Posts Tagged ‘Gun safety’

By Ruth Goodman

umpire safe

I am declaring it official. The gun-buying panic is over. The mad rush to arms following the Sandy Hook tragedy (and the politicians’ attempts to exploit it) has finally come to an end. In case you were out of the country or otherwise occupied during the last two years, let me bring you up to speed. The gun industry was already experiencing high activity thanks to the reelection of our current president when tragedy struck in Newtown, Connecticut. Immediately following the reports of a school shooting AR’s began flying off the shelves.

While this picture is not of our store (we did not think to take pictures of our empty racks and shelves), it is remarkably similar to what happened to us.

While this picture is not of our store (we did not think to take pictures of our empty racks and shelves), it is remarkably similar to what happened to us.

Most of our inventory of Modern Sporting Rifles was gone within a week, all of it was gone within a few weeks. (On our busiest day, we went from a regular staff of 5 to 9 and still had customers lined up to the door.) Once all the AR’s were gone, attention turned to handguns. Self-defense purposed handguns became impossible to keep in stock. The rapid rise in handgun purchasing led to ammo shortages in nearly all the popular calibers. For most calibers, the supply quickly caught up with demand and the shortage ceased to be a problem many months, if not a year, ago. The notable exception to that is .22 ammo. In our store, the .22 ammo shortage began around the same time the rest of the calibers were catching up with demand and has continued on from that time. The most bizarre thing to many of us in the industry, is how long it has taken .22 ammo to catch up. A full year later and we still have a very limited supply of .22 and impose strict limits on how many boxes a customer can purchase. 

However, as we entered Spring we noted a marked slow-down in our store. As we talk with others from around the country, we are hearing of the return of the normal “summer slow season.” Gun stores and industry reps for national companies are reporting an industry-wide slow-down of purchases and firearms activity (with the exception of states that recently enacted increasingly infringing gun laws). I believe this slow season feels much slower to many, because it stands in stark contrast to the record making sales of the last two years. We have been so busy for so long, that record busy became the new normal. Stores increased staffing and ordered more product, producers ramped up production, etc… 

out of breath

Now that pre-chaos norms have reinstated themselves, this is the perfect opportunity for us all to rest and catch our breath. It’s a chance to look up from the daily activities and see the bigger picture. How many of the recent gun-buyers were first time buyers that now need training, supplies, and support? How can we as an industry meet those needs? Women are steadily increasing their presence in the firearms world. What can we do to encourage and support that growth? Have the local demographics changed in the last two years? Should a store focus more on building their online presence or on their brick-and-mortar functionality? There are countless questions we, as an industry, can ask ourselves at this time. Now is the chance for each of us to really sit down and evaluate ourselves as a store, an industry member, a service provider, and a member of the community. 

Let us all make the most of this time and catch our breath. 


By Tommy Harper

So you ask “why do we need a blog about how to clean an AR-15 style rifle?” Well, my answer is that due to the panic buying that began before the last national election and continued up until recently many of these rifles have found their way into the hands of people who have little or no experience with them. More than a few of these rifles are in safes for “just in case” and have not been shot. Some rifles have been shot and may be waiting on some advice on the proper way to clean them. While the instruction manual that comes with all firearms these days goes a long way toward explaining how to clean and maintain our firearms I think a picture is worth a thousand words!


imageTo begin, you will of course need the proper equipment and cleaning supplies. A ten-dollar rifle cleaning kit is all that is really needed to complete the task but there are a few extra items that will make the task much easier. The first is the hinge pin link that will hold the separated halves open and keep them from closing while you clean the rifle. Next is a bore guide that will allow you to add solvent to a cloth patch and guide your cleaning rod from the chamber end of the rifle. The chamber is the preferred end to clean from so as not to nick the crown of the rifle muzzle. Next is a specialized chamber brush. This brush is only used to clean the chamber area of the rifle. It helps to use the chamber brush on a pistol rod instead of a long rifle rod. The last special item is a gas tube pipe cleaner. These are extra long pipe cleaners made for AR15 rifles and can be found at most gun and gear web sites or at local gun shows. You can also find them in the craft section at Wal-Mart.

CLEANING THE RIFLE (see below for pictures)

Now to get started. First thing is make sure that your rifle is unloaded!

Then locate the rear hinge pin(1) and push it out from the left side of the rifle and open the halves. Then if you have a hinge pin link(2) add this to hold open the rifle.

