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Maintaining Skills

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Article first appeared at Cheaper Than Dirt.

The ability to properly handle a firearm, drive a vehicle, or operate a machine must be learned. Complex motor skills are not innate in the human physiology. Therefore, handgun skills are perishable. The important point I wish to make is that those who have acclimated to ‘learning how to learn’ by absorbing knowledge, and maintaining a good attitude, excel in my training classes. Their attention span is adequate, and they realize that only by application of study and repetition in the correct manner will they learn. Others, who have taken the path of least resistance in life and simply do what little they may to get by, seldom profit from instruction in any significant manner. They do not realize the skill needed to have a fighting chance against a motivated adversary.

Target's view of man firing a pistol

Attention to the sights and trigger are important. The shot being fired is the only important shot of the day.

Who do we prepare against?

The thief motivated by profit may run at the sight of a handgun. The psychopath who assaults for the pure pleasure of causing human suffering and misery will not be dissuaded so easily. Many of these felons have been shot or stabbed, and any you are likely to meet have been incarcerated. They are not folks like us that have had a bad day. The average Joe or Jill doesn’t need to be shot.

Why do we train?

Recreational shooting is fine for its own sake, but individuals think they are engaging in combat shooting because they are firing at the B-27, but they are not. They are shooting the X-ring out of the target at 7 yards. But they are not training for fighting. Some stand on the static range, warm up by stretching, move their arms about in a pantomime, and draw from an open top holster to leisurely fire.

Funny, they often fire the first shot slowly then fire a flurry of shots! They are disorganized to say the least. Some have purchased the right books; others have not. Let the Lord watch over the ones that use television as their guide, because I meet them often. The author that has walked the streets has earned information the hard way. It is difficult to pick up any other way. Gabriel Suarez and Tom Givens come to mind as good modern trainers; Talon Training Group is another. Kevin Michaelowski is someone whose work I respect among active writers. Massad Ayoob and I have shaken hands and seen eye to eye. All will counsel that you cannot rely upon skills you cannot demonstrate.

Instructor and student reviewing a target

Obtain good instruction. Find an NRA certified instructor and pay close attention during each step in class.

When training, you must record the results and keep yourself aware of your progress. There is a need for mileposts. During personal development, I find that most of us reach a respectable degree of competency within a few months of regular practice. After a year or two, you reach a certain plateau and the increments of speed and precision come harder. If you lay off your training, you will find that your skills erode. As a martial art, handgunning is probably more difficult than boxing or Karate because much equipment is required, and you are not able to workout at home (as much). I have never met a martial artist who worked with me and did not excel upon application of proper principles in handgunning. Remember: learn to learn.

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When you practice, the primary motivation is to maintain skill. Next, address skill-building exercises. The quantity of ammunition expended is not always the best indicator of the nature of the practice. If you enjoy firing—and most that excel do—that is good, but do not fall into the trap of simply making brass and firing 50 rounds or 100 rounds as the object. The object is skill maintenance.

A professional I know well, practices a drill until he cannot get it wrong. When addressing a new drill and facing a new tactical problem in competition, he solves the problem, and as he puts it, “does not waste ammunition pursuing the drill further.” Instead, he moves on to the next drill. Too many shooters are good at a certain drill and enjoy firing it again and again. Do not do so to the point that your ability to address new skills suffers.

Address moving targets and skill building exercises such as rapid reloading as you practice. Self correction is difficult but possible. Having the instructor demonstrate the correct technique is best. Mirror image the instruction. And, when firing alone, we may manage to address shortcomings. Confidence is built by repeating standard drills, but we must also challenge ourselves. A tight budget works against many of us. So does a crushing work schedule—endure.

Man holding a revolver and flashlight

Practice low light tactics as often as possible.

You may practice dry fire at home with a triple-checked unloaded firearm. Using the triple-checked unloaded program, the presentation may be practiced. A dozen repetitions a day is a good goal—you will find yourself competent and in control of the trigger. The same goes for the presentation from concealed carry. You will effortlessly be presenting the handgun from concealed carry. Next. I’ll list a few drills to help you keep the edge.

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Range Drills

Practice drills to maintain competence.

Bill Drill – Draw and fire 6 rounds at 7 yards as quickly as you can retain the sight picture. All should be in the X ring. Work on speed.

Draw from concealed carry and get a center hit on a target at the 7 yard line in 1.5 seconds or less. Work to achieve the same time at 10 yards.

Three Bullseyes: Three 8-inch bullseye targets are placed on a target backer at 7 yards. Draw and fire from left to right, re-holster, then draw and fire from right to left—2 rounds on each target. Next, draw and fire at the center target, and then address either the right- or the left hand target. This drill teaches how to transition between targets, skill, and speed.

Practice moving with a lateral motion to the target. Never cross your legs! Fire while moving.

Fire with two hands at 10 and 15 yards.

Fire from the barricade position at 15 and 25 yards.

Home Drills

12 perfect trigger compressions.

12 rapid presentations from cover.

What are your favorite drills to maintain your readiness and skills? Share them in the comment section.

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