What items should I bring to my Tactical Shooting class?
So you have decided to sign up for your first tactical shooting course. Perhaps you just purchased your first firearm or you’ve grown bored of the monotonous time spent on a static shooting lane at your local indoor range, simply going through a box of ammo and heading home. Either way you have decided to elevate your training, learn key safety & shooting fundamentals and hopefully gain some practical knowledge for you to continue building upon.
If this is your first firearms course it can be an exciting step that can also come with a lot of unknowns, especially around what minimum equipment will be best. Every instructor should provide an outline of what to expect for your course along with a list required and optional equipment. Some of you may already be familiar with certain equipment but still have questions. You should never hesitate to contact your instructor well in advance of your course with questions.
In this article we’ll review some key items that should generally help you get started in your preparation for your first firearms training course. Taking adequate time to prepare for your first shooting course can make for a much more enjoyable and safe experience. And whatever you do, don’t wait until the night before to contact us, or any instructor, on what you should bring to your class…it happens more than you think.
Before we get into it, I’ll say that whatever equipment and gear you use will probably evolve over time, especially if you continue training. The industry around all firearm equipment and accessories has grown tremendously since I took my first course more than a decade ago and as you journey into more advanced courses you will learn what works well for you and what doesn’t.
A quality belt can really be the backbone of your equipment. Students who bring less than adequate belt to courses often spend time during our courses continually adjusting them which can present a safety hazard to them and other students. You can have the best holster money can buy but if you’re using a weathered leather dress/casual belt you’ll find out just how little weight it can support.
A loaded pistol can weigh up to 2lbs. or more – if you include magazine pouches, loaded magazines and basic medical equipment it can all add up quickly. A fairly rigid belt of nylon construction or something similar is ideal. It should be adjustable to accommodate the equipment mentioned above.
Another aspect to note on belts is their width. Most belts come in widths of 1.5” and 1.75”. You should make sure that whatever belt you purchase will fit through the belt loops on your pants and that width aligns with how your holster attaches. Trying to fit a 1.75” rigid belt through 1.5” loops on your holster will not work!
There are more holster companies than we can count and as with most equipment, your holster of choice will probably evolve over time. For example, if you’re taking a low-light pistol course requiring a weapon mounted light, you’ll likely need a seperate holster to support the light. We recommend students bring a sturdy holster typically made of kydex or similar material. Your holster should be designed to fit your specific firearm. No leather, sticky or serpa-style holsters. Kydex style holsters also maintain their rigidity which lends to safe and consistent drawing of your firearm.
Additionally, as with poor quality belts, having to constantly adjust a mediocre holster can be distracting and very unsafe. Take your time to research what will work best for you AND the clothing you plan on wearing.
Extra magazine and magazine pouches
Magazine pouches: Now that you have your magazines – how should you store them on you? Having to fish magazines out of your back pocket during a course is not ideal. Magazine pouches allow you to keep your magazines on your body safely and securely. To be clear, you don’t need to have one pouch per magazine but being able to easily access at least two magazines quickly during shooting drills should work well. Most reputable holster companies also sell the appropriate pouches to fit your firearm’s magazines. You may be able to get a quality holster and magazine pouches all in the same order.
Extra magazines: Most new pistols come with 2-3 magazines; purchasing a couple extra magazines for any class can also improve your experience. A tactical shooting course will likely have you performing different drills with varying rounds counts. Having extra magazines can keep you from having to jump off the line to reload as frequently. We typically recommend at least 4 magazines in our courses if possible.
Eye and Ear Protection
Quality eye and ear protection also make for a safer and more comfortable experience. There are several good entry-level brands for both eye and ear shooting protection you should be able to find ahead of your first shooting class. Over-the-ear electronic ear protection allows for safe hearing protection from gunfire while allowing you to hear your instructor and students around you.
It is recommended to have eye protection that is designed for shooting that will provide some level of ballistic protection. You should also think about how eye protection fits with your hearing protection. A set of bulky eye protection from your local hardware store can get very uncomfortable after a couple hours of shooting. Most shooting eye protection is designed with a slimmer profile to be worn with ear protection; otherwise you will find those bulky glasses being squeezed against your head and not allowing for a good seal around your ears.
Medical – Tourniquet/ IFAK
We also recommend at minimum a quality tourniquet and even an IFAK or “Individual First-Aid Kit.” This is an area where we could (and probably will) dedicate an entire article outlining the types of medical equipment you should have on you not only when shooting but your everyday carry. With that medical equipment you should also seek the proper training to use it. This is a topic that can sometimes be overlooked for new shooters but you’ll quickly find that quality medical training can be applied to a wide-range of situations you may find yourself in from car accidents to mass casualty incidents.
We offer multiple courses focusing on Trauma Combat Casualty Care or “TCCC” here at Tactical Fitness. These are vital, lifesaving courses that you should prioritize with your training. If we don’t provide a course in your local area you should keep an eye out for them; there are several reputable instructors and companies that specialize in this topic.
To wrap up I want to highlight a couple of things. As you start to research equipment in each of these categories you’ll find there is a labyrinth of brands and features with varying price points. If you’re just starting out, keep it simple and don’t try to break the bank before you are able to find out what will work best for you. I can’t stress enough to ask your instructor questions before your first shooting course if you are unsure of what to bring. Many of us have various equipment to rent or borrow, so with some planning and preparation this can be a great way to try out gear before you dive-in and purchase your own.