Advice to New Students
If you haven't signed up for a class yet, our Starting Point classes are marked on our All Current Class Offerings page and there is more info about our classes in the article Where Do I Start?. Each class has pre-requisites listed in the full description.
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Arriving to the Range / Traveling with Firearms
We are a closed private range which is why our address is not published. Please do not visit the range until the day of your class. With your confirmation letter you should receive a map with driving directions. If you need more information about getting to the range, please contact us or reply to your confirmation letter e-mail.
There is absolutely no gun handling at your vehicle. We encourage anyone who is comfortable and legally allowed to carry a concealed pistol in Washington State to do so. This includes non handgun classes. For most students, that will be a WA Concealed Pistol License (CPL - RCW 9.41.050). You will have an opportunity when we get out on the range to switch holsters or guns and to change out defensive ammo. At the end of class you will have an opportunity to switch ammo and/or switch to your carry setup. If you are traveling from out of state, please ready the WA rules at https://handgunlaw.us and review your own state's rules. Rifles and shotguns may not be transported loaded per RCW 77.15.460 which includes having a magazine inserted or ammo attached to the weapon. AR Pistols may be loaded upon arrival at the range if you are legal to carry a concealed pistol in our state, please notify your instructor when we go out to the range.
Arrive early: Please check the starting time on your confirmation letter. The majority of FAS classes start at 9am each day except for Intro to Handguns that starts at 10am. Try to arrive at least 15 minutes early so you can get parked, organized, and up into the classroom before class starts. If you have the extra time to fill out your waiver and paperwork before class starts you'll be able to give your full attention to learning.
Camping: Dry camping is available at the range to vetted alumni ONLY with prior approval directly from Belle. This includes self contained RVs or trailers and tent or car camping. Port-a-potties are available but no other amenities are provided. If arriving the night before class, please arrive before sundown. Otherwise, please plan your arrival for the next morning. Do not pull in after dark.
These recommendations are specific for this class. The other info below will be useful for future classes and range trips for practicing.
Please review the class description on the Intro to Handguns registration page for more info about the class.
Class officially ends at 5pm. Our Handgun Selection portion is from 5pm to 6pm where you'll get to learn about and try a dozen quality concealed carry handguns. The cost is $20 to cover the ammo. We highly recommend this for anyone who is using a loaner gun and for those who would like to shoot some more and ask questions.
This class is exactly 50 rounds and we provide the ammo for loaner guns. You will need 1 unloaded magazine for the class. Please make sure you have the correct ammo for your gun. If you have any questions about your gun, ammo, or anything else for this class, please contact us.
While we see a lot of different guns in this class, guns similar to the Glock 19 ("The Honda Civic of Firearms" - Belle McCormack), do the best in this class. Most full sized pistols are suitable as long as they fit your hand size. Most compact pistols in the Glock 48 or Sig Sauer P365 size are suitable for people with smaller hands or as smaller summer time carry guns. Small micro pistols and revolvers are acceptable as well but tend to be more difficult to shoot for those with less hand strength. Please no single action cowboy revolvers.
The two things students commonly do not have is a brimmed baseball cap and proper safety glasses. A hat and wrap around safety glasses are required to keep hot brass from the person next to you landing on top or behind your safety glasses. We do have side shields if you would like to wear your prescription glasses. These slip over the temples of your glasses to add side protection which you would get wearing wrap around style safety glasses. There are nicer hard plastic ones for purchase online if you'd like to bring your own.
For hearing protection, electronic hearing protection is preferred and recommended if you plan to take any further training as it is necessary in higher level classes. Bringing both earmuffs and earplugs to "double up" can make your experience a lot better especially if you are not used to being on a gun range. We have limited loaner pairs of earmuffs and usually have foam plugs. More info can be found in the hearing protection section below.
It's up to the student to manage their own ammo. Many drills may be shot at reduced round count or with extra dry practice to lower the amount of ammo needed and used for a class.
