There was a discussion on an instructors FB group a while back responding to a question from a fellow instructor. The question went something like this . . .
“If you had a student that could only afford 50 rounds per month – what drills would have them do.”
I responded that I was fond of Dot Torture – but in reality that’s a very limited drill to evaluate one level of marksmanship. So let’s take a deeper look at this very valid question in today’s world of limited / and expensive ammunition.
What is the “minimum skillset” a defensive shooter should have? (disclaimer – this is MY opinion – other instructors may well have different ideas)
Knowledge of your defensive weapon: You should completely understand the firearm you have chosen to use to protect yourself, your family and friends. How it functions, its component parts, how to clean it, how to disassemble/reassemble it, its accuracy, what kind of ammunition it likes and doesn’t like.
Knowledge of ammunition: Don’t just take the sales person’s word for it – or your friend’s word for it – understand different types of defensive ammunition, range ammunition, factory ammunition, hand loaded ammunition and then select the right ammo for your weapon, the range and for your defense.
Every Day Carry gear: What holster will you use? Where will you carry your spare ammunition? How about a gun belt? Flashlight? Knife? Your carry weapon is just part of the mix of equipment that you should simply carry every day. Choose good equipment that fits your weapon and your lifestyle. And – adapt your lifestyle where necessary.
Learn the “basics”: I view the “basics” as weapon manipulation, the draw, sight alignment, sight picture, 2 handed engagements, dominant hand only engagements, support hand only engagements, focal point shooting, speed reloads, tactical reloads, clearing malfunctions, movement and mindset. Spent the time and energy to master each of these areas. And, you can use a dry fire range to work on these skills without sending a single round down range.
Situational Awareness: The best way to win a gunfight? Don’t get into one. Learn the skill of observation – what’s going on around you? Are there threats developing? Where are the exits? What is your exit?
First Aid: Know how to use a “Boo-Boo” kit and a “Blow Out Kit”. Scrapes, scratches, cuts are common place on the range. Know how to take care of yourself or anyone else that may have a minor injury. And, should you be unfortunate enough to be drawn into a gunfight – the possibility of being wounded is always there. A “BOK” (and the knowledge of how to use it properly) is your insurance policy against a life threatening wound.
Physical Fitness: Americans have a fondness to be “a bit” overweight. Much of this is simply from being sedentary (I know – I’m working through this even as I type). The reality though is that you will not have time to “get fit” if a threat comes bursting through the door as you read this. It’s time – to get off your butt, to drop some weight, to improve your strength and flexibility and to become a warrior capable of defending your family or moving them out of harm’s way. Again – this costs you NO rounds down range, just 30 minutes a day.
This – to me – is the basic skill set every shooter, every person who carries for personal defense, should master and practice. Honestly – little of it demands range time. But – it requires work. Real work. Ongoing practice, ongoing learning. I think a lot of new defensive shooters do a quickie course, throw a gun in their pocket/purse and believe they are “ready”. They’re not – on any level. That can be a damn painful lesson to learn.
What about the shooting side? Here too there is a lot that can be done without actually firing a round down range. You can work on your stance, grip, draw, aimed fire, “metal on meat”, reloading, clearing malfunctions, and first-round-hits (through the use of a LaserLyte round or SIRT pistol) – all without sending a live round down range.
You can integrate a “startle response”, movement “off the X”, turning towards a threat, movement away from a threat – again, all without sending a single round down range.
Still – only live fire will provide the experience of managing recoil, managing your reloads and actually seeing where your rounds impact your target. The “drills” you can use will depend on your range’s rules but for the purpose of this discussion let’s assume you have full use of the range with no restrictions (other than unsafe handling of your weapon). What will help you develop your skills as a defensive shooter?
The parameters of your range time:
- 50 rounds of ammunition
- Range visit once a month
If you are serious about developing your defensive shooting skills, you will quickly realize these trips are for “fine polish” only. Your real work will be done on your dry fire range in your home/garage as described above. Your live-fire range work will provide the finishing touches – the polish.
Limit your round count per magazine to three or less. More time spent manipulating your weapon is better. Include quality dummy ammunition for “ball and dummy” drills to enhance your malfunction clearing drills.
Begin with “metal on meat” drills – draw, punch out, put the rear of the slide on the meat of the threat and press the trigger. More draws are better . . . if you are limited to 50 rounds only, I would suggest 1 or 2 round engagements only during live fire and multiple round engagements with a SIRT pistol or 1 round engagements with a LaserLyte round.
Take a large step sideways as your draw – plant and engage. Work on getting “off the x”.
Do this for 3 Mags – for a total of 10 rounds.
Use 10 rounds for a draw and dominant hand only engagements. Again, load 3 mags with 2 to 3 rounds to force mag changes. Clear any malfunctions along the way.
Use 10 rounds to start from the low ready for support hand only engagements. Stick with loading 3 mags with 2-3 rounds to force mag changes. Clear any malfunctions along the way.
Staple a small index card to your target. From 21 feet, do 10 draws, two hands, full extension, single round engagement of aimed fire. Take the amount necessary to put all 10 rounds inside the index card. Use the 3 mag, 2-3 rounds per mag process to force mag changes.
Load 2 mags with a combined max of 5 rounds. Draw and do a single round engagement, 2 hands, full extension – head shots only until both mags are empty.
Finally, staple up a large paper plate then move out to 50 feet. Again, load 2 mags with a combined max of 5 rounds. Draw, 2 hands, full extension and do a single round engagement on the plate. Take all the time you need to get solid hits.
Between the aggressive use of dry fire exercises, the use of LaserLyte rounds or SIRT pistols and a dry-fire indoor range in your home or garage – you can get a lot of good work done.
Once you move to the range – use it for “polish”. Plan your range trip (the details above are simply a single suggestion – change things up for each trip) to use your time and ammunition to its fullest.
Finally – keep learning/studying/growing. There are a growing number of video courses, on-line courses and books that cover a broad range of skills every defensive shooter should learn. Spend the time to learn this information.
Work EVERY DAY on some aspect of your defensive skills.