Category Archives: Learning about Firearms

General information about handguns, how they work, where to learn more

No Shots Fired…


No Shots Fired…   Final conflict scene of the WhiteHaired Shooter is set.

The first draft of the book, still filled with plot holes and partial scenes, is almost complete. I played around with possible alternate endings, and decided the final conflict scene that worked best for this novel — has no shots fired.

That might sound counter intuitive, as the book, in large part, revolves around an older woman making the decision to own and learn how to shoot a gun for self protection. And while I’m working to ramp up  conflict in every scene, I’m also committed to showcase what it takes for responsible gun ownership and handling.

Question:  Can the truth — that the best to be hoped for outcome of a real life self defense situation is use of minimal force and hopefully result in no lethal action taken — be interesting?

In the vast majority of the fictional world, lead seems to fly at any provocation. Blood and gore is the accepted highest form of conflict in most action scenes. And I’m going to end my book without a shot being fired during the “fight scene.”  It’ll be an interesting ride, and feels a little risky. Time will tell if this novel I’m penning is accepted as entertaining and thrilling anyway!

This book is not meant to glamorize firearms, or show how a gun bestows next-to-superpowers on the gun owner.  Hopefully it shows the responsibility each of us has to protect ourselves and our loved ones. And in this case, a firearm will be part of that choice.

Now, to tie up a few loose ends and start in on the hardest and most important part of writing – revision.





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Ammunition Basics: Part 3 – What Is Caliber?


The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Ammunition “Basics”   Part 3

This is the 3rd in a series of articles on the complex topic of modern cartridge ammunition and looks into “caliber” from a novice’s perspective. Wading into the somewhat murky and “math-y” topic of caliber can be daunting.

My aim is to assist new shooters feel more comfortable approaching and discussing ammunition by pulling back the “math” curtain a little and revealing the wizard who lurks behind.

I am admittedly more than a little bit nerdy and a geek at heart, and find pleasure when I unravel concepts – including “math-y” things. I like getting to the point I can understand, and have been known to put in a bit of time chasing an idea.

For those of you with a similarly “slight” nerdish streak, I hope you find some of this article kind of “fun,” and to those who only want to learn what they have to about caliber, I encourage you to bear with me a bit and see if this approach helps to take some of the mystery out of the subject.

Please note concerning the pictures below:  they are for illustration of concept only! My measurements are not EXACT. The calipers I use are inexpensive and “well used” in our shop, they are off a bit.


Caliber –  What it is

At its simplest, caliber of a handgun – and the ammunition that it can fire –  is a measurement.

The inside part of the round tube that is the gun’s barrel is measured across the widest part (diameter) of the circle. The outside diameter of the bullet (projectile part of the cartridge) is measured.

Caliber is commonly expressed in two ways:

Inches (imperial measurement), expressed as a decimal carried out to 2 or 3 places, and often followed with the letters “cal.”

Millimeters (metric measurement), expressed as a whole number without any decimal, followed by the abbreviation “mm.”

Measuring caliber

When starting out on the journey of learning about ammunition, I decided to take some measurements myself.  To do this I employed a pair of digital calipers.

Calipers can measure outside diameters using the space between the large jaws, and inside diameters by using the small pincher looking end.

If you don’t own calipers, they are affordable and widely available.

I like digital better than the old “dial” style we used way back when, because they give clear and instant results, and you can switch between measuring inches and millimeters with a touch of a button.

The inside diameter of the gun barrel is measured for the caliber.


9mm barrel


.45 cal barrel

The outside diameter of the bullet, the actual projectile at the tip of the cartridge, is measured.


9mm bullet


.45 cal bullet



Why Decimals of an inch instead of Fractions of an inch?

When we “talk” inches – in the U.S. – we most commonly express less than a whole inch in fractions. Dealing with 1/2″ or 3/4″ is well understood as we work with them daily, right down to 16ths and even 32nds or smaller.

But when discussing caliber, very small fractions are involved. Working with fractions at that level and finding common denominators in order to compare the fractional numbers, is a good reminder of why so many kids tuned out during math class.

It’s not just that it is hard mental work, or the need to find common denominators, or use conversion apps or tables, it is also difficult to conceptualize.

For example, asking which would be larger:

9/20ths of an inch?


19/50ths of an inch?

is as likely to elicit an “I don’t know” as a  “Who cares” response.

These same fractions, expressed as decimals are:

.450 ?


.380 ?

and comparison is a snap.

