One of the biggest questions I get from new shooters attending one of my courses is whether they’re prepared for it with the right gear. This is understandable. Nobody wants to pay hard earned money for a course and then not be able to get the most out of it just because they didn’t bring the correct items with them.
Obviously, one of the most important things you need to bring with you to a defensive pistol course is a quality handgun. Don’t show up with some $100 knockoff that is going to fall apart and/or jam after 100 rounds. In fact, when I attend courses, I always bring a back up gun just in case something happens to my primary gun. Thankfully, in all of the courses I’ve attended, I’ve never had to resort to my back up gun, but I was glad I had it--just in case.
Besides a handgun, you also need a quality holster. I recommend bringing the holster that you use on a daily basis (and if you plan to carry a full size gun, you might want to read this article). In other words, if you carry concealed and wear an inside-the-waistband holster then use that holster during your training.
Far too often, I see people show up with an outside the waistband holster even though they never actually carry this way. Clearly, this makes no sense. You are creating incorrect muscle memory throughout the course. You should always train with your gear set up the same way you have it when you’re out on the streets. (On a side note, if you only use a gun for home protection and you are not going to carry it daily, then just buy a paddle holster and that will serve you well during your training courses).
(A simple paddle holster for training courses. Click here for more)
Next, make sure you bring three magazines for a semi-automatic handgun, or three speed loaders for a revolver. The best advice I can give you about magazines is to buy the factory magazines from the company who makes your gun. I would stay away from other companies who make non-name-brand magazines for your gun.
You also need a magazine pouch to hold your magazines. Since one magazine will be in the gun, you will just need a double magazine pouch to hold the other two magazines. I prefer a Kydex magazine pouch that simply clips to my belt. I’ve never liked the magazine pouches that require me to take off my belt and slide them on and off each time.
Of course, you need ammunition when attending training. Ammunition for training is about the only time you want to go cheap and purchase the most inexpensive ammo you can find. Since you’re likely shooting hundreds of rounds over several days, you don’t want to use your jacketed hollow point rounds, which cost a small fortune. To find the cheapest ammo, just do an Internet search. If you have a quality firearm, then the cheap ammo won’t harm your handgun. You’ll just have to clean it more often.
Hearing protection is an important item that you don’t want to forget to bring with you. There are many options available for protecting your hearing, with the most affordable being the soft earplugs. Another option is earmuffs, which are what I prefer to use.
There are regular earmuffs you can buy for around $40 and they’ll do a solid job. You can also buy electronic earmuffs that cost as much as $300. The electronic earmuffs allow you to hear conversations without having to remove the earmuffs each time you want to hear or talk to someone.
(Standard or electronic earmuffs can be used during a pistol course)
When it comes to eye protection, you will need regular clear shooting glasses and you also need to bring sunglasses with you in case it’s a sunny day. Shooting glasses can start around $25. You can buy special shooting sunglasses or just wear regular sunglasses.
Don’t forget to bring a baseball cap. A lot of folks think the point of a baseball cap is to keep the sun out of your eyes. The purpose of the cap is to deflect hot brass so it doesn’t end up falling down your shirt. In other words, a baseball cap is used for safety purposes so you end up “dancing” on the shooting line and pointing a gun where you shouldn’t because you’re trying to get a piece of brass out of your shirt.
I highly recommend bringing sunscreen to every pistol course you attend. During the summer, most of the country gets very hot, and you don’t want to spend hours shooting in the sun and come home with a brutal sunburn.
Also, don’t forget to bring plenty of water. Some instructors provide water and others don’t. I always make sure to have a small cooler full of ice water with me so that I stay hydrated the entire course.
If you stick to the above list of gear you should be thoroughly prepared when you attend your next defensive pistol course and you’ll be able to focus on the training and not have to worry about anything else. Plus, once you buy this gear (if you buy quality) you only have to buy it once, and you can use it for the rest of your life.