Bring extra ammo and pre-load your magazines. The quantity on your equipment list is slightly over what is planned for a normal class. There are some drills where you may be able to shoot more if you have more. If we have a small class, or a class could benefit from a specific drill, we may add drills that increase the round count.
There are no issues with storing your magazines loaded. This will not damage the springs.
If you are coming in from out of state and would like to ship your ammo to the range, please contact us first.
Hand Loads: Hand loads are allowed at FAS but you do so at your own risk as long as you accept the liability of their safe function. We strongly recommend testing your load to make sure it's reliable in your firearm as well as chamber checking or case gauging and looking for high primers.
Buying Ammo Online: With the current ammo situation, allow for plenty of time for your ammo to arrive before class. It has to ship ground and may take 2-3+ weeks from when you place your order even if it's in stock.
AmmoSeek is a search website to find the best current prices on ammo and other gun related accessories online.
LuckyGunner has great reviews and a lot of information about different ammo.
SGAmmo is a great resource to find great deals on bulk ammo.
Target Sports USA has an Ammo Prime Membership which can pay off pretty quickly if you buy a lot of factory ammo. They are sometimes more expensive than SGAmmo but the Prime Membership price is almost always lower because of the free shipping. Target Sports allows you to do back in stock notifications by caliber, not just on specific items.
You are welcome to train in your conceal carry, competition, or tactical gear. We recommend that you train with what you wear and carry every day as long as it's within the incendiary. Holster specific info is below.
Our range is completely outdoors and we operate regardless of weather. Please bring clothing suitable for the weather.
- A sturdy belt to hold your gear.
- Pants with belt loops.
- Closed toed shoes are required.
- Shorts are allowed in all classes.
- In wet weather, parts of our range can get muddy or partially flooded so waterproof shoes or boots are nice to have.
- Kneepads can be helpful but we rarely kneel to shoot in handgun classes.
Even in overcast weather it is possible to get sunburnt. We recommend a sport/waterproof sunscreen with enough SPF for your complexion.
Proper wrap around safety glasses are required for all FAS classes. Combined with a brimmed hat this effectively keeps hot brass from the person next to you landing on top or behind your safety glasses. Recommend side shields if you would like to wear your prescription glasses. These slip over the temples of your glasses to add side protection which you would get wearing wrap around style safety glasses. There are nicer hard plastic ones for purchase online if you'd like to bring your own.
Many of our intermediate and advanced classes have a low light shooting component. Please bring clear or lightly tinted glasses if you normally wear sunglasses.
Active or Electronic hearing protection is preferred but is an investment. This allows you to hear range commands easier and hold a conversation while on the range. More information about how this work is below.
All hearing protection packaging should have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) in decibels (dB). The higher the number, the more reduction in noise.
"Doubling up" is wearing both earplugs and earmuffs. This does not add the two NRRs together, it adds 5 dB of protection to the higher rating. For training, it's best to use passive earplugs (foam or other) under active earmuffs if you desire the extra protection. Most students will find for handgun shooting outdoors, this is not necessary. When shooting rifles or in any indoor ranges, doubling up is almost mandatory.
There are two types of hearing protection: Passive and Active. Passive includes standard earplugs and earmuffs. Active hearing protection can be either plugs or earmuffs that use a microphone on the outside to play ambient sounds at a safe level through a speaker on the inside. These amplify quiet noises helping you hear if you were hunting or listening to range commands and limit louder noises such as gunshots. These are available with two types of electronics that use either clipping or compression. Cheaper units tend to use clipping which shuts off the speaker completely when the microphone detects loud sounds. More expensive units almost always use compression which continuously adjusts the volume of the signal from the microphone amplifying quiet sounds and "compressing" loud sounds to maintain a consistent sounds level coming out of the speaker.
Rifle or Shotgun Classes: Most people will double plug in rifle classes. Short barreled AR Pistols or registered SBRs in 223/5.56 are extremely loud. Many students often come to class with muzzle brakes. Earmuffs can also interfere with your cheek weld so if you are double plugging and your ear muffs shift, you won't be completely without protection.
