Monday, April 1, 2013

Training - Spring Training!!!


Opening day of the 2013 baseball season – about time!!! If you have followed some of my blog posts or Facebook posts – you quickly realize it’s been a very long and very chilly winter this year. And, I will confess that feet of snow and sub-zero temps has done quite a bit to keep me off the range. (let’s not even talk about the availability of ammo!!)

So, while it’s taken a bit of time – temps are supposed to nudge the 60s this week so, as with the “boys of summer”, it’s time for some “spring training”.

Where to start . . . where to start . . . .???? Some thoughts:

The Basics:

I want to take this from a personal defense POV – things to work on to bring your skill set up to speed if they have diminished a bit over the winter due to fewer range trips. So let’s start with the basics.


As I have said before, I am fond of “Law Enforcement Targets”. In particular I like the following two.

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In the event you don’t want to use these types of targets – a large sheet of cardboard with 6in paper plates and/or 3x5 cards will work just as well. Number them for ease of scoring.

Both provide a range of target options as well as a good silhouette for defensive drills. I use the triangles for marksmanship drills at 3 yards, the circles for 7 yards and the squares for 10 yards or 50 ft., depending on how much I want to push myself that day.

I typically use my .22/45 for marksmanship drills. I do not find the difference in touch and feel to be significantly different enough to warrant using higher priced ammo for these drills.

I begin at the 3 yard line and engage each triangle with 20 rounds each, slow fire. Each course of fire is shot from the low-ready. I focus on my stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture and trigger press. I work on breathing through the course of fire with about a 2-second pause at the bottom of my exhalation. Easy, smooth, consistent trigger presses. No need to hurry.

Just as a reminder – after a winter’s slow down, take extra care with your range safety. While range work may well be a common occurrence during the warmer months – time away can diminish anyone’s skills. Remember your “4-Rules” and practice them diligently.

Date your target, list the caliber of handgun you are using. When you have completed each shape, score it. Use a bold marker so it’s easily visible. One point for within the boundary of the target – none for any round outside. Write the score and the distance next to each shape. Start with the triangles from 3 yards, circles from 7 yards and finally the squares at 10 yards or 50 feet – your choice. 20 rounds for shape, 6 shapes . . . 120 rounds total for this portion of the exercise.

Once this is complete, all shots fired, all shapes scored – take an image of it with your cell phone. It can be a great training aid as you move through your range work. Finally, tape the target. I just use a cheap roll of ½ inch masking tape. Tape ALL holes, not just those around the shapes. When you’re done with this you are ready to move to the real work.

Primary Defensive Pistol Work – Low Ready:

With the “rust” shaken off (I do this particular warm up for every dedicated defensive pistol range trip), it’s time to move to your primary defensive weapon – from the low ready.

Keeping in mind the risks that arise with a timer (it can become more important to push the shot rather than making the shot), there is value in having a random tone begin each course of fire.

Again, I start at the 3-yard line with 10 rounds. From the low-ready, at the sound of the timer put 2-3 rounds in the triangle for a head shot. If you mix the round count through multiple magazines you can also add in some speed reloads as well. Clear all malfunctions as needed.

The next 10 round course of fire is from the low-ready at the 7-yard line. Use the same process and engage the square that is at center mass.

The final 10 rounds are from either the 10-yard line or the 50 foot line – your choice. Again, from the low ready – 2 or 3 rounds for each timing event. Total round count – 30 rounds.

This would complete your warm-up. Score your target as above and take an image for future reference. Then – tape your target.

Primary Defensive Pistol Work – From the Holster:

Finally – you’re ready for the core of your training – defensive engagements. A couple of reminders. Clear your clothing. Make sure shirts/blouses are properly tucked in. Make sure the holster is clear and that you are wearing a sturdy belt designed to support a weapon. With an empty weapon (check it THREE times), do some dry fires. Work on a clean grip, draw, rotation, joining, extension, sight picture and trigger press. For the 3-yard and 7-yard distances, work on a “metal on meat” sight picture – the center of the rear of your weapon in the middle of the meat of your target. Work your draw until you have worked out the kinks from the winter. As for re-holstering . . . . remember . . . . YOU HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD TO PUT YOUR WEAPON BACK IN THE HOLSTER. Take your time.

Once this is done step to the firing line and repeat the exercise that you did above for your primary defensive weapon - 10 rounds on the triangle in the head from 3-yards, 10 rounds center mass from 7-yards and 10 rounds on the lower square from 10-yards. The difference this time is that each time the timer sounds you draw, fire 2 or 3 rounds and then re-holster. You could also mix the round count between multiple magazines to force speed reloads. Finally – clear malfunctions as the occur. Total round count – 30 rounds.

When you’re finished, score your target and take your final image.

Before you leave – clean up. Check your weapon – THREE TIMES, make sure the magazine is out, chamber is clear and all magazines are empty. Police up your target and brass – as the scouts always say “leave the site cleaner than when you found it”.

Obviously, these are my thoughts and this accurately describes a typical range session for me. Once the “rust” is off, I will go straight from the .22 marksmanship drills to the 60 rounds – from a holster draw, skipping the low-ready work with my primary defensive weapon.

Bottom line – you must work on your skill set. Range time is simply a necessity and this is but one option.

Please – share yours in the comments!!

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