NRA Basic Pistol Class – What to Expect

04 May

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER


NRA Basic Pistol Class – What to Expect



When you sign up with an NRA certified instructor, you can expect to receive a packet of information which will inlcude a book “NRA Guide To The Basics of Pistol Shooting.” Whenever possible or practical, you may receive the materials before the date of the class, giving you some time to become familiar with the material and to study before the class begins. As stated in the previous post, if you are unfamiliar with and/or new to pistols, a smaller size class will afford you more individual attention.


Length of Classes

Classes are scheduled to run for 8 hours. This time can be split into multiple days or done all at once depending on classroom and range location, the instructor’s style and/or needs of the student(s).

Goal of Course


Although a lot of people take this class because it will satisfy the training requirements of concealed carry, that is not the main focus of the course. The NRA has designed the class to cover SAFE firearms handling, and to provide a solid overview of pistol shooting. You can expect to hear the rules of safety emphasized from the moment instruction begins to the last moment when you hand in the final test.


Yes, there will be a test. Actually two tests. A written, open book 50 question test must be passed at the end of the class, and a practical shooting test where you must demonstrate that you can shoot a pistol with passing “grouping” of shots.

Before you decide this isn’t for you because you know you can’t shoot and it’s been decades since you last had a test, please relax. Trust the program. It’s been successful with many graduates for many years. Your instructor has been trained to assist you, and you will be provided the answers needed to pass the test throughout the course. Your instructor will guide and assist you to not only shoot the pistol, but work with you to correct any problems you have in formation of a “grouping” of shots. Again with an all encompassing regard and emphasis on safety.

Basic classroomClassroom Course Content

The instructor will work through the information in the book you have been provided, with of course, SAFETY being emphasized throughout the presentation.

You will handle pistols, ammunition and accessories. The guns may be “plastic models” or the real gun depending on the instructor. If you have questions, special needs or circumstances, you are encouraged to ask. This is a highly participatory course. You will get out of it what you put into it.






The chapter titles of the book provided are briefly recapped below to give you an idea of the material you will cover:

Part I: Safety

….. Basic Firearm Safety, Safe Firearm Storage

Part II: Pistol Mechanisms and Operation

….. Pistol Mechanisms, Revolver & Semi-Automatic Parts and Operation

….. Double Action and Single Action Revolvers & Semi Automatics

….. Ammunition Fundamentals

Part III: Building Pistol Shooting Skills

….. Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting & Pistol Shooting Positions

….. Benchrest & Standing Positions

….. Common Pistol Shooting Errors

….. Clearing Common Pistol Stopages

Part IV: Pistol Maintenance, Selection and Use

….. Cleaning & Maintenance

….. Pistol, Ammunition and Accessories Selection

….. Shooting Activities & Opportunities for Skill Development


Range Course Content

Photo-Gun-stainless-revolver semiauto3You will have an opportunity to put the information you learned in the classroom into action at the range. You will begin with a refresher on SAFETY, including range safety rules. The instructor will show you how to communicate and handle the firearms during the range period, and make sure you have the appropriate eye and ear protection.

You may use pistols supplied by your instructor, or if you have made arrangements before the class, your own handgun(s).

You can expect to shoot and handle a revolver and a semi automatic from the benchrest position, and then standing position. You will practice clearing and checking the pistol to make sure it is unloaded, loading and unloading, obtaining a good sight picture and alignment, work on grip and stance, and to practice good follow through. Finally, you will discuss cleaning and maintenance of your firearm.

You will be expected to pass a basic pistol competency test. The instructor will review the expectations with you, and guide you through the test.


Passing the Tests and receiving the Certificate of Completion

Once you have passed the written and practical tests, you will be given a Certificate of Completion. Your instructor will report to the NRA that you have successfully passed the tests, and it is your choice to request only minimal information be relayed if that is what you want.

basicrockerDepending on your skill at the range, you may also qualify for a “rocker” patch for the Winchester/NRA Pistol Marksmanship Qualification Program.

You are encouraged to keep the completion certificate with your personal papers. It may be required for more advanced training and in obtaining a concealed or open carry permit.


More Classes

First StepsPosterNRA FIRST Steps Pistol Orientation

The NRA has in recent years developed a shorter version of its more intensive Basics of Pistol Shooting class that may be offered in your area. It is called ” NRA FIRST Steps Pistol” and is meant for the first time gun owner as a basic introduction into the particular type of gun just purchased. It covers only ONE specific firearm type.

From the NRA description:

“The NRA First Steps Pistol is designed to provide a hands-on introduction to the safe handling and proper orientation to one specific pistol action type for classes of four or fewer students. This course is at least three hours long and includes classroom and range time learning to shoot a specific pistol action type. Students will learn the NRA’s rules for safe gun handling; the particular pistol model parts and operation; ammunition; shooting fundamentals; cleaning the pistol; and continued opportunities for skill development. Students will receive the Basics of Pistol Shooting handbook, NRA Gun Safety Rules brochure, Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification booklet, FIRST Steps Course completion certificate.”

The BASIC CLASSES are entry level courses that open you up to continue with other shooting classes. The NRA has a wide assortment of offerings, and you can click here to look at the course catalog: NRA Course Catalog

There are many other individuals, groups, and companies offering excellent basic, practical, tactical and self defense programs that are designed to help you continue to develop your understanding and skills. Research what is available in your area, talk to people as you practice at the range, join clubs and shooting groups. The shooting sports offers a unique “range” of opportunities from personal defense, hunting, competition, and making good friends in the process. But remember always – SAFETY must be primary.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy




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3 responses to “NRA Basic Pistol Class – What to Expect

  1. weight2lose2013

    May 4, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I really enjoy reading your blog, as it’s a common sense approach to firearms. I’ve nominated you for an award, but please don’t feel obligated to accept.



    • whitehairedshooter

      May 4, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks Rob! Appreciate the “nomination” although I haven’t always figured out what to do to “accept!”

      • weight2lose2013

        May 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm

        There are instructions on my post. Have fun with it!!


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