You can become a competent shooter without spending a lot of money on a firearms training course. Learn how here!
In this article:
- The Value of Regular Firearms Training
- Become a Competent Shooter with These Ideas
- What Is a Blurry Target?
Be a Competent Shooter Without Increasing Your Firearms Training Cost
The Value of Regular Firearms Training
Live fire is important when you want to be a competent shooter. It is also why many gun owners find excuses not to practice. Travel to the range, lane fees, targets, safety gear, and ammunition all add up to the perfect storm of excuses to only hit the range once a year or worse.
Most people buy a handgun because they believe it will make them feel safer. “Protection of self and family” is one of the top reasons why my Permit to Carry clients choose to buy it. Here’s the thing: what happens when you’re trapped in a violent threat encounter? What if the time comes to descend to your highest level of training?
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If you have no recent basic firearms training or practice to make yourself a competent shooter, you are going to squander those critical seconds, fumbling for survival. Despite our best intentions or protective instincts, we rarely rise to the occasion. We descend to our highest level of training.
Become a Competent Shooter with These Ideas
When was the last time you had a dedicated range training day? It is a mantra I carried with me from the Marine Corps after deploying to Afghanistan in 2011. The years of training that led to the deployment didn’t make much sense. It did when we were already in a real-world combat zone. We all realized what our time in firearm training schools was for.
Despite whatever was going on, we knew we could rely on our training to kick in when we needed it the most. Learning the value of training at that time drove home the need for continued education and training as well. The skills gained are very perishable if left unused and untested. That is why we had access to our own range while we were there. It was to keep running our own handgun training drills and advanced training.
When we got home, we knew most of that training and skills would be pretty useless stateside. Many veterans let go of that part of their life. I knew I wanted to be able to carry a firearm in public. It also means I have the responsibility to be a competent shooter of the firearm I chose to carry. I then train two to three times a month on top of my scheduled firearms training clients.
Working with these clients, I am always looking for ways they can continue their firearms training course, even if we don’t meet on the range. That is where dry fire practice comes in. You can achieve a wide variety of skill-building by dry-firing at home.
Here are a few drills to do, as well as training aids. They can help you become a competent shooter by getting the most at-home training anytime.
1. Trigger Control
Of the many fundamentals in beginner gun training, aiming and trigger control have the most influence over where the bullet is impacting the target. Even the best shooters can struggle with trigger control from time to time. The key is to be aware of yourself.
You also need to have a degree of self-honesty. If you know you’ve been getting surprised or scared by the bang or recoil of the firearm, there is a good chance anticipation is causing you to break your wrist down in preparation for the recoil. There are plenty of other types of factors that can cause poor trigger manipulation, but dry fire can help.
2. Penny Drill
The penny drill is a well-known drill for a good reason. It is an important confidence booster. It demonstrates to the shooter that they can fully engage the trigger without flinching the muzzle off target. It is an important observation because during a live fire, it may seem impossible not to anticipate the bang, flash, or recoil.
Here’s how to do it: Facing a safe direction, balance a penny on the front-sight tip of your cleared firearm. Slowly bring the firearm up to eye level and achieve correct sight alignment and sight picture.
At that point, you are slowly squeezing the trigger in a straight-back motion. The trigger itself is midway between the tip of your index finger and first joint. Keep squeezing until the trigger breaks.
When that happens, the gun would normally go off, but you are keeping the muzzle steady and penny still balanced on the front sight tip. Charge the slide or recock the hammer to reset the trigger and repeat this drill for 5 minutes.
A mounted laser is also useful to illustrate to the shooter exactly where the muzzle is dropping when the trigger is being jerked or anticipated.
3. Training Aids
Gun manufacturers have owner’s manuals that tell whether an individual model is capable of dry firing. Why is this important?
Dry firing can damage the firearm if not done correctly. The firing pin struck by the hammer must transfer that energy somewhere. When it’s not striking a primer, that energy is being dissipated throughout whatever metal-on-metal contact occurs within the action sequence of the firing pin. The frequency can cause uneven wear in the action of the firearm. Eventually, it may require the replacement of the firing pin.
Some guns can handle this, some can’t. Either way, purchasing snap caps not only protects the firing pin by absorbing that energy. They also give you a chance to manipulate your firearm with all the realism except for the actual gunshot. Lauding snap caps is for another day, though. They’re a great training aid but only a small part of your at-home training toolbox.
This brings us to aiming. It is the other of our top two marksmanship fundamentals to be a competent shooter. How do you practice looking at something? First of all, oversimplifying things like that downplays the importance of learning and practicing correctly. As you have seen plenty of times, this is what the ideal sight alignment looks like:
When you add in a target, here is your ideal sight picture. Maintaining that sight alignment on the target is where many shooters can struggle.
Humans are always in motion. It is a simple biological fact. No amount of posturing, squeezing, or straining your shooting eye is going to eliminate that “arc of movement” as we call it.
Using skeletal support, focusing on the front sight tip, and allowing your eye to naturally gravitate to the center of your target all set you up to be in the best position possible to take a shot with consistent sight alignment and picture.
Using multiple target dry-fire drills can help train your eye to improve your aiming. The movement and refocus time required to engage multiple targets push the boundaries of your experience. They can drill down on keeping a clear front sight and blurry target.
What Is a Blurry Target?
The term “blurry target” seems counterintuitive. Some people ignore this fundamental altogether and instead focus on their target from the beginning. Target-focused shooting is an important defensive shooting technique. Remember, though, none of that is possible without a solid foundation in these fundamentals.
There's a reason we place so much emphasis on these basics. They help build up the most proficient muscle memory in a controlled environment like dry firing at home. After which, we can better depend on these skills kicking in when we need them the most.
Check this video about attempting to become a competent shooter from Big Mike's Hobby Channel:
In real-life violent threat encounters, the physiological changes will take away any rationality in your actions. It is when muscle memory kicks in. Avoiding the effort of training and being unaware of your surroundings until the fight will have you drawing on an empty muscle memory bank. The blackness of shock will blanket you. It will freeze you from taking any type of action. Conditioning your mind and muscle memory with a combination of applied situational awareness is the way to become a competent shooter. Dedicated training will not only challenge you to become a better version of yourself. It will also ensure you have prepared yourself to protect your life and those you care about.
What did you think of our ideas on how to become a competent shooter? Let us know in the comments section below!
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 10, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.