This is a very common question. The process in Texas is not difficult, but it is a little confusing, without a roadmap, so here goes. These steps need not be done in this order, but you will save some time if you do.
- First, understand that you have to already know how to safely handle, load, and shoot a pistol, at least to a minimum level. The standard is not high, but you can’t know nothing. You will not learn anything about shooting in this process; you will just demonstrate what you do know.
- If you don’t know how to shoot, or don’t feel confidant, take some instruction first. It doesn’t require a lot. I often take someone from beginner to CHL-level in one session.
- Determine your eligibility. Here is a reasonably detailed summary of the requirements. Most people will be able to tell from this if they meet the standard; if you are unclear, contact the DPS for clarification. Check here for other information.
- Start your application at the DPS website. It may be counter-intuitive to do the application before you have all the requirements, but that’s how it works. Do this on a computer with a printer attached. You will need to print out a checklist and a bar code. You will pay your state fees at this time, and set an appointment for fingerprinting. Don’t stop before doing all these things.
- Do the fingerprinting as above. There are a number of places to do that, and it’s quick and easy. The important point is that this needs to be tied to your application, so they need to be part of the same process, and in that order.
- Sign up for and attend a CHL class. These are sometimes held at gun ranges, but also at office suites or meeting rooms. They are always taught by DPS-Certified CHL Instructors, who are also Firearms Instructors. Every part of that class (curriculum, written test, shooting test) is mandated by the state of Texas, so the only difference between different classes is the style of presentation and experience of the instructor. The classes are about 4 hours long, plus the shooting part. That is often done the same day, unless the class is at a commercial gun range. For logistical reasons, they usually have to schedule the shooting on another day.
- Upon successful completion of the class, and passing both the written and shooting proficiency tests, you will be given a form (CHL-100). Put that form, your printed bar code from step 4, and any other documents listed on your checklist into an envelope and mail them to Austin (keep copies of everything). Items you might have to send could include a copy of your DD-214 (if claiming veteran status), or proof of legal residency.
- Wait. The typical time is 3-6 weeks, but I have seen it be as little as 12 business days.