Owing a gun is great thing, but owning a gun and shooting it on a regular basis is even better. Having a gun in your house isn’t going to make you safe anyomre than having a car on your driveway is going to get you to the corner grocery store: You have to learn how to use it safely and efficiently for it to do the job it’s supposed to do.
So what does it actually cost to shoot on a regular (monthly) basis? I visited some of the indoor and outdoor ranges near me to find out what a monthly practice session might cost a new shooter. My assumption is that you’ll go to the range and fire 50 rounds of ammo from a 9mm pistol at three different man-sized targets, which based on my experience is about what most casual shooters do on a typical day at the range.
Ranges: Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club (outdoors), Ted’s Shooting Range (indoors), Caswell’s Shooting Range (indoors), Phoenix Rod and Gun Club (outdoors), Scottsdale Gun Club (indoors) and Shooters World (indoors).
Lane Rental: One person for one hour
Ammo: 50 rounds of 9mm FMJ. For ranges without ammo sales (PRGC, Rio), I used the price of a box of 9mm at my local WalMart.
Gun Rental: A 9mm pistol for one hour. For ranges without gun rentals, I used the cost of a typical quality 9mm pistol ($540) spread out over 12 months.
Membership: One year’s individual membership. Range memberships at Ted’s is for 14 months not a year, so I reduced that amount for comparison purposes.
|Just Visiting||Lane Rental||Ammo||Gun Rental||Monthly Cost||Yearly Cost|
|Ted’s Shooting Range||$14.00||$18.00||$9.00||$41.00||$492.00|
|Scottsdale Gun Club||$15.00||$14.00||$14.00||$43.00||$516.00|
|Phoenix Rod and Gun Club||$14.00||$13.00||$45.00*||$27.00||$864.00|
|With Membership||Lane Rental||Ammo||Gun Rental||Monthly Cost||Yearly Cost||Membership|
|Ted’s Shooting Range||$0.00||$18.00||$4.50||$44.17||$530.00||$260.00|
|Scottsdale Gun Club||$0.00||$13.00||$0.00||$44.67||$536.00||$380.00|
|Phoenix Rod and Gun Club||$0.00||$13.00||$45.00*||$71.75||$861.00||$165.00|
* $45 / month reflects the cost of owning your own pistol, spread out over 12 months
So for just a couple hundred dollars more per year or so, memberships at Rio Salado or Phoenix Rod and Gun look like a real bargain, right? After all, that price includes a new gun, and they have long-distance rifle ranges as well.
Not so fast.
First off, they’re outdoor ranges. Not bad now that temperatures in the Phoenix area are leveling off, but that sucks when it’s 115 degrees outside or, for colder climes, if it’s winter and the snow is waist-deep on the ground.
Secondly, both outdoor ranges have a minimum distance that you can set up targets, about 8 yards or so. Not a big issue for some, but if you’re trying to train a new shooter it can get discouraging for them to shoot and shoot and shoot and not see decent groups on the target.
So which should you chose?
That depends on your needs. I use both on a regular basis. I’ve been a member at Rio for over 5 years. I like their public range, and I like the people. But I won a year’s membership to Caswell’s last year, and I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of indoor shooting and the convenience of reserving a lane in advance.
It comes down to what kind of a shooter you are. A public outdoor range membership is great for people who know what they want in a firearm and don’t need (or want) to try out new guns. However, indoor rental ranges are the perfect to get into the shooting sports: For less than $50 a month, you can try out many different firearms and find the one(s) that suit you best and lets you grow into firearms ownership at your pace.
Either way, there are no bad choices: The worst day at the range is still better than the best day in the office.
So, you’ve got your CCW. Now what?
Years ago, when I took my CCW class, our instructor had us look at the student on either side of us.
“Look right, then look left. On average, only one of you is going to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. This class is not enough to stay safe, and only about one-third of you will actually learn how to defend yourself with a gun.”
I knew I’d be in that third, because I was taking the necessary steps to protect myself long before I took that class. Such as…
- Paying attention to what you’re paying attention to.
AKA Observational skills. The best fight is the one that didn’t happen because you were aware of your environment and didn’t look like a victim. Learn how to use the Cooper Color Code or something similar so you’re aware of your surroundings and what’s around you, doubly so if you are carrying. And make sure you have more than just a gun with you to deal with the other emergencies in life.
- Finding training.
A CCW class is a licensing class: It is not a training class. Learn how you react in stress situations, and take classes to help you manage and direct your stress. I recommend something like the Fundamentals of Combat Focus Shooting class as quick way to help learn what to do when you’re caught in a bad situation.
- Training like you (might) fight, fight like you train.
