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What is the best handgun to bring to class or for self-defense?
We've seen 'em all! Big handguns, little ones, cheap ones and expensive handguns. The bottom line is to purchase the absolute best defensive handgun you can afford. Remember only your life depends on what you choose and use. Don't listen to marketing hype. Go to a reputable gun shop who specializes in defensive firearms. Ask for clerks who have personally attended advanced defensive training themselves, and ask them about your choices (unfortunately you won't find many gun store clerks who attend professional defensive firearms training!). We suggest you consider three criteria when you select a self-defensive handgun: criteria #1 "reliability," criteria #2 "reliability," and criteria #3 "reliability!" It is extremely important your defensive handgun work each, and every, time you pull the trigger and will work in any kind of weather under stressful conditions! Also, be sure the gun you choose fit your hands.

Ladies: Don't let some well intended husband, boyfriend, father, or male friend pick out your defensive handgun for you. Choose one for yourself! Your selection of a defensive handgun is personal and you need to make 100% certain it fits you and you can trust your life with it! Also don't let someone convince you that you need or can only handle a "wimpy," "cute," little handgun. We've seen small "dainty" petite women using their .357 Magnum and .45s shooting circles around many of the guys. We work with many petite women law enforcement and corrections officers who are able to qualify at their agency with full size Glock 19s and 22s. Handguns, chambered in a standard defensive caliber, are "equal opportunity" tools and you can shoot, manipulate, and handle anything a guy can and usually better. . . . much to a male's chagrin!!

Finally the handgun you choose must be safe and easy to operate at your skill level. There are many good models on the market today to choose from and we do not endorse or recommend any particular handgun/firearm. However, the ones we see a lot at our school and have a decent track record (remember these tools are man made and can fail!) are:

  • Sig Sauer
  • Les Baer
  • Springfield
  • Kimber
  • Kahr
  • H&K
  • Smith & Wesson

This is only a list of the most popular handguns that seem to be relatively trouble free and frequent our school. This doesn't mean you shouldn't bring your handgun if it isn't on this list. Bring to class what you use for your self-defense handgun. As John Farnam says; "you bought it . . . you brought it. . . now you've got to make it work for you!"

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What handgun caliber is best for self defense?
Is the .45 more powerful and a better stopper than the .40? Isn't a .40 better than a 9mm? Okay, lets get one thing straight . . . no handgun caliber is best for self defense. Lets face it . . . handguns do not possess enough power to stop a threat like we see portrayed on television. If you want stopping power then get a shotgun or rifle. However, you cannot pack a rifle or a shotgun to Nordstrom's without drawing unwelcome attention to yourself and your family. So, people choose to carry handguns, not because of their power, but because we can legally and easily conceal them without negative social implications. People choose handguns because we are more apt to conceal them on our person or in our vehicles and they can be legally taken into most social settings without drawing unwelcome attention to ourselves. Handguns are not our prefered choice but sometimes are our only feasible choice. So, which caliber should I choose? Pick the biggest caliber you can accurately, safety, and proficiently put consistant hits onto the target. For some that may only be a .380 or 9mm, while for others that may be a .357 SIG or .45 ACP. At a minimum we suggest 9mm in a full size or compact handgun and a .380 in the subcompact or pocket handgun. The best defensive handguns on the market today are chambered in the most popular defensive caliber's of 9mm, 357 SIG, 38/357 Mag, 40 S&W, & .45 ACP.

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What ammo should I bring and how much is enough?
We strongly recommend you purchase new factory ammo for your class. You've made a big investment in your handgun, carry gear, and now you're investing a day of your time plus tuition to attend a class. Why shortchange yourself with cheap ammo or unreliable reloads. We've seen way too many students ruin a day of training for themselves because they wanted to save $10-$30 on a case of low quality ammo or home made reloads and the ammo won't run in their gun. The frustrated student will end up "borrowing or buying" ammo from other students or "borrowing" another student's gun to finish the class because their gun is out of commission due to the ammo. It's ugly! And it affects everyone at the class. Besides reloads can and do ruin guns and can injury other students and/or our staff. Please read these actual "reloaded ammo" examples from some of John Farnam's courses. If you want to use reloads in your own training and practice sessions that is your prerogative . . . when you're at our school surrounded by other students and our staff we want you using factory new ammo to minimize problems and reduce hazards to others and yourself. When our staff attends firearms training, which we do often, we use factory new ammo and always bring more than the minimum outlined on the class syllabus. And yes, we realize "factory new" ammo is expensive because we pay for the ammo out of our own pocket just like you!

