Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Concealed Handgun Class

Back in the 90s, not long after Texas joined the ranks of states that trust its citizens to carry concealed handguns, I took the plunge and got licensed to carry along with many of my fellow Texans. I have to say, my motivation for doing so at the time was mainly because I could as opposed to any well defined awareness of the need for self defense or any other "valid" reason. I am a guy, guns are cool, and I thought "why not?"

Fast forward a couple of years, and I met the woman who would become The Queen. She grew up as a person of tremendous personal religious faith who believes that one should rely solely on God for personal protection. She is not anti-gun. In fact, she enjoys shooting as much as the next non-liberal person. She was, however, very uncomfortable with the idea of me carrying a revolver in my pocket anytime we took a late night stroll or having a gun in the car when we were out and about.  

Along about license renewal time, I was undergoing a bit of a spiritual awakening myself due in no small part to The Queen's example and God's inescapable influence. Let's just say, I have a somewhat better understanding of the Book of Jonah than the average bear. I came to believe, as I still do, that God is a far better protector than I can ever be, and my part in the defense of self and others is to be aware of my surroundings and lead us not into unsafe places. Nonetheless, I took the renewal class; however, I might as well have not bothered as I never sent my renewal paperwork into the state. 

Thus, my license lapsed many moons ago. It is a decision which I have never been given cause to regret. 

Fast forward more than ten years. I find myself married to a wonderful woman who I love dearly and starting a family through the trials and joys of fostering to adopt. The circumstances of life and money have forced me to abandon active pursuit of my first, non-marital passion, flying airplanes. Needing an outlet for my inner man child, I reverted back to a long dormant interest, firearms.

Much has transpired in the world of firearms since I was last really active in the sport. The assault weapons ban of 1994 came and went. Texas has become more firearms friendly by expanding the castle doctrine to include carrying in your personal vehicle. The polymer gun market niche has gone from the Glock and maybe the Glock to a near majority if not an actual majority of all handguns encompassing most if not all the major names in handguns including Ruger (which was into polymers before polymers were cool with the 22/45), Smith & Wesson and Sig Sauer. You can now even print an AR-15 receiver for crying out loud.

And my gun wish list has gone completely and totally out of control. 

The first thing I did when I became active in shooting again was to buy one of my long time wish list items, a 1911, and get involved in the local action pistol shooting club (mainly IDPA with some USPSA matches to boot). It also had me keeping an eye out for deals on other wish list items and setting money aside when possible to purchase some of those items. 

One of the things that has irked me the most about all this is the background checks they are required to do when purchasing from a dealer. Personally, I don't think a form 4473 and a background check should be required to purchase a firearm. I does nothing to combat criminals obtaining guns illegally, but that's a rant for another time. With The Great Firearms Buying Frenzy of 2012 following the election continuing into this year, I've been told, as recently as late February, that wait times of several days are not unheard of when requesting a firearms transfer through an FFL dealer. My last transfer went through in about 30 minutes on a weekday in the evening after work; however, that was before we all jumped off the Fiscal Cliff with Sequestration and the White House's edict to make the budget cuts are felt by you and I as much as possible. What do you bet manpower for NICS checks went under the budget axe? 

There is a ray of sunshine though. You can get around the point of purchase NICS background check (but not the form 4473...that's also a rant for another time) with a concealed handgun license. They seem to figure, rightly so, that some one who has gone through the hassle of getting a thorough FBI background check, taking a class and paying a hefty fee for a CHL will mostly likely clear an NICS check. So, why waste the manpower and resources to duplicate effort? Right? 

It makes so much sense it's a wonder the government allowed it (that too is a rant for another time).

If that weren't enough incentive, there is this. My sister...the devil started making noise late last year about getting her CHL. Around about November, I saw a Groupon deal that was almost too good to be true: CHL class for two including lane rental for $75.  This was obviously before they stopped offering firearms related deals. Around here that's about the bare minimum for a class for one person (and I've seen some places charging up to $125). 

