If you’re looking to get serious in the art of shooting, then you’re going to need to practice. However, just visiting a firing range and shooting off a few rounds at a paper target might not be enough for you to improve dramatically. Sometimes, you’re going to need to get creative in order to prepare for the unexpected! For those situations, there are a variety of drills you can perform while visiting the range to get the most out of your live fire training. After all, anyone can shoot a target at 50 yards with a two-handed stance, and with plenty of time to line up a shot. However, what happens in a real-life scenario when a perpetrator is rushing at you with a knife? Being able to shoot quickly and accurately under duress can make all difference in the world in such a moment.
Regardless of your experience level, you’ll always want to sharpen your different shooting skills. Therefore, before you visit the firing range, try to have a plan established and keep in mind the following tips:
- You’ll want to choose the skill you’re practicing before heading to the range. Let’s face it, not everyone has money to burn on ammo, and by knowing what ability you want to focus on that day, you’ll save time, money, and energy.
- Read up on the different types of drills that can help you improve on said skills.
- Do a dry fire run at home to get a basic idea of how to complete the drill, and practice it as much as needed until you’re familiar with it.
- Visit your firing range and shoot a live-fire run to see how you perform.
- Repeat as necessary until your skills reach your desired level of proficiency.
Pro Tip: Bring a friend to the range with you and have him or she run a chronometer for the desired amount of time you want (say 10 rounds in 5 seconds). However, if nobody is available, there are various apps online that can do this for you.
But, let’s get to what we’re all here for the different drills you want to use.
If you’re a beginner, or even an experienced shooter looking to get back to the basics, then this drill is what you’re looking for. The United States Navy, for example, let their sailors practice about three to five rounds at a distance of 3 yards on their first set, 7 yards on their second set, and around 15 yards on their last go. This happens every time they go to the range before going on to the actual shoot.
These rounds are timed and can last anywhere from a couple of seconds to ten seconds. But, in order to make the most out of the training, they can vary the exercise by instructing the sailors to perform acts such as firing two rounds, swapping hands, and then shooting two more all within the set time. All of these are commenced from a holstered gun stance or a low ready, and the members are expected to draw, turn the safety off, and fire within the allotted time.
If you’re not in the military, you’ll want to try something similar to this by shooting at a short range with one hand, using both hands, weak hand only, strong hand only, all while trying to be as quick as possible without sacrificing accuracy. You can even incorporate some of those military drills into your routine.
These basics will help you in a variety of scenarios, but most importantly, they’ll ease you into the idea of not always having an extended period of time for lining up the best shot, but still being accurate enough to hit a target.
Marking Your Shots
So you’ve gone through the basics and hit some great shots, perhaps missed a few as well, but what do you do now? Well, experts and instructors typically bring colored markers with them to the range in order to highlight their shots. Alternatively, you can bring the tape to cover the shots from the previous round in order to get more mileage out of your target as well.
You might be asking yourself what the purpose of this is. Well, it’s rather simple. Let’s say you do one round of 10 shots, and then quickly proceed to do another burst with a different stance. How will you distinguish the good shots from the bad? How can you tell which stance was better? You can’t, and that will slow down your progress; the best results you can get require feedback and you won’t get it if all your shots are mixed in together.
Weapon Manipulation Skill Drills
Live fire drills present you with plenty of opportunities to improve your skills, but some things you mustn’t forget while practicing with live munition are practicing your ability to reload, cock, decocking, and even clearing the barrel. In the heat of the moment, you won’t have the time required to do these slowly and methodically, and learning how to do them under the pressure of the timer can help you later on.
You’ll want to know that the military actually trains their members on this by starting the exercise with an empty magazine, a slide locked to the rear, and a holstered gun or ready stance position. Once the whistle blows (signifying the beginning of the drill), the members will take their gun, drop the empty magazine (don’t ever try to catch it in midair), reload the gun, and get it back into firing position while firing a set amount of rounds.
Another fun one is firing two shots, reloading, and firing two more without more than five seconds on the clock.