Pull back on the charging handle and remove the bolt carrier and handle(3). Lay aside for cleaning(4). Insert the bore guide in place of the bolt carrier and handle and clean the bore using solvent, patches, and bronze bore brush until clean(5).

Now you need to disassemble, clean, lubricate, and reassemble the bolt and bolt carrier assembly. Pull out the cotter pin on the side of the bolt carrier(6&7). That will allow the firing pin to be removed from the back of the bolt carrier(8&9). With your finger push the bolt back into the carrier(10&11)). Then turn the rectangular bolt retaining pin so that it aligns with the carrier(12). You may now pull this pin out, which will allow you to pull the bolt forward and out of the carrier(13,14,15). Following that, you must clean all carbon build-up from all the parts. Once clean, a small dot of a good lubricant on all parts is needed. Before reassembly, note that the rear of the bolt has three silver metal rings that serve as gas seals(16). These rings are not solid but have a gap so they can be replaced. You must make sure that the gaps are not aligned with each other to prevent gas loss. Leaving the gaps aligned will cause malfunctions. Take a pointed tool and space the gaps apart by rotating them around the bolt. To prevent you from putting the bolt back in the wrong way, the hole in the bolt that the rectangular retaining pin goes through is larger on one side than the other. After getting the correct side toward you reassemble the bolt and carrier by simply reversing the disassembly process. Before you can replace the bolt carrier back into the rifle you must extend the bolt out to the front by pulling on it until it stops.

hinge pin pulled out to open halves

(1) hinge pin pulled out to open halves


At this point, I recommend that you remove the link and bore guide and push out the forward hinge pin and separate the upper from the lower. This will allow you to clean the trigger group inside the lower much easier. Clean it with solvent and a brush. Remove any solvent with a dry rag and lubricate the trigger group. Now depress the buffer spring retaining pin and remove the buffer and spring from the buffer tube(17,18,19).

After that, clean inside the buffer tube and wipe dry with a rag. Wipe down the spring and buffer and lightly oil with a rag. Replace the assembly back into the buffer tube. At this point, you should be finished with the lower. Wipe out the mag well area and dry. Lube the mag release button and the bolt locking lever.

Now turn your attention back to the upper. Clean inside and around the chamber, gas tube, and upper where the bolt carrier rides. Here is where you want to use the gas tube pipe cleaners. Place a small amount of solvent on a pipe cleaner and insert it into the gas tube. Needle nose pliers are a great help! Push all the way in and out a few times to remove all carbon build up inside the tube and run a dry one in and out to remove any solvent(20).

clean inside upper and inside gas tube

(20) clean inside upper and inside gas tube

Finish Up..

Now all that remains is to put the halves back together using the forward hinge pin. Reinstall the charging handle and bolt carrier. Close the two halves and push the rear hinge pin back into place to lock the halves together.

Always do a function check at this point! Charge the rifle by pulling back on the handle and let go. Place the rifle safety on. With the rifle pointed in a safe direction try pressing the trigger. It should not release the hammer. Now take the safety off. Again in a safe direction press the trigger. It should allow the hammer to release. Check to make sure a magazine will insert into the mag well and that it locks up and releases. If all is good, then you can wipe down the rifle’s outside with a rag and store away. You are finished!

I hope this helps! Know that this my way and not the only way do accomplish this task. It works for me and has for many years. If I have missed a step I am sure that those of you out there who are accomplished at this will add to this basic instruction to aid the beginners! Thanks in advance!



“I’m thinking of buying my wife a gun for Christmas.” is the opening statement I heard today and  expect to hear often over the next few weeks. Concerned husbands, anxious for their wife’s protection, are searching for that elusive “good gun for a lady” and see Christmas as the perfect opportunity to buy her something she may or may not be interested in. Before you lay down $400+ on her new gun, please take the following concerns under consideration. This is the mental questionnaire I run through when a customer asks for advice on choosing a firearm.


First and foremost, you must determine the intended purpose of the firearm. Will the gun be used for a self-defense carry gun, home protection, competitive shooting, hunting, just having fun on the range or as a collection piece? Certain features should be prioritized based on which purpose you intend to use the firearm for.


Carry Gun: Typically, light-weight is the priority for a daily carry firearm.

