If you are taking a firearms course with a shooting prerequisite (which is most of them) then you’ll usually need to purchase some ammunition before your class day. If you’re not familiar with ammunition, this can be confusing. What type of ammo do you need?
For the purpose of learning to shoot, you should avoid complicating the matter. Ammunition like hollow-points or ballistic tip are more expensive and are usually not best suited to the practice range.
Our suggestion is to look for ball ammunition, or simply put; full metal jacket ammunition. You might see it written on the box as “FMJ.” This is a traditional cartridge with a rounded nose, much different than hollow-point or other kinds of ammunition. Ball ammo is usually the cheapest to purchase, but that sometimes makes it the hardest to find when bullets are in short-supply.
Don’t be afraid to ask the clerk at the counter for assistance if you’re not sure what to get. All you really need to know is what caliber your firearm is. “I need some ball ammo for a 9mm pistol” is usually enough to get you pointed in the right direction.
While we’re at it, I’ll make one more suggestion – be sure you get “brass” ammunition, not steel. Most steel ammo is cheap ammunition – cheap in quality, not price is what I mean here. Brands such as “Tull” or “Wolf” ammo (in our opinion) should be avoided. Your mileage may vary…
What’s the difference?
Different ammunition has different purposes – so much so that we could never go into it all here in this FAQ. What you see here to the right is called “hollow-point” ammunition. It’s called that because of the obvious hollow hole in the end of the bullet. As mentioned previously, hollow-point ammunition is usually slightly more expensive, so it’s overkill for the training classroom.
There are multiple reasons we don’t allow anything higher than .22 caliber for the NRA Basic Course to be fired on the range. First and foremost is the preservation of human life; our students and our own. The NRA Basic Pistol Course is designed to teach the fundamentals of pistol shooting, as well as provide a foundation of knowledge surrounding various types of firearms. To accomplish that goal with minimum risk of accidents, we restrict the firing range to .22 caliber. A .22 pistol has little to no recoil, so it is easy for the student to focus on other things they haven’t mastered yet – breathing, trigger control, sight acquisition, follow-through, etc.
We currently have a policy of allowing (depending on time) a one-on-one session with the instructors after the course is officially completed. For $10 (cash only) we will work with a student with whatever caliber firearm they have, to get some practice time in with that particular weapon. We ONLY allow a maximum of two students on the range at any-one time during this time and this is ONLY done after the official course curriculum has been completed. If you wish to bring your personal sidearm to the range, please leave it in your car until instructed by the Range Safety Officer or Chief Instructor to bring it to on to the range.
Absolutely no weapons enter the range in a loaded status. If your weapon was loaded by someone else, please notify an instructor and they will unload it the first time for you.
There are various types of hearing protection available for shooters. Some of the types most commonly used are shown in the pictures below. (If you need to purchase hearing protection, we have some recommendations for you on the Range Supplies Page.)
Foam and Filtered Earplugs: These are the traditional earplugs most people think of when they think of earplugs. They are also called “passive” hearing protection. Made of either foam, molded silicon, or other materials, these earplugs dampen ALL noise. While these do a great job of protecting the ear when worn properly, they are often inserted incorrectly – causing them to fail to perform their job adequately. The danger to using these while shooting – You also can’t hear the instructor or Range Safety Officer who might be saying something that you need to hear – such as “Cease Fire!”
Active Hearing Protection: If you can afford them, these are by far the best option. Foam earplugs can be purchased for in quantities of three or four for about five dollars and they’re only good once. Active Hearing Protection can be purchased one time and used for years. A good pair will cost you about $30-$35 dollars. (There are brands that cost $160 that work great, if you have the budget for it. Most amateur shooters don’t.)
They work in a way that most people find surprising. Active hearing protection headphones run on batteries, usually AAA or 9Volt, and they have a power switch that when turned on actually AMPLIFIES the sounds around you. Think of a hearing aid – you can even hear the leaves blowing across the range. Voices and instructions from your range officer come through clean and clear. When the headphones detect a loud noise, they respond in less than 1,000 of a second to dampen it to a much quieter level. You can talk to someone wearing them and they hear you fine, but clap loudly in their ear and it’s barely audible.
From a safety standpoint, we prefer these whenever possible for the safety of the shooter. If there were ever a need for the instructor of Range Safety Officer to yell “Cease Fire” from a couple yards away, you would likely not hear him with passive hearing protection. With active hearing protection, conversations are clear and gunfire is all but eliminated completely.