Those are also two common sizes of handgun ammunition. Now you now know that a .45 caliber is physically larger than a .380 caliber.  Yippee!

Measuring the cartridge casing (also called “brass”)

Even if you don’t reload ammunition, you most likely will collect or “police” the spent casings after shooting your semi-automatic, or empty them out of your revolver when at the range to clean up after your shoot.

You can identify the caliber of the cartridge that was fired by measuring the inside diameter of a spent casing.


9mm casing



.45 cal casing


The beauty of the design of the modern handgun cartridge is revealed when you see for yourself how thin the metal of the casing is and realize while shooting your gun, that casing must remain in the chamber. It is primarily held in place by the thin walls of the casing not fitting into the barrel while the projectile, the bullet, travels down and out the barrel. That demands very tight tolerances.

This may help a little in understanding some of the attention and precautions made in proper matching and identification of your cartridges. And – as a friend who is well versed in this subject pointed out in a comment to the last article – the importance of visually inspecting your cartridges to make sure they are not dented or damaged in any way before you use them.

If you survived so far!


People who have devoted time learning about guns and ammunition are often as difficult for the “lay person” to understand when discussing their “beloved” subject, as computer techs and programmers are famed to be! Hopefully you now understand how simple and straightforward the notation of caliber truly is.  It is not that hard of a concept, afterall.

Next up:  We’ll look at the most common calibers for handguns, discuss a few other notations you will probably run into, and go into a few “exceptions” to the rule of matching ammunition touched on earlier.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy


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Ammunition Basics: Part 2 – What Is The Correct Ammunition For Your Gun?


The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Ammunition “Basics”   Part 2

This article is the 2nd in a series of articles on the complex topic of modern cartridge ammunition.

Every firearm has a specific type, caliber and range of pressure/tolerance of ammunition the gun can safely fire.

batteriesThis is somewhat similar to putting batteries into an appliance or instrument. You have to match the correct shape, configuration and power capacity, and we’re used to doing this regularly.

However, as emphasized in Part 1 of this series, the similarity to an everyday occurence, like a battery ends quickly. A mismatched battery will fail to function.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMismatched ammunition may have serious and possible lethal consequences, with the potential to damage or destroy your gun.

If that sounds serious, it is.

The good news is once you learn how to find out what works for your gun, it becomes as easy as shopping for any other item. And as a bonus, when you learn the process of how to match ammunition to a gun, you can find the right ammunition for any handgun.

While there seems to be an almost infinite variety to types, calibers, and ranges of pressure/tolerances in ammunition, the process to match it to specific guns is straightforward.

The Process

The order of the following can be varied, but each step must be followed for safe shooting, and not just for the novice shooter.  This is a practice you should observe whenever you load a gun. For the novice, Step One should be done each time you prepare to shoot a gun new to you.

rugerlcrmanualStep One:  before you shoot the gun for the first time

The owners manual provides an excellent starting place.  However, the manual will only apply if your gun is “Factory New” or if it is in Used condition, it has all original parts.

For the purposes of this article “Factory New” means you are the first person to fire the gun since it’s building and testing at the factory.

The manual provides detailed user instructions including ammunition specifications for your pistol.  If you have misplaced or for some reason don’t have the original manual for your factory new gun, there are many resources on the internet. It’s easy to search using Bing, Google, Yahoo or other search engines, by typing:

Gun maker + Model + manual

Some manuals are free to download, some will require you to register on their site, and some will need to be purchased.

Special note:  If you have a used gun that has been modified or customized, the manual instructions for ammunition may not be applicable. If possible, talk with the person who did the customization, or better yet, take it to a gunsmith.  When you find out what was changed, and particularly if it relates to a change in ammunition to be used, mark the changes in the users manual for future reference.

RugerLCR PistolStep Two:

Your gun is marked with the ammunition it is meant to fire.  The caliber of the ammunition your gun can shoot will be stamped on the barrel or slide. In the rare case your gun is not marked, I would strongly suggest taking it to a gunsmith and make sure what ammunition it is designed to shoot.

 Step Three:

38PBoxCCIThe box is marked. For factory manufactured loads (new in box), the label/box is clearly marked with the type and caliber, and should indicate if it is a higher pressure load (commonly marked as +P or +P+  ). Match this to the stamping on your gun’s barrel or slide.

Special caution needs to be used if using reloaded cartridges. Just because the box and the head stamp match is no assurance the rounds in that box are up to acceptable or safe standards.

Even if you know the person reloading meticulously follows requirements for each step of the process, and for each cartridge, and has labeled the boxes appropriately to the specifications they have tailored those rounds, I would still wait until you have gained experience before using reloaded ammunition.

