The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Shoot and Move Drill

Shooting and Moving Looks Easy But Takes Finesse to Master. Here’s Where to Start

Photos by Iain Harrison

WARNING!
The concepts shown here are for illustrative purposes only. Seek professional training from a reputable instructor before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

Watching my daughter take her first steps, I knew some people were not meant to move gracefully. She had so many bumps and bruises I was sure Child Protective Services would be visiting us. She learned how to move on her own and even started to climb. Waking up to a small child standing above you on the nightstand will clinch your cheeks more than any bump in the night ever will.

Soon brainwork won’t be needed to walk. Eventually, she’ll add the dynamics of walking and chewing gum at the same time (a task her father has yet to master). In the end, the conscious process of walking isn’t thought about again and gets filed in the back of the brain, along with breathing, driving, and reloading. At least until the next pub visit.

Shooting on the move is a shooter’s version of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Just like in your childhood, the separate parts must be learned before you can do them at the same time. If you have trouble hitting a target at 7 yards, or walking for that matter, you aren’t ready for this drill. Keep working on the basics, but this is definitely something to strive for.

Before we get into the process, we must first determine if shooting on the move is a viable technique in a particular situation. The difficulty of the shot is the first determinant to consider on the feasibility of shooting on the move. Other issues include the distance to the target, the surrounding targets, and the presence of anything that shouldn’t get shot (e.g. penalty targets, your dog, or a favorite family member).

The other determining factor is the terrain you’re dealing with. If there’s loose gravel or anything you can slip on, shooting on the move probably isn’t the best course of action. Moonwalking or doing the splits unintentionally isn’t pretty when a loaded firearm is in the mix. If you feel like you can’t effectively hit the target while moving, then you should make the decision to shoot from a static position.

In the competitive world, shooting on the move is considered part of the shooter’s repertoire, along with the draw and reload, but in defensive applications the consensus is often to move to cover then shoot if needed. The point of this article is not to debate the validity of shooting on the move as a defensive tactic, but simply to instruct on the process involved.

The Process
Shooting on the move requires a revisiting of your “walking files.” Basically, the process breaks down to figuring out how to get from point A to B smoothly and without disturbing the sights. First, knees must be bent a little to act as shock absorbers — this is important to avoid jostling the sights. Frankenstein’s monster walking without bending his knees is a prime example of what not to do. He definitely needs to work on his technique if he wants to hit targets on the move.

Yes, your friends are going to think you’re a tool if they see you walking around like this. When you smoke them by placing rounds center mass on the move, they’re going to look like tools, too.

Yes, your friends are going to think you’re a tool if they see you walking around like this. When you smoke them by placing rounds center mass on the move, they’re going to look like tools, too.

When moving forward or laterally, move your feet in a heel-toe motion. “Rolling” your foot is imperative in smoothly traversing ground. Hitting the ground flat-footed isn’t the way to go and is definitely hard on the knees. Who walks like that anyway? Taking little steps versus big strides helps the process along. Conversely, when going backward, move your feet in a toe-heel motion. As you’re moving in the opposite direction it only makes sense to do the opposite with your feet. To simplify things, keep your feet in contact with the ground as much as possible.

Putting one foot in front of the other in a straight line as if walking on a tight rope helps keep the sights in line. Wider body types might have trouble with this part. Step with your feet as close to your centerline as possible to minimize side-to-side motion when moving. Oompa loompas wouldn’t be good at shooting on the move.

Feet should be pointed in the direction of travel, while the upper body acts as a “tank turret” pointing toward the target. The lower body does all the work, while keeping your upper body in a good shooting platform. Essentially, treat your upper body in the same manner as if you were shooting from a static position. The only difference is your feet are moving the entire time.

A point of interest when you get further along is to fire the shot while your feet are in motion, not when your foot hits the ground. The impact of your foot hitting the ground definitely has an effect on the muzzle. This can be a difficult concept to grasp as it requires timing your shots to correspond with your footwork.

Walking and chewing gum at the same time is hard enough, but now you have to remember to only chew when your foot is in the air. This technique can make a difference when you attain higher skill levels; until then focus on smoothing things out. How these parts are put together isn’t as important as the end result — moving smoothly and getting hits on target.