Home Protection: When buying for home protection, weight is less relevant as the gun will only be handled for short durations. The user’s comfort and confidence with the firearm take priority. Home protection guns tend to weigh more, to make the shooting experience more pleasant.

Competitive Shooting: Accuracy, and all that affects accuracy, are what matters most to a competitive shooter. Barrel length, quality, trigger weight, overall weight, etc… are all taken into consideration.

Hunting: Type of game and style of hunting affect your choice of hunting firearm.

Fun Range gun: A gun you are just going to take to the range to have fun is probably going to be something that fits the user’s hand well, has enough weight to balance out the recoil and the user is comfortable manipulating.

Collecting: Collectors typically know exactly what they are looking for. Good luck to you if you are trying to buy for one of these.


When buying a gun, the trick is to find the right compromise of features that works for you. For example, Smith & Wesson Airweights and Ruger LCPs are great for carrying all day, but are so light-weight the recoil is quite uncomfortable. Knowing this fact, I still decided the low-weight was a high enough priority for my carry weapon that I purchased the Smith & Wesson 442 revolver. Do I enjoy shooting it? No. But I can carry it all day with barely a second thought as to the weight, I can carry it in more locations on my body, and it is more reliable than my semi-automatic. Overall, I made an informed decision to put up with the kick in exchange for a comfortable carry gun.

Intended frequency of use:

I ask our customers how often they intend to practice with their firearm in order to narrow the choices down. A revolver is renowned for its ability to sit in a drawer for years and still function flawlessly when called upon. In the same scenario, I’ve seen a semi-auto jam after the first shot. Springs can lose their tension over years of inactivity and the semi-auto design relies heavily on springs. For this reason, whenever a customer says they want a gun for “just in case” and they don’t really want to come shoot it much, I unilaterally direct them towards a revolver. Revolvers are mechanically simpler and more reliable. Buying a small semi-automatic for your wife to stick in her purse but never practice with is asking for trouble.




The way the gun feels in the hand and how it feels when shooting are key components in a user’s overall satisfaction with a firearm. This is where the gun buying process becomes quite subjective. The only person who can determine if the gun fits right is the user. There are some guns that just feel good to hold and there are others that are less comfortable to hold. Determining the right fit requires the user to come in and pick up lots of different guns to get a feel for what feels good and what doesn’t feel good to them.


Small guns = tight springs = hard to rack the slide.

In terms of recoil, weight is your friend. The heavier the gun is, the less recoil your hands have to absorb and the more fun the gun is to shoot. Guys, do me a favor, please do NOT buy your wife that “cute, little .380 ACP.” Those little things have much more recoil than you think. I, personally, would rather shoot a .45 ACP 1911 any day over one of them. Just because they are small does not mean they are good for your wife to start with. Just the opposite in fact. I find beginners do much better starting with heavy firearms and progressing down to light-weight carry guns.

Previous Knowledge/Experience:

basic-gun-safety-course-for-one-two-or-four-people-1369988450Has the potential user ever received any formal instruction in firearms? I ask this question mostly to determine the user’s level of safety awareness. Formal firearm classes are great for drilling the gun safety rules into heads and habits. In general, I recommend taking classes before the firearm purchase; not only to make sure our customers and everybody around them stays safe with the new gun but classes also makes the user a much more informed consumer. For the gift-buyer, previous experience with firearms can also give you clues as to which type of firearm the person is comfortable with and enjoys shooting.


“You get what you pay for.” This is true for most things in life and especially firearms. That cheap pawn shop gun was cheap for a reason. I have seen such guns literally fall apart on the range. You really do get what you pay for. I understand money being tight, and seeking to find the best bang for your buck, but please save up a little longer or do something to get a little extra money to go towards the firearm purchase. It is much better to have a reliable firearm that your life can depend on than a few extra dollars in the bank.

Physical Limitations:

How_to_Rack_the_slide_03Firearms are mechanical devices and each has a series of manipulations that must be accomplished in order for the device to function properly. Hand, wrist and arm strength are vital. The user must be able to rack the slide on a semi-automatic or pull the heavy trigger of a revolver. Frequently, when a person is not able to do one they can do the other. Occasionally, they struggle with both. At that point, I may suggest, using two fingers to pull the revolver trigger, trying out a .22 caliber firearm or a semi-automatic with an easier slide. If they are still incapable of operating the firearm, I typically suggest they get OC Spray instead of a firearm.

