Is formal firearms training really necessary?

06 Apr

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

I recently viewed a video expressing the opinion a gun is really a very simple tool.

The video’s creator pointed at the muzzle and said “The bullet comes out here,”  and then,

pointing at the trigger said “It shoots when you pull this.” He stated most people are intelligent

enough not to shoot themselves, and know how to handle it safely without the need for any formal training.

Watching the video led me to reflect on how “we” — those immersed in “gun culture” – in our enthusiasm to share what we have learned, may have jumped right past this basic idea, and I think he makes a good point.

firearms training

This man is not  against formal training. He just wants to keep it in perspective.

Towards the end of the video, he adds that he personally has had a lot of formal training, and that it has great value.

So the question raised here is:

Is formal firearms training really necessary?

Anyone who has read my ABOUT page knows I am very pro-education when it comes to handling a firearm. My “aim” is to obtain my certification as a basic pistol instructor, and my husband is an NRA Certified Basic Pistol and  NRA Certified Personal Protection Inside the Home instructor. I am obviously heavy invested in providing formal training, and very much in favor of people learning safe firearms handling. I also think the NRA Basic Pistol course provides a very thorough and well thought out introduction to the subject, and helps develop a deeper awareness and understanding of safety issues, provides basic understanding of the mechanics of handguns and ammunition, and teaches good technique.

But does the “average” person who wants to have a gun in their home for defense really NEED formal or extensive and often expensive training in order to safely handle their firearm? Can they learn what they need to handle firearms safely from a manual, friends, relatives, independent reading and research, or all on their own?

 Probably….  Maybe…. okay…. reluctantly… and after much thought, Yes

So why is there a strong push to get people to take classes and LEARN in a structured formal setting?

Is it so that instructors and vendors can make more money?

The “gun community” is filled with people who share information, resources and time generously in order to help others benefit from, enjoy, and become more confident and safe in their handling of firearms, whether through formal or informal training. The wealth of information, books and videos available for “free” upholds that. So why should someone need to take a structured class? Why would anyone need formal training?

In my experience –  in the classes my husband teaches – every person who has completed the NRA Basic Pistol Course (probably the best basic structured class) has said they learned more about firearm safety, mechanics and improved shooting techniques whether they were a “newbie” or seasoned gun owner.

While there have been a few people who have taken my husband’s NRA Basic Pistol Course simply to learn more about the handguns that they own and keep in their house, the majority of my husband’s students want to obtain a concealed carry permit.


Most jurisdictions/states have a requirement that a person who wants to carry a concealed weapon must have successfully completed some type of formal firearms training.  Members of law enforcement and the military, who carry firearms in public, are required to have formal training and to maintain their qualifications regularly. When a civilian wants to carry a firearm in public places, a situation is created that could potentially impact the right of others to enjoy a safe environment, much like driving a vehicle, or operating large trucks and equipment on public roadways where you are required to be licensed. Obtaining that license or permit requires proving you know the state’s rules and regulations and have taken a practical test showing you can safely handle and operate that equipment. And most states treat concealed carry that way as well as fingerprinting and running a background check before issue of that permit. I believe that makes sense.

In Montana, where I live, proof that a person can safely handle firearms can be satisfied in three basic formats: 1) a basic pistol course, 2) military training in use of a handgun, or 3) hunter’s education safety class.  In this mostly rural and forested state, with a small population and a vast amount of land, you may also carry openly or concealed as long as you are outside of a town or city, mining or logging camp without any permit. Highly populated states with large urban areas tend to have more and stricter regulations and policies.

Aside from the issue of concealed carry, I believe that whether you are REQUIRED to take formal or structured training or not, a person who owns a firearm is best served by gaining knowledge and skill in using that “simple tool.”  When you attend a class, you will be tested – and that reinforces learning to a level only rarely achievable by independent study. In the give and take environment of a group, you can learn much more than from the passive activity of reading or watching a video alone. You can also benefit greatly from the variety of experiences others have had, and get assistance in forming good, solid habits from a qualified instructor in using your “tool.”

What could be better than a well trained person who applies critical thinking, maintains situational awareness, and knows how to safely use, maintain and store a firearm and ammunition? When that person makes the decision to fire a gun, they have made it their business to know their target, and even more importantly, what is beyond that target – whether they are shooting at a range, or in a defensive situation. That is the goal of structured basic training.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy


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