If you’re already part of the training circuit, you probably have your packing list dialed in. However, if you are new to training, learning how to gear up for a class is important. Over the course of my training career (as a student) I’ve developed some best practices and tips that I thought I’d share.

Gear Up for a Class: A Primer

I start by talking about inert training gear because I genuinely feel it’s essential for anyone who carries defensive tools. The only way to truly know if your choices work is to test them against resisting opposition. Dummy guns, training knives, and inert OC allow you to do this safely and repeatedly.

If it’s financially doable, having a dedicated training pistol is useful. Not only does it reduce wear and tear on your carry gun, but in the unlikely event that you do experience a mechanical failure, you’ve got a backup on hand so that you don’t miss out on the class.

Speaking of missing out, bringing food so that you don’t have to run by a drive-thru will allow you to get more facetime with the instructor. There’s a big difference between “war stories” used to build up the instructor’s ego and professional anecdotes that are relevant to the course material. That being said, I’ve never really experienced the former. All the “back in the day” or “no shit, there I was” stories I’ve been present for have been applicable on some level.

Being able to refer back to the material covered has been invaluable for me, so I’ll always recommend having a notebook and taking as much video as the instructor is cool with.

Plan for inclement weather. There’s nothing noble about suffering. The more uncomfortable you are, the more distracted you’ll be, and the less material you’ll be able to absorb. “Toughing it out” is grossly overrated, especially when you’re paying to be there. So, take the appropriate steps to ensure you’re suitably warm, dry, etc.

It’s always a good idea to have “training clothes,” the same way you have a training gun. This allows you to go closer to 100% without risking damage to your street clothes.

The Suited Shootist
Alex Sansone took his first formal pistol class in 2009, and has since accumulated almost 500 total hours of open enrollment training from many of the nation's top instructors including Massad Ayoob, Craig Douglas, Tom Givens, Gabe White, Cecil Burch, Chuck Haggard, Darryl Bolke, and many others. Spending his professional life in the corporate world, Alex quickly realized incongruities between "best practices" in the defensive world, and the practical realities of his professional and social limitations. "I've never carried a gun professionally. I'm just a yuppie suburbanite that happens to live an armed lifestyle. Having worked in the corporate arena for the last decade, I've discovered that a lot of the "requirements" and norms of gun carriers at large aren't necessarily compatible with that professional environment. I also have a pretty diverse social background, having grown up in the Northeast, and there are many people in my life that are either gun-agnostic or uncomfortable with the idea of private gun ownership. This has afforded me not only insights into how we are perceived by different subcultures, but how to manage and interact with people that may not share your point of view without coming across as combative or antisocial. This is why my focus is the overlooked social aspects of the armed lifestyle."