What about Wolf or other steel cased ammo? Stay away from it in NATO spec firearms! The steel cases are known to destroy extractors and the lacquer coating can melt off and gum up your internal parts. This ammo is fine for a SKS or AK but not for an AR.

If you're using a GLOCK please bring jacketed ammo only (NO lead bullets!) With the exception of BASIC HANDGUN SAFETY, which is ONLY 50 rounds, when we post the number of rounds on the course description we are only posting the minimum. Bring what you want to shoot. If you don't shoot it you can take it with you and use it on another day of practice or training . . . it won't go to waste!


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Why do I need one of your courses when I already know how to shoot?
We hear this question a lot. If you already "know" how to shoot then ponder this . . . shooting a firearm on a peaceful Saturday afternoon under no stress at an inanimate non-threatening paper target, within a known distance, in broad daylight is one thing. Being rudely and suddenly awakened, at 2:37 AM, from the sound of broken glass by a swift moving drug induced intruder armed with a shotgun who is threatening you and your family is quite another! When you're suddenly confronted with vicious and violent behavior and you're defending your life it is not like shooting tin cans with friends at a rock pit or paper targets at your local range.

If you are ever attacked you will rise to the level of training you've undergone. If you are not properly prepared for this kind of sudden encounter then the absence of training and muscle memory results in panic and confusion. This phenomena is called the "flight, fright, or fight mode" When in this mode our brain chemistry is altered. The part of the brain which controls our rational thoughts is bypassed and during an attack the mind and the body relies on "scripted" responses that are programmed during training and practice. If you don't have a "script" to follow then you are trying to withdraw emergency skills from an empty self-defense account! In her book entitled Surviving Deadly Force Encounters, Dr. Alexis Artwohl found that 74% of the police officers she interviewed who had survived a lethal encounter ran on "automatic pilot." These officers survived because of their training. They had practiced the correct steps over and over until these steps and tactics were programmed into muscle memory. Once programmed, and practiced ritualistically, the mind and the body will be able to successfully fight, on "automatic pilot", even when the rational part of the brain is out of gear.

So you see, our classes are not just about teaching people how to "shoot." Our classes are about "life" . . . the continuation of life for you, your family, friends and the general public. If you already "know" how to shoot, then you are at a good place to start. But it is only a "start!" You still have much to learn in order to defend you and your love ones from predatory violent behavior. It is our intention to build upon your previously acquired "shooting" skills/experiences and help you further develop the five essential competencies necessary in self-defense situations including:

  • A self-defense mindset
  • Self-defense tactics
  • Safe & effective gun handling skills when under stress/pressure
  • Self-defense marksmanship
  • Tactical safety

"Arrogance has no honor here . . . only competence & confidence"

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What accessories should I put on my defensive handgun?
Clint Smith from Thunder Ranch says it best . . ."the less you do to your gun, the happier you'll be . . ." Most high quality defensive handguns are just fine out of the box. Other than adding a set of night sights and dehorning or tactically "rounding" your stock handgun should be more than adequate. GLOCK's are great right out of the box. Typically all you need to do to a GLOCK is replace the plastic sights with metal night sights and you're set to go! Ignore marketing hype from some aftermarket parts companies! All they want is your money as their parts are not going to significantly increase any defensive value to your gun.

Remember it's software (training, practice, mental & physical conditioning)
not hardware (your gun & accessories) that win fights!

You may "WANT" these accessories but you don't "NEED" them. You don't "NEED" extended parts (we will show the correct way to drop the magazine or release the slide even if you cannot reach the magazine catch or slide stop lever). You also don't "NEED" the "plug" for the hole in your GLOCK as the open hole next the magazine well, in the receiver of a GLOCK, is placed there for a good tactical REASON! You don't "NEED" a rubber buffer in your 1911. You also don't need any of the other aftermarket nonsense being hyped at your local range or club by "experts" who read and believe everything being promoted in gun magazines. Some accessories are needed and make sound logical sense. Most only cause you problems and will only makes things worse. Instead, save your money and get professional training in order learn how to safely and correctly operate your firearm in defensive situations.

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What holster should I bring, buy, or use for self-defense?
Holsters and the selection of a holster is an important decision for people serious about self defense. A good "defensive" type holster is as important as a good "defensive" handgun. You've invested a lot of money in your handgun, now it's time to invest wisely in a good holster. Unfortunately many people buy a $500-$800 high quality defensive handgun and then carry it in a $39 "one size fits all" holster. Invest some time and money in procuring a good holster for your defensive handgun!

There are many good holster manufacturers on the market today (see suggested list of business's below). Regardless of who you buy from; here is what we recommend you look for . . . first, purchase a high quality holster (your going to invest at least $60 or more) that is made out of cowhide, horsehide, or sharkskin. All three leathers are a good media for holster manufacturing. Horsehide and sharkskin will last you longer and have other desirable attributes but you'll pay more for them. Cowhide is the most abundant, least expensive and easiest for manufacturers to work with and therefore will be the most prolific on the market. For most of us cowhide is a good choice. You can also purchase a holster made out of synthetics such as Kydex.

Holster Selection Criteria:
  • Make sure the holster completely covers the trigger and trigger guard when the gun is holstered.

  • Make sure the mouth of the holster remains open when the handgun is removed and will not collapse. This is especially important for IWB holsters.
    You need to be able to reholster using one hand! You shouldn't be using one hand to force the mouth open.

  • Make sure the holster belt loops match the size of the width of your belt. In other words, if your belt is 1.5" then your holster loops should be 1.5".
    If the holster only has one clip for attachement then get rid of it!

  • Make sure you purchase a good sturdy double thickness belt. The belt is as important as the holster and should be considered an essential part of the "conceal carry system." Typically a retail store type belt like those from JC Penny's or Wal Mart is not going to work. They are too flimsy and frail causing the holster to move around too much. We've seen them actually break during our courses!

    For private citizens a double thick belt of 1.25" is sufficient (it doesn't scream "cop" or "gun" belt) while police officers usually prefer a 1.5" or 1.75" belt for duty/off duty. You'll need one in black and one in brown to coordinate with your daily wardrobe! Please visit our Alumni Pro Shop at OFA to look at our holsters and belt selection or better yet contact the experts at Lightening Arms Sports who are stocking dealers for Milt Sparks, Alessi, and Galco - see more about them at the end of this FAQ.

  • Make sure the holster is properly fitted/molded to your exact gun so the holster will retain your handgun without straps in any position/orientation (It should retain the gun in the holster even if you are upside down, laying on the ground, rolling on the ground, running . . .)

  • Finally PLEASE stay away from "one size fits all holsters" that requires a thumb snap and strap to secure your gun in the holster. If the holster comes in a "blister pak" or if it lists a number of handgun models it will fit then that is your first "warning" this is a holster you want to stay away from. For your handgun you will want a holster that is properly molded and is specifically fitted to the leather or kydex holster. With a fitted holsters you will not require a strap to hold the gun in place.

Typically an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster, located on the strong side of the hip, work best on tall slender body types and an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, on the strong side of the hip, works best on stocky or blocky body types. The OWB or IWB, carried on the strong side hip, is perhaps the most popular and universal system for most of us.

Cross draw holsters are popular with people who travel in a vehicle or a truck for extended hours but are not as concealable as an OWB or IWB in most situations. Cross draw holsters require additional training in order to learn the safe way to present the handgun from the holster without covering the body with the muzzle. Also for conceal carry they are a challenge to conceal and susceptable to someone "grabbing" you gun away from you. Many professional schools and local ranges will not allow them on the range for safety reasons.

Women usually require a canted or offset holster to accommodate their hips. Holsters built for men usually don't fit well on women (NOTE: 99% of the holsters on the market today are designed by men for men). Women usually prefer holsters configured like Blade Tech's Offset Holster or Kramer Leather's Women's Scabbard because they both cant away from their hips and sit slightly lower making the holster more comfortable and easier to facilitate consistent safe presentations from the holster. Usually an IWB holster digs into a woman's side causing pain and making it extremely difficult for them to present the handgun. Most OWB holsters, designed for men, will also cause the same problem for women. However, an OWB is the better of the two choices if no other option is availble. Typically women will prefer, and find it more comfortable, to wear their holsters in front of the hip, near the front pants pocket, whereas, men usually have the holster on their side, centered on the pant leg seam, or positioned somewhere over the strong side rear pocket area.

Shoulder holsters are popular because people see them on television and they look really "cool". Keep in mind most professional schools and some ranges will not let you use shoulder holsters on the range for safety reasons. There is a separate drawing technique in order to safely present a handgun from a shoulder holster so you do not sweep others with the muzzle and/or cover your bicep or forearm with the muzzle. There may be some reasons why a shoulder holster is needed but as a general rule-of-thumb, most of us are better served by a high quality OWB or IWB holster for conceal carry or off duty.

STAY AWAY from "middle-of-the-back" type holsters! Why? First never put anything up against or near your spine. We encourage our law enforcement, corrections, and private security students to move handcuffs and other similar items away from the middle of the back to avoid back injury. Think of this . . . if you ever fell, tripped, or are pushed over backwards onto the holster/gun, located in the small-of-your-back, you could seriously injury your spine. Plus if you do any sitting for any period of time the gun/holster will put pressure on the back and can provide a recognizable "clank" when you sit down in a metal chair. Once you're seated try safely presenting the handgun from this position or while lying on your back. Also, it is difficult (although not impossible), under stress, to acquire and present the handgun with your support hand (and that is an important skill in defensive shooting) from this holster system. Further it is difficult to reholster using the support hand only without pointing the muzzle at yourself.

For defensive purposes you need a holster you can obtain a good Master Grip with either hand and be able to quickly and easily present the handgun and then re-holster with either hand from any body orientation. The small-in-the-back style of holster does not permit this. Also, most professional schools and many local ranges will not let you practice with this type of holster system. Also, small-in-the-back holsters don't conceal as well as other choices. We know of several individuals who prefer these holsters (for reasons that are beyond us) and we constantly see their guns revealed throughout the day as they stoop, bend, or move around in normal daily routines. They compromise their concealment with the use of these holsters all the while living with a pseudo sense their handgun is completely concealed. The only person they are deceiving is themself! Finally it is difficult for the defender to secure and retain the handgun during scuffles with this system. Perhaps there is some legitimate application(s) for this holster and it might make a suitable carry system for some, but, most of us have other better choices to consider first.


Where can I go to get a good "defensive/conceal carry" type holster?

Our suggestion . . .
For an extensive selection of mid-to-high end defensive carry holsters, belts, mag pouches we highly recommend contacting Craig or Audrey at Lightning Arms in Beaverton, Oregon. They offer one of the best and most extensive selections of quality holsters in the U.S.A. They have Milt Sparks and Lou Alessi gear IN STOCK! They offer "WORLD-CLASS" Customer Service. You will not be dissapointed you call them! They can be reached at 503-643-8198. Please let them know you heard about them from OFA!

Check out their web page at www.lightningarms.com

All the listed manufacturers/dealers operate first-rate businesses who produce excellent products. When you call to place an order tell them Oregon Firearms Academy sent you!


Can I bring my young son/daughter/grandchild to one of your courses?
There is no cut-n-dry answer to this question but as a general rule anyone 18 or older is welcome to attend our courses without anyone accompanying them. If they are under 18 then it is a "case-by-case" basis and you should call and talk with our office. However, here are some guidelines to assist you in the timing of your decision and when is the proper time to bring your minor to an OFA course:

They are at an age where they can understand and follow your instructions

AND they will follow our instructions

AND they can understand the concept and reality of death and/or serious injuries as a result of their actions

AND they have develop the morale aptitude to determine right from wrong

AND they have the appropriate mindset and behaviors to respect and appreciate using lethal force in the defense of themselves and other love ones.


How can I tell when I need to replace my FOX OC?
Look on the bottom edge of the can and look for a series of numbers: 040910

04 = Year produced "2004"

09 = Month produced "September"

10 = Date produced

Your OC should be good for up to two years after it was produced.


How can I attend your classes if my state doesn't issue a concealed handgun license or I'm not an officer?
No problem, we've got you covered! Call our office as we have a new service that will provide you and us with the complete background check at a very affordable rate. Call the office for more info - 541-451-5532

: a background check or concealed handgun license is not required for the Basic Handgun Safety Class!



Help! I've lost or misplaced my directions to your Academy or I didn't recieve my Course Confirmation?
No problem, we've got you covered! Call our office - 541-451-5532 for the password to this file which has all the info you need for the Basic Handgun Safety Course or Defensive Handgun 1 plus directions. Please include in the email your full name and the date and name of your course. Directions Link Here!

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