Gel Cups: Higher end earmuffs such as the 3M Peltor and MSA Sordin have options to come with factory gel cups. These provide a better seal around glasses and the contours of your face. A better seal equals more noise reduction. The company Noise Fighters has an upgrade kit that works for most brands including the popular Howard Leight Impact Sports.
Passive Hearing Protection Examples:
- Howard Leight Passive Earmuffs and Passive Earplugs: There are lots of color and size options. Similar options are offered by many companies under many brands.
- Surefire Earplugs: Reusable earplugs. The Sonic Defender series have an extra piece which helps keep the earplug in your ear.
- Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
Active Hearing Protection Examples:
- Howard Leight Impact Sport: Cheapest, loudest internal speaker, works great with double plugs. Goes through batteries quickly.
- 3M Peltor Active Earmuffs and Earplugs: Multiple different lines of hearing protection varying in price. The Tactical Sport series being the most cost effective. Decent battery life.
- MSA Sordin: More expensive high quality hearing protection. Extremely long battery life.
- OPS Core AMP Headset: The most expensive option. Has proprietary earplugs that work in conjunction with the headset to pipe the sound into your ears while doubling up on hearing protection.
Note: "Noise Cancelling" headphones DO NOT offer hearing protection.
While we see a lot of different guns in our classes, guns similar to the Glock 19, "The Honda Civic of Firearms" according to Belle McCormack, do the best in most classes. Most full sized pistols are suitable as long as they fit your hand size. Most compact pistols in the Glock 48 or Sig Sauer P365 size are suitable for people with smaller hands or as smaller summer time carry guns. Small mico-compact pistols and revolvers are acceptable as well but tend to be more difficult to shoot in higher round count classes. Please no single action cowboy revolvers.
380 Auto guns tend to not run as well. The Glock 42 is one of the more reliable options in this caliber, but it's also small and tough for most people to run through an entire class. If this is your carry gun, we would recommend re-taking a class with it and going through it the first time with a larger G19 or G48 as it will be a lot easier. All of the skills you learn with a larger gun transfer well to the smaller guns.
More powerful cartridges can take a toll over a long 2-day class. We mostly see firearms in 9mm but .40, .45, and 10mm are also popular.
There are a lot of quality holsters being made right now. We get a lot of questions about what the best holsters are and it varies greatly between different applications and from person to person. Some companies making quality holsters are Allegiant Holsters, Tenicor, Red Hill Tactical, Blade-Tech, Comp-Tac, Safariland, Galco Gunleather, JM Custom Kydex, G-Code, QVO Tactical, and Phlster.
Belle has her own discount code for Allegiant Holsters: MACK10 will save you 10%. Tell them Belle from FAS sent you if asked at checkout.
Our friends at Tenicor have also given us the code FAS10 for 10% off of their holsters.
We do not allow Appendix Carry (AIWB), small of the back, cross draw, shoulder, off body carry (fanny packs or bags), or SERPA style holsters which use the trigger finger to unlock the holster. Many of us do carry AIWB when we are not teaching or competing, but this carry method is not as conducive to range training. Guest instructors who have their own insurance may allow these holsters. Please contact us if you have any questions about if your holster is acceptable for class.
Holsters must have a few critical features:
- Attached securely to the belt
- Cover the trigger guard
- Hard sided and non-collapsible capable of one handed reholstering
Holsters generally fall into a few categories:
- Concealed carry - both Inside the Waistband (IWB) and Outside the Waistband (OWB)
- Competition - usually OWB, competition holsters designed for IDPA are usually great for training
For training, most people find Outside the Waistband or Competition style holsters easier to work with. You are welcome to train in your carry gear as long as it meets our holster requirements.
Your self defense ammo should be quality factory made jacketed hollow points. These are usually much more expensive than regular Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) practice ammo. There is a lot of debate over what is the best, but sticking with major manufactures is usually safe. Do your own research before purchasing. Some examples used by law enforcement are Speer Gold Dot, Federal HST, Winchester Ranger T, and Hornady Critical Duty.
