Class Supply List:

What You Need to Bring to Your First Class

by Bob Margolis

So you’re going to take a handgun course. Congratulations for taking the initiative to become better trained. You’re already ahead of 95% of your fellow shooters.

To get the most out of your training, you need to bring the proper gear to your session. Having the right gear with you will make your experience better, and make your training most effective.

I’ll break things down into three categories: Clothing, Gun Gear, and Accessories.


In general, bring clothing that will suit you twenty degrees warmer or cooler than what you think the temperature will be. If you are taking a class in the winter at an indoor range, don’t assume that it’s heated. Even if it is heated, it could still be uncomfortably cold if you are not dressed for it. It’s also important to wear clothing that you can draw your weapon from easily. If you are taking a concealed carry class, you will need a concealment garment. Tactical vests also have lots of pockets and places to store magazines and extra ammo. For cold weather, companies like Nike and Under Armor make tight fitting garments that go under your regular clothes and will help keep you warm. They don’t add much bulk and still allow you to move freely. If it’s cold, bring a very warm coat that you can wear when you are not on the firing line.

Pants or shorts should have plenty of pockets for magazines, ammo etc. Jeans work fine but a cargo pant will work better.

Wear a hat with a brim to lessen the chance for any flying brass to hit you in the face.

Wear comfortable shoes that you can move well in. You don’t need “tactical” boots, but a sturdy shoe or sneaker is helpful. Avoid anything with open toes.

Gun Gear

Most training facilities will let you know what is appropriate for gun calibers. Typically, .380 Auto to .45 ACP and everything in between. If you are a new shooter, bring a gun that is in good condition and functions properly. It’s best to know the gun you are bringing also. If you borrow a gun with external safeties you should know how to operate them. If you are left handed, be sure that any external safety is ambidextrous. For many reasons, simple is better. Semi-Automatic guns like Glocks, Smith & Wesson M&P’s and Springfield XD’s usually don’t have external safeties that you will have to operate during your class. Don’t be afraid to bring a revolver either. If you’re going to carry a revolver or keep one in the home for protection, that’s what you should train with. Wheel guns are real guns!

Night sights are very helpful if you’re doing low light shooting.

A backup gun is highly recommended if you have one. If anything goes wrong with your gun, you can switch out and keep on going.


Bring enough ammo each day for at least what you are told you will shoot. Most classes list the maximum number of rounds that you will need. That’s a safe number to have with you. All ammunition should be factory new and meet the specification of the school. Avoid reloads, which are often not permitted by schools. Also check with your school to see if they restrict velocity etc. Some indoor ranges only allow ammo up to a certain velocity. Many schools require jacketed ammo. You don’t need the high priced personal defense ammo for class. The least expensive good quality jacketed (FMJ-style) ammo will suit you fine.

Magazines will be critical for your class. As a general rule, you should have at least three magazines with you. If your state allows high-capacity magazines, even better. A weak side double magazine pouch is helpful. If you don’t have that, those cargo pants will come in handy. If you’re shooting a revolver, you should have at least two strong side mounted speed loaders.


If your class will cover any low-light shooting, a good quality tactical flashlight will be important. A flashlight is not something you should skimp on; get a light that has a momentary on switch and a bright light. Weapons mounted lights are nice but if you don’t have a holster that will hold the gun and the light, your will be better off with a hand held light.


Holsters are a very personal item. For most classes, a shooting side outside the waistband holster is preferred. A sturdy holster that was made specifically for your gun is preferred, but there are many more generic holsters that offer a reasonable fit. It’s important that your holster be sturdy and fit your gun well.

If you want to use an inside the waistband holster or any other type of holster, you should check with your school for their rules. Most likely, anything that is not waist mounted on the shooting side will not be allowed. Cross draw or shoulder holsters frequently are not allowed, as the muzzle will either cross your body or someone else on the line.

You will need a sturdy belt. There are many “instructor” belts out there that are reinforced and will do a really nice job of holding your holster in place perfectly. (They are for you, not just your instructor!) In any instance, your belt needs to be reinforced or double stitched.

Protective Gear

Eye protection is critical when shooting anything. It’s even more critical when on the line with many people. Wrap-around glasses are preferred, as they will also lessen the opportunity for hot brass to get stuck against your face. If you are shooting outside, pay attention to the light conditions that you will face and wear appropriate eye wear.

Ear protection is also a personal choice. The best way to block sound for shooting is with earmuffs that go over your ears. Some people prefer to wear earplugs. Electronic earmuffs will help you to hear instructions and verbal communication while still blocking the sound of fire. They are on the expensive side, but if your shoot often are a worthwhile investment.

Range Bag

If you are driving to your class, you probably have the luxury or a large range bag that will hold everything. If you are traveling by plane or with friends and have limited space, a smaller range bag may be more appropriate. Take along everything that you think you might need in your range bag. Cleaning supplies, tools etc.

Don’t forget a pen and notepad. Most likely, there will be some classroom time and you need to be able to make notes.


