Making the Most of Your Range Time

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

Practice time is a precious commodity to most shooters, especially those of us who take it seriously. It can be hard to find time to go to the range, let alone the money to buy ammo. With those constraints, it’s important to get the most we can out of our range time. There are plenty of people out there who go “plinking” with their sidearms, but those aren’t people who are serious about shooting or being ready to defend themselves. People who are serious about defending themselves realize they need to be serious about their shooting.

Shooting is a skill; and like all skills, it is perishable. Anyone who doesn’t shoot regularly is going to find that they’re losing the ability to shoot well. If you’re not sure whether that’s happening to you, just measure the size of your shot grouping. If it’s bigger than it was before, you’re not spending enough time on the range.

But how do you make sure that you’re getting the most possible benefit from your time on the range? Here’s some thoughts that should help.

Pick a Distance and Perfect It

Most self-defense situations occur at a distance of 5 meters or less; the size of a large room. Even if you’re outdoors, you’re probably not going to be shooting across a football field. If they’re that far away, you’re probably better off running, than shooting it out.

Pick a distance, whether it is 3 meters, 5 meters or 7 meters and do the bulk of your practice at that range. I do my practice at 5 meters, then generally end up with a couple of magazines at 10-meters. But those magazines are from a .22, as I’ve already shot what I’m going to shoot from my carry gun.

Don’t Overdo It

Shooting more than you can shoot comfortably is a waste of ammo, as your hand and wrist will get tired, affecting your accuracy. For most people, a box of 50 rounds is a good range session. I know a guy that shoots a .50 cal. Desert Eagle and he never shoots more than 10 rounds in a session.

Personally, after I shoot my box of ammo, I switch over to the aforementioned .22LR. The lighter load helps to overcome any tiredness in my wrist. It also gives me a chance to practice some other shooting than my standard range, like the aforementioned 10-meter shooting for long range.

Work on Group Size

The key indicator of how well you’re doing with a pistol is group size, more than group placement. A larger group indicates problems with trigger control, sight picture and your platform. As your group size diminishes, it proves that you are getting all of these under control.

There’s another big reason to be concerned about group size, and that’s because your group size will increase by 4 to 5 times, when the adrenalin of an active shooter situation is upon you. The smaller your group is, the more likelihood there will be that you can still hit the target.

Stick to the Same Gun

This may seem obvious, but use the same gun for most of your shooting and that should be the gun you expect to use if you ever have to defend yourself. If you’re going to be carrying a .45, then you should practice with a .45, not with a 9mm.

I realize that contradicts what I said earlier about my own practice, where I use a .22LR. What I’m doing there is some light practice on new skills that I want to work on. As I improve at shooting 10-meters with the .22, I’ll switch over to a 9mm and eventually to a .45. In the meantime, the .22 gives me a way of starting to work on those skills, without taking away from my main practice time.

Shoot From a Full Magazine

This is another one that should be obvious, but isn’t – don’t shoot from a partially loaded magazine, shoot from a full one. Weight plays a factor in steadiness of your aim. If you’re only loading five rounds in your mags, then you’re not practicing as you carry.

Accuracy Trumps Speed Any Day

I’ve seen a lot of guys on the range that are there practicing rapid-fire. That’s fun; but unless you’re really good, it falls into the category of plinking, rather than serous practice. Work on getting good and the speed will come naturally. Work on speed and you’ll never get good. As they say in the Navy SEALs, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

Shoot Like You Expect to Defend Yourself

It can be really difficult to do “real world” practice, as that defies the rules in most gun ranges. But that’s what you need, as much as possible. One option is to get to know the range owners and find a time to practice when the range is empty. If you’re the only one there and they know you’re a serous shooter, they’ll usually relax the rules. If that’s impossible, you might have to find an outdoor range or rock quarry that you can use for your practice.

Another useful option is to get involved in “tactical shooting” competitions. Many ranges have these one night a week. You shoot a scenario that is supposed to mimic a real-life active-shooter situation, shooting against the clock and for accuracy. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a great way to find out just how bad you’ll do in a real shooting situation.

As everyone says, “practice makes perfect.” That’s no truer anywhere else, than it is in shooting. Working on your skills is just as important as keeping your powder dry and your survival kit close at hand, if not more important.

Dr. Rich

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