So, I floated the idea to the family. Anyone interested in getting the class out of the way while they're giving it away for free practically? The Queen politely declined seeing no benefit or need to her which is quite alright as I am not the type of husband to force his wife to do anything she does not want to do. My sister...the devil was interested but decided to make her own arrangements despite me offering to cover the cost if necessary (me thinks she might be kicking herself now). Surprisingly, my mother expressed an interest.

There's a bit of a back story there that I will address shortly. Suffice it to say for the moment that Mimi (as mother is known to the grandkids) probably has the best excuse in the family for getting a CHL even if she never totes a heater in her life. I bought the deal for her and I and booked us the earliest slot that matched our calendars which was in late January. 

Of course, Murphy had a few choice words to say about that plan. I got sick the week before the scheduled class time immediately following which The Queen and newly adopted daughter M&M took ill requiring a rescheduling of plans. I was a bit concerned about this development as it was shortly after this that Groupon announced it's decision to no longer honor firearms related deals. 

Fortunately for me, the range where the class was scheduled did honor the deal. So, no harm no foul. The class was rescheduled for a week ago Sunday, March 10. My birthday, in fact, not that it matters a whole hill of beans.

But, here is my first minor gripe. I checked the range's website for the class' start time and was informed that 9:00 AM was when things got kicked off. Of course, Murphy had to screw with things yet again. This day was, as you will recall, the time change ending Daylight Savings Time (yet another rant for another time). Guess who was out until 1:00 AM the previous evening with his wife at the drive in theater? Guess who thought he had slept in too late until he remembered that his phone automatically updates the time?

Yeah. That'd be me. 

Anysnoozer, Mimi and I arrived at the range with what we thought was 15 minutes to spare...only to find out that class had been going for 45 minutes. 

Doh!! Facepalm!

Fortunately, we did not get any grief from the instructor unlike the young lady who came in a few minutes after us. I did come to her defense and tell the instructor of the website misinformation campaign. He promised to check with the range staff about that issue.  Unfortunately, there were no seats left for Mimi and I to sit together and only a couple of seats left period as the class was booked to capacity if not over capacity. Double fortunately, we had not missed anything important as he spent the first part of class going over range commands and safety.

There was a reason for that which we discovered rather promptly. The shooting portion of the class was to be done first. 

That was a little disconcerting because I had been hoping to have the lunch hour to get Mimi and I out on the range for a little warm up and familiarization. Mimi was to be using a rental gun for the test and hasn't shot handguns much and not at all in recent years. I have plenty of handgun experience, but I've been on shooting hiatus due to the situation with the foster kids which, until recently, kept my trigger time to next to nothing. Needless to say, some practice time would have been very welcome. 

In hindsight, the way they handled this makes perfect sense. This particular range only has seven shooting lanes for reasons that I have not yet figured out as they have room for double that amount. The class had so many participants that it was necessary to break the class up into five separate relays to get everyone through. The range does not open for regular business on Sundays until 11:00 AM. So, the sooner the CHL class gets run through the range, the less interference the range has with regular business.

I was in the third relay, and Mimi was put in the fourth relay at my request so that I could watch over her shoulder and provide moral support as necessary (I was not allowed to coach her at all...which turned out for the best as will be discussed shortly). 

I won't spend much time discussing my shooting. I did well enough to pass with a 248 out of a possible score of 250. I am greatly disappointed that I dropped one shot out of 50 especially when it was an "easy" shot at 15 yards with no real pressure. Two things come to mind in hindsight: 1) shooting is a perishable skill, and 2) I need to focus on my own shooting and not let the cadence of other shooters affect my own timing. 

I've always heard that shooting skills degrade over time, and I have experienced that to a certain extent in the past. However, it's something else to pick up your weapon cold after a several month hiatus and have trouble just finding the right grip. We were supposed to get a little range time in over the previous weekend. Unfortunately, Mr. Murphy saw to that be creating a little crisis that eliminated any possibility of a practice session. 