Stopping Power:

woman_with_gunMuch is said about the acclaimed stopping power of this round or that round. As I’ve researched it and looked at the statistics, I’ve come to realize what you are carrying is less important than that you are carrying. Many, many bad guys are stopped by .22s. There is something called a psychological stop. Basically, it boils down to the fact that people don’t want to get shot.  Typically, bad guys are looking for an easy victim and shooting them suddenly converts you from “easy victim” to “more trouble than it’s worth.” Yes, there are those times when the bad guy is shot multiple times with .45 ACP rounds and keeps coming, however, the large majority of bad guys are cowards looking for easy prey. Odds are in your favor that you will not encounter that zombie-bad guy that just keeps coming, and if you do, good shot placement will help you more than missing with a larger caliber. My conclusion: carry what you can shoot well. If you can shoot a .45 ACP well, carry a .45. If you can only shoot a .22 LR well, then carry a .22.

Concluding Thoughts

Before you buy that gun you think will be perfect for your loved one, make sure its designed purpose lines up with its intended use. Do your best to accurately estimate how often they will be using the gun. Try to avoid buying a complicated gun for a novice. Keep it Simple. Be sure to consider any physical limitations they may have. Balance the pro’s and con’s of each firearm to ensure a good match of user and firearm is made. A mismatch may make the user uncomfortable, insecure, and mistrustful of guns in general.

A little tip for all you gift-buyers out there, we see a much higher rate of success when the intended user is involved in the decision-making process. If you can successfully buy her a pair of shoes then you stand a pretty good chance with buying her a gun. If not, please bring the intended user in with you. Only she will know what feels right to her.



Until recently, I had no idea there were so many ways to combine a flashlight and a handgun. I was familiar with the two-handed style I now know to be called the Harries technique and like everyone else I’ve seen the FBI style on TV. But there really are a plethora of techniques to choose from. This morning, I was privileged to receive a little bit of training in several of the most common techniques from an esteemed coworker. He guided me in my attempts with the FBI, Chapman, Surefire/Rodgers, and the Harries Techniques. I quickly deduced that I do not do well at all shooting one-handed in the dark, and hardly any better with the two-handed techniques that involved wrapping fingers around both light and gun. Small hands… multiple objects… not the best combination.


(Now here is where I need to quickly interject the ubiquitous disclaimer: *Your results may vary.* I am a 5’ 7” slender woman with small hands and mediocre upper body strength. The following analysis is highly subjective to those parameters. Thank you.)


The FBI Technique


The largest tactical disadvantage of using a flashlight is the light provides an excellent bullseye for any bad guys desiring to kill you. The FBI developed the technique of holding the light out at a 45 degree angle to mitigate the danger of being struck in a vital organ. The obvious advantage of holding the light out and away from your body is that the light is likely to draw the fire of your enemies to your hand and arm and away from your head and torso. Other advantages of this method include: 1. easy to learn and use and, 2. great for scanning large areas. There are, however, several disadvantages to this technique; 1. fatigue of the arm, 2. accidental illumination of self, 3. does not provide a solid platform for the shooting hand. (I personally struggled with all three of those disadvantages.)


The Chapman Technique


During the ‘60s, Ray Chapman developed a two-handed technique for use with larger, older style flashlights (such as the Maglight) with barrel activated switches. Hands are held together with the non-shooting hand holding the flashlight between the thumb and first finger and the rest of the hand supporting the shooting hand. The stated advantages are: 1. centers the light beam and firearm upon the opponent, 2. allows for rapid threat appraisal, 3. allows for adequate control for both light and handgun. The main disadvantages are: 1. does not work with butt-cap activated flashlights and 2. does not work well for people with small hands. (Even with a relatively small Surefire combat light I struggled to grip my shooting hand. I quickly disregarded this technique as a preferred option for me.)

The Surefire/Rogers Technique


In my research, I have seen the method of holding the light like a syringe referred to as both the Surefire and the Rogers technique. Whichever name it goes by, this method has the advantage of allowing the support hand to more firmly grip the shooting than the Chapman technique. The butt-cap is activated by the palm or base of the thumb. (Using the base of the thumb worked best for me, but also tended to cause a downward angle of the light. While I did find my light beam was instinctively closer to the target than it was with the FBI method, I also found myself fumbling in an attempt to get the light beam directly on target. With much more training and practice I believe this technique may work well for me.)