Gila Hayes’ 5×5 Drill
This drill was created by Gila Hayes to practice shooting under pressure. You’ll want to draw two 5-inch circles on a target and set it at 5 yards. Using a pistol loaded with five rounds, and a timer set to five seconds, stand at the low ready. When the timer goes off, you fire all the bullets in the magazine into the circle you were aiming for within the allotted time.
This exercise is repeated five times total with your objective being to shoot all 25 rounds into the circles without missing a single one within the 25 seconds. You either pass or fail; there’s no good, bad, or great here.
Another favorite of the military is the low-light shoot (also known as the night fire exercise). In this particular drill, the members are equipped with handguns on their dominant hand and a flashlight on the opposite. Some indoor ranges offer the opportunity to practice these drills.
In this drill, you want to try the different styles of shooting while holding your flashlight on the side, directly below the muzzle, and even in alternating hands. The flashlight marks your target, and more than likely, you’ll be aiming at whatever your flashlight is flashing at the moment. This skill is extremely important as shooting in a low-light environment can be fairly dangerous. Learning how to turn on your flashlight with just one hand while holding something in the other will help you do this at the range, and since you’re using live fire, you’ll be able to tell if improvement is required.
Extend and Fire
While standing at a high compressed ready, you’ll extend your arms and shoot a target that is about the size of your hand. Practice this at the distances established earlier, such as 15, 7, 5, and 3 yards. Overall, it’s intended to help you adjust your aim quickly from the different arm positions/stances.
You’ll want to practice this drill on smaller weapons that can’t hold a lot of ammo, such as a .35 caliber. Get yourself a target, and draw a circle that is around eight inches in diameter. Next, draw a 3×5-inch square a couple of inches above the circle. The target should be placed at a distance of 5 yards from you, and your pistol should be loaded with a minimum of three rounds. Next, you’ll set a timer to three seconds. Proceed to stand at the low ready position.
Once the preparation period is complete and the timer begins, don’t change your stance and from the low ready position, you’ll want to fire the first two shots into the 8-inch circle. Then, you take a second to aim properly and shoot the box above it. Practice this drill a few times until you get it down pat!
Guns, especially small arms, tend to have a decent amount of recoil to them. When firing a pistol, you’ll want to learn how to handle the recoil by using the appropriate grip.
Hold your gun with the appropriate stance (and grip), proceed to aim your gun towards the target, and fire. Keep your eyes on the prize, and watch as the gun goes up and down. You’re looking to have the sights align back with each other perfectly after firing each shot. Once you find the perfect grip, you’ll want to use this one whenever you go to the range. There are a variety of styles for holding a gun/pistol, and you might want to read up on them before trying this drill.
These drills are fairly basic, but they’re the best way to get familiarized with shooting under pressure and without it. Whenever you’re in a real-life scenario, your instincts will be what saves your life or that of others. But, when your instincts kick into action, they fall back into your lowest level of proficiency. Without practicing on a regular basis, they will inevitably deteriorate. Shooting is like any other sport in the world, and a regular regimen of live fire exercises will ensure you’re in peak condition when something does happen.
Just keep in mind that seeing improvement will take time, and you will not be proficient in all of these drills right off the bat. Just keep at it and over time, you’ll add your own twists as you get better at them. Once you’re familiar enough, you’ll be acing them with no problems. Then, you will be ready to tackle even bigger challenges.
Two final pro tips:
Don’t forget to wear hearing protection while visiting the range. You’ll want some earmuffs that have a Noise Reduction Rating of 26 or higher in order to prevent hearing loss. The military uses double-hearing protection with small foam plugs in the ears and earmuffs while shooting outdoors and indoors. It’s recommended you do the same.
Also, remember to pack everything you need before going out to the range. Proper eye protection, hearing protection, tape, markers, first-aid kit, cleaning kit, oil for the gun, cleaning rod, tools, etc., will make the stay at the range a lot more comfortable, no matter what happens.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.