With the cold weather behind us and long, summer days ahead, it’s time to get out to the shooting range and knock off the rust. I recently asked a few well-known instructors across the country to name some range drills they would suggest to get back on target.
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Donna Anthony founded Alaska Investigation Agency, LLC, in 2012 upon her retirement from Palmer Alaska Police Department. She’s also the owner of Point Blank Firearms & Self Defense Training, LLC., and has more than 20 years of law enforcement and security experience. She recommended the following drills:
Get back to basics by starting with dry fire. At home, use a blue gun and a holster that fits that gun. Place a bullseye target on a mirror. Standing in front of the mirror, slowly draw your gun from the holster, point in at the target, see your front sight, “squeeze” the trigger (go through the motion, even though it’s a blue gun), follow through and keep your gun on target, step to one side to get off your original starting point and avoid tunnel vision, scan the area (eyes and muzzle together) and then reholster your firearm. Repeat multiple times to form good muscle memory.
Using the same principles listed above, do the same steps on the range. Load a magazine or 2 with ammunition and holster your gun. Grip your gun while holstered, draw slowly from your holster, point in to the target, find your sights, squeeze the trigger, hear the click as you let the trigger reset and pull the trigger again when you see your sights on target. Now, step and move either left or right, scanning the area with both eyes open and with the gun still presented and slightly below eye level. Where there’s 1 bad guy, there might be 2, so don’t let your guard down. Increase the number of rounds fired: 2, then 3, then 4 and so on.
Michelle Cerino, a.k.a. “Princess Gunslinger”, is the managing editor and a columnist at Women’s Outdoor News, is an instructor for her and her husband’s company, Cerino Consulting & Training Group, and is an avid hunter. She suggested the following drills:
At 15-feet from the target, shoot controlled pairs (2 well-aimed shots) from the holster. Begin without using a shot timer, then add it in once your manipulation skills are up to par.
Begin 8-feet from the target. Set your timer for 3 or 4 seconds. Shoot 2 shots from the holster, re-holster then step back 1 yard and repeat. Continue doing this until you reach about 50-feet or 25-yards, whatever your abilities can handle.
For those with access to only an indoor range without the option to draw from the holster, shoot from the high ready and move the target down range each time. Set your timer for 2 to 3 seconds.
Download the oval target Michelle uses for both range drills here.
Il Ling New is an instructor at Gunsite Academy in Arizona. She teaches Defensive Handgun, Rifle and Shotgun courses, as well as Hunting Rifle and Wingshooting. She’s also a fishing and hunting guide and an NRA Board Member. She gave the following advice:
“If you haven’t been to the range for a while – and especially if you haven’t dry-fired during your lay-off – I highly recommend slowing things waaaaaay down in your ‘re-entry.’ It’s good to spend a little time re-introducing your body to what it needs to do, rather than trying to get the ‘old you’ back right away.”
One range drill that she uses for this (sometimes even in the middle of a class) is the following:
Take a marker, or a piece of tape, and make a 1-inch aiming point on a target. Stand at 3 yards away, in a ready position. Set your hands and fingers properly, as well as the rest of your body. Aim in at your point and deliver one perfect slow-fire round: think about a smooth, gradual application of pressure on the trigger, remember your follow-through to trigger reset; look at the front sight while you do this, then reacquire the sight-picture, etc. Do this 5 more times, aiming at the same place each time. Consider each shot to be its own event; this is not a 6-shot drill. See if you can obliterate that aiming point! Remember that this is a slow-fire exercise so give yourself time to really think about each element. Repeat until you’re able to get at least 4 of the 6 rounds in one hole.
Once you’ve done this, extend your distance to 5 yards, and/or fire all 6 rounds in a string (still slow-fire, but not returning to a ready position), from the holster/concealment.
As for me, if it’s been awhile since you’ve spent any time handling your firearm, I go through several of the basic fundamentals to ‘refresh’ my muscle memory and recommend that my students do the same:
This is an excellent way to warm up and clear the cobwebs. Start with acquiring the proper grip, push out toward the target, see the sights on the target and slowly squeeze the trigger. I use the “Penny Drill” to practice good trigger control. Lack of trigger control is one of the biggest culprits of shots being pulled off target. Place a penny, or even a spent casing, on the front sight of your gun. Focus on holding the firearm steady while pulling the trigger. The penny, or casing, shouldn’t fall off.
Now practice the same trigger control on the range. Load a magazine with 5 rounds and set your target at about 15 feet. Focus on a small part of the target, whether it’s the bullseye or a dot, similar to the “Six Perfect Shots” drill listed above, and slowly take a shot. Aim for the same spot each time. Don’t make corrections by aiming different places each time. You should see that all of your shots are hitting the same spot, creating a ragged hole.
Shooting skills are perishable, so it’s important to practice on a regular basis.