A couple weeks ago I finally got off my butt and took my first handgun class. It was awesome. I’m going to go over some takeaways in a moment, but first, let’s look at what I brought to class.
I took my Glock 34 (Gen4) with me to class. At this point, there’s not a ton to say about it. It’s a Glock. You probably know if you like them or not by now. Gen 4 means interchangeable backstraps and good texturing. The Glock 34 is the “practical tactical” model. Glock built this with an eye towards competitions, which isn’t to say you can’t do other things with it. It’s size was determined by the biggest possible Glock that would fit in the standard IPSC box, which was built around (among other things) a Government model 1911. Because of the small size of the Glock striker firing mechanism, this means you get a long 5.31″ barrel for your troubles, and a correspondingly long sight radius. Awesome. The frame is the same as that of a Glock 17. It also comes with Glock’s factory extended slide stop and a “Minus” connector, which means a lighter and generally nicer trigger pull. I think my Glock 34 trigger pull feels a lot like my VP9 trigger pull. Take that as you will, subjective evaluation, sample size of one, etc. It’s also marvelously soft shooting, even for a 9 mm.
Why did I take the Glock 34? Well, I shoot it great. Plus, I wanted something relatively unmodded for class. I also wanted iron sights, because I figured we’d be working front sight focus drills and such. Plus, I’m coming back to liking irons, specifically for sight tracking reasons (at least, when I can make that work) and acquiring them quickly when in close. And they’re not annoyingly prone to hanging up on your concealment garment like the RMR does. Anyway, I also picked the Glock 34 because I have another Glock I could use as a backup gun that could take the same mags and holsters. So I’d be set even if my gun broke.
-end mini review-
I’m not going to go into all of the details covered in the class. Mostly because I’m not going to explain those as well as my instructors did. But I’ll cover the broad strokes. Protective Pistol I is all about basic gun handling and developing a response to the most likely sort of threat that a concealed carry permit holder is likely to encounter. We covered a bit on the laws of Pennsylvania, safe handling procedures, and marksmanship fundamentals. We also talked through a number of examples from incidents on the street. My instructors were great at telling us how they got to what they were teaching us, and why they were teaching us that. Usually, they could break out cases or let us go test things to demonstrate that the things we were learning really did work.
Let’s talk takeaways. They taught that a strong grip was key to shooting at speed. Treat the Glock like an old revolver (in double action), not a tuned 1911 for bullseye with the “surprise break”. They taught some movement as part of the response to the threat, in order to better regain the initiative. They even had a video of a convenience store clerk responding to an armed robber. The robber was holding the clerk at gunpoint, but the clerk’s sidestep on the draw bought her time to be able to get the first shot off, which convinced the would-be robber to flee. It was a good example of how their techniques worked without having to make us break out the simunition guns.
I also loved the student:instructor ratio. It was 7:2, which was about perfect. This is a class I’d recommend, and will probably take again to focus on the fundamentals they reviewed. I’m also keen on more classes from these guys. They were great!
How did my gear hold up? Very well. No significant problems. I had a sturdy belt and a good holster already, plus plenty of mag pouches. Our instructors reviewed some quality brands to buy from if we needed anything (I’m sure I will), plus some stuff to avoid. E.g. Dark Star Gear is awesome, serpa holsters suck.
I ended up making a few changes to my Glock 34 after the match. I want to try the Vickers extended slide stop instead of the Glock factory one. I found the factory one pretty easy to bump when going for a high, strong grip. I think the Vickers will help with this. I also would like to get some more time with an extended mag release. I found the stock one to be a little short if I didn’t want to change my strong hand grip. Some time on the range with another student’s gun told me I might like a non-serrated rear better, so I’ve got a new set of sights to poke at. I really like the fiber optic sights though, so I’ll stick with that up front. Fiber front/plain rear worked well for me.
Experience also showed that the MagLula is super effective at loading magazines. Way better than the little thumbsaver that comes with most pistols these days. I ordered one as soon as I got home from class.
Both instructors had Surefire X300U weaponlights equipped with the DG switch. I’m sold on this too, at least if you’re gonna run a weaponlight. It makes operating the light intuitive and easy by adding a grip-activated pressure switch to the light. And Surefire lights are the weaponlights to buy, again, if you want one. For carry, I’m still debating. It does add some width and some weight, and it’s probably not *needed* on your carry gun.
But for a nightstand gun, for the gun you reach for when something goes bump in the night? Hell yes put a light on it. You don’t want the first words you hear after you shoot some intruder at oh dark thirty to be “Daddy, why’d you shoot me?” And yes, this has happened. It sucks. Don’t let it happen to you.
Another lesson, this one from another student. A female classmate was using an XD Mod 2 Subcompact pistol. In 9 mm of course. She was having a lot of trouble establishing her grip in timed drills that involved a draw from the holster. The instructors suggested she try a bigger pistol, and one of them brought out his spare M&P9, complete with holster. This really improved her performance on the drills. She wasn’t a big woman, but she shot the M&P fine. I didn’t get her thoughts on how the gun felt, but it shot right, and that’s the important thing.
Clearly, we had awesome instructors, who were good at diagnosing problems and offering solutions. Good on them for being prepared. The other lesson is that even if you’re petite, it’s easier to get a good grip on a bigger gun. There’s a tendency for women to choose or be given small guns to shoot. I don’t think this is wise.