Pre-load all of your magazines except one. It's always good to have extra magazines. If you are bringing a lower capacity, single stack, semi-auto handgun or a revolver, you will want to have roughly double the required amount of magazines or speed loaders to be able to come to the line with at least 45 rounds.
A mag pouch for at least one mag is helpful but you can also run out of your pockets.
There are no issues with storing your magazines loaded. This will not damage the springs.
Loaders such as the Maglula UpLULA work for most handguns. This tool is great for magazines that are hard to load the last couple of rounds as well.
Lots of speed loaders, pouches for at least 2 of them, and different loading options will help you keep up with a regular class.
A good quality handheld flashlight is required for a few classes. Even if you have a weapon light, a handheld light is still needed for the search techniques in those classes.
A tactical light should have at least 500 lumens. A task light would have much lower lumen output.
Flashlights with a simple push button tail cap that either turns the light on or off is preferred. If you normally carry a multi function light that can double as a task light or strobe, we recommend you use your normal every day carry light to practice with it. Don't be married to your gear. After training with it, you may want to make some changes.
Lights which take AAA or AA batteries tend to be lower output but can be more compact. Lights which take CR123 or rechargeable 18350 or 18650 batteries are much more powerful. Having extra batteries is always a good thing for both your lights and hearing protection.
The Thyrm Switchback or Raven Concealment Pocket Clip and similar pockets are helpful additions to handheld lights if they do not come with a pocket clip. They also give you a ring to put a finger through to help hold onto the light when doing manipulations to you gun.
Streamlight has very good, budget friendly, options with decent output such as the ProTac 2L-X (500 Lumen) or ProTac HL-X (1k Lumen) which both take either 1 rechargeable 18650 or two CR123 batteries. A smaller, every day light is the ProTac 1L-1AA which takes either 1 AA or 1 CR123 battery.
Surefire has some great extremely high quality handheld lights. The Stiletto (650 lumen) and Stiletto Pro (1k lumen) are flat lights with a USB rechargeable internal batter. Their other handheld lights are the EDCL1 (500 lumen), EDCL2 (1200 lumen), E2D Defender (1000 lumen), Tactician (800 lumen) and Fury-DFT (Duel fuel, 1100 lumen with CR123 or 1500 lumen with an 18650 battery).
Modlite PHLV2 or OKW and the Cloud Defensive OWL and REIN are newer lights on the market that use rechargeable 18650 or 18630 batteries. They are extremely high output and the heads can be put on handheld bodies or mounted to a long gun. Modlite heads can be used on rifle mounts, as a handheld, or on their PL350 weapon light body. So far, Cloud Defensive has only released rifle versions of their lights out at the time of writing this.
Check with your manufacturer for their battery recommendations. Avoid Amazon, Costco, and other generic branded batteries which may void the warranty of your flashlight if the batteries were to fail. Surefire CR123A or quality name brand Lithium AA or AAA batteries are highly recommended for your quality gear.
Pre-load all of your magazines except one. It's always good to have extra magazines. At a minimum you should be able to have 120 rounds loaded in mags on your body for Tac Rifle and Close Quarters Carbine. There is no difference in reliability between metal or plastic magazines.
If you have enough mags to hold at least half of the round count for the class, you can generally load your mags before and after class instead of trying to keep up re-filling mags during class.
Have good quality magazines that you know function well in your gun. If you have a brand new gun, Gen 3 Magpul PMAGs are always a safe bet for AR15 rifles.
There are no issues with storing your magazines loaded. This will not damage the springs.
Loaders such as the Maglula AR-15 LULA work great for AR-15 style magazines.
A 50 yard or 100 yard zero is acceptable for all of our rifle classes except Precision Rifle which we recommend a 100 yard zero. If you have another preferred zero, that's fine but we will only have opportunities to confirm zero at 50 and 100 yards. If your optic has a BDC or Bullet Drop Compensated reticle, bring or take a picture of your optics manual so you know the adjustments and what distance it is meant to zero at so we can help you in class. We have little to no cell reception at the range.