The Harries Technique


Developed in the 1970’s, the Harries technique requires you to bring your support hand under the shooting hand and lock the wrists together with the backs of your hands touching. This technique works well with butt-cap and barrel activated lights. The light and firearm are aimed simultaneously enabling rapid target acquisition. The biggest advantage I found was the control this technique gives you. My accuracy was greatly improved with this method. The largest disadvantage is the possibility of sweeping your support hand as you come into position. For this reason, much training is required to use this technique.

To Sum It Up:

Overall, I was surprised to find I felt the most natural utilizing the Harries method. I was much more accurate and adept in the technique I expected to like the least. I believe many of my issues with the other methods may be solved by more training (and consistent upper body workouts), but my first foray into low-light training is certainly drawing me towards the Harries. One thing I have definitely learned from all this, I need more training. The experts make it look so easy (not to mention Hollywood), but it really is a skill that needs training, practice and time to be done right. I encourage all handgun owners to make a similar foray into the world of low-light training. A large majority of bad guy encounters happen at night, shouldn’t we be prepared for them?


Follow Up…

I received a comment on my last article that I believe bears deep consideration and possibly even soul-searching. In essence, it was pointed out that the downside to using a mounted weapon-light is that it ensures you are always pointing a loaded gun at whatever you are illuminating. While I definitely don’t want to be pointing a loaded weapon at my roommate (who may happen to surprise me by being in the wrong place at the wrong time), I also don’t want to hear a bump in the night and not be able to identify that large object coming into my room. Occasionally, bad guys will cut the power to a house, so I cannot depend on my room lights. My futile attempts this morning revealed I am not capable of holding a flashlight and working the pump-action of my home defense shotgun or even activating said light, acquiring the target, and merely holding the shotgun steady on target. (It was truly quite comical, I’m sure, to watch me grapple with two such familiar objects that had suddenly morphed into this unwieldy beast.) This experience and careful consideration of my environment are encouraging me towards a weapon-light. I realize in doing so I will place an incredible amount of dependence on my trigger-finger training and control. Finger off the trigger until target is acquired and you are ready to fire. In my situation, if I am awakened in the dark of the night, I have no expectation of clearing rooms or seeking out the threat. I expect to hunker down in a safe location and prepare and pray. Should they open that door, they have identified themselves as a threat, and the light will only confirm it.


*Again, many thanks to Richard McLarin, representative for SureFire, for sharing his knowledge of tactics and flashlights.
*Thank you, Tommy Harper for sharing your knowledge and time as well!

For Further Research


Many people feel it is NEVER OK for a child to handle a gun.

There are many people in this country that are very uncomfortable with combining children and guns. In light of recent national tragedies, the statistics on accidental shootings involving children, and the media’s propensity to overreact, it is certainly understandable for those unfamiliar with firearms to think it is crazy to encourage children to shoot. However, as demonstrated by young Katie Francis, Dylan Holsey, and Miko Andres, children are just as capable of mastering firearm safety and control as adults. Clearly, these children (and the hundreds of other young, well-trained shooters like them) are in no danger and do not pose any threat to themselves or society. In fact, I would feel safer next to them on the range than many of the adults I’ve seen shooting. So what makes the difference between these children and those that end up on the front page? Training.







In interviews, these young gun enthusiasts frequently, and quite unintentionally, offer valuable information for parents and firearms instructors. What training advice can we glean from these children?

  1. Teach gun safety first.


    If you want to encourage your child to shoot… start small. If you want to scare your child away from guns forever… start with the biggest calibre you have.

  2. Once safety is ensured, introduce firearms under close supervision.
  3. Begin with a small-calibre firearm.
  4. Prevent the firearm from having the “forbidden fruit” mystique by allowing the child to gain (closely supervised) experience with a firearm.
  5. As the child matures, gradually increase their responsibility for maintaining safety.
  6. As the child matures, gradually increase the challenge.

Increased Challenge… Increased Fun!!

These six steps appear as common themes throughout interviews and conversations with current young shooters and in the memories of many adult shooters. How you, as a parent or instructor, implement these steps is completely subjective. Given that no one knows your children or your family better than you, I will not presume to give a specific age at which such instruction “should” begin nor which methods to employ. You are the parent (or instructor) and I trust you know what’s best for your specific situation.