This is primarily a safety precaution, but also it is good to learn how your gun shoots with uniform NEW rounds manufactured to tight tolerances before you widen the variables in your shooting.  I have shot reloaded “hot” rounds that change the way I need to grip, sight, and follow through after recoil in order to successfully be on target.

38specPHeadstampStep Four:

Finally, the rounds themselves have a stamp on the head case.  Use a magnifier if you need to, but be sure this stamp matches your gun.  Don’t ever rely on the box having the correct rounds in it. While shooting or loading magazines, it’s common for some people to replace unused cartridges into the box. Don’t take unnecessary chances. Know what you are going to shoot.

Some exceptions:

There are always some exceptions to the rules, and matching ammunition safe to shoot in your gun is no different.

In the next article, Part 3 of the series, we’ll go into more detail as we discuss “Caliber” and Types.




Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy


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Ammunition Basics: Part I – A Word of Encouragement


The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Ammunition “Basics”   Part I



This post has been one of the more difficult to write.  Typically in talking about ammunition, there is TMI (too much information) presented way too soon, and loaded with technical information, for the novice to find a foothold.  However, there are good reasons to delve deeply into the subject. Buying, handling, storing and shooting ammunition used in shooting is a VERY serious topic.

An unloaded gun has negligible potential to harm or injure  (unless it is used like a club or hammer). Once a cartridge is placed in front of a firing pin the gun is “HOT” or “LIVE.”

Please be aware that in this introductory post I will draw some comparisons between everyday experiences and learning about ammunition for your gun.  The intent is to point out you CAN learn the basics of ammunition. That is where the similarity ends.  Period.

You can’t substitute, skip steps, guess, experiment or “learn by doing” without the potential for serious and possibly deadly consequences. To approach shooting in any other way is dangerous. Realize you need to become educated and pursue that. In the case of ammunition, it is vital to know exactly what you are loading into a gun.

Girls of the Baby Boomer Era

This introduction is directed mostly to those ladies of the “baby boomer” generation, those born during a long period spanning from World War II 40’s to the late 60’s and into the early 70’s.  About halfway through most of our childhoods, the world changed drastically and we bridged a gap in feminine upbringing. During our early childhood there was a clear divide between what was expected or acceptable for a GIRL or a BOY in behavior and participation: in the home, school, sports, and limits to occupation. That day where girls were to play with dolls, couldn’t wear pants to school, played separate “gentle” sports sans serious competition, and took home economics instead of wood shop is thankfully gone.

But like any major societal shifts, the barriers did not just melt away overnight. It took a generation (ours)  to really build up steam. For some boomers it skipped right past, for others it happened gradually, and for a few the barrier between what was accessible for MALE and FEMALE crashed down abruptly.

I am of that generation, born at the tail end of the 40’s in post WWII times, and I well remember the “switch.” I made it easily and gladly, and was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I embraced science and math during the “space race” of the Kennedy era and had the good fortune to be raised along with two brothers by a career military father who had in some respects helped those barriers come down. Sports was still sharply divided for male and female, and I am athletic by nature and pushed myself hard in the “GAA” (Girls Athletic Association) but sometimes am saddened I missed that opportunity. In an earlier generation I would have been labeled “tomboy”  but because of the timing, instead was fortunate enough to be able to step out confidently -with limits- but without a challenge to my “femininity.”

During my four decade long work career I have been training mostly women to work in the electronics, computer programming, and more recently financial industries. There remains- in mostly boomers and in quite a few of their daughters – a residual and self imposed barrier to working with math and technology. That self made image usually includes “being bad at math,” not wanting to even try understanding mechanics, and a generalized reluctance or fear of engaging in and exploring “MALE” dominated pursuits.

I typically work with these women to gain self confidence first.  I share my view of their capabilities, and extend encouragement (and sometimes “permission”) to step into their perceived “male” or “difficult” territory. Then, and for the vast majority ONLY then, is it possible for training to begin for the task at hand.  It is to these women still struggling with the fading societal myth of what a “girl” can and should engage in that I am writing PART I: a word of encouragement.  Part II will begin an actual introduction into the basics of ammunition.

Introduction to the Mountain of Ammunition Information

It is important to find information geared toward the beginner when just starting out. Something that provides the basics. Too much tech-talk, or looking into too many variations, can leave the “newbie” hopelessly lost and discouraged.