If you have backup iron sights, zero them separately from your optic. The dot from your optic may not line up perfectly with your irons.
You do not need to zero your rifle before coming to class. That is the first thing we do in each of our rifle classes.
Point of Aim is where your sights are mechanically lined up with the target. Point of Impact is where your bullet is actually impacting the target. When we are zeroing, we're adjusting our point of impact to match our point of aim.
Adjustments are made in either MOA (1 Minute of Angle is approximately 1 inch at 100 yards) or MRAD/MIL (1 Milliradian is 10cm at 100 meters). Each click of the adjustment screw commonly is 1/2 MOA, .1 or .2 MIL. Pistol red dot sights tend to be 1MOA per click. Iron sight adjustments are much more coarse and can be 1.5-2 MOA per click. At 50 yards/meters, each click moves half of the adjustment at 100 yards/meters.
If you do not know what size adjustments your optic uses assume it is 1/2 MOA. Iron sights estimate 1MOA. In general, you will either move half of what you expected, the correct amount, or twice as far.
If your optic has 1/2 MOA adjustments and you are off by 4 inches at 100 yards, you would need 8 clicks. If you are off by the same 4 inches at 50 yards, each adjustment would move your point of impact 1/4 of an inch requiring 16 clicks.
The adjustment on the top of your optic adjusts the elevation vertically up and down. The adjustment on the side of your optic adjusts the windage horizontally side to side. The adjustments marked on your scope are in the direction to adjust the point of impact. If you want the impact of the bullet to go up 2 inches, you move the dial in the up direction the correct number of clicks.
Optics will either have a reticle or a dot. Reticles may have no hash marks, a circle, lines, a BDC (Bullet Drop Compensator), or other features.. A BDC has hash mark for different distances for hold overs and are designed for a specific caliber and bullet weight. Follow the manufacture's instructions for zeroing your optic.
Turrets or adjustment screws on an optic change the elevation or windage and will be in either MOA or MRAD adjustments. Since we don't use the metric system , most people choose an optic that uses MOA/Minutes of Angle for adjustments.
Fixed and variable power optics can also have illuminated and non illuminated reticles . Some are daylight bright and can act similar to a red dot.
Iron Sights: These can be fixed or flip up. Many AR's come with a fixed M4 or A2 front sight which is built into the gas block and require a rear sight.
Backup Iron Sights: These are generally flip up sights that are stored down to not interfere with the view through your optic. They may also be offset 45 degrees.
Co-Witness: To co-witness your sights is to use both irons and a non-magnified optic at the same time. Absolute co-witness means your iron sights are in the middle of the field of view of your optic. Lower 1/3rd means your iron sights are visible in the bottom portion of your window. You need to zero your irons and optic separately. The dot from your optic may not line up perfectly with your irons.
Non-Magnified Optics: These are commonly called Red Dot Sights (RDS) or holographic sights. These include red dot or Eotech type of sight. These can be open emitter (one piece of glass), or closed emitter (enclosed in a tube or box with multiple pieces of glass). Some companies offer flip up magnifiers that work in conjunction with these optics.
Fixed Power Magnified Optics: These have a fixed power. They come in a wide range of magnifications and types. Examples of this would be the Trijicon ACOG or a hunting scope.
Variable Power Magnified: Hunting or tactical style scopes witch an adjustment ring or lever to adjust the magnification. Popular magnification options are 1-4/6/8/10, 3-9, 3-15, etc)
For variable power you have first focal plane and second focal plane. Second focal plane is standard if it's not mentioned in the description.
- First Focal Plane: The lines or hash marks on the reticle scale as the scope is zoomed so they are always proportionately the same to what you can see.
- Second Focal Plane: The hash marks of the reticle are only "accurate" at the highest power on the scope.
Rifle Marksmanship Fundamentals: This class is open to all rifles with any kind of sighting system. Iron sights, Red Dots, Variable or Fixed power optics are equal in this course. There is no problem taking this class with a 22LR, a pistol caliber carbine (PCC), or a large caliber bolt action hunting rifle.