Practice with your firearm. Learn some good dry-fire drills and practice them regularly. Get a good holster for your gun. Go to the range as often as you can, and most importantly, practice shooting the gun in stress conditions. Learning how to shoot a perfect one-hole group in 20 minutes won’t do you much good if you have to draw, aim and shoot in only a couple of seconds. If you want to get a good idea of what stress shooting feels like, I recommend shooting an IDPA or IPSC match at least once (and you’ll probably want to do it more after you try it). No, it’s not “combat” training, but it does teach you how you react to complex situations with a pistol in your hand.
- Relax. Be safe. Have fun.
Deciding to get a concealed carry permit is a decision most people will never make and are probably incapable of making. You’ve decided that your safety is in your hands and not in the government’s, and that’s a good thing.
Or, what to have in your home besides your gun.
Now that you’ve had some training in your home defense firearm and have practiced with it to be familiar how it operates, what should you have in your home for self-protection besides your gun? If you’re a new gun owner, all of this may seem a little bit paranoid, and I totally understand. Don’t be afraid, though, because the point of this isn’t to live in fear, the reason for all of this is to gain the confidence that IF something happens, we can deal with it. Fear and paranoia should not be our driving force, but rather the desire to live our lives with free from fear because we are ready for the absolute worst day of our lives.
Okay now, what do you need in your home besides a gun?
A Safe Room
If you’ve created a self-defense plan for your home and have strengthened your doors and windows, designating a “safe room” as a refuge place should be part of that plan. In that safe room, you should have …
A flashlight or two
Ideally, more than one. There is endless debate in the gunblogging world whether you want a weapon-mounted light like this Streamlight or a handheld flashlight like this SureFire. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but my recommendation is get one of each. There is NOTHING handier for lighting up where you gun is aimed at than a weapon-mounted light, but sweeping the muzzle of your gun at everything just so you can see what’s there is not a good idea. Get one of each.
There’s an old, old saying out there that “two is one and one is none”. If you’re relying on your landline for emergency communications, it WILL fail when you need it most.
Well, for starters, have an old unused cell phone plugged into the wall in your safe room. Any cell phone with a SIM card in it can be used to dial 911, whether it’s on a plan or not. We have an ancient “candy bar” Nokia in the safe room that still holds a decent amount of charge as a backup phone, and it performs that job admirably.
If (God forbid) you have to use your gun defensively, you’re going to be talking with the police, and that means paperwork, which you should have ready to go when you need it. Imagine that panicked feeling you get when you’ve been pulled over and you’re fishing around in the glovebox for your license and proof of insurance, but even worse. Have a copy of your driver’s license, gun permit (if needed), CCW license (if needed) and keep them handy. Those around-the-neck badge holders you get at conventions are PERFECT for this sort of thing.
As for what you’ll say to the cops after a defensive gun use, that is another thing altogether. I am not an expert on this subject and my suggestion is do some reading on this subject and then consult with an attorney or a professional firearms instructor for more advice.
If everything has gone wrong and you’re in your safe room with your firearm, chances are, someone is going to need first aid, and a band-aid probably isn’t going to be enough. The infantryman’s first aid kit (IFAK) was created by the military for this sort of thing, and it’s a great way to keep everything together in one small package. Failing that, make sure there’s SOME kind of first aid kit in your safe room, and supplant that with an Israeli combat bandage or two. And if you haven’t already done so, get some first aid and CPR training as well.
This may seem like a lot to think about, and in reality, it’s a lot more than most people think about their whole lives. I have good friends and family who don’t even have a hammer and screwdriver in their home, much less a first aid kit. How they hang a picture on their wall, I’ll never know.
If you’re reading this, you’re not like them. You’ve realized that you and not the cops will be the first person to respond when something bad happens. The question isn’t IF you’ll respond, the question is how and with what.
3 Different Strategies For The Same Practical Shooting Stage
All three of us shot the Memorial Day Tactical Rifle Fundraising match at Rio Salado last month. Because of our different skill levels and shooting styles, we all shot Stage 4 a little differently, and taking a look at what we did and why we did it might be useful for people starting to compete in the practical shooting sports. Although we all ended up at the same destination, the goals and planning behind the strategy were different for each of us.
“My strategy was to begin the stage on the left side, so I wouldn’t twist myself into a knot while keeping the muzzle pointed downrange during the reload (reloading while moving to the left side of the stage would’ve made it very easy to point the muzzle uprange, endangering other competitors and disqualifying me from the match). I intended to take a step forward from the second shooting position and stomp the activator while shooting the static target, then engage the clamshell and Maxtrap target.
From the opening in the middle, I would hit the two close targets and the two static targets in the right array, so I wouldn’t lose time shooting around the “noshoot” swinging target. As I moved to the far right of the stage, I would reload, stomp the activator for the three swinging targets, engage the outside three targets while the swinging targets slowed down (making them easier to hit). I would then transition to the port and shoot the two “shoot” swinging targets. That was the plan, until the starting beep was heard.”
