Anyone interested in learning more about firearms will benefit from taking the NRA’s Basics of Pistol Shooting Online course, geared to educate first-time and beginning shooters about all aspects of pistol shooting, including firearm safety.
The course, which costs $60, was professionally created by an award-winning E-Learning company in conjunction with NRA Training to enable students to meet the NRA standard for safely using a pistol. It can be the first step to concealed carry. The Basics of Pistol Shooting Online can be taken alone or as part of an NRA blended-learning experience with an online section and NRA certified instructor-led training.
Since the course first launched in March 2018, more than 8,300 people have taken advantage of it. As a young urban female shooter, I decided to give the course a try. Based on my experience, here are 10 reasons why the course is definitely worth taking.1. It’s great for novice shooters or those with some experience. Anyone who doesn’t know very much about firearms will come away from the course with a more profound understanding of firearm form, function and safety. The course gives an in-depth view of the mechanical aspects of pistols, highlights differences between semi-automatics and revolvers, and educates students about everything from safety at the range to pistol cleaning, care and storage.
The course is so thorough that I would argue that even people with some level of previous shooting experience would find it impossible not to learn something useful. If you are brand new to shooting, this is the course for you. I would also recommend it for people who are merely curious about understanding how firearms work. The course is an excellent option for anyone who truly wants to understand the discipline of pistol shooting.2. It is welcoming for women. About 22% of all students who have taken the course so far are women. That’s a good percentage and I would argue it’s due to the fact that the course is user-friendly for women. Women interested in taking the course will be relieved to find that it’s not a hardware-store experience catering to machos and manliness—there is a good gender equilibrium, with the videos and interactive learning experiences showing a good balance of men and women participating in activities. As a woman, I believe this makes the learning experience easier for women to relate to.
3. You can learn at your own pace. The course works “for” you, not against you. It’s designed to help learners truly absorb the material. The course does not rush you forward nor force you to start from the beginning if you don’t complete it within a particular timeframe. It can work with any schedule, and the knowledge you gain in each chapter and module stays with you. Constant reviewing helps keep the material fresh in your mind.
4. You get a solid review on how to handle, aim and unload a firearm correctly. Watching somebody shoot a pistol makes aiming seem a lot easier than it really is. The reality of bullets getting stuck in a chamber or missing a bull’s-eye are among situations the course gives in-depth perspectives on. The course teaches you about common mistakes in pistol handling—such as breaking the wrist and riding the recoil—to help you get your aim right.
Videos and simulated target practice help you get a feel for aligning gun sights properly. More importantly, the course teaches you how to safely unload a pistol in tricky situations, such as when the pistol fails to fire or you get a squib load, which helps you avoid problems.5. You learn about shooting stances and proper posture. When you watch somebody fire a pistol, you are probably not aware how much balance plays a role in shooting performance. Putting your feet in the wrong place, or having too much stiffness in your arms and legs, can adversely affect your aim or cause you to jerk around when shooting in a completely uncool fashion. Thankfully, this online course has you covered by teaching you proper postures and aiming stances, for example the Weaver and the Isosceles positions. The course also educates learners that the Benchrest position has nothing much to do with resting—you should sit up straight while shooting, not slouch. These overviews about posture and stances increase your self-awareness and will make you a better shooter.
6. It comes with a terrific handbook as a resource. The course comes with a very detailed handbook, which is a great tool for reviewing. The handbook is easy to carry and filled with helpful information and illustrations.
7. The course offers a blended learning experience with an NRA Certified instructor. No matter how confident you may feel after taking the online portion of the course, no pistol education is truly complete without hands-on education. I strongly recommend that students follow up the online training by taking a course from an NRA Certified Instructor. Instructors are required to have learning objectives they must complete with you.
Based on my own experience, I can say that learning from an instructor is well worth it. NRA Instructor Larry Quandahl, for example, teaches a full-day course (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) that covers every practical aspect of pistol shooting covered in the course handbook and more. In addition to giving detailed walkthroughs on gun safety and range safety, Larry brings his own expertise from many years in the U.S. Marine Corps to the course. After just 10 minutes with Larry, I learned many things that were not covered online. He taught me tips and tricks about shooting—for example, he helped me to improve my Weaver stance and taught me how to turn my cross-dominance into an advantage.
While online learning is great, students can go to www.nrainstructors.org to find the live fire portion of the course near them. Alternatively, students can register for the online portion of the course through an instructor, who can then issue them a code to unlock the course.
8. The course teaches you safety tips you won’t forget. You will never forget to wear your eye protection or hearing protection after taking the course. Contrary to what you might expect from movie scenes, shell casings don’t simply evaporate into thin air as a person shoots bullets. Hot particles expelled from the firearm can hurt your eyes if you are not wearing eye protection. Also, live gunshots are a lot louder than you might expect—loud enough, in fact, to damage your hearing if you don’t protect your ears. The course imparts a very good understanding of what it takes to handle firearms and ammunition responsibly.
9. You will benefit from the extensive knowledge provided about the machinery of pistols. There is a lot of hype in the media these days suggesting that guns are dangerous in and of themselves. That is not true. A gun is a machine. This course demonstrates how very basic and mechanical a gun actually is—it can do nothing by itself, nor even work properly at all depending on the person using it. I believe that a gun, as a machine, can be compared to a car. The mechanics of both guns and cars are complex and require responsibility to properly own and operate. This course helps learners truly understand what it means to be a responsible gun owner.
10. It helps you choose a pistol that’s right for you. There are so many different types of pistols out there, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed about making the perfect choice. Guns are unique and work differently for everybody—one person can swear by a model that will not perform as well for another person. At the end of the course, you are given an opportunity to find out what type of pistol would work best for you. You answer a series of questions about your unique personality and preferences to help you take the first step in going gun shopping!
Personally, I found the assessment to be right on target—after just a few questions, the results of the test established that my pistol of choice is a semi-automatic, of a nice cold wood-and-steel type. That said, I recommend the test if you’re interested in buying a pistol and are looking for a good match. You can print the test results out to use as a reference when you’re shopping, or review it with your NRA Certified instructor to get more insights about what pistol will work best for you.
My overall view is that the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Online Course is definitely worth a shot. Each state has different concealed-carry permit requirements so you should check with your local authorities to learn about your state laws.