Making The Most Of Practice Time

by Drew Beatty

I attempt to get to the shooting range regularly - at least twice a month. With limited time and ever-increasing ammunition costs, I've made the decision to maximize my practice time in an attempt to get the most value and benefit possible from the limited opportunities available.

We all have busy lives, but we know we need to stay sharp on our firearms skills. When there is only limited practice time available, what are the best skills to practice?

Before I even leave for the range, I have already made a decision about which techniques or skills I am going to work on that day. Going to the range with a specific focus allows me to conserve ammunition and to enhance practice time by working specific skills. The goal is to leave the practice session having improved at that particular task.

Below is a sample of some of my practice drills:

One-handed drills: This involves shooting with both primary and secondary hands and can include drawing. I focus on trigger control and managing the sight picture, both of which are easier with two hands than with one hand.

Draw and shoot, with slow re-holster: Fast re-holstering is a common but dangerous habit. I work on holstering slowly and consciously so that the skill is drilled into my subconscious competence.

Malfunction clearing: You can never get enough practice at this if you run an auto pistol. When I focus on malfunction clearing, I practice both two-handed and one-handed. I focus on all three types of malfunctions (misfire, failure to eject, and double feed) and I spend adequate time on each one. If you are particularly weak at one type of malfunction drill, you can practice on that type specifically.

These are just examples, and your training should focus on skills that you notice you need more practice with. The advantage of concentrating practice time is a thorough focus on specific skill building. It also allows me to focus on important concepts like trigger manipulation, where my finger is placed on the trigger, shot placement, and many important details that are always in need of attention and enhancement.

This sort of focus allows me to break up a particular skill - for instance tap/rack/bang drills - into their individual movements and actions. Practicing small, specific techniques helps me see where I can eliminate unnecessary movement, or otherwise do a better, cleaner job of performing that particular skill. It allows me the slow, precise focus needed to enhance skills.

The next time you are planning a trip to the range, think about how you can plan specific drills that will help you make the most out of your practice time.

Disclaimer: If you do not understand any of the drills or techniques mentioned above, be sure to work with a competent instructor to learn the proper performance of these techniques. An instructor can also help you to identify which skills you might benefit from practicing more.

Drew Beatty is a 50 year old husband and father, and a lifetime resident of the great state of Colorado. He is a long-time firearms enthusiast as well as a strong advocate for The Second Amendment.