In November, I took my first formal firearms training course. In this case, I took the NRA Basic Pistol course with Bill Tidwell. This was held at the Livermore-Pleasanton Rod & Gun Club. Overall, it was an excellent course, with a combination of classroom and range time.

There were approximately 10 students in the course with a wide range of experience levels. Two were experienced shooters taking the course in preparation of becoming an NRA pistol instructor, a few had previous hunting experience, and many had never touched a gun before. Likewise, some had done research and understood the laws and basic operation of a gun, while others were looking for their first taste from the class.

The course began with information on the basic operation of firearms (components of a pistol and revolver, components of a cartridge) and moved on to safe firearms handling. There was extensive coverage of the NRA’s 3 rules of firearms safety, followed by practical demonstration of handing a firearm to another individual.

We then moved onto the range for practical shooting practice. I got to fire something like 100 rounds of .22LR through both a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver. There were 3 instructors supervising 6 firing lanes, so we took turns in small groups. All firing was conducted at a distance of about 12’, and marksmanship was not a critical part of the course. The focus was on proper and safe operation of the weapons.

Then we were given a chance to fire a range of centerfire weapons, ranging from a Walther PPK in 380 to a .44 Magnum revolver. We mostly fired a single round from each, though the .357 Magnum was loaded with both .38 Special and .357 Magnum to give students a comparison between the two loads. The .44 Magnum was quite a kick to fire, both literally and figuratively.

We returned to the classroom for a quick brief on some of the laws covering carrying and using firearms, then information about choosing a handgun for purchase.

Overall, I was quite happy with the class and ended up purchasing my first pistol two weeks later. I would recommend the class to anyone with no prior firearms experience. However, if you’re looking for help with marksmanship technique, you’re best off looking for a more advanced course.