So, you are eager to try handgun shooting. Many states allow pistol clubs or ranges to host “come and try days”.  These days allow you to have a day of basic instruction on the theory and safety of handgun shooting, as well as participate practically by having a go at fixed target shooting

Most come and try days will allow you to shoot multiple types of handguns, giving you the chance to evaluate weather this sport is for you, and provide you with an idea what type of pistol discipline you would like to start with.

The other option in some states is to be instructed 1 one 1 by a person with a current full handgun licence. This individual instruction is normally commenced by the licenced shooter filling out a form (notice of receiving instruction in Vic) saying that you have handled a handgun for the purpose of receiving instruction.

This can be a great option if you have family or friends that currently hold a full handgun licence, as it allows you to get initial 1 one 1 training with someone you’re comfortable with to help you decide if you want to take up pistol shooting.

Just be aware there are normally limits to how many times you can do this until you must make up your mind if you want to join a club and get your full handgun licence.

In a previous article, we outlined how to go about obtaining your shooters licence and how the process works for rifle, shotgun and handgun generally.

Regardless of the type of firearm you want to use, you must:

1. Have a genuine reason for doing so

2. Hold the relative Firearms Safety Certificate

3. Have safe and secure storage that complies with your state or territory legislation

4. Be either a member of an approved club, and/or have certified access to private rural land for the purpose of pest eradication.

The last point applies to rifle and shotgun licensing only. Handguns are not approved for hunting in Australia. If a club level pistol licence is what you seek, please read on. To know more about the four points above and how they apply to your home state or territory, click the links below.

Australian Capital Territory – New South Wales – Northern Territory

Queensland – South Australia – Tasmania – Victoria – Western Australia

In this article, we are going to look specifically at the steps involved in getting your club level handgun licence. Pistol shooting is a safe and immensely popular form of shooting competition worldwide. In Australia, organised competition first commenced in Tasmania in 1928 and quickly spread to the remaining states and territories.

Beretta APX chambered in 9mm. A great place to start for your first centrefire pistol.

Fast forward almost 100 years to now and Australian sport shooters enjoy competition shooting with handguns at club, state, national and international level. Aussie pistol shooters compete in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games along with their rifle and shotgun peers. We will not attempt to list all the pistol shooting disciplines in this article, but it is fair to say there is a pistol shooting discipline that suits your interest and stage of life. Pistol shooting also caters to those with disabilities and knows no gender bias.

Some, but by no means all the popular pistol shooting disciplines for Aussies are:

Action Pistol – Black Powder Pistol – IHMSA – IPSC – ISSF – Target Pistol and dozens more!

Your Club Level Pistol License  

Let’s step through the Pistol License application process for those wanting to obtain their “club level” licence. The 8 steps outlined below are all mandatory requirements for obtaining, and retaining your club level handgun licence.

Step 1 – Join a Pistol Club

So, you joined a pistol club, right? Well, I hope you either did or are about to because without being a member of an approved pistol club you will not be issued with a club level pistol licence nor will you be able to obtain the necessary permit to purchase a handgun. That is fact and no further correspondence will be entered into.

Another enormously valuable reason for joining a pistol club BEFORE you commence the licence application process is the guidance, help and support you will be provided with by your club. Two of the Australian organisations that first come to mind when looking for a pistol club come under the respective banners of “Pistol Australia” and the “Sporting Shooters Association of Australia” (SSAA).

Obtaining your club level pistol licence takes time, at least a few months, and there are specific steps involved. Miss a step and you will be creating a delay. So, make sure you work with your local club; they will keep you on the right track.

Beretta 87. Possibly the best value entry level 22LR rimfire pistol for match shooting competition.

Find a local club

Pistol Australia – SSAA State Offices

At the risk of over-emphasising this point, let me say one more time, join a pistol club first. Your club will provide all the necessary guidance and support you need to make the start of your competition pistol shooting journey as easy as possible.

Be aware of the steps to getting your licence.

The legislation is state/territory based, and the relevant links below are valid at the time of writing. TIP: You can skip these links and work directly with your club instead, it’s much easier!


If you chose to skip my tip and work through the various links, you can be forgiven for thinking the process is complicated. That is why we encourage you to join a club first and take advantage of their guidance and support. Also, consider getting involved in your club, the social interaction and camaraderie to be enjoyed as a member of a shooting club is really something!

Step 2 – Complete your Handgun Safety Certificate

In most cases, you will complete this course at your club, and it will be conducted through a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). The course can be completed in a day (usually on a weekend) and is valid for 12 months. The certificate must be current when you apply for your handgun licence (Step 4).

Step 3 – Complete your Probationary Shooting Sessions

Like most lessons in life, common sense is key and if you wish to obtain a licence to safely shoot a handgun in club competition, then after completing your Handgun Safety Certificate, you will participate in several “Probationary Shooting Sessions” at your club. These sessions are conducted under the watchful eye of experienced, volunteer members from your club.

