BEYOND PAPER TARGETS
THESE TIPS WILL ENABLE YOU TO BUILD FLUENCY WITH YOUR FIREARM
Build fluency with your firearm and sharpen your skills with a number of critical drills.
We all want to improve our abilities with a gun, but we don’t always have a whole day—or even half a day—to dedicate to an outdoor range. So, what do you do?
Consider, instead, adding a holistic approach to your training. Expand it beyond how often you can hit a bullseye. Training ultimately translates into how fluent you are with your gun and how comfortable you are with your weapon.
Here are a few tips to help structure your training beyond just standing in front of a static paper target.
01 DEDICATE A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE TO TRAIN
Make your practice a habit, like a workout. Like your physical health, your shooting skills are perishable and need constant tending.
We all lead busy lives, so be realistic with the chunk of time set aside. Is it an hour a week? Is it 30 minutes, twice a week? On the weekends? Whatever you choose, keep it realistic, so you can sustain the habit. Nothing kills a well-intended habit like over-extending yourself.
Your firearms training can be shooting at the range, dry-firing at home, gun cleaning and maintenance, or a rotation of the above. You can even use your allotted time to look up YouTube videos or blogs on specific topics. I often used YouTube videos to keep my memory fresh on how to take apart my gun and—more importantly—put it back together after I was done cleaning it.
There is no one way to train, but the end-goal is the same: Learn as much as you can about your gun.
02 HAVE A SPECIFIC GOAL WITH YOUR TIME
Knowing your end-goal before you start makes your time spent more effective and helps you avoid just “going through the motions.”
Maybe you want to overcome your flinch. Maybe you want to practice how to reload your magazines into your guns more smoothly, or learn how to shoot multiple targets without hesitating. Decide your objective before you start, or when you set aside that time in your calendar. It’s not unlike deciding before a workout, “Today is cardio day,” or “Today is my yoga day.”
03 REVIEW WHAT YOU’VE DONE
Aside from grip and stance, it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re doing at the moment of fire, but there’s a good solution. I’ve found my phone’s video camera to be an extremely useful tool. Switch your video camera to selfie mode and find a way to prop it up to record you while you fire. If you’re with a shooting buddy, have that person record you and vice versa. You’ll be
“… YOUR SHOOTING SKILLS ARE PERISHABLE AND NEED CONSTANT TENDING …”
amazed at what the camera captures. Next, use the slow-motion feature of your camera. It slows down and exposes what you’re really doing when you press the trigger. I’ve shown this tip to a few different people, and they’re always astounded at how the camera breaks down what they are actually doing, versus what they thought they were doing.
You can also make notes for yourself on your phone or in a notebook.
Keep a short-but-sweet record of your progress. I used to take photos of my targets with a quick note on yardage, what I was practicing (for instance, one-handed shooting or accuracy), and the date. It was a great way to track what habits I overcame and my progress.
04 SUGGESTED DRILLS
The following are some sample drills to practice at an indoor range, but they can easily be adapted to an outdoor range. They do require repetition, but remember to practice with purpose, and the activity will become as second nature as brushing your teeth.
Don’t start blazing away at 20 yards out and then try to see how you did. Start with your target at close range and fire a shot or two at a time.
Load maybe three or four rounds of ammo in each of your magazines. When your emptied gun locks back, practice releasing your magazine one-handed with your firing-hand thumb, and reloading your fresh magazine with your non-firing hand.
Start slowly, and make your motions deliberate, so you can see how your hands and fingers manipulate the gun and the magazine respectively. Smoothness and speed will naturally follow.
The whole point of this exercise is to manipulate every possible feature of
your firearm in the manner for which it was designed … not to mention it’s a useful skill to learn intuitively.
If you’re practicing this at home, use dummy rounds in your magazines.
PRACTICE FRESH STARTS
When I was a little girl and subjected to endless piano recitals, I practiced walking on an imaginary stage, doing the curtsey and then sitting down to start the piece. The recital did not start with me sitting at the piano. It started with me getting into performance mode as soon as I stepped foot on that stage.
At the range, that action of drawing your weapon and getting ready to press the trigger is just as important as landing your shots on target. You want to set yourself up for consistent success.
Start with your target 5-7 yards out. Fire one shot, then bring your gun back in and take your eyes off the sights. Now, start all over. Push your gun out, attune your eyes to your sights and fire a second shot. Repeat this again, and fire two or three shots.
The point of this exercise is to condition your body to know the prime poise to shoot, so that should you ever be in an adrenaline-driven situation with your gun, your body will respond with familiarity. You can gradually move out the target if you wish, but the main point is to practice getting set up for the shot. You can take his drill one step further at home and practice picking up your firearm from a tabletop or gun safe, so you rehearse getting a good grip on the gun as you set up.
Start with the target at 5-7 yards and gradually move the target 3 yards out at a time, but fire three or four shots at a time instead of emptying your whole magazine at once. You’ll find that firing at 15 yards out is the same setup and trigger press as 5 yards close.
PRACTICE MULTIPLE TARGET SHOOTING
Put up multiple targets. You can clip one target on each clip, and you can attach four paper plates with a staple gun to a piece of cardboard. Practice moving your shots between targets, in any order you wish. Take the time to see how your shots land as you move left to right, vice versa, or up and down between targets.
Now, throw in a magazine reload or two when shooting those multiple targets. This will sharpen your skills in the following areas: getting ready from a neutral position, practicing a reload and manipulating your gun and getting ready in a fire position again. Videotape yourself. You’ll be surprised at what you find. And it will give you good fodder for what to practice next time.
You can also add holster-drawing
practice to any of these exercises, whether it’s your concealed carry holster or purse, or your outside-the-waistband holster. Check with your indoor range first before doing any holster draws.
COMFORT & FLUENCY
There is no end to the shooting drills you can find online, whether on blogs or YouTube. If they advocate somersaults and unsafe stunts, though, move on. Your training sessions, in and of themselves, should build up to be cumulative. No one can turn into John Wick (or Jane Wick) overnight.
The key is to handle your weapon on a regular and consistent schedule, which will turn your firearms training into a habit rather than a chore, and increase your comfort and fluency with your firearm. This adeptness will soon carry over and allow you to more easily learn and handle other guns with which you’re not familiar. It will also serve you well in your hour of need with your gun.
When the panic hits and your brain resorts to your last level of training, you’ll be glad for all the practice and training you did for yourself and your family. HD
“WHEN THE PANIC HITS AND YOUR
BRAIN RESORTS TO YOUR LAST LEVEL OF TRAINING, YOU’LL BE GLAD FOR
ALL THE PRACTICE
YOU DID …”
Go into each session with a plan. Knowing your end-goal before you start makes your time spent more effective, says Mia Wood.
Above: When you train, make sure you have your eye and ear protection. Plus, your training should include drawing your weapon and getting ready to pull the trigger. Including these elements sets you up for consistent success.
Below: Handle your weapon on a regular and consistent schedule. Why? This will make your firearms training a habit, says the author.
Bottom Right: The author says your training can be shooting at the range, dry firing at home, gun cleaning and maintenance, or a rotation of all of these items.