An easy way to test your “smoothidity” is an old trick I learned along my many travels to distant and exotic shooting ranges. Take a bottle of water and hold it in your hands like you’re gripping a firearm. Now, begin walking around with the bottle of water using the techniques mentioned above. Move it in different directions mimicking the act of engaging targets. Try to ignore the looks of bewilderment from anyone who sees you and focus on not disturbing the waterline. Once this can be accomplished on command, you’re ready for the box drill.

The Drill
The box or square drill is another exercise that has been on the range forever, and no one truly knows where it came from. I like to make up my own versions that involve odd handshakes, random passwords, and secret societies. This drill is the best way to shape up your shooting on the move skills and get feedback on where adjustments need to be made.

pistol-course-drill

The exact specifications of the setup can be tweaked to your liking or skill level. Distance and/or speed can be added (or subtracted) as your skill set progresses. A minimum of two targets are needed; I usually use at least three. Traffic cones work great to mark the corners of the square, but the stools at the shooting range also suffice in a pinch. Use something big enough to see easily so you don’t lose focus on the task at hand.

You’re basically laying down physical markers to circumnavigate and not trip over in the process. A shot timer can be used to measure and then push your speed, but work on proper techniques before adding the element of speed.

Once you can move swiftly without sloshing water around, it’s time to graduate to your pistol.

Once you can move swiftly without sloshing water around, it’s time to graduate to your pistol.

Use the cones/markers to create a 5×5-yard square on the range floor. Start by placing the targets at 7 yards from the markers furthest downrange. Depending on your skill level, the targets further downrange or further apart. For the sake of easy identification, number the markers — the first marker is the left side up-range corner, going from one to four clockwise.

Execution
The point of the drill is to hit the targets while moving in different directions. The square on the ground acts like road lines. In the first iteration, start at the back left corner (#1). Move forward to the marker #2 while at the same time engaging the targets with two rounds each. This covers moving in a forward direction while shooting, and is probably the easiest. On a side note, always engage the targets with more than one round. You can get lucky with one round, but the likelihood of being lucky with multiple rounds is slim. This is the way to consistency.

Next, move from marker #2 to #3 while engaging the targets. This is where things can get a little tricky, especially for right-handed shooters. When moving from left to right, your feet are moving to the right but your body needs to turn to the left. At this point you’ll feel like a Vaudeville contortionist, but please refrain from taking a bow — you’re only halfway there.

pistol-shooting-drill

Next, move from #3 to #4. During this backward/retreat movement, your toe-heel footwork is important (remember to be smooth). At this point you’ll definitely second-guess your ability to walk in a straight line, but have confidence that you made it this far. Lastly, move from #4 back to #1 and finish where you started. As many things in practical shooting, the drill is simple — but not easy to master.

This is just a basic framework of the drill. You can break up the drill in sections by moving from one corner to the other or treating the entire square as one run. Creativity can get you further once you get the hang of things. For example, diagonal movements can be made from #1 to #3, or you can circle around #1 and #4 in a figure-eight pattern. All these movements are done while engaging the targets downrange.

There are a few pitfalls with this drill. The most common mistake made is to stop or post up in the middle of the movements. This is counterproductive to the goal at hand. Force yourself to keep moving through to the next position while still making the shots on target. At first, it’s more important that you get acclimated with breaking the shot and keeping your feet moving than trying to hit the center of the target.

It’s also important to pay attention to your sights. A hard focus on the sights is required, as they’ll be moving around more than usual. After you get the hang of chewing gum and walking at the same time, pay close attention to the notchy posty things.

I have accomplished many goals in developing my shooting skill set that at one point or another I considered impossible. The secret is not to treat them as unattainable, and just give them a shot. As with many things in life, the first step is both the most important and the most difficult.

You probably won’t get things correct the first time, but don’t back down until you get there. If you’re serious about getting better and progressing, don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone behind, even when all of your senses say you can’t. It’s a proven fact that if you want something bad enough, nothing is out of reach. Just ask my wife.

About the Author
Nick Saiti has been a world-class competitive shooter for over 10 years and is a four-division USPSA grand master. As impressive as he is to watch behind an Open Division pistol, he’s currently third in the nation in the sport of three-gun. Considering himself a professional gunslinger, he happily imparts his unique perspective and knowledge teaching at  www.secretweapontraining.com.

What gets measured, gets improved. If you’re not shooting with a timer, you’re not making the most of your range time.

What gets measured, gets improved. If you’re not shooting with a timer, you’re not making the most of your range time.

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