Many schools don’t have food available on site. You should plan on bringing everything that you will want or need to eat or drink each day. If it’s warm weather, sports drinks are helpful along with plenty of plain water. Fruit is a good quick energy boost when you feel you need one. An apple will give you more energy than a cup of coffee, and it will do it quicker. Bring quick snacks like dried fruits, nuts and trail mix.

Each night before your class, drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest. If you drink alcohol the night before, limit your intake to half of what you would normally drink. Get up early and have a good breakfast. You will need all of your energy to focus and shoot your best.

Air Travel

If you are flying to a school, you will need to take some extra care with your guns. First, check your airlines website, as they will have the most up-to-date information there. As a general rule, you will need to do one of two things; lock your gun(s) in a hard-sided suitcase or place your guns in a locked case inside your soft-sided suitcase. If you choose the later, you can use the plastic cases that your guns came in, if they lock or you can purchase a locking case for your gun(s). On a recent trip, I chose to purchase a couple of the “In-Car-Gun-Safe” by I got mine at Cabela’s. They lock with a key, are very slim and compact and are completely metal for protection. You will need to go to the ticket counter and let them know that you are traveling with locked, unloaded firearms. They will have you fill out a form that will be placed in your suitcase close to the firearms. Then you can lock the outside of your suitcase again. It’s really very simple. Any ammunition you are traveling with must be kept in separate packages from the firearms, but it can be in the same suitcase. Ammo is heavy and you may want to consider buying it at your destination. Look around though, schools will often sell ammo for higher prices than you can buy it locally.

Finally, when you get back home, or to your hotel…shower off all of that gunshot residue and get a great rest! You’ve earned it.

.22 Training Pistols: Pros & Cons

by Todd Louis Green

Using a .22lr pistol as a training aid is nothing new. Conversion kits for 1911-pattern guns have been around for a very long time. In the revolver world, rimfire equivalents to full size duty guns go back even further. A major resurgence of .22 training has come about in response to the 2009 ammunition shortage. SIG-Sauer and other companies now offer factory OEM conversion kits for their most popular pistols. Other companies opt for a dedicated training gun like the upcoming S&W M&P pistol in .22lr or the well established Ruger 22/45.

The twenty-two can certainly be a beneficial tool. A .22 pistol eliminates most of the recoil and blast that can be so intimidating to beginners. For more experienced shooters, the substantially lower price of .22lr ammunition often provides the means for more live fire practice than one might be able to afford with centerfire 9mm, .45 Auto, etc. There are also times and places where a .22 — especially a suppressed .22 — can be used but larger, more powerful, louder pistols might not.

The important thing to keep in mind when practicing with a .22-cal equivalent to your normal pistol is that the .22 has essentially no recoil. Ten year old children can easily tame the kick and muzzle rise of most .22lr pistols. From a training perspective, what this means is that the .22 is not suitable for any training that focuses on the speed of firing multiple shots at a single target. Do not trick yourself into believing otherwise.

Far too many people sacrifice grip and proper sight tracking while simply going spasmodic on the trigger of a twenty-two. Then they falsely believe they can shoot a serious duty or carry gun faster, as well. Instead, that person has started to form bad habits that will actually diminish his speed when handling a centerfire pistol.

Skills you can work on effectively with a .22 equivalent to your normal pistol:

  • marksmanship
  • strong- and weak-hand only shooting
  • draw stroke
  • reloads
  • transitions
  • judgmental shooting
  • shooting on the move… With SOM, the line between good .22 training and bad .22 training is definitely easy to cross. But like transition drills, SOM training can benefit from a .22 in terms of learning how to move your feet and position your body for a stable shooting platform on the move.

Skills you should not practice with a .22lr handgun:

  • recoil management
  • sight tracking
  • rapid multiple shots on a single target
  • failure drills

Also, the more similarity between your .22 trainer and your standard pistol the more beneficial certain drills will be. While you can get marksmanship benefit from shooting almost anything, having the same trigger system and sights (or better yet, the same identical trigger and sights) will obviously translate into more direct skill building. A heel magazine release and single stack magazine is not giving you 1:1 benefit for your button release double stack pistol reloads. Malfunction clearances with an Advantage Arms .22 conversion kit will be more helpful than doing similar drills with a Ruger 22/45. And so on.

A .22lr training pistol can be an effective and economical way to practice many handgun fundamentals, but misused it can also lead to a very false sense of proficiency. By keeping in mind what a .22 can and cannot mimic, both the beginner and the dedicated shooter can wring real benefits from a sub-caliber practice pistol.

About the author: Todd Louis Green has worked in the firearms industry since 1998, including instructing for the NRA Range, Beretta, and SIG-Sauer. He has over 1,000 hours of formal firearms and combatives training. A 3-time “Advanced” rated shooter at Rogers Shooting School, Todd is also a graduate of the NRA Tactical Pistol Instructor Development program and a 3 division Master-ranked IDPA competitor. Todd is a certified Beretta, Glock, Heckler & Koch, SIG-Sauer, and Smith & Wesson armorer; certified Simunition force-on-force instructor; and certified Emergency First Responder. He is a long time member of IALEFI, IDPA, and USPSA.