However, it is vitally important that you as the instructor are competent and well-trained before you attempt to teach somebody else. A poor instructor will teach poor habits. For example, during a recent interaction with a couple I noticed the wife (a beginner) repeatedly putting her finger in the trigger guard (particularly while attempting to rack a slide). I gently corrected her but she repeated the action a few minutes later. A while later, I stepped out onto the range and noticed her husband placing his finger in the trigger guard while racking the slide. There is no shame in being a beginner or making mistakes, however please do not pass those mistakes on to others. An instructor with poor safety habits will only teach poor safety habits. If you have never received professional instruction, please get some before you begin teaching others. Or, better yet, bring your children with you to the class. You will all learn valuable information. You will be able to help each other remember the key points. And you will have fun together.

With the dramatic increase in gun sales over the last few years, many families are now grappling with the concerns of firearms, safety and children. Locking the firearms in a safe, or otherwise making them inaccessible, is certainly a key component to a family’s overall gun-safety plan, but training must not be ignored. Firearms safety instruction for the whole family will give you a peace of mind that will not be achieved by locks alone.


Other Reasons to Teach Your Children:

And finally… They win scholarships and gain the confidence to stand up to a bunch of gun-banning politicians…

Child_Gun_SafetyAs most of you know, gun ownership increased dramatically this past year. Many of these new gun owners are facing a challenging array of dilemmas: to carry or not, how to carry, where to keep the gun at home, what type of ammo to use, what to tell family members, what about the children? Of all the issues new gun owners face, correctly addressing gun safety with their children is without a doubt the most important (carrying coming in a close second). Some parents take the approach of simply hiding and/or locking up the firearms. Some tell the children never to touch it. Some teach their children safe ways to use the firearms. The same parents may use all three approaches depending on the age of the children. While methods are debatable, one thing is clear. There are far too many tragic stories of children killing or being killed with their parents’ firearm to simply ignore the issue. And while you may successfully hide your firearms from your children, not everybody is as successful and your child may discover a firearm at a friend’s house.  As common as firearms are and as little accurate information children receive from society, it is vital you, the parent, teach your children gun safety.

childgun_lgMany parents seem to believe their children are too young to learn about guns. However, modern media does not share that concern. A child will easily learn dangerous firearm handling habits from movies, video games and cartoons. Left with TV for their only guide, children will automatically pick up a firearm, put their finger on the trigger and point it at somebody. Why? That is the behavior of every TV character with a gun. It is up to parents and other concerned adults to correct such perilous impressions. Many times this correction can be done through repetition of key words and practice. Similar to “Stop, Drop, and Roll,” gun safety rules may be taught to very young children. (I personally have seen parents begin gun safety instruction when their son was but three years old.) The nationally renowned NRA’s Eddie Eagle program is directed at pre-K through 3rd grade students. This program teaches children four simple rules.

If you see a gun:
Don’t Touch.
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.


While this method works well for the majority of children, I realize there are children that insist on learning things the hard way and will automatically reach for whatever you tell them “don’t touch.” For these children some extra steps may need to be taken to impress upon them the severity of the consequences of mishandling a firearm. A trip to an indoor range, exposing the child to noise and recoil, may be enough to convince some. I’ve heard of other parents, with the intention of demonstrating the destruction a bullet traveling at high speeds will cause, shooting watermelons or some other such object. Children raised on the farm typically learn this lesson watching an animal being put out of its misery, slaughtered for meat or killed to protect livestock. In some cases, simply allowing the child to handle the unloaded firearm under direct, constant supervision is enough to satisfy their curiosity.

learning-to-shoot-300x199In the case of the 3-year-old mentioned above, he was shown a firearm, informed of the basics of firearms, warned of the danger, strongly cautioned (nearly threatened) to never touch one unsupervised (and never to let his younger sister touch one), and promised to be taught all about it once he is older. This satisfied his curiosity and from there on he has been content to play with his Nerf gun (and has even gone so far as to carry it on his hip, inside his waistband). His parents are careful to answer any questions very matter-of-factly, without any sense of secrets or hiding. This approach, combined with adults being careful to keep all firearms inaccessible, has eliminated much of the fear associated with kids and guns. We gun-owning adults are careful but we are also confident this child would know what to do if he ever came upon a firearm unattended. I believe this honest, forthright method (and other similar methods) restores firearms to the “trusty tool” label of the past and strip off the “evil weapon” label of today. Removing the “evil” label also removes much of the curiosity from young minds. It becomes simply another tool, like a chainsaw, that they will learn to use as they get older instead of a sinister object of terror that makes grown men afraid (as the schools and media would have them believe).

