At a recent gun show there were unbelievable crowds, lines of people trying to get in all day and guns, lots of guns. And along with all those new purchases were hordes of people eager for training. One great place to start, especially for beginners, is with the courses offered by the National Rifle Association.

NRA COURSES are all taught locally by independent NRA Certified Instructors following a specific course guideline. It is sort of like going to a chain restaurant, no matter the city, the menu and quality is the same. I admit some bias here, as I am myself an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor, but the course listing is fairly comprehensive. This includes some that you would have a hard time finding anywhere else such as cartridge reloading and different types of muzzle loaders.

The NRA offers basic rifle, pistol and shotgun courses focusing on their sporting uses, which are ideal for new shooters as well as those needing to brush up their skills and maybe unlearn some bad habits. NRA also offers defensive courses for pistol including Personal Protection Inside the Home as well as Personal Protection Outside the Home. This second class is geared towards the needs of those who carry concealed and is divided up into two parts, a basic class and a more advanced course with more range time. Both personal protection courses also include a section on self-defense and the law which must be taught by an attorney or a police officer. (

GUNSITE ACADEMY may be the most widely recognized name in firearms training and was started by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper in 1976. Cooper developed many modern pistol techniques and his facility located in Paulden, AZ, continues his work with pistols as well as rifles and shotguns. The main class folks take is Pistol 250, an intensive five-day combat pistol course developed by Cooper himself. Pistol 250 emphasizes marksmanship, gun handling and a combat mindset. Students focus on building these skills through a series of live-fire drills and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Gunsite also offers a matching five-day rifle course for the AR and one for the defensive shotgun. The rifle course covers all aspects of handling, speed loading, clearing malfunctions, sighting in and low-light techniques. The defensive shotgun class teaches the students the various uses of the shotgun and ammunition selection as well as effective handling and transitioning to the handgun. (; 928-636-4565)

SIG SAUER ACADEMY encompasses a vast state of the art facility just adjacent to the Exeter, NH, factory and offering courses from beginner introduction to shooting to specialized advanced courses for military and police. There are also several armorer schools focusing on the complete line of Sig Sauer firearms. The one- and two-day home protection courses are the most popular for civilian shooters and include handgun, rifle and shotgun as well as dealing with low light self-defense situations and even a reality-based course that uses non-lethal Simmunitions. More intensive civilian courses address issues like terrorism, unarmed combat and close quarters combat with a knife, pistol or rifle. (; 603-679-2003)

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