“Since I’m still getting my sea legs with the AR in competition, I tried to determine the the simplest way to shoot stage 4 by finding positions where I could shoot multiple targets, rather than trying to shoot on the move. I also chose to shoot the stage left to right, which made it easier to control the direction of my muzzle.
My stage plan was pretty straightforward (shoot them as you see them). There were just a few things I needed to remember do at specific positions – shoot the right max trap first through the far left port, reload then engage the far right targets from the middle position, before the swinging no-shoots were in play and hit the stomp box for the swingers before engaging the right side targets.”
“My initial approach to this stage was to shoot the targets in order, moving left to right, but I modified that once I saw another shooter hit Pressure Plate 2 to start T10 and T13 moving, then shoot T14-16 and finish with the movers. Given my horrible experience with max traps and clamshells at the USPSA Area 2 Championship, I was worried about dropping hits on the no-shoots, so my initial idea was to only take one shot at each disappearing target which would mean I’d have to get center-mass “A” zone hits on each shot. However, I decided to go for it and take two shots at each, and managed to pull it off.
One thing I realized while writing this up is that I like to shoot on the move. My co-bloggers each planted in one place to shoot targets 1-4, while I shot T3 and T4 on the move, and put one into the no-shoot in-between them as a result.
I also reloaded in a different spot than either Jaci or Robert, choosing to pop in a fresh mag after I engaged the center targets because I wanted more rounds in the gun on the off chance that the swingers proved to be more trouble than they looked.”
Even though Jaci and I shot the match in .22LR, which meant we could recover from recoil and transition from target to target faster than Robert who was shooting much more powerful .223 ammo in his gun, Robert had the fastest overall time on the stage and beat us both. I might have beaten his raw time, but the time penalty I received for hitting that “no-shoot” target at the start dropped me into second place, with Jaci finishing third on this stage (a rarity, because she’s usually faster than Robert or myself).
If you’re one of the thousands and thousands of people who’ve purchased a gun in the last few years and don’t know what to do next, you’re not alone. There are many, many people out there who’ve made the most adult decision they can make in their lives and have chosen to purchase a firearm and become their own first responder.
But owning a gun isn’t enough, because guns aren’t a talisman of self-protection with magical powers of protection. Guns are only as effective as the person behind the trigger. Think about it this way; who would you rather have on your side in a gunfight , Woody Allen with a .44 Magnum, or Chuck Norris all by himself?
I rest my case.
Now that you’ve realized that having a gun your unloaded under your bed isn’t going to keep you safe, what should you do? What should you have in your home besides your gun? Is owning a gun and keeping it unloaded under your bed enough? In a word, no.
My first recommendation is to get some training so you can shorten your learning curve by benefiting from someone’s else’s wisdom.
Secondly, practice, because you’re not going to rise to the occasion if you have to defend your life, you’re going to fall to your lowest level of competence.
Thirdly, I recommend trying out some form of firearms competition, be it a simple weekday steel match or International Defensive Pistol or United States Practical Shooting match. Competition is going to give you stress levels that won’t see anywhere else, and it’s the best test you’ll have to see what you can do with your gun under stressful conditions.
Next week, we’ll talk about ideas about what to have in your home to help keep you safe besides your gun.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17
There’s four schools schools of thought when it comes to firearms training:
- I don’t need it, because I learned how to shoot in the military/police/whatevs
- I don’t need it, because dammit I’m an Amurican, and shootin’s in my blood.
- I probably need it because I know I don’t know enough about gun safety or how to use my gun.
- I know I need it because there are specific firearms skills I need to improve.
If you’re in groups one or two, you still need training, we’ll get to why in a bit. If you’re in groups three or four, you’re right, you do need training, and good for your for realizing it.
Reason #1 for Firearms Training: You don’t know how bad you really are
Let’s diverge here for a moment for a video of one of my co-bloggers shooting her very first 3 gun stage with a rather sweet JM Pro Mossberg shotgun specifically designed for 3 gun.
3 gun, in case you were wondering, is kinda like shooting a practical pistol match, except you’re using (wait for it…) three guns: A rifle, a pistol and a shotgun.
Now Jaci is a very good pistol shooter (better than me…), but she struggled when faced with a new challenge like shooting and reloading a shotgun quickly under the artificial stress of competition because she didn’t have any practical experience with this type of match. However, by watching this video, she learned what she needed to learn, and sought out some training from some of the best shooters in three gun.
This video allowed her to see where her troubles were and make the necessary corrections to solve the problem, and this sort of thing is ONLY available when you have someone else around you who knows what they’re doing.
In other words, a training class. And yes, she won the video contest.
