Instructors personalizing concealed-carry classes

CRYSTAL LAKE – The burly man steps out from his truck and heads toward a young woman as she withdraws money from a walk-up ATM.

It’s night, he’s wearing sunglasses, and he looks like trouble. Without breaking his stride for the woman, he points at you with one hand and pulls out a knife with the other.

“Mind your own [expletive] business,” he growls before he grabs the woman from behind and spins her around.

You have a concealed-carry permit, and you draw your handgun. The woman’s loud screams are matched by the man screaming at her to shut up. He doesn’t notice your gun or your screams to put the knife down. As he starts to cock back to stab her in the stomach, you make the choice to use deadly force.

It’s not actually nighttime, and you’re not actually standing in a bank’s parking lot. You’re in front of the new training simulator at On Target Range and Tactical Center in Crystal Lake, holding a laser-equipped mockup of a Glock 17 handgun. But when you’re done, your heart will be pounding and you’ll be sweating just the same. The company has integrated the $27,000 simulator into its course to acquire an Illinois concealed-carry permit – it is one of several trying to offer unique and tailor-made instruction.

The woman continues to scream as her would-be assailant crumples to the ground. But as you yell for her to call 911, you see movement in that truck you forgot about, where the man’s accomplice is about to try to do to you what you just did to his partner.

The large projection screen of the VirTra V100 announces the end of the simulation – one of a myriad of scenarios available – and the instructor debriefs you as to what you did right, and what you didn’t.

Pounding hearts and sweaty palms are the norm, shift manager Glen Carpenter said. And that’s precisely the point.

“This adds stress and reality. In reality, these situations are very noisy, there’s swearing, and things you’ve never been through before,” Carpenter said.

After qualifying on the paper target on the downstairs range, students get run through the simulator, Operations Manager Tom Dorsch said. It frays nerves, gets adrenaline pumping, and makes students realize that the decision to draw a weapon is not one to be made lightly.

“It’s not just about getting their accuracy – there’s a sense of when to shoot, and when not to shoot,” Dorsch said.

The simulator is being incorporated into On Target’s many other classes, and can be used by itself for a fee.

On Target is not the only local concealed carry course to add personal touches to the 16-hour course since concealed carry licenses became available in Illinois earlier this year.

For the past decade, Titus Mielke of Crystal Lake has sold LegalSheld, a prepay service for legal services. For a monthly fee, you can be covered if you need legal assistance.

In January he partnered with fellow LegalShield associate and certified concealed-carry instructor Christopher Cwiak to found Why Not Carry, a Crystal Lake company that not only offers the course, but encourages customers to have legal insurance just in case.

“It’s a perfect marriage for people wanting concealed-carry permits,” Mielke said.

Legal trouble from having lawful concealed carry can go beyond having to pull out or use a weapon, Mielke said. For example, someone on a bad day could get in trouble for what is called “printing”, meaning a bystander can see the bulge or outline of your firearm through your clothing.

The first eight-hour block of instruction for the 16-hour class is free of charge, Mielke said. That way, people can get a feel for whether they want to go forward with a license, and if they don’t, they got a free course on concealed-carry case law.

“No one can compete with that, and that’s the whole point,” Mielke said.

More than 60,500 Illinois residents have acquired licenses as of June. A December 2012 court order ended Illinois’ total ban on concealed carry, the last such ban of all 50 states.


On the Net

The hours and firearms classes offered by On Target Range and Tactical Center and Why Not Carry are available on their websites at and

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