for high repetition training and learning how to hit what you are aiming at. Adding the stresses of returning your pistol to a deep concealment holster may take away part of what an instructor is trying to teach. You don’t want your focus to change from practicing new shooting skills to struggling with a holster. A quality Kydex or plastic outside the waistband (OWB) holster is money well spent. It enables you to easily return your gun quickly and securely.
Chances are, you will be shooting several hundred rounds of ammunition each day of the class. Generally, a full size high capacity gun is the easiest to train with for long days at the range. Save compacts for low round count practice and concealed carry.
Besides the basic equipment the instructor tells you to bring, here are some items you may also find handy to have in your range bag. A pencil and note pad or an electronic device for taking notes. An UpLula to help make loading your magazines easy, fast and painless. A billed hat to not only keep the sun out of your eyes and help you avoid sunburn, but also to block the brass ejecting from your neighbor’s gun. When shooting at an outdoor range, bring sunscreen, bug spray, layered clothing, a big trash bag and rain gear. Being cold, wet and hot on the range sometimes make learning more difficult. And always, make sure to have a quality meal replacement or energy bars, water and a drink for replacing electrolytes, especially for an outdoor pistol class. Stay hydrated and keep your energy levels up to avoid accidents.
In the classroom, most instructors (and their lawyers) prefer no ammunition and an unloaded firearm. Be sure to arrive early enough to fill out paperwork and get settled in. Now, relax. Knowing you have all the items you need for your pistol class will make it all the more enjoyable. When you have the proper tools for learning, you’re sure to have a better experience and an appreciative instructor.