#1 ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

The NRA’s very first safety rule is “ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction”. This seems simple enough, but how do we implement it in a typical classroom where there is going to be a lot of firearm handling?

If you aren’t already familiar with the gold standard in classroom firearm safety rules, take a look at our post on that topic.

On the range, the safe direction is obviously the berm/backstop. It’s not quite so simple in the classroom. There are not many places where firearm classes are held that have safe, bullet proof walls. Also remember that a ricocheting bullet or fragments from whatever is struck could cause serious injury. So how can you point a gun in a safe direction in a classroom?

IMG_20160620_191602The best “safe direction” option I can think of for using a real firearm in a classroom would be placing the barrel inside a clearing device or bullet recovery tank since the gun cannot fire in any other direction—pretty impractical or unrealistic for classroom training though. One fail-safe method for use in a classroom is to select the best “safe direction” and use a SIRT pistol or inert training gun—impossible for a mishap to occur!

(Note: SIRT and inert training guns are still treated as if they are real firearms. Failing to do so invites the negligent handling of real firearms. Train your brain to treat any “gun” with the same level of safety and respect.)

IMG_20160620_191837So how about malfunction drills in the classroom where a mechanically functional handgun is needed? One option, albeit not perfect, might be to “neuter” a handgun by removing its firing pin or striker. Whether using a “neutered” gun or not, the ONLY type of ammunition that should EVER be in the classroom is inert dummy rounds. Another option is conducting any training that requires a mechanically functioning firearm, such as malfunction drills, on the range instead of in the classroom.

How can we go about making the classroom “safe direction” the best that we can? Kathy Jackson of “The Cornered Cat” (website & Facebook) and I had an informative exchange in an instructor group on Facebook. Kathy offered some suggestions such as using a Kevlar vest or a box of books that is capable of stopping the most powerful round possible for the guns used in the class. Another idea would be a portable bullet trap.IMG_20160620_190405IMG_20160620_190234

It is important to remember that these enhanced “safe directions” are dimensionally limited though. A round discharged must impact the object for it to provide any benefit. An instructor or student having a negligent discharge may very well not have the gun aimed directly at the enhancement object—the other layers of safety rules have to be violated for the ND to happen in the first place…

Firearm Safety in the Classroom

IMG_20160619_163708It is tragic anytime there is a death involving firearms training. Such a tragic event happened this weekend in a concealed carry class in Ohio.

The loss of the victim is most regrettable, as is the guilt that the student that pulled the trigger will now live with. It is also an opportunity for those of us in the instructor community, as well as our students, to review our own safety precautions to ensure that we don’t miss something that could lead to another tragedy.

The victim was in his office, on the other side of a wall where the students were practicing a malfunction drill (clearing a firearm after a failure to feed, failure to extract, hang fire, etc.) A bullet was fired from the handgun being used in the exercise; it penetrated the wall and fatally struck the victim in the office.

The NRA has three “ALWAYS” rules and an additional set of rules for the storage and use of firearms. The ALWAYS rules are:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

As “ALWAYS” implies, it means all the time—not just when it is convenient. While rule #2 may not have been applicable in this training exercise since pulling the trigger may have been part of the drill, rule #1 and #3 certainly were. There can be no argument that the gun was not pointed in a safe and that the gun was not unloaded.

Of the additional NRA rules for the storage and use of a firearm, the very first states, “Know your target and what is beyond.” While the wall in the classroom might have been the target, the victim is what was beyond it and the wall was incapable of stopping the handgun round.

The NRA adds another layer of safety rules for its instructors. First, there is absolutely no live ammunition allowed in the classroom—by anyone. This includes the instructor, the students, and anyone else in the room.  No ammo, no negligent mishaps.

The second rule is that before any firearm, or even a training replica that is inert, is used for any purpose in a class, the instructor or student will have someone else verify that there is no live ammunition in the firearm or magazines. This applies not just to the first time is is used in that class, but every time it is used in the class.

Adding all of these layers of safety rules together prevents mishaps. Even if the class being taught is not an NRA course, these rules are the gold standard in safety and apply. Likewise, even if the person instructing the class is not an NRA Instructor, the safety rules apply.

As a student, you have a right to learn in a safe environment. If the instructor is not following these rules, it is not a safe environment; you should leave any classroom where the instructor doesn’t/won’t follow the safety rules and demand a refund. Better yet, ask the instructor what their safety rules are before you sign up for their class.

We will likely never know exactly what had been taught to the students before the fatal shot in the class this weekend. We won’t know if the safety rules had been taught and retaught before the students handled firearms. We do know that safety rules were broken and a life was lost.

The Newest Addition To Our Range

The vast majority of firearm ranges only allow static target shooting. Very few ranges allow you to draw and fire from a holster and of those, most don’t allow moving and shooting. Students in our advanced handgun courses are required to draw from a holster and fire, along with moving, at our private range.

