As a firearms instructor I get to see a lot of interesting events.  Sometimes we get a good laugh, and at other times it boils down to the simple question “What were you thinking?”

Successfully completing the proficiency demonstration rests in two critical areas:

  1. Having and attitude of safety first towards everyone including yourself.
  2. Knowing how the handgun you have chosen works and being able to demonstrate those skills.

Many students error in thinking the proficiency demonstration is solely about marksmanship.  While the perfect bullseye 50 times in a row is impressive, the goal is actually to satisfactorily demonstrate minimal accuracy and 100% safety and utility.

So let’s look at the list:

#10 – Missing the target too often

The course of fire consists of 50 rounds total fired from 3, 7 and 15 yards.  Each round can earn 5 points.  Simply hitting any area of the silhouette is 3 points.  Missing the target all together is 0 points.  A passing score is 175/250.

Not firing the round from the handgun is just like missing the target all together.

The proficiency demonstration is to demonstrate that you know how to load, manipulate and fire your chosen handgun with minimum proficiency.  Practice and visiting an instructor who can teach you how to use, clean, maintain and safely store the handgun you have selected will help you prepare and once your are ready, then schedule your proficiency demonstration.

All shots are fired on a B-27 target.

Targets are usually green, red, black or blue.

Hits inside the 8, 9, 10, and X rings are awarded 5 points each.

Hits inside the 7 ring are awarded 4 points each.

Hits on the silhouette outside the 7 ring are awarded 3 points each.

Hits outside of the shaded silhouette are 0 points.

Hits that miss the target entirely are 0 points.

Rounds not fired due to expired time / malfunction are 0 points.


#9 – Unfamiliarity with how to load, chamber and fire the handgun

During the proficiency demonstration, you will be asked to load and make ready 10 times.  To load and make ready means to count out and insert the number of rounds requested into the magazine or cylinder, to close the action and to maintain directional control of the handgun towards your target until instructed to fire.  This is where you demonstrate your working knowledge of how to operate, handle and control the handgun.  The instructor cannot assist you once the course of fire begins.  Take time to practice and visit a handgun instructor before your scheduled appointment as needed.

TX LTC Course of Fire:

Stage 1: Twenty (20) shots will be fired from 3 yards. – (up to 100 points possible)

Five (5) shots fired in a “One shot exercise” 2 seconds allowed for each shot

Ten (10) shots fired in a “Two shot exercise” 3 seconds allowed for each 2 shot sequence

(typically subdivided in a group of 4 rounds, followed by a group of 6 rounds)

Five (5) shots fired in 10 seconds

Stage 2: Twenty (20) shots will be fired from 7 yards. – (up to 100 points possible)

Five (5) shots will be fired in 10 seconds

Five (5) shots will be fired in 2 stages:

  1. Two (2) shots will be fired in 4 seconds
  2. Three (3) shots will be fired in 6 seconds

Five (5) will be fired in a “One shot exercise” 3 seconds allowed for each shot

Five (5) shots fired in 15 seconds

Stage 3: Ten (10) shots fired from 15 yards. – (even if you already have 175 points by now, you must complete the course of fire)

Five (5) shots fired in two stages:

  1. Two (2) shots fired in 6 seconds
  2. Three (3) shots fired in 9 seconds

Five (5) shots fired in 15 seconds


#8 – Unfamiliarity with how to unload and clear firearm malfunctions

During the course of fire, your handgun may jam or the ammunition may malfunction.  Do you know how to return the firearm to service – and, for your safety and the safety of others, can you quickly and safely make the determination that the firearm remains safe to fire after a malfunction?

Tap, Rack, Rack Again are concepts you should know before scheduling your proficiency demonstration.  Most malfunctions will require that you either bump the slide forward, or rack the slide completely once and maybe twice, tap the bottom of the magazine to seat or reseat the magazine, or pull the trigger again in the middle of the timed segment of shooting.

If you encounter a malfunction during a segment and fail to fire all of the rounds required for that segment, you will lose 5 points for each round not fired.  And, if you are trying to clear a malfunction and a round inadvertently goes off, the muzzle must be pointed at your target.  It should be obvious that if you shoot something other than your target, that is a clear indication that you lack proficiency in handling and controlling your firearm.

And, if while shooting you pull the trigger and the ammunition doesn’t fire, what should you do?  Bump the slide, pull the trigger, cycle the slide, or anything else you know to try to get the firearm into service?  Stay calm, hold the handgun on target and work through the issue.  When the instructor shouts cease fire, then stop, clear the handgun and get ready mentally to move on and finish the course of fire.


#7 – Using a firearm too big to handle

While the Desert Eagle 50 Cal. is an amazing piece of machinery, I would not want to fire 50 rounds within 20 minutes using something that powerful. I am also confident in saying that others in your class would greatly appreciate you not using something that loud at an indoor range, since after the first segment of 5 shots, no one on the range would be able to hear anything the instructor had to say for the next 30 minutes.  It’s also most likely that the instructor will make you wait until the rest of the class is gone, and possibly pay a private lesson fee, if you insist on using such a large caliber firearm.