Approaching the Mountain

My goal is to provide encouragement to the new shooter. As a starting point, I am going to compare what you need to learn about ammunition to something the average mature person has dabbled in or mastered to some degree: Arts and Crafts, including what used to be called Home Economics back in the “old days.”

Remember, to learn any craft,  you have to start SOMEWHERE and build on what you learn and practice for the next step to make sense and build on your success. You’ve done that throughout your life, and have achieved great results. You can do this!

The good news is you don’t have to learn everything there is to know about all types ammunition. In the beginning, all you need to learn, and pay extremely close and diligent attention to, is the basics and what you need for your specific handgun(s).

The need to learn ammunition basics can’t be overstated. You need to learn the “what and why” of dealing with volatile materials and interactions so you can handle them safely, attain reliability and gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing your gun will function properly and effectively when you need it to.

Avoid Information Overload

reloadingIt is very common, if not close to universal, for the serious shooter to load their own rounds to meet individual shooting needs. They “tailor” their rounds to get the results they need from each shot.

And these are the people who populate the internet with highly technical and valuable discussions, charts and tables.

This information is very useful to those who have been engaged in the art long enough to become more advanced, and in many cases expert in the field.

The vast majority of this very mathematical based data about cartridges is akin to a master chef or baker sharing “from scratch” tips, tricks and recipes. It will make more sense as you learn the basics and gain experience in shooting.


For the new shooter, trying to read through some of this indepth information and glean an understanding on ammunition for your new gun is like a first time baker trying to make a souffle and bake an angel food cake from scratch for a dinner party.

souffleangelfood cakeIt is very reasonable to go to a really nice restaurant when you want souffle, or buy angel food cake from the bakery… or buy a box of cake mix in the baking aisle!  At least until you have the time to dig deeper, gain experience and grow into a more advanced shooter.

What you need to keep in mind is there is an art and craft to shooting that grows step by step, not much different than baking, or sewing, or any of the crafts.

A different language has evolved, filled with abbreviations and acronyms and that particular type of shorthand and tech-speak has to be learned.

At the end of Part II I’ll give a couple of links to websites that help provide a solid  entry level approach.

Ammunition Aisle

Ammunition Aisle

A Craft Aisle

A Craft Aisle

Your First Visit to the Ammunition Aisles

I recommend learning as much as you can about ammunition basics by reading, taking classes and talking with instructors and knowledgeable shooters before taking your first shopping solo trip to the ammo counter or visiting gun show ammunition tables.

The sheer quantity, quality, and variations in cartridges can be overwhelming. The shorthand on the box labels is very difficult to decipher for the unprepared.

Again, you already have shopping experience. The aisle in a craft store is full of a wide variety and quality of products. You just have to learn what you are looking at for the apparent jumble to make more sense.

Likewise, the salesperson may (or may not) have an incentive to sell the highest price products rather than help you meet your needs. Depending on your intended use – for instance ammunition purchased for self defense in the home vs. practice rounds. Buying the more expensive may (or may not) be reasonable.  Price is not the only difference, there is more “bang” to self defense rounds, and if used for practice may be more painful (and expensive) than necessary.  Come prepared to tell the salesperson not only the maker and model of your gun, but also your intended use.

Making things worse these days, we are in the early stages of recovery from an ammunition shortage. Looking on the shelves and tables for something still not being stocked is frustrating. While many of the larger stores are keeping their prices reasonable, horders and would-be-resellers have in a lot of cases snapped up the more popular self defense and practice rounds and frequently prices they resell at are higher than reasonable, and stocks quickly become depleted at major suppliers due to this practice.


Finally, you need to realize the topic of ammunition is complex and some parts discussed may be DIFFICULT for you to understand or grasp at first. It does require some study, and of course experience, and as you learn it will get easier.

As in any craft, prepare yourself to learn, spend the time necessary to understand, and you will be rewarded with an enjoyable and potentially life saving skill !

Here is a short quote from a blog by  ” slhuang ” (there will be a link to in Part II) discussing the difficulty faced in just understanding the different types of cartridges available today. It underscores you are not alone in being challenged at the enormous amount of information and types of cartridges:

“And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of all different ammunition types ever, it’s a mess.  Cartridges have evolved from each other over history and spread into a massive variety; different countries have come up with their own types of ammo; some cartridges have used casings inherited from others; old weapons end up re-chambered for modern ammo . . . it reminds me of language, the way cartridges have grown and crossed borders and evolved in a historical tree that’s almost impossible to follow.  I don’t know even a thimble-full of all the cartridge types in the world, and I do this for a living.”