If you just hang out with your friends and shoot and you think you’ve got all the firearms skills to pay the bills, what are you doing to get better? What are you doing to fill in the gap between what you THINK you can do and what you actually CAN do? If (God forbid) you need to use your gun in a defensive situation, you’re not going to rise to the occasion, you’re going to fall to your lowest level of training.
If you shoot with people who know what they’re doing, great! Here’s hoping you’ll find a trainer who knows what to teach and how to teach it.
Reason #2 for Firearms Training: Documentation, documentation, documentation.
Let’s say the absolute worst happens and you are forced to defend your life with a handgun, and the prosecutor finds reason to bring you into court and defend your actions in front of a jury. Two things are going to happen: You’re going to wish you had some legal protection to help cover court costs, and you’re going to want to show the court that yes, you were in fear for your life and no, you had no other option to use lethal force, and nothing proves that like documentation. You can SAY that’s you’re good shooter and have been around guns your entire life, but if you can enter documents into the record that SHOW you’ve been trained in safe gun handling, shoot/no shoot situations and civilian counter-ambush training, you’re way ahead of the game. This is also why you want to get a CCW permit even if you live in a “constitutional carry state like Arizona: The more you can show you’ve done you’re homework, the more likely the jury is to believe your side of the story is the right side of the story.
The bottom line is, if you’re a newcomer to firearms want to learn how to safely shoot and enjoy your new gun or if you’ve grown up around firearms and shot your entire life, you will benefit in some way from getting good, solid training that fills in the gaps in your shooting skills.
Take a few moments and watch this video.
Yes, that is an actual promotional video for a California-based “tactical” firearms training company, and yes, that is every bit as unsafe as it looks. To top things off, all that “training” they’re doing is pretty much useless.
Why? Because those “drills” they’re doing aren’t really drills, they’re scenarios: Very, very, VERY dangerous (and stupid) “scenarios” and those people are risking their lives performing them for the camera. Don’t just walk away from a trainer who asks you to do something like that, RUN.
Ok, now that that’s over with, let’s start by defining some terms so we can figure out what we need to learn in a firearms training class and how we’re going to learn it so we can avoid those people like the plague they are. We need to learn…
Skills: The ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well
This is the basic operations required to perform a task. This is what we actually want to perform on demand when needed, be it drawing from a holster, trigger press, reloading a gun, whatever. Everything in training should be based around this core foundation: If it’s something like, “Oh, cool, that looks like fun!”, (Like, say, hanging off a rappelling harness firing an AR-15 when you’re not a SWAT team member), it’s not training, it’s recreation. We’re going to improve our skills with…
Practice: Repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency
Simply put, practice improve skills. You do the same thing, over and over again to get better at the skill you’re trying to develop. This is to firearms what kata is to the martial arts. For every firearms skill you want to develop, there’s a practice routine you can use to develop it. The one thing to remember is that practice is not about doing things FAST, it’s about doing things the CORRECT way every single time. We figure out how well we’re practicing skills with…
Drills: Strict, methodical, repetitive, or mechanical training, instruction, or exercise
Simply put, if you can compare your ability to do a consistent, predetermined practice routine against somebody else, it’s a drill. El Presidente, Tueller, Mozambique, USPSA Classifiers, they’re all drills because there’s only one way to do them and the results of any given shooter can be compared against their past results and anyone else who shoots that drill.
Now, most trainers I’ve seen with shy away from drills because they can have a dampening effect on a student’s desire to learn: If you get your @ss whipped by someone else in a class, it may hurt your desire to go back to that class. However, I think you won’t know how far you’ve come unless you know where you’ve been, which is why I’ve been using the same drills for almost three years now to track my progress, and it’s been encouraging to know that yes, I am getting (slowly) better at this sort of thing. Stringing a bunch of drills together in a bunch of different ways is called…
Scenarios: An imagined or projected sequence of events, especially any of several detailed plans or possibilities
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. All those skills you developed with practice and kept track of with drills now come down to this: Can you deliver the shot when it’s needed under some kind of artificial stress? Simply put, a firearms training scenario is a series of drills strung together in a way that requires an element of problem-solving and critical thinking to complete correctly as quickly and accurately as possible. Scenarios like a shoot house, USPSA stage, IDPA match or a Figure Eight “drill” all require the shooter to put together different skills developed through practice while under some form of artificial stress, such as a timer or “realistic” training environment.
So if you’re walking into a classroom for a firearms course and the instructor seems to be more interested in talking about about the high-speed, low-drag tactical operations you’re about to do in his class but can’t talk about what actual firearms skills you’ll be developing while doing so, you’re not enrolled in a training class, you’re enrolled in a armed forces fantasy camp. Next time, look for an instructor who can teach, not lead a team of wannabes.
I was on the Talking Guns with Kate Krueger show last Sunday, talking about, well, guns.
Have a listen now: