Yeoman Tell In Pursuit of the Good Life

A Journey of Firearms Training

I began my firearms training on small Pennsylvania farms.  From an early age, my brother and I practiced on a Daisy 1105 BB gun, and eventually graduated to our grandfather’s single-shot .22 rifle.  Instruction was informal (“be careful where you point it”), but effective.  We learned to respect the potential danger of firearms while enjoying the challenge and adventure of keeping groundhogs from destroying the barn’s foundation.

This led me to my first “formal” training, a Pennsylvania Hunter-Trapper Education course.  I learned the basics of firearm nomenclature, safety and marksmanship, shot my first handgun (a .22 caliber Ruger MkII) and earned my certificate.  After getting our hunting licenses, my brother and I would enjoy many hours of hunting whitetail deer, small game and doves together.

After graduating from college, I worked for Brinks, Inc. as a Driver and Messenger, which required me to carry a .38 revolver.  The Pennsylvania Lethal Weapon Training Act (“Act 235”) requires armed employees to complete a 40 hour course, which includes both classroom time and range time.  In the classroom, we learned about our legal powers and limitations.  On the range, we trained and qualified on handguns and shotguns.  During this initial certification, our range instruction was conducted by a SWAT trainer, so the instruction was both effective and current.  It’s major limitation was that it “trained to the test,” so we spent most of our time punching paper, limited time on presentation and barricades, and no time on situational awareness and tactical movement.

My wife, while never opposed to firearms, had little first-hand experience with them, so we signed up for the NRA Basic Pistol Course to establish a baseline of firearms safety and confidence.  I knew the class would be remedial for me, but I wanted us to complete it together.  She learned the basics of nomenclature, safety and marksmanship, while I offered further clarification when necessary.  It was a very positive experience, getting “on-paper” with a handgun for the first time, and challenging her to future improvement.  For my part, I discovered that I enjoy helping others learn to shoot, and chimed in a few times when the instructor was grasping for straws.

Five years after my initial Act 235 certification, I completed the 8 hour re-certification course and decided to take a part time job with INA as a Protective Force Officer.  After an initial detail securing a scientific convention in Virginia, we trained on the management of aggressive behavior (MOAB), pepper spray (OCAT) and handcuffing.  Since I was eligible for employment on military bases, I also completed the Air Force qualification course-of-fire for the M9 pistol, scoring Expert.  By the time I did another Act 235 re-cert, it was old hat, and I was able to keep up with a PA State Police veteran on the range.

Ever seeking to improve my capabilities, I researched various organizations offering firearm training, and decided to give Front Sight in Nevada a try.  My wife and I took their 2-day Defensive Handgun course together twice with some friends, once in bitter-cold winter rain, and once in clear, comfortable 80-degree weather.  Class size was a bit large at 30, but the content was excellent for beginners.  In addition to basic safety, marksmanship and problem area diagnostics, the course covered a number of topics missed by the NRA Basic Pistol course, including legal considerations, situational awareness, presentation, reloading, tactical movement and malfunction clearance.

While Front Sight is great for getting beginners started, I wanted to find some more sophisticated training for myself.  I found it in the form Direct Action Tactical.  The experience base at this school is exceptional.  Instructors have extensive military, contractor and/or LEO backgrounds.  Class sizes are small, typically around a dozen.  I chose the 2-day Defensive Carbine course to get started, and plan to take more courses in the future.  The tempo was brisk.  In two days, we covered nomenclature, safety, legal considerations, weapon and accessory selection and set-up, zeroing, ready positions, combat marksmanship, reloads, malfunction drills, multiple target engagement, tactical movement, ballistics demonstration, evaluation course-of-fire, and even a friendly competition with a reactive steel dualing post!

Most recently, my wife and I attended Appleseed with a friend.  In some respects, it was a nostalgic return to the simplicity of the .22 rifle.  In others, its focus on the sling-supported prone position and long-range marksmanship was a new challenge.  Combined with a healthy dose of American Revolutionary War anecdotal history, it was a unique experience I look forward to sharing with others.


P.S. If you get the opportunity, visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and see if you can best my score of 83% in 53 seconds on the laser-simulated M-16 range.  It’s a fun diversion that helps to support an excellent museum!


Yeoman Tell is a Christian homeschooled autodidact polymath from Pennsylvania. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science, a graduate certificate in geospatial intelligence, and is pursuing a master's degree in homeland security. He has formally studied religion, law, business, and four languages. He consults for small businesses, and is certified as an NRA Law Enforcement Patrol Rifle Instructor.