Here’s what to look for in a firearm safety class.
Rules regarding gun safety courses differ from state to state, but in most cases, it’s a good idea to take one if you are hoping to net yourself a concealed-carry permit (or if you simply want to learn better gun handling methods) or a hunting license.
Because firearm safety classes are so important, finding the right class takes responsibility and effort.
View the slideshow for five things to look for before spending your hard-earned cash on a firearm safety class.
1. A good instructor
There is no doubt at all that the instructor is one of the most important factors in deciding whether a class will be a waste of time or a source of valuable information. With that in mind, try to schedule informational interviews with the instructors of any gun safety courses you may be considering. If necessary, these talks can happen over the phone, but an in-person meeting is hugely preferable. You’ll usually be able to tell whether or not someone would make a good teacher from just a few minutes of talking with them, and that trend holds true for gun instructors as well.
A big red flag to watch out for here is braggadocio. If you meet with an instructor who seems to just want to talk about his marksmanship abilities, his gun collection, or his hunting prowess, he might be someone who would make a good buddy, but won’t be the person you want teaching you about gun safety. A great firearm safety instructor gives the facts in a humble, direct, and charismatic fashion. He or she will know all about guns and shooting, but will also know how much responsibility comes with a firearm, and will stress that in class. This instructor will also respect students, always answering questions thoroughly and informatively.
If you can’t get meetings with gun class instructors – which, frankly, is easier said than done – then the next best step to finding a good course is to ask for recommendations. If you have local hunting or shooting friends, or any buddies who have gone through the process of acquiring a concealed carry permit, then ask them if they can recommend a firearm safety course in the area. If you ask enough people, chances are you’ll start hearing about the same classes and instructors over and over again, which should give you a pretty fair idea of where to focus your attention.
Can’t find friends who have taken firearm safety classes? Hit an online shooting forum and start asking around: in big urban areas especially, this will yield consensus results pretty quickly.
3. Law enforcement affiliation
Often the best firearm safety classes will be somehow affiliated with law enforcement organizations. Sometimes, they’ll be sponsored directly by the local police department; other times, they’ll be sponsored by a third party, but held at law enforcement facilities. Often, you’ll find yourself being instructed by a shooter who has been serving in law enforcement for years. This is a good sign: police officers and other law enforcement veterans not only know all about carrying, handling, and shooting guns in a safe and controlled manner, but they also know more about your state’s gun laws than you ever will.
In short, they’re good imparters of the wisdom you are looking for from a firearm safety course.
4. Fleshed-out course objectives
Even if you can’t arrange a pre-course meeting with an instructor, you should be able to get your hands on a course description or objective itinerary to help you decide whether or not a firearm safety class is worth taking. Any good class is built around a pre-determined curriculum, and that fact is as true for gun safety education as it was for your high school and college classes.
This one actually has nothing to do with the firearm safety class and everything to do with you. Having a hunting license or concealed carry permit – and owning a firearm at all, frankly – is a big responsibility. If you are going through the process of taking a firearm safety class, make sure you are really serious in learning what is being taught, because it could make the difference between life and death in the long run.
In addition, make sure you’re practicing with your firearm outside of class. A good firearm safety course will teach you the hallmarks of gun safety as well as when it is appropriate to draw your weapon in self-defense, but it won’t do much for your marksmanship or overall shooting ability, so make sure you are working on that too.