As far as letting what others are doing get inside my head and affect what I am doing, I think that too is a casualty of not getting enough practice time in. Normally, I can tune what others are doing out fairly well; however, I've always had a little jumpiness when I first get to the range. Some of that is excitement. Some is a healthy paranoia that there are people around me with guns that I neither know nor trust. After the first round or two, my jitters settle down, and I can get down to business. Add in a little performance anxiety and "I really want a perfect score" pressure, and dropping a round here or there is bound to happen. 

I've already posted a photo of my target previously, and it's pretty obvious that there was too much/too little finger on the trigger for at least 20 rounds. Most of those would have been at the 7 and 15 yard lines where shooting errors will be more apparent. Still, I can't complain about getting 30 rounds through the same, ragged, inch and a half to two inch hole. That's good enough to ruin any bad guy's day. 

Poor mom though...oy vey!

First, while waiting for our relays to begin, we did some familiarization and gun handling with rental Taurus .380. The Taurus was of decent size that a good grip was possible. Mimi learned how to operate it in short order and all was assumed to be kosher. 

Then, Murphy struck again. The Taurus bit the dust with several malfunctions in the early relays, and a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 was brought in as a substitute rental. Uh oh. No bueno batman. Some of you may be asking why we rented the .380 in the first place instead of a 9mm or other suitable caliber. Two words: AMMO SHORTAGE. The range only had .380 and .45ACP in stock for rental guns. 

Anyone here think turning Mimi loose with a polymer .45 rental gun is a good idea? Neither did I. 

In hindsight, I should have begged or borrowed a solid 9mm (such as my cousin's Kahr) from someone and scrounged the ammo. Oh well. Live and learn.

Back to the shooting. The Smith may be a popular pocket pistol; but, from what I saw of it, I wouldn't spend my money for one on a bet. The sights are non-existent for one thing. The thing is super tiny for another. It makes a Glock 26 feel like a full sized gun by comparison. Next, it too suffered from several malfunctions most of which were of the failure to go fully into battery variety. I will give it the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to Mimi's gun handling as she was having a difficult time remaining steady for personal reasons. Bottom line: caveat emptor. Don't buy one unless you have tried it personally and know that's what you want. Don't buy one for someone else unless they've asked for it specifically. 

Come to think of it, that's pretty good advice for all firearms purchases. 

I don't have a photo of Mimi's target, but I think she would agree that it looked she had dumped a couple of loads of buckshot at it from over 15 yards as opposed to aimed fire from a .380. Part of this was due to her lack of familiarity with the gun. Some due to her inexperience as a pistol shooter

Some, however, was due to the personal issues I have mentioned previously. You see, Mimi had an encounter several years ago in which she woke up at 6:00 AM to find a naked man on her balcony. She lives alone in a small, country town and this was a bit of a shock to say the least. The man was later identified as a mentally disturbed Viet Nam vet which did nothing for Mimi's state of mind.

With time, the purchase of a Ruger 10/22 for home protection (her choice after several hours at a gun show with plenty of input from unbiased sources), and a major home remodel including elimination of the offending balcony, she gradually came to relax in her own skin and home again. 

She agreed to go to the CHL class with me, as she put it, "...because I think I need to."

I took that at face value until we got to the range for the shooting portion where it became apparent that she was not completely comfortable with things. I assured her she was under no obligation to continue if she didn't want to, but she bravely soldiered on. Even when it became apparent that her shooting was not up to par. 

I will give kudos to the instructor here. He was beyond patient with Mimi, giving her pointers as necessary and helping her clear the malfunctions in the Bodyguard. His scoring of her target was...shall we say...generous. He gave her a 212 out of 250 where 175 was the minimum passing score. I'm not saying he counted some holes twice, but I'm not saying he didn't either. 

