A Day at the Concealed Handgun Class: Sunday Morning Coming Down
"Don't point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy or kill," reads the sign in the middle of the room. It's 8 a.m on Sunday morning and I am reading this, while drinking a cup of coffee, still bleary from being dragged out of bed.
Photos by Craig Hlavaty A Sunday morning on the firing line
No, I'm not at church or in a drunk relative's garage, I'm taking my Concealed Handgun Class at the Arms Room in League City, the indoor shooting range that I visited a few months back for their grand opening. At the helm will be Brian Mobley, the CHL instructor I spoke with back in September during the opening weekend, and Justin Franklin, another instructor.
This class will last from 8 a.m to 6 p.m., after which I will have consumed about a gallon of black coffee to stay awake, not to mention two or three of the homemade brownies that Mobley's wife made for the class.
The truth is, I don't plan on carrying a concealed handgun wherever I go. My life is too full of bars and public places that it wouldn't be practical, but it was a Christmas present from my folks, so I took the class.
Our class has about 28 people in it, ranging from the youngest being my brother to guys that looked to be in their late sixties. There are young mothers, fathers and sons, and guys my age and a little bit older who all made the treacherous early start time. Well, maybe it's not so treacherous for them. I hit the sack at 4 a.m.
I look around the room and wonder if it was a scare that brought some of these people into today's class. Did they get mugged outside a store one evening with their kids in the backseat? Did they hear about a prowler in the neighborhood? Are they frequent travelers throughout the state? Is it social hysteria, the fear of the great unknown? I admit that I fall into the former group, the reasons of which are hard to explain here. It's not because I wanna be macho or I have a Southern God-given right. There are no Skynyrd references here.
We begin the class filling out paperwork and signing things. We all get a quick primer on etiquette on the range. Keeping the finger off the trigger, pointing down range, not aiming it at anyone living.
"I will tackle you if you come out of the box with a gun in your hand," Mobley says. He's right now only holding an orange training gun, more of a mold, and it shocks everyone into straightening up.
We are qualifying with our handguns, or a rented one from the range, just an hour or so into the class. What scares me is that we have no frame of reference for the level of fundamental gun training that the person next to us in the shooting boxes has. It's hard to tell who is throwing themselves into the class without holding or shooting a firearm, let alone a mid-caliber handgun.
We see a quick PowerPoint slideshow on the dangers of unsafe gun handling. A mauled and bloody thumb too close to to a revolver's chamber. A kid making a disastrous YouTube video. Another guy nearly killing his friend, his handgun going off near his feet.
Each member of my party rents a 9mm Glock pistol for the live-fire targeting exercise on the range, but we have all shot plenty of guns in our time.
We qualify on targets at three, seven and 15 yards, in bursts of shots called out by Franklin. Some people have gun jams, or don't shoot at the correct intervals. Glocks are precision machines, and it's hard to screw up shooting with them. They aren't that loud, and they produce little kick to your hands. They still remind me of space guns, because they don't conform to my mental image of a handgun, a revolver.
We all make it out of the range alive, thankfully. My party all passes this part of the course with tight grouping on the targets that got a little wonky as the target got farther out. I wish I could say that I got better at 15 yards, but I wear glasses now.
The rest of the day will be spent on nonverbal dispute resolution, which in my mind should be taught along with math and history in every grade in schools, public and private. We learn about the three ego states: child, parent, adult. This class stresses that guns are for the last dire, deadly instance, when you can't reason your way out of a situation. They are not teaching us to shoot first and plead innocence later. You are not shooting to maim, but to kill. It's a heady thing to hear on a Sunday morning.