If you are considering attending an NRA Carry Guard training course, or any firearm class for that matter, it is time to think about how you are going to feed your handgun. A great deal of information must be absorbed during a two- or three-day training course; the experience can be like drinking from a fire hose for many students. Add in potential for heat, sun exposure and more physically rigorous activity than you may be accustomed to, and it can all be pretty overwhelming. Under such circumstances, the last thing we want to worry about is constantly loading and topping off magazines.
The Range Equipment Requirements for the NRA Carry Guard Basic and Intermediate courses recommend a minimum of four magazines. Four magazines will certainly get the job done, but you will find yourself doing a great deal of loading in between drills. When I began attending firearms courses more regularly, and shooting handguns competitively, I quickly invested in a quantity of magazines that would allow me the leisure of resting, drinking water or taking in instruction while on the range, rather than the constant chore of charging magazines. This one-time purchase has more than paid dividends during long, hot range sessions. These days, when I attend a class, I bring a minimum of 10 15-round magazines along.
So how many magazines should you bring? I cannot answer that for you but I will offer a few points for you to consider. The fewer rounds that your handgun holds, the more magazines you should bring. If you are shooting a 1911 or a compact single-stack pistol that holds 10 rounds or fewer, I would certainly consider bringing more than the recommended four magazines. Your own budget will dictate how many magazines you can afford, but in the context of training, magazines are a relatively inexpensive piece in the puzzle and last virtually forever.
There is another reason to bring multiple magazines to a class: malfunctions. The most-frequent causes of malfunctions in semi-automatic firearms are ammunition- and magazine-related. Aftermarket magazines are the most frequent offenders, but no brand is completely immune. If you only bring four magazines to a class and one is causing issues, you now only have three functional mags. Test all of your magazines ahead of time to ensure that they work properly. Many shooters, myself included, use craft store paint pens to mark and number each magazine. My initials help ensure that my mags don’t end up in someone else’s range bag, and the number helps me identify magazines that aren’t working properly. How will you know which magazine is causing repeated malfunctions if it is not marked? If your magazines are too valuable to mark, perhaps you should re-evaluate your choice of defensive firearm.
There is one other point to consider on this topic: the process of loading the magazines themselves. When I bought my first Glock handgun many years ago, I wondered why a magazine loading tool was included in the package—Glock magazines aren’t particularly difficult to load. A few years later, when I took my first defensive handgun course, I quickly dug through my range bag until I found that loading tool. For many of us who rarely shoot more than 50 or 100 rounds during a range session, loading several hundred rounds per day can be a real workout for the thumbs. There are several magazine loading tools on the market; consider adding one to your range bag and practice using it before attending a class. Your hands will thank me.
As a proud concealed carrier, I’ve taken my fair share of training courses. NRA Carry Guard’s Level 1 program, which I had the privilege of taking earlier this year, was by far the best.
It doesn’t take long in the contemporary firearms community before you lose the notion of the “average” or “normal” shooter.