Carbine Fundamentals, 2-Day Carbine and Pistol/Carbine: These classes are designed for semi-auto rifles in the AR/AK variety in the 223/300BLK/7.62x39 calibers. Other semi auto rifles such as the IWI X95 Tavor and other are fine but the majority of the class will be on the AR platform. Iron sights, red dots, low powered variable or fixed power optics are all acceptable for these courses. A minimum magnification greater than 2-3 power will be difficult for portions of Tactical rifle and most of Close Quarters Carbine.
Intermediate Scoped Rifle: A center-fire bolt action or semi-auto rifle with a magnified optic. The optic should have either MOA/MIL hash marks or a BDC style reticle as we will be using the hold over method instead of dialing our turrets for the long distance portion of this class.
Precision Rifle: Larger caliber bolt or semi-auto rifles. Higher magnification, a fixed 10 power would be fine for this class, or any of the variable power magnified scopes that go up to higher powers.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Many students repeat these courses with different rifles.
Bipods can be useful in some of of rifle classes while a tripod would only be applicable to Precision Rifle or Intermediate Scoped Rifle. We have 50 cal ammo cans with bags for prone shooting but bipods are allowed on the Rifle Master Test for the marksmanship portion.
Bipods: Bipods come in a few different form factors. Primary features to look at are minimum and maximum height, feet options, pan/tilt capabilities, mounting interface, weight, and accessories.
Harris Bipods are often copied but are very good. They lock in a single position but are spring loaded for easy deployment.
The B&T Industries Atlas Bipod is a robust option with many features. The pan/tilt and ability to lock the legs forward, back or at both 45 degrees adds a lot of extra options for working in other positions.
The Magpul Bipod is another option and the lightest out of the popular bipods.
Tripods: These are great for both spotting scopes and rifles. Camera tripods are generally only design to be run with the legs in the vertical orientation. Shooting tripods can run the legs out to the side so you can spot or shoot from the prone position. The Arca-Swiss mount is becoming a lot more popular for rifles and shooting accessories in addition to a saddle mount that clamps onto the rifle stock. Primary features to look at are minimum and maximum height, mounting options, build quality, weight capacity, and the weight of the tripod.
Really Right Stuff makes extremely robust tripods. Leupold and Vortex also have similar options. Note these are top of the line options, there is always something cheaper but make sure it hits the critical criteria you're looking for.
Most AR platform rifles have MLOK rails (Magpul's attachment method). Previously, KeyMod and quad picatinny rails were extremely popular. When buying accessories, make sure they are compatible with your rail's mounting system and/or a mount is available to attach it to your weapon.
A rifle mounted flashlight is a good addition to a home defense or patrol rifle and is very helpful for the low light portions of 2-Day Carbine and Pistol/Carbine classes. We do go over handheld lighting techniques with the rifle, but a weapon light will be easier. Don't feel the need to buy a weapon light for the class if you do not have one already. You'll see a lot of good options in class that will help you with your decision making process. There is a lot of information out there but it really comes down to personal preference.
When picking a light for a rifle, keep in mind how far you may want to engage with your rifle. You should be looking for a light the performs well at 50 yards or farther. Any of these lights will also perform great indoors. Don't believe the myth that too much light will blind you on a white wall, it's simply not true.
The Modlite OKW currently has the most throw. The new Modlite PHLV2 and the Cloud Defensive OWL or REIN both have extremely good throw as well. The Modlite PHL5K and Surefire M600DF Scout lights both have decent throw and plenty of lumens to light up a room but may struggle at longer distances. A cheaper option is the Steamlight HL-X. Both the M600DF and the HL-X have roughly half of the Candela of the Modlite and Cloud Defensive lights.
Modlite, Surefire, and Streamlight rifle slights all share the same mounting pattern and the Surefire and Modlite heads share the same threads and are interchangeable on the weapon light and Modlite handheld flashlight bodies. Companies like Arisaka also make mounts compatible with the Modlite and Surefire heads. It is common to see a mix of Modlite and Surefire products to get the configuration setup you're looking for. Unity Tactical also makes accessories for these lights.
