I’ve been shooting for a few years. My definition of shooting was purely in the recreational context – going to the shooting range and punching holes in a paper target. No pressure. Like many, I thought my frequent trips to the range for recreational shooting was enough to keep my skills up as a concealed handgun license holder.
Recently, I ventured out to other shooting sports – namely hunting and competitive shooting. After my first IDPA match, I realized I’m actually pretty awful with a handgun under pressure. Sure, I can hit the target when I take my time. But against the clock, it’s a different story.
This realization pushed me over the edge to get additional training and that was another eye opening experience.
I took an intermediate pistol training course with Safety Measures. The class confirmed what I experienced with IDPA – I know how to present a firearm and place a shot, but I’m slow. It gave me plenty to think about in terms of evaluating my every day gear and how I spend my time at the range.
Here are a few take-a-ways:
- Take advantage of everyday routines to practice the fundamentals
- Make plan of what you will do at the range to make the most use of your time
- Practice does not make perfect – only perfect practice makes perfect
- I need/want more training (and anyone who thinks they don’t need additional training is just plain wrong)
Let’s break these down a bit.
Exploiting everyday routines
In my case as a concealed weapon practitioner, I handle a firearm everyday. I holster and unholster a weapon everyday as I put on my everyday carry gear as I start my day and take it off every night before bed.
While it may seem trivial, this is a daily opportunity to practice checking the firearm to see if it’s loaded (which we all should do instinctually every time we pick up a firearm if we are living the rules of gun safety), practice loading and making ready, and practice how to holster it. It’s only one repetition, but it happens everyday (in my case). At night, unholstering my weapon before placing it in the safe presents an opportunity practice my draw stroke and presentation to a compressed ready position. Do I need to do this daily? Probably not, but there is no harm in making it habitual to the point where it is instinctual. Frankly it could be detrimental in a situation where one is justified and forced to use deadly force and the instinct is to haphazardly grip and unholster the gun.
Making the most of your range time
Let’s face it. Operating a firearm is expensive. Range fees, gas, ammunition, and maintenance – it all adds up. So pick a goal and make a plan before you head out to the range.
The plan may be as simple as practicing fundamentals (stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, breathing, follow up). In this case, grab some ammo and head to your local range. However, one may find that the goal and the plan will dictate proper range selection, the right amount of ammunition, and perhaps some additional equipment (like a shot timer for instance or some specialized targets). For example, one may chose to practice drawing and shooting from different presentations or positions – this would dictate selecting a range that allows you to practice those things.
All I’m saying is don’t just go to the range and burn up ammo (also known as money) for the same of burning up ammo (unless that is your intention).
Perfect practice makes perfect
One of the benefits of training is having a professional observe you operating a firearm and criticizing your technique. This criticism will lead to corrective techniques that you will need to practice to improve your performance. Sometimes this means slowing down and unlearning bad habits, which is easier said than done.
Remember that dry practice is something that maybe done everyday in the convenience of one’s home with very little time and money commitments.
Everyone needs more training
I was somewhat surprised to learn that even highly skilled shooters and instructors continue to seek additional training. It provides them with an opportunity to see and evaluate other techniques that they may want to adopt or modify into their techniques. This is something we can all benefit from.
Operating a firearm is not something one does everyday. In order to become proficient, we have to make a conscious effort to train and practice. Whether it’s for defensive, competitive, or recreational purposes training provides you an opportunity to evolve your mindset, establish better tactics, and increase your skill in order to make the most out of your gear.
Do yourself a favor find a well vetted instructor and get some training. I promise you won’t regret it.