Shooting Practice

Shooting Practice photo c/o Ratha Grimes

Shooting Practice photo c/o Ratha Grimes

Let’s assume you’ve got your gun or guns of choice.  You are committed to going to the range periodically to ensure you have the proper skill and experience to use the firearm in a moment of critical self-defense. Here are a couple of suggestions as to what can you do to  maximize your shooting practice time.

  • Practice drawing you firearm from its place of concealment.  Until you get perfectly comfortable with this, I would practice this without a firearm initially, then with a definitely unloaded firearm, and then with the firearm itself.  If you are going to have to act, you’ll need to keep the element of surprise, so fidgeting with you shirt, purse, or what have you could cost you your life.
  • Practice shooting from low and on your side, as if all you’ve done is clear your holster.  There’s no need to think that you can’t fire your gun until you’ve extended your firearm out in front of you. You may find yourself needing to shoot sooner than that. Accurate shots can be made from this position.  Obviously you don’t have the benefit of your sight apertures, but if you keep your body pointed towards your target, you’ll be surprised what your brain does with the rest.

    Shooting Practice: Shoot from the holster. Photo c/o

    Shooting Practice: Shoot from the holster. Photo c/o

  • Practice shooting in a double-tap fashion. I specifically recommend this strategy for women. The reason being is since women are more sensitive to the sound of a firearm, they tend to wince—if only mildly so—until they get completely comfortable with a firearm.  This takes awhile.  However, shooting your firearm with the immediate succession of two shots, helps you get used to that.  Additionally, your second shot will tend to be more accurate than the first because you typically will no be wincing and waiting for it.  The key to effective double-tap practice  is that you roll the trigger back twice, one right behind the other, in a rapid succession.  Roll twice, reassess.  Roll twice, re-assess.
  • Practice emptying and entire clip (not what it’s called actually, but what most people refer to when they are discussing the “magazine”) in rapid succession.  Yes, do try to make your shots accurate, but this particular practice is to help you get familiar with the hold, feel, and sound of the firearm.  (Plus, I have to admit, it’s kind of a rush to empty a full clip (ahem, magazine), and any significant male accompanying you may very well feel the same way. 🙂 )
  • Practice shooting with your weak hand.  In order to ensure optimal self-defense ability, you want to make sure that you can shoot your firearm in the event your strong hand is impeded.  Yes, this will feel very awkward, but you’ve got to make sure you can do it so that you’re defendable in any circumstance.  You may also want to try your shooting practice as if you only have one hand available—including loading your firearm, cocking it, and then shooting.

    Shooting Practice: Shoot with your weak hand. Photo c/o

    Shooting Practice: Shoot with your weak hand. Photo c/o

  • Practice shooting withOUT your hearing protection.  I don’t recommend you doing this a lot, of course. But the bottom line is, you won’t have your hearing protection on in a moment of self-defense.  You don’t want to be rattled after your first shot, just because you had never heard an un-muffled shot before.  You need to be able to hear it from your own firearm to prepare you, as well as to prepare you to hear and recognize shots fired from another nearby firearm.
  • Practice shooing in the dark.  Again, is this a likely self-defense shot?  Yes.  In a dark alley, in the parking lot, or even in your bedroom—these places are all likely to be without the light you typically practice with when enjoying your shooting practice.  (Your local professional ranges actually set up scenarios like this for their members.) One of the reasons to practice shooting in the dark is to instill the proper knowledge and confidence necessary in a dark situation for you to defend yourself.  Another reason I recommend this is so that you’re not startled by the muzzle flash “flame” of gases that you’ll see being expelled from your firearm in a dark scenario.  The gases are always there.  It’s just not likely that you see them when you conduct your shooting practice in a well-lit shooting range.

    Shooting Practice: Shoot in the dark. Photo c/o

    Shooting Practice: Shoot in the dark. Photo c/o

One last word of warning—anytime you’re shooting outside of the ordinary, you must be sure to employ the absolute of caution and safety.  With the exception of rolling the trigger in quick successive shots, everything you do prior to and after such shooting practice should be done the maximum amount of safety in mind.

Happy shooting!

Copyright 2009 Kellene Bishop. All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Kellene Bishop.

10 Responses

  1. All very good advice, I just want to caution people about shooting without hearing protection – all it takes is a single shot for hearing loss to start, and repeated shots in a very short time can make the matter significantly worse. One or two shots once or twice a year will not be a major problem, but please be careful with it, and try not to do it too often. Feel free to blame my Navy hearing-loss-prevention training for this public safety announcement ;).

    I will, however, agree that shooting in the dark is a very important thing to practice. My first exposure to it was during an IDPA competition, and my first shot in that dark target alley was an experience I will not soon forget – while it does stand the chance of momentarily blinding you, depending on the ammunition you use, it also gives you a very momentary chance to see what is going on around you. It all comes down to the training :).

  2. “Practice emptying and entire clip in rapid succession. Yes, do try to make your shots accurate, but this particular practice is to help you get familiar with the hold, feel, and sound of the firearm. (Plus, I have to admit, it’s kind of a rush to empty a full clip, and any significant male accompanying you may very well feel the same way. 🙂 )”

    How about when we teach people we teach them the correct terminology. Most handguns are loaded with a “magazine” not a “Clip” they are really two very different things.


  3. Thanks Kellene,

    It’s like fingernails on the blackboard to me. Here in the South “clip” is the accepted term. I didn’t mean to come down hard on you, but those of us who teach this stuff have got to set a good example. Funny story: I once walked into a sporting good store (a chain) and asked an employee if they had any “Glock magazines” He shuffled off and rifled through catalogs and came back and informed me that they were out of them, seems he thought I wanted a catalog (magazine). Anyway, I really enjoy you blog and umpteen tweets.


  4. Lots of good advice here, but I guess I’d have to second Linoge’s comment on shooting without hearing protection. I have a constant background noise of cicadas as a result of going to rock concerts in my youth as well as six years in the field artillery (real men didn’t wear earplugs.)

    It is said by folks that have been in gunfights that auditory exclusion occurs (along with other physical phenomena such as loss of fine motor skills) when a ton of adrenaline dumps into your system. As a result there doesn’t seem to be hearing loss after many gunfights. So I think I wouldn’t practice that aspect. I’d practice using your whole off hand to rack a pistol’s slide, in anticipation of losing fine motor skills. failure drills, also.

    • I wholeheartedly agree that firing without ear protection should be unusual. My recommendation to do so is strictly so that one can have experienced it prior to defending their life with a firearm.

  5. Your advice is very good, but it does not address the fact that every shooting range that is in my area prohibits the practices that you recommend we train to master.

    How do we overcome that?

    • Wow. That is a tough one. I guess in some regards I sure am “sheltered” here. I’ve been in several different states and when I go to outdoor ranges I’ve always been able practice these alternative skills. Check and see if you can find an outdoor range.

  6. […] a waste.  (Especially now that I brought home over $50 of FREE steak to can this weekend. :))  If you bring home that handgun, be prepared to practice with it and participate in as many classes a….  If you purchase the Food Saver, start using it.  I think you get my point.  (By the way, […]

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