“GUNCO” Empowering through Self Defense Education

By Clint Kimberling

Photos by Letty Weeks

Andrew Welborn is the owner of GunCo, a new full service gun and sportsman’s supply store in Starkville. But GunCo is a little different than your typical outdoor supplier or gun dealer. GunCo offers a whole range of classes from basic handgun safety, to unarmed self defense and even tactical shooting training.

The idea for offering classes, Welborn says, came from what he feels is a necessity for the gun carrying community, especially in a conceal carry state like Mississippi. “We want to focus on education, training, and safety. A ton of people own guns, and even own more handguns. But most people that carry don’t train with their weapon,” he says. He sees a lot of people at the gun range who have carried for years, and fire their gun regularly, but have never practiced, for instance, a draw stroke. “And that’s how accidents happen,” he says.

The courses available at GunCo give gun owners an arena to practice hands on training with a certified instructor. The most popular course at GunCo is Mississippi Enhance Carry—a basic handgun class. A certification in this course is an endorsement that allows carry in a few more places than a basic conceal carry permit. The class itself is centered on Mississippi laws, and instructs people on what they can and can’t do with their gun as well as the basics of marksmanship. “The class is focused on basic mechanics and the purpose is to certify individuals to safely use their gun.”

The advanced classes and tactical skills training will teach draw stroke, how to fire multiple rounds on target, focusing on multiple targets, as well as moving and shooting at the same time. The goal, Welborn says, “is to move beyond the basics and to teach actual defense, mechanics, skill building, and a defensive mindset.”

GunCo also teaches unarmed self defense classes. These courses are popular for college students in the area who aren’t allowed to carry guns on campus. Welborn has been involved in martial arts for years and feels that everyone should have a basic understanding of self defense. The class teaches not just technique and body position but also mindset and awareness, steps you can take to avoid some situations altogether.

Conceal carry handguns are the most popular items at GunCo. The store sells a whole range of pistols that can be bought for as low as $200 and up to $4,000. Welborn realizes that a $4,000 gun is not for everyone, but he cautions that buying a gun is not the time to be thrifty. “Don’t buy the cheapest thing just because it’s cheap. It’s a defense tool and it needs to be thought of as such. You want to make sure it works and you’re comfortable with it.”

For someone who is buying their first gun, Andrew recommends putting your hands on as many as you can and to take a chance to it shoot if possible. To this end, GunCo employs a short-term rental program that will allow customers to shoot 5 rounds on a firearm they’re interested in purchasing.

The second thing Welborn advocates for novice and experienced gun owners alike is practice. And to practice good habits. Poor trigger discipline is something he sees all the time even from experienced gun owners. “The key principle behind trigger discipline,” Welborn explains, “is to not touch the trigger until you’re ready to fire. A lot people naturally rest finger their on trigger, even in the store. It’s just not safe.”

GunCo has an onsite vault with gun storage lockers for safely and securely store firearms. This service is used frequently by college students who aren’t allowed to have guns on campus or in their apartment complex. They also offer gunsmith services and can handle repairs, cleaning, maintenance and even customization of guns.

A range is under construction at their current location and Welborn hopes to have it open soon and is looking forward to having the range available to customers.  “We like to focus on service and the customer. I want everyone leaving the store happy,” he says.

Visit www.guncousa.com for more information on their services and classes.