nssf-dad-kidsAs a single woman, I have not yet had to traverse these murky waters myself but I have studiously observed others navigate their way to safety. That observation, coupled with common sense, says the best way to keep children safe around guns is to teach them about guns. Ignoring and pretending firearms don’t exist will only feed curiosity. Depending on always locking them up is also flawed, because we are flawed. We are humans and humans make mistakes. Teaching a child to avoid a firearm is similar to backing up the computer. You backup your files just in case your hard-drive crashes, why not train your child just in case you forget one time. I’m sure many of you have faced this issue before. Please share your stories, as well as advice and tips in the comments.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 12.07.49 AMLast week a story emerged of a firearms safety instructor shooting one of his students. I happened to see the story on The Blaze, but it was also on CNN, Yahoo! News, Fox News, and other sites. The local newspaper naturally had the best coverage. My first reaction to the story, similar to many others, was outright condemnation and scorn for the instructor. I mentally began making a checklist for ensuring any future instructors I work with won’t be the “type” to do such a thing. I did some research, talked with some people (including coworkers here at Autrey’s and instructors), and developed the following checklist…

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 12.01.05 AM

A quick YouTube search will turn up numerous examples of bad instructors. Many times shooters fail because they were not taught proper stance or grip.

(Before we go any further, I would like to point out that uncles, husbands,boyfriendsfriends, etc... , who were in the _____(Army, Marines, Police, etc…) for ____ years do not make good firearms instructors. Just because a person is experienced in a skill does not mean they are able to teach that skill. And just because they were in the military does not necessarily mean they are experienced with handguns. Large majority of the military never carry handguns. As for Law Enforcement, many of them are not trained in the advanced skills and techniques of shooting. And, no matter what level of training a person has received, just because that person is experienced and proficient with firearms does not mean they will do well instructing you. The second problem [and probably the more common one I see at our range] with spouses and loved ones teaching others how to shoot is that spouses and significant others tend to have a hard time accepting correction from their loved one. It simply does not go over well when a husband tells his wife she is doing something wrong. Yet, I’ve seen an objective third-party say the exact same thing and the wife accepts their correction easily and immediately. So, I will repeat… Loved ones do not make for good firearms instructors.)

My Checklist…

1. ___ Do my fellow gun enthusiasts recommend him?130410-gun-show-hmed-11a.photoblog600

Word of mouth is often the best way to find a quality, local instructor. You may find a local gun store, range, shooting competition or gun show a good place to ask around. However, do your due diligence in selecting the gun enthusiasts to question. Attending a Tactical Course solely based on the opinion of one “expert” whom you happened to meet at the gun store is not likely to result in a great experience. Also, numerous instructors are excellent teachers of the basics of firearm safety and handling, yet are not qualified to teach more technical skills. For example, the number of instructors experienced in and qualified to train civilians in Close Quarters Combat is highly limited. Anyone who says the local Handgun Basics instructor can also teach such highly technical courses should be thoroughly questioned.

2. ___ Is he certified?gapatch

There are several nationally recognized organizations that train and certify instructors, the NRA being the most common. An instructor may also be certified through the State licensing board, Dept. of Defense, Dept. of Safety, and others. These certifications provide a type of quality control for the firearms instruction community. A certified instructor has documented experience in the material they teach. The certifications also frequently demonstrate the level of commitment the instructor has to instructing. Typically (but not always), the more certifications an instructor has the more time and money they have invested into their chosen career field and the higher quality of instruction you are likely to receive.


3. ___ Are our personalities compatible?

Though an instructor may meet all your qualifications, if he speaks in a manner that gets under your skin you will not learn well from him. There are instructors that are gruff and from whom some women are uncomfortable learning. And there are female instructors from whom men are uncomfortable learning. Call the instructor and have a conversation. The reviews and critiques of former students may also give you some insight into your instructor.

4. ___ Can he teach?

There are many skilled firearms owners and competitors that are not gifted with the ability to teach. When you talk with a potential instructor, ask for references and critiques from past students. These will likely give you great insight into their teaching ability, safety consciousness, and how personable they are. As you are talking with him, do your best to determine his purpose in teaching. Is he passionate about imparting knowledge that may save people’s lives? Does he enjoy teaching for the sake of seeing that “light-bulb” moment when a student “get’s it?” Or is he in it for the paycheck?