Step 4 – Apply for Your Handgun Licence

Applications are generally made online and for most folks, this is the most straightforward way to go about it. Be certain to have all your required documents scanned and ready to upload when you are applying via the online portal for your state or territory.

Now it is a waiting game for you, and the best way to avoid any unnecessary wait is to ensure you have complied with all requirements, completed your online application correctly, and uploaded all necessary documents. While you are waiting, there is no reason why you cannot continue to participate in further probationary shoots at your club. These will not need to be recorded on your probationary shoot certificate because you completed that in Step 3. However, now is a great time to learn and practice under the watchful eye of more experienced club members.

You may not have decided which pistol discipline you want to start with so try to attend your club as often as practical and take advantage of the supervised practise and learning sessions provided by your club. Try out different club pistols that are approved for newcomers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and always practice and demonstrate your safety proficiency. Safety with firearms is paramount not just for you, but for everyone else at the range.

One of the best things you can do when deciding on your first handgun would be to try as many different ones while on your probationary licence. Most club members will be more than happy to let you try their handguns to help you decide.  The fit and feeling of the gun in your hand is just as important as specifications and features.  Some clubs also impose restrictions on what class your first gun comes from, e.g. only signing off on a rim fire pistol for your first 6 months

It’s also wise to note, that in most states and territories you have an initial limit on the amount of handguns you can by in your first 6-12 months of having your full licence.  Most of these regulations break handguns down into classes, and you can normally only own 1 or 2 total handguns during this initial period (dependant on class).

To give you a quick example of the types of handguns and classes, below is a table showing what class the corresponding Beretta handgun might belong too (state dependant)

  Class   Model   Discipline/match example
  Class 1  

Air pistol

  Benelli Kite   ISSF 10m Air
  Class 2  

Rim fire

  Beretta 87 Target, Benelli MP90   ISSF Rapid, 25M Standard, 100m
Rimfire Metallic
  Class 3  

Centrefire (.38 max)

  Beretta 92 series, M9A3, Manurhin
MR73, Uberti Cattleman, Beretta
  IPSC, Service pistol, Western Action,
WA1500, CSP, Action Match
  Class 4  

Centrefire over .38

  Beretta 96FS, Uberti 45LC
  Western action, CSP, Metallic
Silhouette, IPSC Classic
  Class 5  

Black powder

  Uberti 1860 Navy, Uberti Walker,
Uberti 1851
   Black Powder 25/50m, Western

Step 5 – Apply for Your Permit to Acquire

Once your licence is approved, you are eligible to apply for a Permit To Acquire (PTA). You will require a letter from your club secretary that states the specific handgun you wish to buy is approved by your club for use in the discipline or disciplines you wish to compete in. Again, you must scan and upload a copy of this letter along with your online PTA application.

You will also be required to nominate some details about the handgun and the specific dealer you are buying from. There is a fee for the PTA, so have a valid credit card handy.

Your first PTA generally takes longer to process, so be patient. Providing you have completed all the necessary steps, uploaded all that is required and have met the safe storage requirements, your PTA will either be emailed to your dealer or mailed to you. Once you have it, you can go and complete the transaction at your dealer.

Step 6 – Buy your Handgun

If this is your first handgun, you have every right to be happy about completing the transaction. When you bring the gun home, either lock it in the safe until you are ready to clean it or clean it now and lock it back in the safe until either your first practice or match at your club.

All new firearms generally require a field strip and clean prior to firing. Consult the manual that came with the handgun or a member of your club if you need help in learning to field strip and clean it. Proper handgun maintenance, like all firearm maintenance, is relatively straightforward and a necessary part of your shooting experience.

Step 7 – Practice and Compete

The old saying “Practice Makes Perfect” certainly applies to shooting handguns accurately. However, do not just practice without really understanding what you are doing. Draw on the experience of those club members who are champions. What they have learned over many years you can benefit from. Ask them for advice and guidance and I have no doubt they will help you. Do not try to learn it all in one day, it doesn’t happen that way. Take one thing at a time until you have a conscious competence about it. Then, over time, gradually put them all together until you can do it with subconscious competence.

When you first compete, nerves are a common acquaintance. Be yourself, be SAFE and listen to the commands of the range officer. The more you compete and practice, the more you will hone and develop your skills. Shooting in club level competition is extremely rewarding and fun. Wait until you try, and I reckon you will agree for sure.

Step 8 – Maintain Compliance and Proficiency

Just because you completed steps one through seven does not mean all is done. To own a handgun for club level competition requires an ongoing commitment combined with ongoing compliance. Your handgun license is not perpetual, it requires renewal as determined by your state or territory. You must complete a minimum number of matches and practice sessions each year for the categories of handgun you own and you must be vigilant in making sure you are a safe person to be on the range with.

Who knows, maybe one day you will be the experienced club shooter that new members look up to and seek advice from. Stay with it, it really is a rewarding pursuit.

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