Beyond Basic CCW Training: Next Steps

How long has it been since you last practiced shooting your handgun, let alone sought additional training?

posted on August 29, 2022
woman and instructor practicing movement drill

If you have a concealed-carry handgun license, how long has it been since you last practiced shooting your handgun, let alone sought additional training? If you’re the average shooter, chances are the answer to that question is: too long.

I obtained my Ohio concealed-carry permit three years ago, and even though I practice with my handgun from time to time and am confident in its use, I still felt the need to brush up on basic skills and receive some advanced training—maybe learn a new trick or two. That said, I recently attended a CCW Next Steps Pistol course offered by the Buckeye Firearms Association. The one-day class was held at the Sly Tac Training Concepts outdoor training facility in central Ohio.

A prerequisite of the course was that participants already have a concealed-carry handgun license. The class consisted of eight men and one woman, ranging in age from their 20s to 70s. The benefits of the small class size were twofold; more one-on-one time with the three instructors—Syl, Jeff and Michele—and more opportunity to pull the trigger.

The day began with a short classroom session, the head instructor, Syl, outlining the training we’d receive during the coming eight hours. “We’ll be simulating realistic, on-the-street, concealed-carry handgun situations,” he began. “So don’t let your mind wander today, pay attention and stay switched on. This course is about handgun fighting, not handgun shooting.”  

He also stressed that the best defense in a gunfight is avoidance. “If you can help it, don’t get involved in a shooting situation in the first place,” he said. “Because if you do, chances are 50-50 you’ll be shot. Instead, always be aware of the situation around you. Be observant; don’t become easy prey for a bad guy.”

Moving to the range, the instructors first reviewed firearm safety—finger off trigger, watch the muzzle—followed by the basics of handgun shooting: stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture and trigger press. The first live fire of the day was a 20-round assessment drill, allowing the instructors to determine a participant’s skill level.

Ten rounds were fired with two-hand support of the handgun, then five rounds strong-hand and five rounds weak-hand. But the instructors did not refer to it as weak-hand; rather, “your other strong hand.” The idea was to instill in students the positive mental approach that you can learn to shoot well with either hand.

Next was practicing drawing from the holster smoothly and safely, loading and unloading the gun, and how to quickly and efficiently clear malfunctions to get back in the fight as quickly as possible. In fact, during the day when instructors gave the command to commence firing, the command was always “Fight!”

Once the basics were out of the way, the shooting increased in tempo. And we were always on the move as we shot: left to right, right to left, forward and backward. With the temperature in the low 90s, high humidity and direct sun, everyone was ready for a break at lunchtime to cool off. The instructors did a good job throughout the day of getting people out of the sun frequently and making sure we were drinking plenty of water.

The afternoon session tested the skills we had been taught that morning. Sly Tac Training Concepts is a private range, usually available only to law enforcement officers and military personnel, so we had the freedom to do more advanced training than at a public range. For instance, the afternoon included shooting from barricades, good-guy bad-guy scenarios, even running from concealment to cover with loaded firearms! 

At times the training was intense, but as the day wore on more and more smiles began to appear, with some good-natured ribbing developing between participants and instructors. We all ended the day as friends, and everyone I talked to was glad they had come.  

William Baldinger, a young college student studying criminal justice who hopes to one day become a probation/parole officer had this to say: “I just recently purchased a new handgun, and my goal for the day was to become more comfortable and confident with it. I feel I accomplished that.”

A married couple, Tim and Huyen Bartholomew, are medical professionals, he an oral surgeon and she a family-practice doctor. “As missionary doctors we spend nine months overseas each year,” they said. “We attended the course today to learn how to better defend ourselves both here at home and in other countries. The training was intense, and someone who is considering taking this training should be familiar with their handgun and have fired it a lot.”

Scott King, who has attended several Buckeye Firearms Association events, is retired career military (U.S. Air Force), as well as an college professor emeritus. “Buckeye Firearms is a great resource for education and training,” he said. “It’s also a good source of firearms news that’s not filtered by the liberal media. And it’s not just for Ohioans; my son-in-law lives in Virginia and I encourage him to read the BFA newsletter and visit their online portal ( for national gun news. It’s always very balanced and very proactive.”

As for continued training at home, instructor Syl ended the day by encouraging the group to practice what we’d learned by dry-firing. “For a simple target, just put a small sticky-note on the wall, stand back a few feet, and smoothly draw your unloaded weapon from the holster, line up the sights, and press the trigger until the gun 'fires',” he said. “Then, quickly reload an empty mag. Do that over and over until it becomes second nature. Repetition is the key.”           

Research has shown that in most real-world shooting situations a person does not “rise to the occasion.” In other words, he or she does not shoot better or make wiser decisions than he or she normally would. In fact, quite the opposite is usually true: Under the intense pressure of a self-defense situation, a shooter will most likely revert to the level of his or her training.

That said, train well and practice often. Hope to see you at the range…




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