On the Mindset of Rifle Class Students

| June 15, 2015 | 1 Comments

Last Saturday the She-Shepherd and I attended the basic rifle class from QSI Training. There was a mix of experience levels, with some students attending a fight-focused class for the second time all the way up to multiple season repeat students. Despite the range in experience, everyone was focused, willing to learn, and attempted to expand their capabilities. It was one of the best overall groups of students I’ve trained with.

There’s something different about the students who attend rifle classes. I believe this is for many reasons, but in short: rifle class students take their training more seriously.

Few First Timers

I’ve attended basic handgun classes where 2/3rd or more of the students are taking a fight-focused training class for the first time. Rifle classes also have 1st timers, but they are more rare. Out of 13 students in rifle class Saturday, only 1 was a first timer.

Students who attend rifle classes already know what to expect from a fight-focused class. This contributes to a more focused group.


Financial Investment

We see dozens of handgun models with a market price of less than $500 in basic handgun classes. I’ve trained with many first-time students that show up with a $300 handgun and a $10 Uncle Mike’s holster.

An entry-level AR15 builds run $700+, and AK47s start in the $600 range. Add optics, sling, chest rig / battle belt, mag pouches, dump pouches, etc etc and the cost goes up. There were at least two rifles in class this Saturday that were $2000 before accessories.

Ammunition for rifle-caliber weapons is also more expensive, especially if you do not purchase ammunition online. Casual / new students may be more likely to buy ammo from Wal-Mart, Gander Mountain, etc or their local gun store. None of these places are known for having inexpensive ammunition. I feel like more serious students may look online and buy in bulk. The per-round expense is less, but the upfront investment is higher. We only buy rifle ammunition in 500 or 1000 round cases. That’s not cheap.

It might cost a student $1500 to step foot in a rifle class by the time they’ve assembled all their tools and ammunition.

I know that spending money on tools does not equal more dedication or commitment, but I do believe the higher cost of rifle / carbines screens out a lot of casual students. It definitely reduces the number of “buddies” that get brought along with students, as it’s much more expensive to have a loaner rifle than a handgun.


I believe there is a perception that handguns are more for “self-defense” than rifles. This may be because of the portability of a handgun and its ease of concealment. It may be because of how rifles are portrayed in popular culture and in the media. The thinking may be: handguns are for everyday carry, rifles are for when the shit hits the fan.

I have talked to students in handgun classes who stated they would not purchase a rifle because they seemed “too aggressive.”

I think this cuts down on the number of handgun students who want to purchase and train with rifles. I also think there’s an inverse thought process among rifle students: since rifles are “serious business,” students treat them with even more respect and are more committed to training.


Rifle students have a different mindset than a handgun-only student. Rifle students have accepted that there may be a situation or environment that demands the use of more than just a compact pistol. Prolonged disruption of service, home invasion, active shooter, riots: these scenarios and more have led rifle students to buy more powerful tools capable of longer range engagements.


Basic rifle classes feel much more serious and focused than their handgun counterparts. More experienced students, a higher financial barrier to entry, the perception of rifles as a defensive tool, and the mindset of the class all add up.

Of course, there are exceptions to this idea. One repeat student attends QSI classes because he enjoys challenging himself and learning. He does not possess a CCW license and has no intent of ever getting one. He’s not in class to learn how to fight, but to challenge himself.

Sometimes I wonder if fight-focused training isn’t the best place for him. Students like him aren’t dedicated to “the fight” in the same way I think most rifle students are.  However, he has trained more than almost every gun owner I know, and that’s dedication, too.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

1 Comment on "On the Mindset of Rifle Class Students"

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  1. Kyle R. says:

    Great write up! This was my first rifle-centric class with QSI, and I learned more about how I handle my rifle than the countless times I’ve taken it to the range! All of the students did seem more dialed in, every drill was done with a sense of urgency. I felt that everyone on the class hustled. I agree with your notion that the higher “pay to play” does tend to filter out the casual gun owners. I hope to take the intensity I portrayed in the rifle class and apply it to the next defensive pistol QSI class.

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