Part II of this topic will be a basic introduction to the modern cartridge. How it works, some basic sizes, and basic types you may encounter.


        Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy


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The Basics: What is a “gun” ?


The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Today I am going to take a few minutes for back to basics, and discuss first what a GUN is, and what it isn’t.

A gun is: a mechanical tool, made up of a closed tube and other mechanical attachments used with a propellant to forcefully fire a projectile. It is called many things, including a firearm, pistol, weapon, and sometimes a piece, revolver or semiautomatic.

A gun isn’t: self defense, protection, or an insurance policy so that bad things won’t happen. Those are what you hope to accomplish, and there is a world of difference in possessing a tool, and having a tool you know how to use in order to reach a goal.

Brief History of Handguns

A brief look at the history of handguns takes us to China where gunpowder was first developed in the 9th century. Records show that the first “fire stick,” essentially a tube that could forcefully throw flames and occasionally shrapnel was developed by the Chinese in 1232, and further developed to propel objects by 1260. The technology spread to the Middle East, then to Europe with the development of trade routes. Many design innovations were made in the ensuing years, and development leading to modern long guns began in 1364 with the invention of the matchlock musket, and by 1400 the forerunner of the modern pistol, a matchlock gun made its appearance.

It wasn’t until 1835, in the United States, that the first revolver made its appearance – the Colt Revolver, a Single Action handgun, which was a descendent of the Pepperbox, which was a drum containing a number of barrels, each with a chambered round that rotated to bring it in line with the hammer. The year 1877 saw the advent of the first effective Double Action revolver.  The first semiautomatic, also called self loading handgun was credited to Joseph Lauman in 1892, but the first semi automatic pistol with separate magazine in the grip was manufactured by Borchardt in 1893.  From there the development of the modern handgun as we know it today was firmly on track and the essential mechanics have largely remained the same with variations and features being refined.  Modern handguns – whether Revolver or SemiAutomatic,  are comprised of three main parts:  The frame, the barrel, and the “action.”  They also include a trigger mechanism, that releases a hammer or striker to fire the cartridge.

Main Types of Handguns

There are many types of pistols, and this article is going to look at the more common breech loading self defense handguns: the Revolver and the SemiAutomatic. Less commonly used for modern self defense are the bolt action pistols, derringers, muzzle loaders, air guns, and so on.

Revolver Revolvers

The Revolver gets its name from the rotating cylinder mounted on the frame just before the barrel.  The cylinder is chambered to hold cartridges.

A Single Action (SA) revolver must have the hammer manually cocked, which rotates the cylinder, and the trigger’s only function is to release the cocked hammer so that it can strike the primer on a cartridge.

A Double Action (DA) will accomplish two tasks when the trigger is pressed: it will cock the hammer, which rotates the cylinder, and release the cocked hammer. Most Double Action revolvers can have the hammer cocked manually, and then used in Single Action.

An exception is the more modern hammerless Double Action Only (DAO) where the hammer is absent.

Cartridges are manually loaded into the cylinder, and then unloaded by means of an ejector rod.  Most single action revolvers are loaded through a spring action loading gate and by rotating the cylinder manually. Most modern double action revolvers have a cylinder release that drops the cylinder to the side of the frame where it is open to be loaded. Some revolvers use a break action to load, which basically drops the cylinder and barrel down exposing the cylinder for loading.

Most revolvers do not have a mechanical safety device although some have a trigger safety that unlocks in response to the trigger being properly pulled.  Some revolvers also come with an action locking mechanism for storage.


SemiAutoSemi Automatics

A semi-automatic pistol has a slide that can freely move back and forth on the frame. The barrel can either move with the slide, or be firmly attached to the frame. The slide houses the firing pin and an extractor, and an ejection port on the slide is where empty shells exit the handgun after firing.

Semi-Automatics can also be Single Action or Double Action or Double Action only.

Cartridges are stored in a magazine that is inserted into the grip, and loaded from the top of the magazine one at a time into the chamber. The first round must be manually loaded on most handguns by racking the slide. There are some models that can have the first round chambered manually through a port/lift up on the barrel. Some semi automatics have an indicator that a round is chambered.

The semi automatic with a blowback operated action, most common with low-powered cartridges like .22, .25, .32 and sometimes .380, utilizes pressure built up from gasses generated by the firing of a cartridge, and with the help of a strong spring racks the slide, ejects the spent cartridge, and loads a new cartridge. A recoil-operated action is more common sometimes with a .380, and with 9mm or greater cartridges. Upon firing, the barrel and slide recoil rearward together, then the barrel unlocks and the slide travels further back to complete the cycle. Another type of action is called gas-operated, where high pressure gasses are “bled off” from the barrel through a small hole and then uses pressure to drive the slide backward.