No. Students do not need to own a firearm to take a specific course. Many students prefer to take a course first before deciding on a gun of their own. Others borrow a firearm from a friend or relative. This is perfectly acceptable. If you borrow a gun from a friend or neighbor for training and you are unfamiliar with it, please notify the instructors before loading the firearm. They will gladly assist you with double-checking the integrity of the firearm and showing you how to safely load and unload it before you have to use it.
If you don’t have a firearm, we will gladly provide you with a firearm and enough ammunition for the course for a fee of $30. Just bring cash with you on class day and you can shoot one of ours. The guns we loan to students are usually either .22 for Basic Pistol, or 9mm for Concealed Carry classes.
This is the most often incorrectly quoted law we hear about. Now, if the question is “Should I keep my guns locked up” then the answer is different for each person. Do you have kids? Where are your guns stored? What do your children know about firearms? Do your children respect firearms? No one can answer that but you.
However, to quote the law:
North Carolina General Statute Says
§ 14‑315.1. Storage of firearms to protect minors.
(a) Any person who resides in the same premises as a minor, owns or possesses a firearm, and stores or leaves the firearm (i) in a condition that the firearm can be discharged and (ii) in a manner that the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised minor would be able to gain access to the firearm, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor if a minor gains access to the firearm without the lawful permission of the minor’s parents or a person having charge of the minor and the minor:
(1) Possesses it in violation of G.S. 14‑269.2(b);
(2) Exhibits it in a public place in a careless, angry, or threatening manner;
(3) Causes personal injury or death with it not in self defense; or
(4) Uses it in the commission of a crime.
(b) Nothing in this section shall prohibit a person from carrying a firearm on his or her body, or placed in such close proximity that it can be used as easily and quickly as if carried on the body.
(c) This section shall not apply if the minor obtained the firearm as a result of an unlawful entry by any person.
(d) “Minor” as used in this section means a person under 18 years of age who is not emancipated. (1993, c. 558, s. 2; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 14, s. 11.)
Let’s put that into simple terms. If an adult commits any of the crimes listed in examples 1-4, then those are all crimes already. So the law states that IF a child gains access to a weapon AND commits a crime, THEN you (the owner) can be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
IF a child is able to get to a firearm, that is loaded, AND nothing happens… no crime has been committed.
We actually cover this in detail elsewhere on the website. Read the full article here.
There is no perfect answer to this question, rather the best answer is, in our opinion, to put yourself in that officer’s position and then act in as gentle a manner as possible to inform that officer that you are carrying a concealed weapon so that he can take the next steps. They are trained how to handle this and officer’s appreciate drivers who put them at ease.
Things you do NOT do:
- Say as the officer is walking up – “I’ve got a gun!”
- Hang your firearm out the window.
- Touch, gesture at, or reach for the firearm in anyway between the time that officer pulls you over and the time he tells you what to do!
What you SHOULD do:
Please note, this is only a guide for you to follow proper behavior. This is not to be considered legal advice. (Meaning you can’t say “I read on the SCC website that I’m supposed to do this” if you get arrested for threatening an officer!
When you pull over to the side of the road, do the following:
- Some people have their license handy when the officer walks up. If you do, have your concealed carry permit with it on TOP so he will see it.
- Keep both your hands on the door frame, so the officer can see your fingers from outside the car as he walks up. Most likely he will already know what you’re about to say.
- Do not interrupt him if he starts speaking, but regardless of what the first thing he says is, the first thing YOU say is “Officer, I have a permit to carry concealed and I am currently carrying concealed now. How would you like me to proceed?“
From that point on, the officer will take charge of the situation in the manner they see fit, but you have already done them a great service by giving them plenty of warning in a non-threatening manner and then you didn’t move a muscle until he or she told you what to do.
Sometimes the officer will direct you to use one hand to open the door while keeping the other hand on the door frame. If you have to reach for your seat belt with your right hand, say so. “Officer, I have to undo my seat belt. May I use my right hand to do so?” Chances are the officer has already noticed this and told you how he or she would like you to act. It is an act of respect for the officer. Officers, whether local, state, or federal, risk their lives every day. Coming across the occasional citizen who shows them the utmost respect for their situation reflects in their treatment of you.
Can a pregnant woman or nursing mother safely take a firearms course or handle guns and ammunition? This is a question we don’t get asked often enough, but one we feel we should get asked more. If you sign up for any of our courses, as soon as you select “female” as your gender, we automatically add a warning to consult your physician before committing to taking a course or handling firearms.
