Not everyone who has an interest in firearms has the funding to take a new training course every couple months. There is no substitute for professional instruction in this department, and if you’re a new shooter and are concerned that the research you’ve been doing isn’t quite cutting the mustard you’re right. Put yourself through a reputable basic course. If you’ve been through a course or two and have already seen how your marksmanship abilities apply to a dynamic situation, that indoor range probably doesn’t quite satisfy your training needs. So now what?
Shooting is a perishable skill. We all go out to shoot remembering how we were performing when we finished up our last range session, and more often than not are at least a little disappointed. It takes time to get those juices flowing again, and it seems like we blow through box after box of ammunition for a very diminutive return. Turns out, a little bit of planning goes a long way.
The first thing I did was getting away from an indoor range. Depending on your preferred type of shooting, an indoor range may suit your needs just fine. I enjoy a marksmanship-pure shoot chasing that ‘X’ ring as much as the next guy, and yard line shooting has a place in any shooter’s training regimen. However, I can start off an outdoor session from a static position too, but indoor lanes don’t give me everything I’m after. If you shoot you probably have friends who shoot, and chances are good one of them knows a guy who knows a guy who has land that he shoots on. I was fortunate enough to get over myself for long enough to meet some new people and find such a place. Now, instead of a range fee, I donate some ammo (or the wife’s delicious baked goods) for shooting time. Hunt around until you find somewhere; shooting with one or two friends to help analyze your actions as opposed to a range full of strangers is night and day.
The next rule I imposed on myself was limiting the firearms that come with me to one primary and one pistol. Instead of taking five ‘fun guns’ and trying to fit in actual work too, all I’ve got with me is my current load out to focus on. When I’m taking out new shooters or the kids I bring those fun guns to enjoy, but when it’s my training partner(s) and me it’s time for work and improvement.
The third restriction I created was to limit the rounds that come with me. This step alone caused an instant increase in training quality because it forced me to get the most out of each shot. Instead of shooting out a mag to get to a reload I shoot once or twice. This isn’t new methodology, but forcing it on yourself outside of professional training does take effort. Figure out what you do the least whether it be speed reloads, tactical reloads, malfunctions clearing, presentations, weak hand drills or transition drills, figure out a course of fire before you even pack your range bag, then pack up and go shoot your plan!
Get some stress in there!
The best way to introduce safe stress into your shooting drills is to add in multiple and alternate forms of body-shocking exercises. The best shooting schools in the world run chaos drills, stress shoots, and all manner of immediate action drills. While the bermed-up corner of a cornfield doesn’t really support drills to that extent, you can do better than just plain plinking.
(WARNING: THE EXAMPLES GIVEN BELOW NEVER SACRIFICE SAFETY FOR SPEED. FOLLOW THE WEAPONS SAFETY RULES AT ALL TIMES. HAVE A PARTNER MONITOR YOU FOR SAFETY AND TECHNIQUE AT ALL TIMES. All TARGETS MUST BE IN FRONT OF APPROPRIATE BACKSTOP.)
Want to know what it’s like to run up two flights of stairs and have to take a limited exposure shot? Set up a paper plate at 15 yards and load up seven rounds. Grab your 40-pound sandbag, do five thrusters (a squat into an overhead press), drop the bag, present to the threat and engage. Holster and repeat until you have five hits. Your partner will be monitoring your form, presentation, time, and general safety. Change over and do the same for your buddy. Compare times and make it a safe competition. Run that drill a few times and you’ll be feeling pretty good.
Want to know if your gear and carry method will work in a real emergency? Set up two plates at 15 yards, load up four mags of two. Place two cones at the 15-yard line with 25 yards dispersion. Stand at one cone facing the plates. At ‘go’, present and engage Plate 1. Holster, then turn and burn to the other cone. Face Plate 2 and engage. Conduct a reload, holster, and head back to the first cone. Repeat the drill until you are dry. You have to hit every shot for time to count.
Another good gear checker is the Burpee Blaster. Youtube ‘burpees’ if you are unfamiliar with the exercise. Set up a plate at 20 yards. With seven rounds loaded, wait for ‘go’. Once time is running perform five burpees, present, and engage. The clock stops once you score five hits.
These drills, and similar drills you come up with, will force you into a physical state close to what you may actually be in when you are called on to perform. PLAN out what you want to do well ahead of arriving at the range and saying, “Awe, lets just shoot a lot.” Once you’ve come up with a drill, double check your plan with a trusted friend for safety and relevance. Never move faster than you can accurately engage. If your partner videos your drills you’ll be able to see what you are really doing and identify areas that need work. It will probably feel weird at first, but take it seriously and it will help.
Record your progress and be honest with yourself. Hopes and dreams not stopping bad guys is why we carry in the first place. Track your progress, and never forget evil will triumph if good men do nothing. If good men do more, evil won’t stand a chance. Think about it, pray about it.