One look at Mason’s course catalogue will reveal the plethora of classes available to students.

Courses run the eclectic gamut from Ornithology to Illicit Trade, covering every discipline of study from mathematics to event planning.

Among all of the classes available, it is interesting to discover that pistol marksmanship is in fact the mot popular one-credit course offered.

An unconventional and unique class, Pistol marksmanship earns students one academic credit and is offered in both spring and fall semesters.

To say it’s a relatively new class would be an understatement—it’s brand new. Offered for the first time in Spring 2011 through the School of Education and Development, the class filled immediately.

To the chagrin of the students, it had to be cancelled due to the lack of an instructor, but this current semester it’s in session and in full swing.

Any new class at Mason has to be approved by the faculty of the school in which it is offered.

The idea for pistol marksmanship came into being about four years ago from a faculty member who has since left Mason.

However, the School of Education and Development’s faculty still expressed interest in the idea, resulting in a round table discussion to flesh out the details.

According to Dr. Dominique Banville, the Academic Program Coordinator for Health and Physical Education, several faculty members were against the idea.

There were questions concerning the message of the class, as what was being pitched in the syllabus was not a self-defense centric course but an introduction to the hobby and sport of marksmanship.

In the end, the faculty voted in favor of pistol marksmanship, began working on a syllabus, and integrated it into the course catalogue.

Before the course could officially be opened, the kinks had to be worked out.

“It was clear that we (Mason) would not provide the equipment,” stated Dr. Banville, meaning that the university would not supply the class with weaponry.

It was also necessary to find a facility willing to host a class of college students who are mainly novices when it comes to shooting.

These obstacles prevented the class from opening in Spring 2011; though it was offered—and filled up immediately—there was no instructor, and it had to be taken from the course catalog for that semester until one could be found.

Enter Benn Crandall, the instructor who saved the day. Dr. Banville by chance discovered that Crandall was qualified to teach the course—and not only was he willing, he was able to provide the equipment.

Crandall charges an equipment fee for the course and in turn provides the target pistols necessary to arm students for their exploration of, as states the syllabus, all aspects of competitive bulls-eye shooting.

The course begins with an extensive review of safety procedures—four hours, to be precise.

Required reading is comprised of documents from the National Rifle Association and the US Army Pistol marksmanship Training Guide.

“Safety is our number one concern,” said Crandall.

He makes it clear that the class sets out to instill in-depth knowledge of range protocol and safety rules before any student gets his or her hands on a target pistol.

The students use .22 caliber rimfire semi-auto target pistols.

After an introduction to all kinds of target pistols, students only interact with the .22 calibers.

There is a brief education on various barrel lengths as well as different types of actions.

These pistols are all the property of Crandall—a part of the collection he has accumulated since his days as a collegiate pistol shooter himself.

No doubt the originality and novelty of the class is what intrigues students when they scramble to sign up for it.

It’s another innovative course that Mason offers that stands out and provides an avant-garde option for a hands-on elective.

The small number of students allowed in the class contributes to an extremely engaging type of learning in which students are able to receive plenty of attention from the instructor.

When asked his opinion of why pistol marksmanship is Mason’s most popular one-credit course, Crandall responded, “I think it’s popular because it’s new—it’s different.”

Pistol marksmanship, though currently heavily male, is a sport that does not require brute strength in order for a participant to excel.

It is a sport that focuses on control and finely tuned motor skills, making it accessible to all types of people, male or female.

It’s an out of the ordinary course to add to a college transcript—and it caps at ten students.