Our goal is for our courses to be safe and appealing to everyone, even expectant or nursing mothers, so yes, it can be done, but we encourage any woman in these stages to undertake extra precautions. One of the first questions asked once class starts is “Are any of our students here today pregnant or nursing?” It’s not to be embarrassing to an expectant or recent mother. It’s to be sure we remember to include the proper safeguards to help you take the class comfortably.
Any woman that is expecting or nursing will be issued latex gloves before being asked to touch any cleaning solutions, solvents, or actual bullets. The chemicals in firearm solvents are often soluble through the skin, and of course all bullets contain traces of lead, which isn’t good for the mother or a baby. Read some facts below and then consult with your physician prior to registering for class. You can even have your physician call us with any questions they might have about what you will be exposed to during the class, so they can better inform you of what they think you should do.
Research by Doctors Elizabeth Kennedy and Fabrice Czarnecki
There is an extensive body of research that indicates that lead exposure is toxic to adults as well as a developing embryo or fetus. And we also know that lead is transferred from the mother to the fetus. Lead exposure has been associated with: decreased birth weight and head circumference, (even at very low exposure levels), miscarriage, premature delivery and pre-eclampsia (a severe complication of pregnancy) as well as causing behavioral effects in infants and children. One study stated that premature delivery and a decreased growth stature “have all been associated with prenatal lead exposure at “acceptable” levels.”
Armed with that information, it is easy to minimize lead exposure when using firearms, and knowledgeable firearms instructors have taken steps to protect themselves from lead exposure with excellent results. According to Lyn Bates, these are some of the ways that shooters can get high lead levels:
- Shooting on an indoor range, especially one that is inadequately ventilated
- Shooting lead ammunition (and primers)
- Handling/loading lead bullets (including putting rounds with exposed lead tips into magazines)
- Cleaning up a range (especially picking up or sweeping material from the floor or bullet trap area)
- Eating or drinking on a range
- Failing to thoroughly wash hands and mouth after shooting(or washing with hot water instead of cool)
- Failing to change clothes after returning home after shooting(especially on an indoor range)
- Failing to wear gloves when cleaning guns
Ms. Bates believes that lead exposure can be controlled, and she is in good company. Dr. Heiskell agrees. Lawrence E. Heiskell, M.D.,FACEP, FAAFP has ten years experience as a SWAT team physician,and is currently a Reserve Police Officer, as well as a firearms instructor and Medical Director or Heckler and Koch’s Tactical Emergency Medicine Program.
Toxicity from other chemicals and heavy metals besides lead, shooting and cleaning a firearm exposes you to other chemicals, including cleaning solvents, and other heavy metals, including barium, antimony,copper and arsenic. It is not clear, whether these chemicals are safe or dangerous for the fetus, during or after a shooting session.Pregnant or not, it’s just safer to conduct all firearm cleaning activities outdoors or in very well ventilated areas.
Some thoughts on loud noise
Noise, especially very loud noise and chronic exposure to loud noise, is usually considered as detrimental during the pregnancy. In most European countries, health regulations forbid pregnant women to work in surroundings with a level over 80 dB continuous noise and rapid impulse noise changes of 40 dB, which is much less than the noise of a firearm. In the United States, the Department of Labor limits for impulse (not continuous) noise is 140 dB (Dept.of Labor Bulletin #334, 1971) with additional regulations for ongoing noise. The sound levels of firearms are about 125-140 dB for rimfire rifles, 140-150dB for rimfire pistols, and 150-160 dB for centerfire rifles, pistols,and shotguns.
Intrauterine measurements in some studies showed that the fetus was not significantly protected against loud noises. One study,in human volunteers, found noise only diminished by 10 dB at 4000Hz. As a comparison, foam plugs generally offer a protection of 12 to 20dB, and are considered as the least effective hearing protection. However, studies involving sound can be suspect. Silencer manufacturers,who work very carefully with sound, will tell you that with small positioning changes in the microphones, you can dramatically change the results of the tests.
Silencers/suppressors, although not readily available to the average woman, could be very beneficial to the pregnant officer who shoots a firearm, in that it can reduce the report of each shot by approximately 30 dB. Unlike what we see on television, that’s still pretty darn loud though, and you still need to wear good hearing protection.It does not totally reduce the noise of the firearm, and would not stop the sound from reaching the fetus.
