This past Sunday, my wife and I attended Michigan Gun Exchange’s 10 hour Concealed Carry Firearms Training class. It was so well done that I felt I needed to write it up and pass along the info so let me give you a bit of background.
I grew up with rifles and shotguns but not really pistols. When my dad was a boy, he borrowed my grandfather’s tiny derringer to hunt squirrels. As he told me, he got excited and accidentally got the web of this thumb in front of the little barrel and shot/nicked himself. Well, that turned him off to pistols and then in WWII they were issued shot out 1911’s that couldn’t hit the side of a barn. My dad had a Marksmans Badge and was the finest shot I ever met with a rifle but he just did not care for pistols. As a result, I did not have a firearms pistol until college around 1989. What little I knew about how to shoot one, I learned from friends and none of them had formal training either. In other words, I knew my pistol knowledge was lacking big time.
So, for years now, my friend, Scott Igert, and others, have told me I need to get a Michigan Concealed Pistol License (CPL). This isn’t just an application where you simply fill out a form – I would have to take a class. Whoa.
What held me back was three fold – 1) I sucked at pistols and didn’t want to be embarrassed — I have a tremor and have always joked that I might do better at throwing the pistol at the target. 2) Finding the time to actually take the class. 3) Finding an instructor who could actually teach.
What got my wife and I to finally act was the desire to better protect ourselves. It seems like there is so much violence these days that we really owed it to ourselves and our family to proceed with the CPL. This also included the need to better understand defensive pistol shooting for both of us.
To be clear, we paid for this class and while Scott and I have been friends for years, he had no idea I was going to write this post until I sent it to him to review.
Prior to the class, I’d met Andrew Zachary only a few a times as he manages Modern Antique Firearms while Scott is at Benton Township serving as a police officer – his full time day job which he then leaves and goes to his second full time job as the owner of Modern Antique Firearms and Michigan Gun Exchange. That means Andrew gets to wear a lot of hats but he is the chief instructor for a reason — he’s really good at teaching.
I was in the shop one day when Scott was working at the township in his police officer role and watched Andrew work with a young lady who wanted to buy a pistol. He was very patient and explained everything. He wasn’t talking down to her or anything negative and that made me realize that he probably was a good teacher. It was a hunch but I’ve learned a lot over the years about what makes a good teacher.
In addition to seeing his interaction, I had also heard good things about Andrew from folks who took his class. You see, on top of Andrew being a good guy, he is a certified instructor from both the NRA and USCCA (United States Concealed Carry Association) plus years and years of experience.
The Day of the Class
Seven us, including my wife and I, showed up at the Stevensville Grand Mere Pistol Club on Sunday, June 9th at 7:45am, and Andrew kicked things off promptly by 8am. It was raining outside so we all felt better about being indoors!
I could immediately tell that Andrew really cared about the topic and was an effective presenter – he wove in facts, stories, humor and practical tips together. He encouraged note taking, told us where to find more information in the accompanying course book and also had a projected presentation with videos.
The class was well thought out and took a big picture approach to self-defense. It’s not about how to kill or something crazy like that – it’s about how to defend yourself and it builds from the ground up. I used to take Tae Kwon Do years ago so there were a lot of parallel concepts that I could relate to. The best way to defend is to not be in the situation to begin with and only use the force necessary to stop the attack. Personally, I hope I am never in such a serious situation that I have to defend myself with a firearm.
Back to the topic – the class had two portions – most of it was us gathered at a table in a classroom setting and the other involved actual shooting at the range.
Andrew started with a lot of very straight forward recommendations about avoiding incidents to begin with – be aware of your surroundings, don’t go down dark alleys, have your house light on, set the alarm, etc. The point, and it is a very valid one, is that the pistol is a last resort and a CPL license actually puts more liability on you in many cases because now a firearm is involved. A lot of legal considerations were covered both in general and for the state of Michigan specially.
In terms of a formal agenda, the classroom portion covered:
- Developing a personal & home protection plan
- Self-defense firearms basics
- Shooting fundamentals
- The legal use of force
- Violent encounters and their aftermath
In the classroom, Andrew also had training pistols that looked like Glock 17s but were colored bright red and shot a laser. These let us safely practice our grip and trigger pull before we even got out to the range.
We then headed out to the very nice indoor range at the Grand Mere Pistol club. It was clean, well lit and equipped. By this time, Scott Igert and Brooks Bouwkamp had showed up to assist Andrew. This enabled them to ensure safety and give tips from multiple perspectives. For example, one time Brooks saw from across the room that one lady was canting her pistol up as she pulled the trigger.
Safety was stressed first and foremost. Ammunition was set out in five round groups and you could only load the mag when instructed. They would ensure everyone was ready and then we’d load the pistols with them always facing downrange and we’d then do the drills. After set of five rounds, we would clear the weapon and place it back on the table.
I should point out that only four folks shot at time so our class went through in two batches. My wife was in the first batch and I was in the second. Guys, there is a huge benefit to letting a true instructor explain things to your wives objectively. She learned a ton.
My fear of being embarrassed was unfounded. The other students were all starting out also and the instructor team offered tips and encouragement the whole time.
Remember how I told you that I sucked at pistols? Folks, I have always had to use a bench rest to get any degree of accuracy. The following photo is from a 50 round box of 9mm 115gr Fiocchi FMJ ammo with my legally registered Polymer 80 Glock 34 clone. That middle group was done with the sights shooting for accuracy at 10 feet. The rest is from defensive point firing. This is easily half the size of what I would have done before the class. Most of the shooting world is probably better than me but I am very happy with the improvement.
We wrapped up between 6 and 7pm and, to be honest, the time flew by. We did take a 30 minute break for lunch and I feel like we learned a ton. My wife and I compared notes and really liked how the class was handled and what all we learned.
If you are worried about having an instructor who is a jerk or is there to stroke their own ego, that is not Andrew. He’s there to teach and that’s the highest compliment I can give any instructor. If you are looking for class to get your CPL or even just a solid class for self-defense with pistols, I highly recommend what Michigan Gun Exchange has put together. Their phone number is 269-944-5788.
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