If the handgun is so big that you cannot comfortably and hold steady the weight after the 10 separate “load and make ready” instructions over the entire course of fire; or you cannot reach the levers, buttons and trigger with your hands and fingers, then the gun is too big.  The legislature has changed the law to allow you to make the selection of which caliber ammunition to qualify with.  Keep in mind, rim fire ammunition only costs about $2 per box of 50 rounds – anything this cheap might not have the reliability you want during a timed test.  Select quality, commercially made, reasonable caliber ammunition and handgun that fits your level of skill and knowledge for taking and passing this part of your application process.


#6 – Not using a handgun to qualify

The Texas LTC is abbreviation for Texas License to Carry a Handgun.  To show proficiency you need to bring a handgun to the range.  Shotguns, rifles and any other firearms other than a handgun are not appropriate and unless you bring a handgun, or are offered a handgun for rental, you will not be allowed to participate in the proficiency demonstration.


#5 – Mismatching firearm and ammunition

Every firearm is labeled on the barrel with markings for the exact ammunition for which the handgun is chambered.  Using anything other than that specified ammunition is dangerous and could lead to serious bodily injury or even death of the shooter and others nearby.  Your ammunition and handgun must match accordingly.  If you have a common caliber handgun, the range may have appropriate ammunition for sale.  If not, then you won’t qualify.


#4 – Catastrophic Firearm Malfunction

I have seen students show up for their proficiency demonstration with a handgun still wrapped in the paper from the store where they recently purchased the firearm; and, I have seen students bring a handgun that is so old and dirty that the magazine would not release.  Take time to inspect and clean your handgun before showing up for the proficiency demonstation.

During the course of fire, which should last about 20 minutes, you will fire single shots, multiple shots and groups of multiple shots.  You will load and make ready 10 times.  The gun will get hot and Murphy’s law will likely be on display – so be prepared so it’s not happening to you.

Handguns have switches, springs and plastic parts and it is not uncommon for these to break during the course of fire, especially if the handgun has not been serviced recently.  Dust, dirt, old oil, old ammunition that humidity or water has penetrated are all factors that could lead to you beginning the course of fire and then having to stop because your handgun breaks or the ammunition malfunctions.  Most instructors will assist you between segments to return the handgun to service or possibly provide a rental or loaner firearm of the same type if one is available.  Otherwise, it’s time to visit the gunsmith and to reschedule your proficiency demonstration.

#3 – Not adequately controlling the direction of the muzzle at all times

You should only point the firearm at something you would intend to destroy.  During your proficiency demonstration, you only have permission to shoot your target – nothing else; so don’t point it at anything except your target, even when it is resting on the bench.  Pointing the handgun at anything other than your target is clear demonstration that you are not proficient in handling a firearm.

The common errors are:

  1. Turning the firearm sideways to find the magazine release button;
  2. Holding the handgun sideways to cycle the slide during the load and make ready process;
  3. Turning the handgun in different directions to find out why it jammed;
  4. Turning towards the left or right to hear the instructor or to ask a question;
  5. Turning towards the left or right when you are startled by sounds from another gun; and
  6. Trying to look at the gun when it did not fire – and yes, I’ve seen it, (and I have a photo of the same in the course materials) – even trying to look down the barrel.

You should expect the instructor to become hands-on immediately if your handgun starts to move off target.  You should also expect your instructor to actually remove the firearm from your hands if he or she feels that your safety, his safety or the safety of others is in jeopardy.

Take your time and regardless of anything that happens, ALWAYS maintain control of the firearm and keep it pointed downrange, at your target.  If you need help, the instructor will notice and will come to you.

NOTE:  Even if you get a slide bite, hot brass down your shirt or anything else that is uncomfortable or even painful, you must hold that firearm on target until the firearm can be secured first, and then assistance will be provided to you as needed.


#2 – Pointing the firearm at the instructor and other students

Turning to the left or right with a handgun in your hand to ask the instructor a question is the quickest way to get removed from the range – and probably not allowed to return.  This typically occurs when the students are taking their handgun out of the carry case or during the course of fire when the student’s handgun malfunctions.  Instructors typically position themselves behind the students, walking back and forth, being always prepared to stop a student from turning around.

Always focus on how you are handling the handgun and ALWAYS keep the muzzle pointed down range.  If you need to see any part of the gun, then turn your head or your body to see better or to apply force as necessary while the muzzle remains on target.  If you have a question, stay on target and raise the hand which is not holding a handgun and your instructor will approach you to answer your question.


#1 – Having a poor and unsafe attitude

The proficiency demonstration is 1 – 2 hours of additional training to include safety and proper firearms handling instruction and to conduct the course of fire.  During this time, the instructor is assessing and evaluating your apparent knowledge and attitude towards safety and others around you.

Every range will have posted rules and safety procedures.  You must follow the posted signs and all instructions provided by the instructor, range safety officers and employees of the range.

An improper attitude towards the instructor, range safety officers, employees, other students or towards yourself are reason enough to dismiss you from participating in the proficiency demonstration.  There are rarely second chances – safety for everyone present prevails over your attitude or desire to complete the course.

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