Doing more research for my Shooting Illustrated series about using CCW Qualification Courses as training structures led to exploring the California Qualification Courses. California has an unusual system in that the State mandates the requirements for the issue of a Concealed Carry License but the Licenses are issued by County Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police. The requirement for live fire is specified in California law but the actual Course of Fire is delegated to the issuing authority.

“SECTION 1. Section 26165 of the Penal Code is amended to read:

(b) A licensing authority shall establish, and make available to the public, the standards it uses when issuing licenses with regards to the required live-fire shooting exercises, including, but not limited to, a minimum number of rounds to be fired and minimum passing scores from specified firing distances.”

As a result, there is a wide variety of “live fire shooting exercises” among the issuing authorities in California. In some cases, the requirement is a relatively simple untimed Qualification Course of 10 to 18 rounds. In other locations, a long, elaborate, and difficult to administer scheme is perpetrated to make the process and qualification very difficult. A few Sheriffs require their Course to be shot twice, once for ‘practice’ and once for qualification.

Some are clearly designed to be five shot revolver friendly, others not so much. Without a shadow of a doubt, having to shoot 50 rounds through a J Frame for practice and then another 50 rounds for qualification in a three hour period is not conducive to good shooting. When the Course of Fire includes a timed requirement at 15 yards and the target is the 7 ring of a B-27, it’s even more difficult. That’s not setting applicants for success.

The most interesting thing I found related to the fact that any weapon carried has to be listed on the License and qualified with. The issuing authority determines what is an acceptable weapon. The Contra Costa County Sheriff has a long list of unacceptable weapons with some surprising inclusions.

  • Prohibited firearms include any single action only firearms. This includes any semi-automatic handgun made by any manufacturer built on the Colt 1911 configuration.
  • Firearms with attached laser sights, flashlights, red dots, and sighting systems [???] are not acceptable.
  • Firearms which have been modified, including modifications to triggers, slides, safety mechanisms, conversions, and magazine releases are not approved.
  • Any modifications to firearms after issuance of a permit may result in revocation.
  • Glow in the dark or luminescent sights are acceptable. (That’s generous).
  • Acceptable firearms include revolvers or semi-automatics with a caliber of not less than .32 or greater than .45. So you recoil sensitive folks who have a hard time shooting the qualification with a centerfire handgun are out of luck.
  • Weapons will be inspected for suitability by an Office of the Sheriff Range Master at the time of qualification.

The Course I like best is San Diego County’s. It’s clearly designed to be workable with a J Frame.

  • 3 yards: three rounds strong hand, two rounds support hand
  • 5 yards: five rounds two hands
  • 7 yards: five rounds two hands

Unfortunately, San Diego County does not comply with Penal Code § 26165, subd. (b).) and make available to the public “the minimum number of rounds to be fired and minimum passing scores from specified firing distances.” However, the structure is readily available from secondary sources. Passing is either 12 or 13 hits out of 15 shots; sources vary.

The one I find the most obnoxious is the course used by Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff, Orange County Sheriff, San Jose Police Department, and Santa Monica Police Department. Not because it’s the hardest because it’s not. Their Course is shot at 3, 5, and 7 yards like San Diego’s. It’s also untimed like San Diego’s. But the requirement is to shoot 24 rounds at each distance. What is the point of shooting 24 rounds at 3 yards? That’s only to make it fatiguing, more expensive, and annoying.

Although many thought that the Bruen decision was going to make things better in California, it’s not clear that the situation has improved. This notice appears on the Alameda County Sheriff’s CCW webpage. “NOTICE: As implemented by SB2, psychological service fee has increased to $400, effective immediately.” That’s just the cost to get a shrink to write that you’re not a wacko. All the other fees are on top of that.

I feel for our brothers and sisters in California. It used to be a pretty nice place to live but no more.

Here are my Shooting Illustrated articles.