Semi-automatics have mechanical safeties of many varieties and combinations.


And that concludes a basic introduction to the handgun.

In the next post we’ll look at the basics of ammunition. Until then,

        Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy


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NRA Basic Pistol Class – What to Expect

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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Choosing a Basic Pistol Training Class

The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER


Choosing a Basic Training course

If you are looking for a quality pistol training class and not “just” a piece of paper that qualifies you for a concealed carry permit, it is hard to beat an NRA Certified Basic Pistol course. There are of course many companies and individuals giving “basic pistol” classes and “concealed carry” classes, and all can give you a wonderful starting point in handling your firearm safely, and knowing about pistols and ammunition and how to shoot.concealed-carry-training

A primary factor to consider is the qualification of the instructor, and the reason he/she is teaching the class. There are some classes, usually associated with private commercial ventures including ranges and gun stores, where as many students as possible are put through a course, usually at a rapid pace. These usually highlight or feature obtaining a carry permit, and often the preponderance of information in pamphlets and posters will be the states you will be able to carry in, and the cost and number of hours of the class.

Again, if you are just looking for qualification for a carry permit, this may suit you perfectly. These classes are generally less expensive, frequently scheduled, and you will come away with some basic ideas on safety and gain some skill.

However, if training and learning to shoot safely and knowing more about the sport of shooting is primarily what you are after, do some research into the instructor and class. One measure is if they are NRA certified instructors.You can be confident you will have a well rounded training experience with an NRA course. NRA certified or not, some things to look for –in ads and pamphlets or web sites– is dedication to helping the student learn firearm safety, learning how to handle different types of pistols and ammunition, how to maintain the handgun, and a concern for responsible gun ownership. If obtaining a carry permit is mentioned, it should not be the “headliner.”

Typically these basic pistol courses are more intensive, take more time, and oftentimes are more expensive than the “carry permit” variety. The old saying “you get what you paid for” applies.

Class Size

basic pistol classAnother important factor is the number of students per instructor. If you already have experience and know basically how to use your gun, class size is not as important as it may be if you are a novice or haven’t picked up a gun before.

A small class size of four to six students is probably ideal. Even better would be a couple, or one-on-one instruction. When a class gets to ten or fifteen students or more to one instructor, it is not possible to adequately address each individual’s questions, problems and needs. The beginning student can quickly get lost in the quicker pace that will be required to process all of the students.


nra-logoAbout NRA Certified courses

While the National Rifle Association is often in the news and has become well known for its political lobbying and activities, the NRA Training Department focuses solely on providing education and training in safety, firearms, ammunition, and best shooting practices, and does so in an environment free of political rhetoric.

The NRA has worked diligently to encourage women to learn about and participate in shooting sports, and facilitates programs for women who wish to learn to shoot and also for those women who want to become instructors. They have partnered and come alongside women’s shooting and firearms groups to assist them in promoting women teaching women to shoot. A wonderful representative of this partnering is “The Well Armed Woman”, and you may want to check out the classes and groups they offer at:   “The Well Armed Woman.”

According to the NRA Training website there are more than 1,800 NRA Certified Training Counselors who recruit and train instructors to teach NRA’s Basic Firearms courses. There are more than 97,000 instructors and range safety officers teaching basic firearm courses.

Each candidate for instructor is required to submit an application to the NRA Certified Training Counselor stating their qualifications and experience, and to demonstrate their working knowledge, adherence to safety and shooting ability in a practical exercise with the Training Counselor before being allowed to attend the NRA Certified Instructor course.

After the initial testing and assessment evaluation is complete, the instructor candidates participate in 6 hours of basic instructor training. The second portion of the curriculum is specific to the discipline of basic pistol instruction and can last from 5 to 14 hours. A final written test is administered and the candidates must attain 90% in order to pass.

Just attending the class and passing the test does not guarantee the candidate will become certified. The NRA Training Counselor will evaluate each applicant and only if they decide to recommend the candidate will the application be forwarded to the NRA Training department.

If you would like to know more about NRA basic classes and training programs and would like to find out when and where classes are currently being held, the following link will take you to the NRA Instructor website:     NRA Courses  booklet

My next post will present an overview of what you can expect to experience and learn at an NRA Certified Basic Pistol course.

Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy




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