Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Training - 2016 Resolutions for the new shooter

Perhaps a bit tardy . . . but it is that time of year to set some goals for 2016.  And while there are plenty of areas in my life that I need to lay down some markers in, let’s focus on the firearms side of the house for this post.  While I want to touch on what I view the three primary shooting groups – new shooters, experienced shooters and instructors – for this particular post we’ll start with the very new shooter.  I’ll roll out my thoughts for the other categories over the next few days.  So, let’s get started.

Prospective or Very New Shooters

I have three primary goals for you – take at least one good defensive shooting course, buy a defensive handgun that fits you and your lifestyle and that you can control and finally start a consistent training regimen to improve your skill set.  So let’s chat about these things a bit.

Begin with coursework from a reputable instructor.

One thing is certain, if you walk into a gun store intent on purchasing a handgun . . . you will probably walk out with one.  It will be a toss-up if it is truly one that will work for you.  I have a number of friends that work at gun stores that will do their very best to make sure your handgun will truly “fit” you.  Sadly, in many cases they are the exception.  Many sales folks at gun stores are just that . . . sales people.  Good coursework will get you past this particular hump.

So how do I fine a reputable instructor???  It doesn’t need to be hard.  First, the oldest training organization in the nation is the NRA.  While they take a lot of crap in the news, one of their primary goals is to provide training for new shooters.  Find a local trainer, talk to them and see if they feel like a fit.  And let me add one more thing . . . get references!  If ANY trainer is unwilling to give you the names of two or three folks that have taken instruction from them – take a pass on them.

Ask local law enforcement officers.  If you don’t know any personally, ask some of your friends if they know a local police officer or sheriff’s deputy.  Trust me – these officers are well aware of local instructors and can help you steer clear of the bad ones.

Once you choose an instructor do your homework.  It’s impossible to hide in today’s world.  Ask your friends who may have taken coursework from them, search Google for any reviews of classes people may have taken, review the instructors web page or Facebook page.  Take your time, do your homework and then schedule a course before you buy your first handgun.  In fact, most instructors have a variety of handguns available for you to try.  It may cost you to replace the ammo you shoot or there may be a rental fee, but you’ll have an opportunity to see and feel how the firearm fits you before you lay down hundreds of dollars for that first handgun.  When you leave the course you will know how to safely use a handgun, you will have been given a solid foundation on how they work, how to use them, hopefully some information of the defensive use of a handgun, spent a number of hours on a range actually learning to shoot . . . so that at the end of the course, a foundation has been laid for you to begin to build your shooting skill set.

Buy a defensive handgun that fits and that you can control. 

Let’s see if I can say this simply . . . BUY A GUN!!  I believe we have reached a point in our history where an armed America is called for.  With a government approaching a near dictatorial mindset, with a global Caliphate seemingly intent on rapid growth and expansion and with much of our country’s civilized behavior becoming more than a little frayed around the edges . . . I believe a defensive firearm in the hands of every citizen legally permitted to have one might just help settle things down just a bit.  Remember, constitutional rights that are not exercised and allowed to wither and die on the vine will never be regained.

Finally – take your individual training seriously.

A single day’s course . . . a single weekend’s course . . . 4 hours to 16 hours in the classroom . . . 4 hours to 8 hours of range time . . . simply will not make you a competent defensive shooter.  No matter how much you want it to.  What they should do is provide you with solid foundational information that is comprehensive enough to allow you to be able to go out and purchase a firearm that will fit your purpose, that will fit you and that you can control.  So, by the time we get to step three . . . you should have a defensive handgun in your hand.

My standard advice is that every January you find one of the online ammo “deals” and purchase 1,000 rounds of “ball” ammunition for your firearm.  Ball implies a solid lead core wrapped in copper – Full Metal Jacket – FMJ.  For a 9mm this is typically a 115gr bullet.  For a .45 APC it’s usually a 230gr bullet.  These are simply target rounds and not meant for defensive purposes.  At today’s prices – January 2016 – you can fine 1,000 rounds of 9mm for $240-ish and .45 for $350-ish plus shipping and handling.  This is your individual training ammunition. 

I want you to commit to visit the range monthly and fire 100 rounds each month.  You can do this in a single session or break it up to two 50 round sessions.  Work on the basics, driving to the threat, smooth trigger press straight to the rear, good follow through.  Work on your balance of speed and precision – good solid, effective hits as quickly as you can.  Do not sacrifice accuracy for speed . . . you will need BOTH in a defensive encounter.  And, spent a handful of rounds each visit working on precise shots as well.  You also have a couple “off” months in the mix for those times when things just don’t work out. 

A couple of things about live fire drills.  In many areas of the country most live fire is done at ranges that simply do not allow a draw from a holster or movement.  While this is understandable from a liability point of view – it does little to help you hone your defensive skills.  Still, you must work with what you are given.  So, do your range work from the high compressed ready.  Work on your stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press, follow through and a thorough scan and assess.  (Please, none of the tacti-cool quick glance over the shoulder!)

The rest of the process . . . your presentation from concealment, movement, reloads . . . the “rest” of the equation that faces a defensive shooter can be done by dry fire drills.  The obvious caution here . . . MAKE SURE YOUR FRICKIN’ GUN IS UNLOADED!  Check it three times.  I strongly recommend the use of a LaserLyte round to insure you cannot possibly have a live round in the chamber . . . and you get some visual indication of your first-round hit.  I’ve also taken a pass on the indicating target that is reviewed in the above post.  I find that I can see the hit just fine.  Whether you decide to use an indicating round like the LaserLyte or not – the process of doing your dry fire drills a number of times a week will allow you to smooth out the presentation process, reduce your first round engagement times and – when married with your live fire range time – move you towards becoming a defensive shooter that truly does have a skillset to defend yourself, your family and people in your charge.

There are no shortcuts.  Becoming a skilled defensive shooter takes time, effort, dedication, financial resources and a true desire on your part.  For your first year as a defensive shooter – get things off to a good start.  Follow these steps, do the work . . . I think you’ll be happy this time next year when it comes time to set your 2017 goals.


  1. I would strongly recommend that the new shooter read through your "Just the Basics" book before one takes that first course or purchases a gun. It is an invaluable resource.

  2. Brighid - thank you for the recommendation! Hope all is well with you and your dad!

  3. Yep, time and getting to the range... And I'd second your laser dry firing as an interim between range sessions! Did you see the email re the new blended training package?