Numerous studies demonstrate that exposure to noise during pregnancy,has been linked to such disorders as miscarriage, intrauterine growth retardation, premature delivery (less than 37 weeks), decreased birth weight, hearing loss in babies and children, altered immune response in the fetus and hypertension during pregnancy (a potentially severe disorder). Interestingly, one study showed that a combined exposure to noise and lead seemed to have an increased toxicity,causing heart lesions, which was not observed for either of those agents in isolation. The question again, is “how relevant are the studies to our very specific question?” The answer again, is “we just don’t know.” Is it something we want to chance?
One thing we do know is that fetal response to sounds begins at about 16 weeks, and the ear is structurally complete by 24 weeks.(At 25 weeks, a baby will move in rhythm to an orchestra drum!)According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, “the hearing threshold (the intensity at which one perceives sound) is approximately 40 dB at 27-29 weeks, and decreases to a nearly adult level of 13.5 dB by 42 weeks of gestation.” It would appear that even though the structures are all in place, the sense is not fully developed until birth. We also don’t know at what point the fetus is most susceptible to noise damage of the ear, whether it’s during the first trimester, second or third.
Interestingly, “the vestibular system, [the part of the ear]designed to register head and body motion, as well as the pull of gravity, begins developing at eight weeks.” It is believed that “receptive hearing begins with the skin and skeletal framework, [and] is then amplified with vestibular and cochlear information as it becomes available. Hearing is clearly a major information channel operating 24 weeks before birth.”
So.. now you know.. and knowing is half the battle! ( I think we just violated GI Joe’s copyright with that statement).
Range Rules (2)
- Ensure you are wearing proper eye and ear protection at all times on the range.
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.
- No Reloaded or Handloaded Ammunition allowed on the Range. All ammunition must be store-bought and in its original packaging.
- All guns not currently being held by students on the firing line will remain on the work bench at all times.
- Firing Line: No one but the Range Safety Officer (RSO) or Instructors may go forward of the firing line unless instructed by the RSO or Instructor.
- When the command “Cease Fire” is given:
- Stop Shooting IMMEDIATELY
- Remove your finger from the trigger
- Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
- Wait for further instructions from the Range Officer
- When the line is declared “CLEAR”
- All Firearms must be holstered, or unloaded with the action locked in the open position with the muzzle pointed at the ground, and any magazines removed.
- Everyone must step back from the firing line.
- Holsters: Only belt holsters, placed on the same hip as the shooting hand, may be used on the NRA Range. Shoulder holsters and cross-draw holsters may not be used unless authorized by the Range Officer during designated training courses.
- NRA Range Officers reserve the right to inspect any firearms or ammunition for safety considerations.
In addition to range safety rules, you should be familiar with the commands used on the firing range. Whenever you visit a new range, always communicate with the range personnel and ask for direction on their specific range procedures.
Some of the commands you will hear from our instructors:
RANGE IS CLEAR – Before and after each shooting sequence during student training, two sets of instructors will issue three loud confirmations.
- CLEAR RIGHT – indicates an instructor has verified the right side of the range is clear of bystanders and that all is safe. This will be verified by the other instructor or RSO.
- CLEAR LEFT – indicates an instructor has verified the left side of the range is clear of bystanders and that all is safe. This will be verified by the other instructor or RSO.
- RANGE IS CLEAR – The Chief Instructor or RSO will issue this statement to notify the instructor on the firing line that the range is clear and he can readily engage his students.
LOAD – On the load command, students standing ON THE FIRING LINE may load their pistols. This command authorizes students to load only – nothing else. All fingers must remain off the triggers.
COMMENCE FIRING – When this command is given, students may begin firing when ready.
CEASE FIRE – When the cease fire command is given ALL shooting must stop IMMEDIATELY. Even a shooter in the process of squeezing the trigger must stop, remove his or her finger from the trigger while keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, and wait for further instructions from the Range Officer. The Cease Fire command could include follow-up instructions such as:
- CYLINDERS OPEN
- MAGAZINES OUT
- SLIDES BACK
- GUNS ON THE BENCH
CEASE FIRE IS THE ONLY COMMAND THAT CAN BE GIVEN BY ANYONE ON THE RANGE. IF ANYONE, WHETHER STUDENT OR INSTRUCTOR, SEES A DANGEROUS SITUATION DEVELOPING, THEY SHOULD IMMEDIATELY AND CLEARLY CALL A CEASE FIRE!