For her part, Mimi reported after the fact with a few tears peeking out of her eyes that she was surprised to have feelings from the naked guy incident bubble up during the range time. She told me, wisely I think, that she wants to take a step back and start over with a handgun 101 class and possibly some private instruction before circling back around to take the CHL class again. Even though she "passed" the class, she does not feel she is ready. And that is a decision I respect. 

After the shooting was over, it was time for lunch before the mind numbing class room portion of the class going over the minutiae of Texas deadly force and gun laws. I confess that I had a hard time staying awake and took every opportunity to get up, stretch and get fresh air. Mimi and I both passed the written test with no problems. 

It was a good experience overall. I enjoyed the mother/son bonding time. The instructor did a good job of making the class room material interesting with personal stories from his own experience as well as funny video clips to break up the monotony. 

Soon, I will have a newly minted CHL in my pocket with all the rights and responsibilities associated with that. I anticipate very little change in my current behavior. I still do not plan on carrying regularly. My main reason, as mentioned earlier, is to remove some of the hassles associated with my hobby. In addition to no more NICS checks, I can now also go to and from the range and not worry about taking my gun off if I have to stop for groceries on the way home.  

And, I can now carry a gun when chaperoning my daughter on her first date...when she turns 30. 


Momma Fargo said...

Dude. You need to change your title. I was, like, I'm going to find this secret class no matter where they hold it, those sneaky sneaks.

Then I thought...maybe I have it wrong. Maybe they were going to play Handgun Hunt like Easter eggs only more funner.

Daddy Hawk said...

Momma Fargo, so sorry to disappoint you. Perhaps one day I can satisfy your imagination. Just not today

GunDiva said...

Ooo! Can we load the Easter Eggs up with tannerite and shoot them?

Because that's an Easter Egg hunt I could get into!

Are you sure you're going to let M&M date when she's 30?

RabidAlien said...

Congrats on getting through the class! Serenity and I had our own set of Murphyisms regarding our class, which was scheduled for the 9th, but ended up being on the 2nd with no chance to get to the range and "warm up" on a B27 the week prior to our actual class. Our instructor was awesome (<a href=">LoneStar Protect</a>), and worked with us on our scheduling. Our instructor also "scores" his test/shooting portions on a pass/fail basis, so while I had no x-ring left on my target, I still have no idea what my actual score was (he has reasons for this, as well, which he explains). Now, just gotta get the fingerprint and mail in the packet!

Daddy Hawk said...

GunDiva, that sounds like a fun egg hunt. I'd be down for some of that. As far as when M&M gets to start dating, I'm praying Christ returns before I have to make that decision. I know men all too well.

Daddy Hawk said...

Rabid, that's awesome. A good instructor can make or break a class. If my memory is correct, everything inside the 8 is scored as a 5. So, you missing x ring is probably a perfect score.

RabidAlien said...

I had a stray or two, think I nailed the 7 ring once. My tendency is to flinch on the first shot in a group, then do pretty good on the rest of them. 'Course, the lady next to me had a target that looked like she'd fired a bunch of birdshot at a 45 degree angle from 100 yards away, but still passed. But I gotta respect her for taking the time to learn.

As for the missing X, I actually didn't notice until we were back on the 15 yard line. Guess I was just too wrapped up in getting all my shots in under the required time!

Daddy Hawk said...

Rabid, I have the same problem on indoor ranges. Are you sure you weren't standing next to my mother? I believe that if you get all your shots onto the B-27 target that it's impossible to fail. 50 shots inside the outline and outside the 8 line is 150 of the minimum 175. Just 13 shots inside the 9 line get you the other 25 which most people can manage at 3 yards.

mathar1 said...

Why did she not just get the CHL if she qualified? She can always NOT carry until she gets more practice. Now she has to pay more money and time an wait again.

Daddy Hawk said...

Mathar, I all likelihood, she will never follow through with getting her license. This was more about her confronting something she felt she needed to than anything else.