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Firearms Instructor

Firearms Instructor

Chris Van Etten Shares His Top Caliber Expertise

By Dianna Troyer

Firearms instructor Chris Van Etten has made it his mission to share his insights from constantly staring through gun sights during his 36-year career as a security guard at the Idaho National Laboratory.

At the Department of Energy lab in eastern Idaho, Van Etten counted on countless shooting exercises to maintain his marksmanship skills with a shotgun, rifle, and handgun.

“I wore out three Glock 22 pistols,” said Van Etten, who won several national awards for his skills at Security Police Officer Training Competitions. “One had 46,000 rounds fired through it.”

His aim is still unwavering, due to his devotion to shooting at a local gun range.

“Shooting is a diminishable skill, so you need to practice to maintain accuracy,” said the 63-year-old Darlington resident who retired from the INL in May 2022.

Soft-spoken and humble, he offers shooting lessons.

“I’m glad to help anyone,” said Van Etten, who was a certified firearms instructor at the INL. “I’ve worked with people who don’t own a gun and want to learn to shoot, and those with more experience who have taken classes and want to improve their accuracy.”

He tells anyone who shoots “the most important thing is to be comfortable with your gun. Shoot as often as you can. If you want to take lessons, consider the quality of your instructor.”

Accuracy and gun safety “were driven into us at work, especially the four safety rules,” he said.

Treat every gun as if it is loaded. Your finger is never on the trigger until your sights are on the target. Never point your gun at anything unless you intend to kill and destroy it. Know your weapon’s capabilities.

“At work, every day was different and ranged from routine to intense and training for the worst scenario and everything in between,” he said.

Van Etten was regularly a member of the INL’s protective force team that competed against other teams from DOE labs nationwide. The annual competitions for security officers were designed to test marksmanship, decision-making, physical conditioning, and tactical skills.
Varied scenarios included close combat in a room or having a shooter in a house with a child as hostage.

“In some cases, we would be timed as we moved through obstacle courses while shooting targets. There might be ladders or windows to navigate.”

Competitors were permitted to walk through and become familiar with a course before being timed.

“It was fun and strenuous,” he said. “As you walk the course, you visualize where you’ll shoot and reload, so it flows. You want minimal movements.”

Van Etten was named the DOE’s Security Guard of the Year in 1997 and 2000 nationwide.

He has numerous trophies and medals from years of participating in DOE Physical Security and Protective Force Firearms Competition and Training Symposiums.

Along with teaching marksmanship and gun safety, Van Etten is equally devoted to volunteering. A member of Butte County Search and Rescue, he is also a reserve deputy with the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.

“As for lessons, I’m happy to help people with whatever they want to focus on: marksmanship for personal safety, hunting, or accuracy for law enforcement,” he said. ISI


To take lessons, Van Etten may be reached at 208.554.2509.

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