Firearm Safety and Preparedness begins at Home
Teaching concealed carry classes and NRA pistol courses as well as various other pistol courses on a regular basis provides me with the opportunity to work with students of varying skill levels of marksmanship and firearms proficiency. Many students who have attended my classes have already spent time at a firing range and exhibit good safety practices. I have, however, had many students who have never owned or fired a pistol before. Regardless of skill level, the very first topic and focal point of discussion, regardless of the course I am teaching, is safety and responsibility as a firearm owner and user.
An important lesson I have learned over the years is that not everyone who goes to a firing range to practice with their firearm has taken a handgun safety course. Ranges are often packed with folks of varying experience levels and I have witnessed first-hand many people handling their firearm in an unsafe manner. When you go to a firing range, you cannot count on everyone there having safe gun handling knowledge and skills, nor can you count on the range to police irresponsible behavior. You need to focus on your own pistol handling skills and, at the same time, also be aware of the other people on the firing line. It is for these reasons that the range is not the ideal place to introduce yourself to a firearm that is entirely new and unfamiliar.
Before going to the firing range, I recommend taking the time to familiarize yourself with the safety aspects of handling your firearm. Familiarize yourself with the controls and how to disassemble and maintain your gun. In fact, you can become a very safe and able gun owner without ever firing a live round at the firing range. For example, purchase some dummy ammunition and spend some quality time at home becoming proficient with muzzle awareness, loading, unloading, clearing malfunctions with your finger off the trigger, trigger control, proper grip and general firearm manipulation.
Keep in mind that dummy training ammunition is not live ammunition. Dummy cartridges come in different calibers and can be loaded into your firearm and used without the fear of a negligent discharge. You can practice all the aspects of good pistol handling using dummy rounds and doing so will help you to become more confident, safe, and responsible with your firearm before you even set foot on the gun range; it will also lower the cost of training with live ammunition.
There are many sources of good information available, such as taking a pistol class through the NRA, learning from competent, experienced gun owners who shoot frequently, looking up information on the Internet, etc. Owning, training, and possibly carrying a firearm is a responsibility that you must take seriously so remember that firearm safety and preparedness begins at home.