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Do I need to take Basic Pistol 2?

Do I need to take Basic Pistol 2?

Can you score 90% on the CHL shooting test?

If you haven’t taken the CHL class, you should shoot the CHL shooting test to evaluate where your skills are. The test, and how to score it, can be found here. State law specifies a score of at least 70% (175 points) to pass, but our acceptable standard is 90% (225 points).

Do you understand how your pistol works?

DA/SA refers to a pistol that has a decocker, is designed to be carried with the hammer down, and is designed for the first shot to be fired double action (long, heavy trigger pull), with all subsequent shots fired in single action (shorter, lighter trigger pull) mode. Popular DA/SA pistols include the SIG 226 & 229, Beretta 92 and 96 series, and the Ruger P-series guns.

If you don’t know whether your pistol is DA/SA or not, we recommend taking Basic Pistol 2.

If you own a DA/SA style pistol, and you never practice using the decocker, and/or never practice shooting the first shot double action, or (worse) you took a CHL class where the instructor, in violation of DPS rules, did not require you to fire the first shot of every string of the CHL shooting test (17 of the 50 shots) in double action mode, we recommend taking Basic Pistol 2. Before progressing in your training, it’s essential that you learn how to properly operate your pistol, or learn enough about pistol characteristics that you revisit your pistol selection decision, and choose a gun that’s simpler to operate.

Do you do any “dry fire” practice with your pistol at home?

If you don’t know what ‘dry fire’ practice is, we recommend that you take Basic Pistol 2.

Dry fire practice (where you practice the skill of pressing the trigger without moving the sights out of alignment, with an unloaded gun, pointed in a safe direction) is essential to developing skill with a handgun. Without dry fire practice, it’s impossible to understand what a good trigger press is, or understand why you miss when shooting live ammo. Dry fire practice is where you train your trigger finger to press the trigger smoothly, and you train your eyes not to blink. Dry fire practice is where you practice mentally and physically “following through” with a shot, by getting the sights back on target after the shot has fired, and maintaining a firing grip and stance.

If the paragraph above is all information you’ve never heard before, or covers information that you don’t yet understand, you need to take Basic Pistol 2 before proceeding into our post-CHL classes, to build a strong foundation in shooting fundamentals.

Have you practiced starting at a “ready” position, finger off trigger, and getting the gun quickly to the target and firing?

One of the key skills necessary to passing the CHL test is the ability to start at a “ready” position, finger OFF trigger, and quickly get the gun to the target and fire a fast, accurate first shot.  Most recreational/informal shooters don’t practice this skill, and we find that many of those that have don’t consistently get their finger off the trigger at ‘ready’, which is a “Must do” for the CHL test and for defensive shooting in general.

Due to the sloppy range procedures of many CHL instructors, we are finding that many CHL graduates were allowed to shoot the CHL test with finger on trigger at the “ready” position. This is a dangerous practice and a bad habit that must be corrected before moving on to learning how to draw from concealment and other more advanced skills.

Are your grip and gunhandling skills up to date?

There are many ways to grip a pistol, and many different ways to manipulate the gun (rack the slide, work the various levers and controls). Over the past 50 years, technique has evolved from hip shooting, one handed bullseye shooting, “cup and saucer” to the Weaver vs. Isoceles debates of the 70’s and 80’s, to the techniques that are taught today. With very few exceptions, all the major shooting schools teach very similar techniques. Most also teach specific techniques for gun handling – techniques developed and optimized for speed, efficiency, ease of mastery, and successful use under high stress.

Many of the students we see in Basic Pistol and Defensive Pistol classes have either been taught older techniques, or have the ‘technique of no technique’ because they are self-taught. This video has a pretty good explanation of the grip taught at most schools.  A proper grip is required to shoot at the speeds necessary for defensive shooting. “Cup-and-saucer” and other older grip techniques aren’t suitable for shooting 3-4 shots per second and hitting the intended target.

Other than CHL, have you shot on a structured “firing line” before?

If you’ve never had a formal handgun course or never done any shooting on a disciplined firing line with a bunch of other shooters (competition, military, law enforcement), you are probably going to find our range rules much more restrictive than what you are used to.  I wrote this article for Concealed Carry magazine detailing the most common range gunhandling errors we correct with students who are taking formal handgun training for the first time.

Do you really know what your trigger finger is doing before, during and after each shot?

Untrained or poorly trained shooters often fail to pay attention to where their trigger finger is when their sights are not on target (when the gun is at a ready position, or when loading or unloading the gun). Some shooters take their finger off the trigger but leave it in a position where a sudden contraction of the hand could cause them to fire the pistol. Just as there is a proper place for the trigger finger on the trigger when shooting, there is a proper place for the trigger finger when NOT shooting, and both must be practiced until the finger goes to the right place at the right time every time, both for safe gun handling but also for fast, accurate shooting.

The CHL shooting test, when run properly, requires that finger be OFF the trigger when the gun is at the ready position, but does allow the trigger finger to make contact with the trigger and begin taking up trigger slack as the gun’s sights are aligned with the target. Taking up the slack before the sights are perfectly aligned with the target is a skill best learned in a structured program with supervision, to avoid negligent discharges. The benefit of learning that skill is a significantly quicker, and often more accurate first shot, as the typical “failure mode” of most untrained shooters is wait until the sights are perfect and then press the trigger hard and fast, jerking the sights off target, in an attempt to get the shot fired before the allowed time runs out. Learning how to prep the trigger in parallel with moving the gun to the target allows a slow, steady trigger press without wasting time.

Do you follow through after the shot is fired?

The typical untrained/poorly trained shooter thinks that the shot is complete at the instant the gun starts to recoil. Often that person’s next action is to relax their grip, take the finger completely off the trigger, lower the gun to gut level, paying no attention to muzzle direction or trigger finger position, and try to see holes in the target.

This is the same as dropping the hammer as soon as it strikes the nail: dangerous and wrong.

In the BP2 class, we teach proper followthrough, which is to maintain firm grip on the pistol, keep trigger finger in contact with the trigger, so that the shot ends where it began: with the sights aligned with the target, slack out of the trigger, so that a follow up shot can be fired if required. That approach is valid for recreational, competition and defensive shooting. Lowering the gun and taking finger off trigger should occur as a deliberate act, not as a function of mentally ‘quitting’ as soon as the gun fires.


If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, you would probably benefit from taking Basic Pistol 2 before taking one of our other classes, particuarly Defensive Pistol Skills 1. Taking BP2 will give you a strong foundation in the fundamentals and familiarize you with the techniques we prefer (as well as the reasons why we prefer them). It will clean up errors and slop in your gunhandling and shooting, making you safer and a better shooter overall.