Training and developing skills
I. “Shooting” at home
Dry fire is the single most cost and time efficient way to improve your shooting. It is often overlooked, as
it is not as “cool” as actually shooting. But people dedicated to serious weaponcraft are apt to spend as
much time dry firing their weapon as time at the range. While it is impossibly to completely simulate the feel of firing a
real gun, dry fire teaches the muscle memory up to the actual squeezing of the trigger (which is the most important part.)
Dry fire training saves countless dollars in live ammo.
A couple of important notes: 1) When dry firing, always,
ALWAYS, double ensure that your weapon is unloaded and safe. I recommend that you do not even have ammunition in the
same room where you are doing the practice. 2) Go slowly but have perfect technique. It is tempting to try and
perform any drill as quickly as possible. It is better to go slow and ensure that your movement is precise. Remember
“slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Speed will come with practice. 3) If possible, use dummy rounds
or “snap caps” when doing dry fire drills. Dry fire does not harm modern center fire firearms, but this
will add a level of realism.
A. Dry Fire Pistol Drill Ideas (Start off doing
these 20 times each, then repeat if time is available.)
1) Draw and Fire: From a relaxed position, with your empty
pistol in your carry holster fire at a fixed point on a wall. You might want to place a purpose built target to the
wall to practice aiming center of mass. Concentrate on the steps of the draw, maintaining focus on the target/threat,
sight picture and trigger squeeze. After firing, scan 180 degrees. Then re-cock your pistol and repeat.
As an advanced drill you might want to dry fire at the TV (pick a particular celebrity), this will improve your target acquisition
2) Malfunction clearing: With your empty weapon pointed at a target simulate a malfunction.
Do a “tap-rack-bang” drill. Slap the magazine firmly to reseat, rack the slide, reacquire the target and
fire. Concentrate on maintaining focus on the target/threat, the steps of malfunction clearance, sight picture and trigger
3) Reload: With your slide back bring the weapon diagonal to, but level with your eyes. Draw
and insert a new, empty magazine and release the slide. Concentrate on maintaining focus on the target/threat, proper
insertion of the magazine, sight picture and trigger squeeze.
YouTube video on pistol dryfire practice
B. Dry Fire Rifle Drill Ideas (Start of doing these 20 times each, then
repeat if time is available.)
These are essentially the same as pistol drills (except instead of the draw you
practice bringing your weapon up from a ready position.) Actual drills will vary with the weapon type. But the
same ideas; 1) target acquisition, trigger squeeze, malfunction clearance and reloads, should be practiced.
II. Shooting on the square
As with dry fire, time at the range should not be hurried. You should concentrate on
proper weapons manipulation and accuracy. It is the tendency of many shooters to want to gauge their range trips by
how much they shot. The value of practice is better measured by quality, rather than quantity. Rounds down range
do not replace proper accuracy and weapons handling. Once you have mastered accuracy you might want to acquire a shot
timer to evaluate your speed. This is handy for the friendly competitions that help push us to be better shooters.
A lot of shooting ranges are very particular about how you shoot a gun. They might object to you changing positions,
firing rapidly or even from any position other than the bench rest. All I can suggest is find another range, but in
the meantime do what you can and concentrate on dry fire for the weapons manipulation part of your training.
A. Live Fire Pistol Drill Ideas
1) Warm up/accuracy: I like to set up about 20
5x8” index cards in two or three rows on a target backer. I will load up all my magazines with 5 rounds each.
From about 5-7 yards away I will draw and doubletap two index cards. Then I scan 180 degrees re-holster and do it again.
This will keep me reloading at seemingly random times. I do this for 40 rounds. If I am going to have a long range
session I will also end up with this drill. Paper plates can replace the index cards, especially for beginners, and
advanced shooters might want to use 3x5” index cards.
2) El Presedente (modified): Set up three silhouette
targets about shoulder width apart. With two six round magazines draw and shoot a doubletap at each target. Reload
another six round magazine and shoot them again. If you don’t have room this can be done with two silhouettes
and four round magazines.
3) Near and far: Set up two targets, one at close range (five or so yards) and one at
the maximum of your effective pistol shooting (15-25 yards). Draw and doubletap the close target then take the far target.
4) Reactive fire: Have two silhouettes in front of you at a medium range (10 or so yards.) Have a
friend call out “LEFT” or “RIGHT,” draw and doubletap the called target. You can mix this up
by adding a third target at a longer range and call it “LONG” or by firing at more than one target at a time “LEFT-RIGHT”
or by calling headshots “HEAD-LEFT.”
B. Live Fire
Rifle Drill Ideas.
As with dry fire, most pistol drills can be adapted to rifle shooting. You will
need longer ranges and need to vary the ranges more. But drills should concentrate on the fundamentals of accuracy
and weapons handling.
One drill that is good for rifle, but not very good for pistol shooting is “the position
drill.” Begin with four magazines loaded with 5 rounds each. Have four basic targets set up. They can be
at varying ranges, but this is not necessary. Fire five shots from a standing position, change magazines and transition
to the keeling position and a new target, then to the kneeling supported (or sitting or squatting) the to the prone.
This is a good warm up drill and reinforces the basics in different positions.
YouTube Video of more rifle drills
III. Getting off the square range.
After you have mastered dry and square range firing, it is time to begin blending the fundamentals of weapons handling
and tactics. This is the most difficult stage of developing true weaponcraft. I do not suggest doing these advanced
drills without having complete confidence in your safety, accuracy and weapons handling.
These drills are not easily
reproducible. And to get the desired result (the ability to employ your weapon correctly in a variety of tactical situations)
they need to vary. But the best way to begin is to have a piece of simulated cover. Move up and shoot around or
over it as you would in real life. You will want to mix it up. For example… you could shoot one target,
Then move to a wall that requires you to engage one or more targets around each side or through a window. Backstops
at ranges, pieces of carboard, piles of brick can all be used to simulate cover.
It is CRITICAL that you remember
the four rules of safe firearms handling during these drills. Be conscious of where your muzzle is pointing at all times,
have your finger off the trigger until you are on target etc. Concentrate on the safety FIRST and maintain safety throughout
It is rare to find an official range that will allow this kind of shooting. You might need to
practice in a local dirt pit or garbage dump. Be sure to obey all local laws and be sure of your backstop. One
good way to start blending weapons skills with tactics is to participate in “practical” shooting matches.
It is fun to shoot with other people doing this kind of thing. But remember, you are there to practice tactics and skills.
You are not there to win. Thinking otherwise will lead to “gaming” the match and losing the value of your