5. ___ Is he experienced in the area I want to be trained in?

At the Introduction to Handguns level this is not so concerning, but as you move up in your skill development you need to ensure the instructor knows the material physically as well as mentally. Just as people without children will often foolishly advise people with children how they should raise said children, there are many things that sound great in theory but breakdown in reality. So also is the world of self-defense and combat. There are many theories about how things “should” be done but unless the instructor has tested his theories in the battlefield of reality the value of his training is limited. Even for a Basic Handgun Course, question the instructor on the basic fundamentals. If he doesn’t mention things like: stance, grip, sight alignment, breath control, trigger control, etc… then you should probably find somebody else. He is not experienced in the proper techniques of shooting.

6. ___ Is the course material from an established organization?pistolguide

If you are unsure of the local, independent instructors you may be better off going to one that is using the course material of an established organization (such as the NRA). Established organizations are typically founded on the reality-tested experience of an individual(s) and focus on training other instructors in the lessons learned through that testing. To ensure students receive the benefit of that life experience, instructors are severely restricted from making any deviations from the course material. This provides for continuity across county and state lines.

7. ___ Does he have a good reputation?

Gun+Enthusiasts+Attend+Machine+Gun+Shoot+Military+dhKX-6Rcre0lOnce you have narrowed down the list of instructors and schools, begin looking into their reputations. Internet reviews may be very helpful in this, but take each review with a very large grain of salt. Negative reviews may be posted by competition and positive reviews may be posted by those associated with the organization. It is also possible for one unhappy, previous student to take to the internet for his/her revenge. Gun shows and stores may be other good resources for determining the reputation of an organization, course or instructor.

8. ___ Is he insured?

Having insurance is another indication of the commitment level of the instructor as well as being extremely important if something unfortunate happens.

9. ___ Does he have an emergency plan if something goes wrong?ROTHCO-EMSTraumaBagBlue

A professional instructor should have an emergency plan in place if something unfortunate were to happen. Not having such a plan may be an indicator that the instructor is either inexperienced, naive, arrogant or unprofessional… none of which I want in a firearms instructor.

10. ___ Is he within budget?

Financial constraints are a concern for most U.S. citizens and many times our training decisions are limited by these constraints. There are many amazing nationally renowned courses we would love to attend but simply cannot afford it. With that in mind, a local course is very appealing. So long as the instructor is safe, we may be willing to compromise on skill or experience in order to advance in our firearm handling. Recently, Limatunes wrote an encouraging post on budgeting for firearms training that will likely help you budget for next year’s training.

What Is It I’m Really Looking For?th

Before you begin looking for an instructor, it is very important to first determine what your objectives are. If self-defense is your overall goal, several objectives may be to learn situational awareness, basic handgun handling, how to use pepper (OC) spray, hand to hand combat, and home defense strategies. If winning competitive shoots is your goal, you will need an entirely different set of firearms courses. For either situation, the optimal instructor will be qualified and competent in teaching all of the subjects you desire to master. By sticking with the same instructor throughout a series of courses you will have the advantage of maintaining continuity. A good instructor will learn your strengths, weaknesses, and how you learn. As he gives you direction and instruction he will tailor it to the method that best suits you. As a student, you will also learn his methods, style and format. Building that loyalty between instructor and student will yield many rewards. While the above scenario is the optimal situation, you may not find such an instructor in your area or you may desire to progress past the level of your current instructor. In whichever situation you find yourself, I believe the above information will help you avoid the worst of the instructors, protect you from the scam artists, and hopefully help you find an instructor that best suits you.


While digging into the best steps to take to ensure I train only with a highly qualified and safe instructor, I incidentally discovered the trainer in the headlines, Terry Dunlap, Sr., is actually a highly qualified and exceptionally experienced instructor and range master. He has successfully instructed both civilians and law enforcement for decades. See this Active Response Training post or this Examiner article for more details. As far as I can tell, this instructor would have passed all of my checkpoints. So where does that leave me? I must conclude that all efforts of self-preservation are limited and ultimately my trust must not be in my efforts but God’s love and protection. Thankfully, He’s a lot better at protecting me than I am anyways.

Other Resources…

An interesting read into what mindset a professional instructor should have?

Other negligent discharges…