A brutal attack during a home invasion. A carjacking and a subsequent rape. A woman attacked while jogging near her home in a gated community. These common headlines emphasize the absolute need for self-defense skills in today’s society.

Firearms Training Associates (FTA) offers a specially designed course for women of all abilities and ages, to teach them how to protect themselves and their families. FTA’s Ladies Pistol & Self-Defense course takes a decidedly proactive approach to teaching self-defense. The two-day course covers a broad range of self-defense subjects, from the proper use and safe handling of a handgun to learning and applying effective self-defense techniques.

Even if you haven’t touched a handgun before, this course will ensure you become comfortable and confident with one. Experienced shooters would also benefit from this course. The classroom discussions, range time, drills and self-defense sessions all serve to reinforce the proper techniques, enabling everyone to take their skills to the next level and into the real world.

New Mindset

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FTA is owned and operated by Cheryl and Bill Murphy. Retired police officers and firearms instructors, their mission is to offer the highest quality firearms training.

I am fortunate to live near FTA’s Corona, California, facility, where we had exclusive use of two air-conditioned classrooms and three ranges for the weekend. FTA also offers this course in Nevada at its state-of-the-art facility that’s located 25 minutes off the Las Vegas strip.

On Day One, we met our team—and they really are a team. The camaraderie and respect was evident from the moment they stepped to the front of the room. Each team member was introduced along with a description of their qualifications and their years at the FTA. The wide variety of backgrounds was impressive, including individuals from law enforcement, military, government agencies, competition and private training facilities. Many instructors have Gunsite instructor/range master certifications as well as California teaching credentials.

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Introductions weren’t limited to instructors. Each student was asked to introduce herself and explain why she was taking the course. Their reasons for taking the course varied—some were experts who already owned handguns; one woman is training to be an NRA instructor; others have family members in law enforcement and wanted to be comfortable with the guns in the house; some were new gun owners; while some had never shot a gun and wanted to learn more about self-defense. One woman readily admitted she was extremely uncomfortable just looking at the training pistols and revolvers laid out on the table at the front of the classroom.

Lead Instructor Ben Romero used our comments, experiences and concerns to cultivate a friendly and relaxed classroom environment. He began with the four rules of gun safety, making it clear that safety is job number one. Romero went on to clearly explain and demonstrate the steps we would be learning on the range throughout the course.

Step To The Line

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The author plans on attending future Ladies Pistol & Self-Defense courses at FTA.

Once outside on the range, Range Officer Steve Craig outfitted the ladies who were borrowing equipment. We donned our belts, holstered our handguns (unloaded) as well as a couple of loaded magazines. We worked in two groups. While one group executed practice drills, the other reloaded while watching from a safe distance. After a discussion with the entire class, the next group headed to the line. The pace was relaxed; the alternating sets gave us students time to absorb the information, and it created a nice flow to the day without being hectic.

The experience of Steve Craig and the other instructors was evident as they helped us with the myriad of details, from finding the proper stance to the steps for drawing and aiming our weapons while remaining aware of our surroundings. They demonstrated a strong understanding of how to properly teach us both fundamental and advanced techniques in one setting.

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The ratio of instructors to students (there were 20) was 1-to-2 during our class, ensuring every student received personalized attention. The ratio on the day of the course varies depending on class size and the number of additional instructors who volunteer. FTA strives for an instructor-to-student ratio of between 1-to-3 and 1-to-5.

Day One was rainy and drawing from a holster was new to me. Metal and polymers become slippery when wet, so I really appreciated the stippled grip on my Glock 17 courtesy of Taran Tactical Innovations. My new Blade-Tech Competition Speed Belt, with two mag pouches and a black, carbon-fiber holster for my Glock, was comfortable and easy to adjust. The drills helped me find the proper positioning for my gear and I quickly learned the techniques.

Confident Carry

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By the end of Day One, everyone was comfortable with the proper handling and use of their handguns. Tomorrow would be the true test—moving from activity to activity while carrying loaded pistols in our holsters.

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We headed directly to the range the morning of Day Two where we continued to develop our marksmanship and situational awareness. Everyone needed a refresher on the steps to make ready, draw, fire, scan and holster our handguns. It dispelled any doubts we had regarding the need to dry-fire practice these techniques in a safe area at home. “Use it or lose it!”

We were divided into three teams and rotated between the three ranges to practice specific drills that included clearing malfunctions, Mozambique drills, shooting on the move and ammo management. Steel targets were a real boost to the psyche—draw, take aim, fire and hear that “clang” as you watch the target dance. Steve Craig said, “It keeps you honest!” The most heart-pounding exercise came from shooting on the move. These drills evoked the feeling of a real-life situation.

Beyond The Guns

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After lunch, the focus turned to unarmed self-defense techniques and applying situational awareness to real-life situations. This included how to make your home unattractive to a burglar; the value of a flashlight and where to keep one (purse, car, bedside table, etc.); how to use a knife to protect yourself and how to defend against one; how to carry and use pepper spray; the different methods for escaping various holds; and the most effective areas to hit or kick to disable your attacker and escape.

RELATED STORY: Confident Carry – Ladies-Only Firearms Training Classes

Each student receives a detailed manual prepared by FTA that includes sections on regulations for the use of firearms in defense of life and property. It is important to familiarize yourself with the local laws regarding firearms and the use of self-defense tactics. Some states have stiff penalties if there is a viable means of escape and you employ self-defense tactics, injuring your attacker. While it is best to use your skills to get away safely, if a confrontation arises, you don’t want to be the one in trouble in the eyes of the law.

For more, visit or call 714-701-9918.

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