If you’re testing for a carry permit for either open or concealed carry (or, in some states, both), the practical exam has a lot of things in common. You’ll need to safely handle your handgun, accurately fire a previously designated number of rounds, and probably even load your own firearm (some states and instructors don’t require this last part, but it’s a great idea to be able to handle your own gun regardless of what’s going to be on the test).
These tips will help you effectively learn and practice long before you hit the range so that, when test day comes, you’ll be a confident, responsible firearms handler who breezes through the qualification procedures.
Load and Unload Your Gun Safely
Most exams let you use your own handgun, which is a huge plus because you should be most familiar with that firearm. At practice ranges before the test, practice safely loading and unloading that model. Did you get that last bullet out of the chamber? Are you pointing the muzzle in a safe direction at all times? Can you use a speed loader, if needed, to make the process quicker? If your gun uses magazines, can you fully load them, or is the internal spring too compressed for you to get that last round in without hurting your thumb? Practice makes perfect, so spend time on this skill.
Accuracy at Different Ranges
When you fire your gun for qualification, you won’t necessarily be the same distance away from the target for every shot. Many practical exams call for you to shoot from anywhere from three to fifty yards away! Spend plenty of time at your usual range, shooting at various distances, to become familiar with your gun. Your state’s exam manual or booklet will tell you the exact protocol, so consult that before you practice; that way, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Safe Gun Handling
No matter what else happens on the permit test, safe firearms handling is a huge component of the test. In some states, reckless handling is an immediate disqualifier no matter how well you do elsewhere! Practice fundamentals like keeping your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire, pointing your gun’s muzzle only in safe directions, and treating your handgun as if it’s always loaded. These practices will help you off the range, too, because they’re good ideas even when you aren’t being tested.
Deep Breathing and Confidence
Before you step onto the qualifying range, you should be an old hat at breathing deeply and being confident in your skills. The more you practice these, and the other skills mentioned in this article, before you take your test, the less you’ll worry about whether or not you’ve mastered them.
When you go to the range or classroom for your test, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that you’ve been practicing for this. You know how your firearm works. You’re so familiar with safe-handling rules that you could follow them in your sleep. You’ve practiced and rehearsed so much that you could write an article about the subject! Be confident, do what you know you need to do, and pass the test with plenty of points to spare–then proudly put your license in your wallet and tell your trusted people that you did what you went out there to do.