PEQUOT LAKES -- Seven people assembled at Wild Acres Gun Club recently to learn more about handguns.
A gathering of this type hadn't taken place in four years, though handgun sales over that time have soared. Firearms safety courses are common, but few focus specifically on handguns.
"There are techniques and safety features specific to handguns that make them unique," said Tom Ryan, who sells about 200 handguns per year at the Oasis Sport Shop in Pequot Lakes. "If you own a handgun this class provided a little more insight into its proper use. General firearms safety rules apply to all guns, but handguns have unique characteristics that we focused on in this class."
A unique characteristic to handguns is ammunition. Any rifle with .30-06 stamped on the barrel can be loaded with any .30-06 ammunition. Not so with handguns. For example, several different 9 mm handgun calibers have ammunition that isn't interchangeable, and you can shoot .38-caliber Special ammunition in a .357-caliber Magnum handgun but you can't shoot .357-caliber Magnum ammunition in a .38 Special.
"It's important for handgun owners to be able to properly identify ammunition," Ryan said.
Bao Truong, who moved to Brainerd from California, fired at a target down range. "I do not own a handgun and wanted to learn how to use one," Truong said. "I ordered a .45 and I had a chance to shoot one here today."
Shooting stances also differ between long guns and handguns. Students in this class were taught the basic Isosceles stance, in which the shooter stands straight-on to the target, feet shoulder-length apart, arms forward and both hands gripped on the gun. The stance creates an Isosceles triangle, thus the name.
"It's an instinctive, easy-to-learn stance they teach at the FBI academy," said Aaron Simpson, the National Rifle Association-certified instructor who taught the class. "The NRA recommends it for first-time shooters. We didn't teach the single-handed stance here because we wanted to build confidence and skill, especially among the novices, and that stance can be a bit more difficult. We also didn't teach the Weaver stance, where you stand at a 45-degree angle to the target. I personally like that stance because it's steadier and more like shooting a rifle. But that's something they can work on later."
The class, which cost $65, had five men and two women. It began with video instruction in the morning. Each student was given a copy of "The Basics of Pistol Shooting," a handbook published by the NRA. After lunch the students went to a nearby gravel pit to practice shooting.
The kick of the day was provided by this .45-70 Government handgun, manufactured in Baxter and sold by Magnum Research.
"I thought it went pretty well," said Simpson, who was teaching a group for the first time. "Everybody had a chance to try different guns and shoot to their heart's content. I think they learned there are more differences among handguns than you think."
The most popular handgun is the .40 caliber, followed by the .357 Magnum and .22 caliber, Ryan said. All were available to the students. But the "big bang" of the day was provided by a .45/70 Government pistol Ryan brought from the Oasis. An unusual caliber for a handgun, the .45/70 Government made the .40 caliber feel tame by comparison.
Ryan said another handgun training class and a personal defense class will be offered this summer.
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