by Weston Hawks
I have been around firearms most of my life and in the past 6 years, I have grown to love shooting and learning about them. This year I have started a journey of becoming more proficient with them. I am going to share the four aspects of firearms training as I see them.
Before I get started on the four aspects there are some guidelines that I would like to lay out to make your training more beneficial.
- First metrics, if you don’t have a way to track your improvement that you don’t know if you are improving. This can be like 5 shots out of 5 on a 3×5 card at 15 feet. You can then measure your improvement my moving the target back
- Second, a shot timer. While there are $150 shot timers out there, I just use an app that I have downloaded on my phone. I use “shot timer” on the iPhone because it allows me to record my times and leave notes so that I can write them down later. Unfortunately, I don’t have an app for Android that I like but there are plenty of free ones out there so just try some!
- Lastly a training journal. I keep one in my range bag so that I can keep track of the metrics that I am using and see where I am improving and see where I need to focus on in upcoming training.
Take a Training Class
This is an often-overlooked part of firearms training. A lot of people have grown up around firearms and think they know all that they need to know. This is not true, there is a saying that I have heard recently from the hosts of The Arms Room podcast, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. These guys are firearms trainers and run a company in Arizona, so they have a good understanding of training. I have taken two classes in my adult life, and both times I left understanding more about the use of firearms. The last one was a defensive handgun class, where I learned new ways to use a handgun in defensive fighting, and I was pushed to limits that I don’t push myself to in my normal training.
Taking a training class is often not as expensive as buying a new gun, my class was under $150, but people with a safe full of expensive firearms will refuse to take a class because “it cost too much”. If you have never taken a class, or even if you have but it has been awhile, maybe hold off on buying that new gun that you “need” to have and take a class! Heck drag your spouse or significant other with you so you both can learn.
Now I know that there are going to be people that say “I was in the military so I don’t need to take a firearms class. I was taught all I need to know”. Well, I was in the Marine Corps Reserve as an infantryman and I KNOW that they don’t teach you everything. Heck I never touched a handgun during my time in. There are also people who say “my father/mother/cousin/whatever was a cop/special ops person and they taught me how to shoot, so I’m good I don’t have to take a class”. My father has worked in Law enforcement my whole life and he taught me how to shoot when I was very young but I still learned a lot from taking classes. This is not meant to brag but show that a lot of the excuses for people to not take classes are not valid.
Dry fire is manipulating your firearm with NO ammo in it. This allows you to get used to handling it and practicing with it for free. If you are on a budget and want to improve this is a great place gain lots of improvement for little to no money spent. I would recommend taking a class before starting to dry fire seriously just so you don’t train any bad habits that you would have to spend a lot of time later to get rid of. I would recommend buying several snap caps, snap caps are fake rounds that chamber like a round and will allow you to work on things like reloading.
Dry fire can be very monotonous so I prefer to do it in small batches if I can. I like to do 50 repetitions of trigger presses in the morning and 50 after work so that I get at least 100 in a day. It takes me less than 5 minutes to do this total in a day. I also work on drawing my handgun against a timer. Timers are vital because they allow you to test your speed and cause stress. I use them when performing draws so I know exactly where I stand. If you spend just a bit of time a day dry firing you will see you overall abilities with firearms improve greatly with only some time spent.
Live fire is where you actually shoot your firearm. The key to good live fire practice is to go with a plan. Using shooting drills is a great way to see what you can improve on and to test yourself. Here is an example of a drill I use.
My main rifle drill is what is called the Scout Rifle Drill. In this drill, you take a 6in target and place it 50 yards away. You load your rifle with 4 rounds. You set up a timer and on the beep, you shoot one round standing, quickly go to a kneeling position fire a round, go to the sitting position fire a round, and then go to prone and fire a round. If using a shot timer, as I would recommend, it should capture the times of all 4 shots and the time of the last shot is your overall time. With a Semi-auto rifle, a good time is around 30 seconds. If you miss a shot and 10 seconds onto your score, and that final number is your overall score. So, if you have a time of 23 seconds but you missed a shot your final time will be 33 seconds. This drill makes you move in-between shots making you require the target and by moving quickly you elevate your heart rate making the shots more challenging.
This drill allows me to improve my speed getting in and out of positions and forces me to use shooting positions that I don’t like. I use this drill to see what I need to work on in upcoming training. For example, I noticed that the majority of shots I missed were the ones that I took from the standing position. Noticing that I have made a plan to work on first round hits from the standing position at 50 yards. Once I am comfortable with that distance I will move it back to 75 yards and then 100. After that, I will reevaluate my plane and decide what I will work on.
Training plans should always be changing based off of your skill level and how you are progressing. Without having a training plan when you go shooting you are just turning money into noise. That being said sometimes it’s fun to just go out and plink a bit, so don’t be afraid of doing that either! I’m sure that any kids you take with you would much rather plink than follow a strict plan. So, know when to just go shooting to have fun.
This is the last part of my four aspects of training and probably the most controversial. Some people say that “competition will get you killed in the streets”, they say this because you don’t use cover or combat tactics in competition. I disagree with this because I shot competitions to test my shooting skills, not my tactics. I am not going to get into a long discussion on this, I will just say that the US special forces train with Jerry Miculek who is one of the best competition shooters in the world, and they are not “getting killed in the streets”.
Competitions are important because they test your skills in ways that you wouldn’t think of trying. I started shooting 3 gun this year and it has shown where my weaknesses and strengths are. It showed me that my pistol skills are lacking and was the primary motivation for me taking my last pistol training class. Competitions are also very stressful and they cause any small mistake in your shooting skills to be magnified. Once you find that mistake you can then make a training plan to correct it.
Competitions are also fun! It is awesome to see where you stand with other shooters and to get away from life for a time. It took me over a year to go to my first competition because I was nervous about failing. But earlier this year I went and I came in dead last out of 12 shooters. It hurt my pride a bit but after that first competition, I have never come in last again. It has given me a reason to train with my firearms and also to see my improvement over time.
Most preppers understand the importance of firearms in their preps, for both obtaining food and for self-defense, however from what I can tell they don’t actually train with their firearms and think that plinking at the range will prepare them for a life or death situation. While plinking is better than nothing I want to stack all the odds in my favor, and for that reason, I train, and you should consider training as well.