A handgun light mounted at 12 o'clock on your rifle can be used ambidextrously but can also be mounted at 3 or 6 o'clock. Make sure it's rated for rifle use otherwise it may be damaged under recoil. Many people will also mount a handheld light in rings on their rifle.
**Must have a stock to be fired from the shoulder.
If you have a pistol grip only shotgun, we may have time for you to try it in class, but please do not bring it as your primary shotgun for the class.
Any shotguns are acceptable for Intro to Shotgun including single shot, double barrel, over under, pump, or semi-auto. The most popular calibers being 12, 20, and .410 gauge.
For Defensive Shotgun, Adv. Defensive Shotgun, or Close Quarters Shotgun, a quality pump or semi-auto shotgun in 12 or 20 gauge is recommended.
Shotguns come with a variety of different sights. All types of sights are acceptable for our shotgun classes.
Lead birdshot, non-magnum buckshot, and slugs only. No steel shot, prairie storm, heavy shot, or magnum buckshot.
We shoot lead birdshot on steel targets for the majority of our shotgun classes. In Defensive Shotgun, the buckshot is used for patterning. In Advanced Defensive Shotgun and during the Shotgun Master Test, buckshot is also used on steel targets so it MUST be non magnum lead buckshot. Slugs are only shot on paper.
We highly recommend reduced recoil slugs and buckshot if they will cycle your gun.
For pump shotguns, any cheap #7-1/2 to #9 target birdshot will work. It is lower power resulting in less recoil. Walmart usually has bulk packs of 100 lead birdshot for around 40 dollars and lately we have been able to find boxes of 25 birdshot for 8-10 dollars in a variety of loadings.
Some semi-auto shotguns can be picky about their birdshot. Some can fire light #7-1/2 to #9 target loads but most need heavier #4-6 birdshot usually called "high brass" or "field loads". This can also be 1-1/8oz to 1-1/4oz loads instead of lighter 7/8-1oz loads.
Test fire your ammo in your shotgun if you have a safe range to do so. During firing, the brass at the base of the case expands slightly. Some brands do not like certain shotguns and will either jam up or fail to eject. A wood dowel or a cleaning rod is helpful to have for clearing stuck cases.
Most students load out of their pockets. There are some drills where bringing at least a box of shells (25) or more up to the line is necessary. There are dedicated shotgun shell pouches or vests made for clay shooting but using the pockets in a jacket is also fine. In colder months, a sweatshirt with a kangaroo pouch works great. We will try different methods for loading the shotgun with both hands, so something that is moveable is nice to be able to try out the different loading methods.
Shell carriers come in many shapes and sizes. The most common belt carriers have shells stacked in either 1 or two columns and are usually worn forward of the hip. Competition double or quad load setups are acceptable for class but are not allowed for the Shotgun Master's Test.
Side Saddles are extremely useful and hold extra shells on the side of the gun. We will shoot right and left handed so if you have a side saddle on the stock of your shotgun, it may interfere when shooting from the opposite shoulder. In a home defense situation, you are usually limited to the ammo you have in or on your shotgun, so a sidle saddle can usually just about double the capacity of ammo carried with your gun. Some good metal options are from Aridus Industries and elastic/velcro from Vang Comp, Esstac, or Wilderness Tactical.
A Match Saver is usually mounted just forward of the ejection/loading port and holds an extra shell. This is something that came from competition shooting but we find extremely handy if you have a place to mount it.
Bandoleers that go over the shoulder or around the waist can also be helpful if you choose to go that route.
Slings are not necessary for shotgun classes at FAS. If your shotgun has good attachment points to run a tactical style sling, then it may be handy to have for administrative purposes. We recommend you run your shotgun how you would normally have it setup for home defense. If you don't know, bring a sling and try it out in class.
Erik L. Knise
FAS Instructor - Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun