The first two levels in the qualifications only require that you shoot at a nine-inch paper plate, or nine-inch target, but I went ahead and purchased the NRA AP-1 targets, because I would need them for future levels. The AP-1 is a fairly large target, so if you use it, as opposed to the AP-2, which is smaller, you move out to 30 feet after the first two levels. The end result is the same, but I chose to go with the AP-1 so that I could say I shot the targets at 30 feet – it just sounds more impressive :0)
So on a very hot and steamy day, just before the sun began to set, I packed up my Glock and my gear and headed to the range. Fortunately, my son, Dylan, came along to be my ammo boy. He kept my magazines loaded so I could get as far as possible before losing too much daylight.
The first level that must be mastered on this journey is Pro-Marksman, where you are required to shoot five rounds at a paper plate (or a target nine inches in diameter) while sitting with arms braced, and get all of the shots within one-half inch of the outside rim – and then do that ten times. The distance for this step is 15 feet, and if using a nine-inch target, is pretty easy to master. Shots are made two-handed, with the “strong hand,” or dominant hand, pulling the trigger.
It can be a bit frustrating to shoot ten targets in a row and only put five shots on each target. Normally, I would shoot until I shot the center out and then cover it with a sticker target and shoot some more – I mean, why waste a perfectly good target, right?
So the next level is Marksman. This step requires ten shots in each paper plate (or nine-inch target), all of which must be within one-and-a-half inches of the outside rim. This time, the shooter is standing, using two hands, strong-side. This is, again, not too difficult if you have been target shooting for a while, as it is still shot at 15 feet. You also need a qualifying ten targets to pass this level.
I conquered that level and was ready to move on, but was beginning to lose daylight, was extremely hot and sweaty, my glasses were fogging up, and I was running out of ammo. Ugh! I pressed onward to Marksman First Class, though, and was able to complete three qualifying targets before having to leave. At least I knew I could do it, and that I would be able to complete that level the next time I was at the range.
Marksman First Class is the first time that AP-1 users must move back to 30 feet. It also gets more difficult in that the shooter must shoot two-handed, but fire five shots with the strong hand and five shots with the weak hand. Now, this was more difficult for me than it probably should have been. I had actually been practicing one-handed shooting in anticipation of these quals, but I had not realized that you do not shoot one-handed, but rather with two hands, strong side, then weak side. It is very different holding the gun with both hands, but having them overlap in a reverse grip, and then transitioning back and forth between targets.
I learned the hard way that I should spend more time making sure my grip was correct before firing. I didn’t realize that my strong-side thumb was not tucked carefully away and the slide drew blood on the first shot. I learned you must always be mindful of where your digits are, because losing that thumb would make shooting all the more difficult. So I got my little thumb tucked safely out of slide range and completed my three M1stC targets for the day.
I have to say that moving through the first few levels was a definite confidence builder, and I can now order my patch, certificates, and rockers (patches that go under the pistol patch that show the highest level one has achieved) for those levels. After completing Marksman First Class (seven more targets to go), I will move on to Sharpshooter, Expert, and Distinguished Expert, which I really believe I can accomplish with enough time and ammo – time and ammo being the keys :0) I’ll keep you updated on the journey!
For more information on the NRA Pistol Qualifications, click here.