IMG_20160615_192329We have decided to take the training we provide to an even higher level that is unavailable at the vast majority of ranges, even those allowing holster draw and movement. We’ve added a vehicle to our range equipment that will be used for training and drills involving shooting out the window at a threat (such as a carjacker or someone with violent road rage), exiting the vehicle to engage a threat, and using the vehicle for cover/concealment (such as when confronted by an armed robber, kidnapper, or other violent aggressor).

Making Your Range Experience More Comfortable

IMG_20160615_192132In our quest to provide the most comfortable training environment possible, we’ve been making improvements to our range. We’ve created mulched “islands” for settingIMG_20160615_192203 down your gear and for getting out of the sun (and occasional rain) while you load your magazines or take a break between shooting exercises.

Limo for transporting students and their gear between the classroom and the range.

We also have an eight passenger limo cart to take students and their gear from the classroom down to the range!

To make it easy to clean up after time on the range, we’ve put in a large stainless steel sink for washing up.IMG_20160615_192509

Upcoming range improvements include adding a large shade sail over the shooting positions to provide shade for summertime classes and adding a laterally moving target.

How You Dress Matters

One of the first rules of concealed carry is dressing appropriately. This means selecting clothes that conceal your handgun, but it also means selecting clothes that don’t draw attention to you.

Dark colors, patterns, and heavier fabrics tend to better conceal any printing of the handgun. Obviously heavy, dark colors don’t work well in the heat of the Florida summer so you have to do the best you can in picking out both your manner of carry and wardrobe.

Personally, I prefer an IWB (Inside the Waistband Holster) where the grip of the pistol is just slightly above my belt line and worn at about 3 o’clock. A fishing type shirt made of lightweight polyester worn untucked provides complete concealment.

Whatever your choice is, practice drawing from concealment with an unloaded gun. Better yet, take training classes where this little practiced skill is taught! The NRA’s Personal Protection Outside The Home (PPOTH) is one such class and we regularly teach it.

In this day of people reacting violently to messages they don’t like, I’d suggest avoiding wearing clothing with a political message—especially if you are going to be somewhere that the message could incite such morons to attack you. Yes, it is your 1st Amendment Right to wear almost anything that you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s a prudent choice.

Most importantly, dressing appropriately means not wearing anything that an overzealous, anti-gun prosecutor—or the media—might use to paint you as a cold blooded killer looking for any opportunity to take someone’s life. Wearing a t-shirt with a saying like “Kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out”, “I don’t call 911”, or “.45 Because Shooting Twice Is Silly” when you’re involved in a self defense situation is going to cause you serious problems. Likewise, having pictures of you wearing those t-shirts on the Internet (Facebook, etc.) is going to cause problems even if you are dressed very conservatively when you’re involved in an incident.

For many people, their perception (or what is injected into their heads by the media) is their reality. Those may be the people that are jurors if you are involved in a self-defense shooting.

Don’t Lose Sight Of The Most Likely Threats

While mass murders capture the headlines, you have a significantly greater risk of being targeted by one or more “conventional” criminals. It doesn’t mean that we should ignore the terrorist threat, just that we should keep it in perspective as we train and live our lives.

Likewise, while raging gun battles do occur, they are a rare exception. Almost all self defense shootings involve a very limited number of bullets being fired—as is true for the majority of police officer involved shootings.

It is difficult to determine the percentage of times where the criminal retreated when they became aware that their intended victim was armed without any shots being fired. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is far more often the case than situations where the defender had to fire their gun. Of course this doesn’t mean that simply having a concealed handgun without the knowledge, skills, and ability to use it will keep you safe.

The take away from all of this is that you should focus your training, especially if it is only occasional, on being proficient at drawing your handgun from concealment and accurately delivering up to about a half dozen rounds as quickly as possible on one or two targets from one to seven yards. Hardcore “tactical” classes can be fun if you have lots of training time available; most people should use their scarce time to concentrate on the skills that they are far more likely to need.


Strategic Outfitters Rules for Concealed Carry

I’ve carried a concealed firearm for almost all of my adult life. As a patrol officer, I carried a concealed back up gun on duty as well as off duty. As an Illinois State Police Inspector and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent, I rarely openly carried a firearm, but virtually always was carrying at least one. As a civilian I am now limited in the places where I can carry a firearm, but I generally do wherever legal.

Drawn from that experience, here are some rules for the concealed carry of firearms. Aside from the first two, they are in no particular order.

  • #1 A firearm is a tool of last resort
    A firearm is a tool—nothing more. It is however a tool that you employ only when there is no other choice. A firearm is not a tool that you use to threaten or intimidate.

  • #2 Always carry the firearm fully loaded with a round in the chamber
    Modern firearms designed for concealed carry have safety devices built into them to prevent being fired unless the trigger is pulled. In a life or death situation, the time it takes to chamber a round could cost you your life.

