DIY range day: Sharpen your skills on your own time with these drills

It’s vital that cops go beyond the minimum firearms training requirements in order to stay safe

Ammunition shortages, decreased training budgets, deduced training time due to short staffing – I’ll bet a box of warm Krispy Kremes your trigger time has been significantly reduced over the last few years.

Some cops will never consider spending a dime of their own money or a minute of their own time on training. If they get in-service training — especially firearms training — the agency will be footing the bill (and they will try to figure out how to get overtime pay for it). Let’s assume you are not one of those officers.

Even if your agency has kept up their firearms program, how much time and ammo is spent on proficiency with an on-duty backup gun (BUG) or off-duty pistol? One BUG or off-duty qualification shoot per year is damn little time spent with the weapon you trust for the moments when all else has failed. Further, for retirees, one qualification course per year is all you need to stay current with LEOSA requirements. But is that sufficient to prevail when you encounter a live-and-death incident?

Your Own Time, Your Own Dime
Pick the situation above which fits you and resolve to do better, which means some shooting on your own time and your own dime. Even one box of ammo per month spent in meaningful practice could pay huge dividends should you suddenly “see the elephant.

The best situation is for a few friends to get together for some shooting and coaching. Self-training can be great — I do a lot of that myself — but having someone else along makes it more fun and helps avoid developing bad habits which might otherwise go uncorrected.

Work on steel targets for short, informal training sessions to save time and get instant target feedback. My club range has a bay with two side-by-side falling plate racks, with six targets each. That gives me 12 steel circles eight inches in diameter, very realistic center-mass targets for close to medium range pistol work. You take the risk of serious bullet fragment splatter at less than seven yards, so spend most of your time between the 15 to seven yard lines. If you can use a set of pepper popper steel targets, even better, but I like to rig them not to fall to save resetting time.

One warm-up drill you can conduct is to start from a high ready position. Press out and fire a single shot to plate number one, then back to ready. Then press out and engage two plates at a slightly increased cadence, then back to ready. Keep adding more plates and speed to the sequence, reloading as needed. Firing 24 rounds through this drill should refresh your marksmanship basics of sight alignment and trigger control. Stay focused on the fundamentals and reload from your normal spare ammo carry position.

Take a break, reload magazines, and get hydrated. The next phase of your monthly (hopefully) self-training can be repeating the above drill starting at 10-12 yards, but shooting on the move. Slowly and smoothly move downrange while engaging one plate, then two, then three — then reload.

Still walking slowly and smoothly, change direction to move laterally at the seven-yard line, engaging targets as you go. Right hand shooters walk forward when going right and walk backwards to move left across the line. If you’re better coordinated than me you can switch to left hand shooting and walk forward when advancing to the left.

Walk smoothly backward on one stage, even incorporating a barrel as a cover point you can reach. When you reach the barrel, assume the appropriate cover position, reload and scan or engage targets.

Vary your live-fire exercises to test different levels of marksmanship. Low light training is especially valuable if you can access an indoor range or night-friendly outdoor facility.

Shoot dot drills on paper targets — small circles at close range which require extreme precision.

Draw and shoot your BUG from flat on your back or prone, that may be where you find yourself when needing your last-resort piece.

Only you can determine the value of your life. My life has always been worth shooting on my own time and spending my own money for the ammo.

It jives with my motto for survival: Not here! Not today!

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