The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Hard Skills Training

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Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

Are you as prepared as you should be with your defensive handgun? Specifically that little subcompact gun you carry, which is probably harder to shoot well than a bigger pistol? In this article we introduce and lay the groundwork for a practice program that will make you a much better shooter — if you simply put the effort in and do the work. The reality is no matter what gun you carry or how you carry it, if you don’t have the skill to use it when the time calls then you’ll be in deep trouble. So let’s get started …

Here’s a quick story about an email from one of my students several years ago. First, they thanked and complimented me on one of my training programs. Then, they threw a curve ball, saying that while the program was detailed and would certainly take them to a new skill level, it was too complex for them to follow. They put forth the challenge to design what they described as a “working” person’s training program that would fit the schedules of most people who simply couldn’t make it to the range several times a week. So I took the challenge and began developing programs with that goal in mind. They had to:

> Be systematic and deliver results. This means that students needed a way to measure their success.
> Be easy to follow, as people tend to have very short attention spans in this day of electronic overload.
> Require a limited amount of ammunition, as most people simply can’t afford to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition.
> Require no more than one trip to the range per week.
> Directly tie dry-fire drills with live-fire drills in a logical sequence.

With these basic requirements for a good “working person’s” training program, let’s start to set the stage. Before we get into the details (schedule, etc.) of the program, you need to decide if you’ll not only read this article but actually act on the steps given and do the drills.

Make that decision now, or we’re both wasting our time. On board? Great! Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the program.

If you’re not dry firing, you’re wrong. Biomechanical skills take repetition to learn, and you don’t need to restrict that repetition to the range.

If you’re not dry firing, you’re wrong. Biomechanical skills take repetition to learn, and you don’t need to restrict that repetition to the range.

Keep things slow to start with. Concentrate on perfection with each movement; otherwise you’ll be reinforcing mistakes.

Keep things slow to start with. Concentrate on perfection with each movement; otherwise you’ll be reinforcing mistakes.

Principle  One
Dry-fire is king! Dry-fire is the act of practicing firearm manipulation without ammunition. Every single skill we need to master with our defensive handguns — with a couple exceptions — can be practiced without actually shooting the gun. The exceptions to this are controlling recoil and managing the trigger and sights. Those, specifically recoil management, must be practiced at the range with live-fire drills.

Principle Two
Dry-fire and live-fire drills must complement each other. We’ll do this by using dry-fire drills that work on the exact same skills we’ll work on with the live drills. This makes it much easier on you in that you won’t have to figure out anything new when you hit the range. Do one dry-fire drill three times (or more if you’re motivated) per week, and then do a live-fire drill that’s exactly the same, only with live ammunition on range day. This will make your range practice session much more effective.

Principle Three
Measure and improve. If you want to improve you must be able to measure your current skill and then measure again after you have gone through the program. We’ll do this with a pre-assessment and post-assessment exercise. In this inaugural installment of this series, we’ll give you the pre-assessment to shoot, so when you begin your program you’ll know where you stand. We’ll also review how to use the PAR function on an electronic timer to measure your ability when doing your dry-fire drills.

Now that we’ve covered some of the key principles in the program, here’s the assessment we’ll use to measure your current skill level. The 5×5 skill test comes from Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat and is a very simple shooting skill test that can be shot in a short timeframe with just 25 rounds of ammunition.

Your assignments are as follows:

1. Shoot the 5×5 skills test for score at least three times. The procedure is listed below; you’ll calculate an average of your scores.
2. Obtain the items you’ll need for the upcoming training program as follows:

Firearm and all related supplies
> Notebook and pen or logbook
> Targets and supplies (standard IDPA or USPSA targets recommend)
> Non-live fire (dummy) training ammunition: 10 rounds minimum
> Live Ammunition (we’ll shoot about 150 rounds per week minimum, but you can always shoot more)

target practice

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