  • Avoid confrontation whenever possible
    The wise concealed carrier keeps a calm demeanor at all times. They ignore it if someone cuts them off in traffic; they don’t flip the person off, tailgate them, or do anything aggressive. If someone insults them, they ignore it and avoid the person.

  • Remain alert to threats at all times
    Criminals prefer to prey on unsuspecting or weak victims. If your head is down with your eyes locked to your smartphone, you’ll never see the attack coming and likely have no chance to deploy your firearm. Always be aware of your surroundings, any possible threats in them, and any available escape routes.

  • Don’t feel emboldened because you are armed
    Having the ability to defend yourself doesn’t mean that you should put yourself into dangerous or unsafe circumstances. Being armed does not always mean that you will be the victor in a confrontation.
  • Any gun you carry is better than any gun left at home
    For as long as people have been carrying concealed guns, there has been ongoing debate about what an adequate firearm for concealed carry is. The bottom line is that the largest caliber handgun with the largest capacity of rounds that you can proficiently fire might be the best choice for a home defense handgun, but concealability and comfort of carry are prime factors in the selection of a concealed gun. Larger handguns are often easier to grip and accurately shoot, but they are much harder to conceal and uncomfortable for all day carry.

Many people have a variety of concealed carry guns, choosing one that works with the clothing and activities they have planned. If you can only afford one, it needs to be small enough that it can be concealed regardless of your clothing choice for the day and light enough that carrying it isn’t uncomfortable.

  • Know the laws of any jurisdiction you’ll carry a firearm in
    Unlike traffic laws which are generally uniform throughout the country, laws governing the concealed carry of firearms vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. While your driver’s license is valid in all 50 states, your concealed carry permit is not.

While states like Florida have passed preemption statutes that do not allow city and county ordinances to regulate firearms, many other states have state statutes, county ordinances, and city ordinances that all govern firearms.

Here are two sites with a wealth of information about the laws governing concealed carry:



  • Whenever possible, avoid places you can’t legally carry
    Aside from the fact that you are disarmed, the act of removing a concealed firearm, hiding it in your vehicle, and then having to re-conceal it brings additional potential perils.

Having to go into a place where you can’t legally carry a firearm is inevitable. In some instances it is, however, avoidable. It is illegal to carry a firearm into a Post Office, but you can go elsewhere to get stamps or ship a package. If you are in a state where a merchant can prohibit you from carrying a concealed firearm by posting a sign, take your business elsewhere. Be sure to let the anti-gun merchant know via FaceBook or other social media that you have chosen to not patronize their business due to their prohibition of firearms.

  • Know your skill level and don’t exceed it
    Television is not reality—don’t take your training tips from it. In the incredibly unlikely event that you find yourself in a situation where it would be appropriate to employ your firearm, weigh the decision as carefully as the available moments allow. If you are not well skilled and practiced in drawing your firearm from concealment, the unarmed criminal standing close to you might successfully arm himself with your gun. For the typical concealed carrier, trying to shoot at a criminal that is twenty feet away risks hitting bystanders.
  • All firearms must be in a holster that completely protects the trigger
    Objects in a purse or pocket can depress the trigger causing at best a negligent discharge and at worst injury or death.
  • If carrying off-body (purse, bag, briefcase, etc.), always maintain the security of your firearm
    It is easy to inadvertently set down a purse or bag and then not pay attention to it, providing opportunity for tragedy or disaster—tragedy if a child accesses it or disaster if you need it and it is not immediately available.
  • There is no hurry when reholstering your firearm; ensure that nothing is going to snag the trigger
  • Holsters should be rigid so that the firearm can easily be reholstered
    A holster that collapses when the handgun is drawn can be dangerous when trying to reholster. This is especially true for Inside WaistBand (IWB) holsters such as ones made out of soft leather.
  • Holsters must retain the firearm tight enough so that it cannot fall out during vigorous activity such as running
    You never want to drop your handgun—especially if you are trying to escape a dangerous situation.
  • Practice drawing and reholstering your unloaded firearm from your concealed carry holster(s)
    Drawing from a holster on the outside of your belt with nothing covering it is far different than drawing from a concealed holster where a garment needs to be moved out of the way. This is even more so for concealment such as a handbag.
  • Test ammo that you plan to carry to make certain it functions properly in your firearm
    While most modern ammunition will function fine in a handgun of that caliber, some combinations of ammo and handgun can be problematic. This is especially true with semi-automatic pistols where the shape of the bullet can affect how it feeds into the chamber. The wrong time to discover that the combination of ammo/gun doesn’t work is when you are deploying it to save your life.
  • Practice regularly with any firearm that you might carry
    You should be able to operate the handgun without fumbling or having to look at it to see where the safety or magazine is located.
  • Be aware of how movements can cause your firearm to be exposed
    “Concealed Carry” means exactly that. You can be charged in some jurisdictions for even a brief exposure of the firearm. If you’re wearing a jacket covering your handgun in a belt holster and reach for an item on the top shelf at a store, the gun may be exposed as the jacket rises.