How to have *quality* practice?


May 2, 2005, 12:36 AM
I see many people here who subscribe to the idea that the more shooting practice you can get in, the better. Of course more practice is a good idea.

However, I find myself at a point now where it seems that simply shooting more rounds down range is not making me a better shooter. Sure, it is a lot of fun, but I don't see my skills improving. Anyone else in the same situation? Where to go from here?

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May 2, 2005, 12:43 AM
I have no idea what your level of experience is, so you'll have to pardon me if my suggestion is of no use. I'm not anywhere near the stage where I can't gain much from target practice, but I've found that supplementing my range visits with classes has helped immeasurably.

So far I've taken a hunter's safety course and the NRA basic pistol. I know all the safety rules and how different weapons function (though review in the former area is never a bad thing), so the beginning of each session was a bit redundant, but I learned all kinds of useful things about breathing, different grips, and stances. These haven't made me a perfectly accurate shooter, but I can place shots more consistently and use the firearm more comfortably as a result of my recent education.

Highly recommended.

May 2, 2005, 12:52 AM
''Practice'' IMO covers much - more than just ''rounds downrange''.

I would include - some form if possible of ''practical'' shooting - a means of practicing under some degree of stress. With care - dry fire at home - a means to refine your skills at draw and sight aquisition.

Even at the range - paper punching mode - attempt faster shooting - from leather (if allowed) - from retention - play ball and dummy - (enlist friend's help) - to try and spot flinch problems.

Extend distance - try pistol at 25 and 50 yards. Practice speedloads, mag-changes ....

So much - hard in fact to ever be as good as is possible. I am sure you have much more ''practice mileage'' you have yet to explore.

May 2, 2005, 01:02 AM
Good suggestions... The only classes I have ever taken are a hunting safety class and CCW class.

I'd like to try some flinching practice with random dummy rounds in the mags, but I'm usually at the range by myself, so there isn't anyone to load mags for me.

I do practice firing from concealment almost every range trip. The biggest area in which I need improvment is on the initial double action shot. Any suggestions for that?

May 2, 2005, 01:11 AM
If semi practice - load mags ball and dummy in advance - I'll challenge anyone to remember what sequences they loaded a day later! :p The biggest area in which I need improvement is on the initial double action shot. Any suggestions for that? I too always need practice on exactly that. I simply suggest - fill mag - rack slide - decock - holster. Draw and fire 2 rounds. Reholster after decock - repeat - many times!

You may already do that but only way I find to get to grips with that D/A - S/A transition. I am well down on fluency right now with my SIG - as proven by last IDPA shoot- more and more practice is needed. At my age I doubt I can ever get as good as I want. My comp ''hayday'' twenty and more years ago - might have been different. ;)

Be inventive with practice - set goals and challenges - you'd be surprised how many small variations are possible. It all helps IMO.

May 2, 2005, 01:16 AM
Take it to the next level of shooting analysis. (

If you don't improve from this won't.

May 2, 2005, 01:26 AM
Where you shoot will also effect the type of practice you can do. I have always been able to shoot in area's that allow me to set up different type targets at different levels and ranges. Extending from right to left by 180 degrees in front of me and to the sides as well.

This allows for practice with different target types ,and shapes, and sizes, as well as distances and at different levels .

Active targets are sometimes a lot of fun, such as shooting baloons on anchoring strings during windy days so they can bounce around. Having a friend roll a tire with target inside down a slope helps acquire some ability to pick up moving targets. (remember safety ! - the area has to accomadate this type practice)

May 2, 2005, 07:17 AM
A good place to start:

Lots of great info.

Just my .02,

Double Naught Spy
May 2, 2005, 07:55 AM
ttbadboy, first, practice is not necessarily about getting better, although it can be. Practice is also about maintaining the skills you already have.

Aside from getting better at specific skills, one of my regular practice issues that I try to address is working through sloppiness that has crept in to my shooting. Some weeks, it is trigger control. Some, it is sight picture. Some, it is tactical and/or administrative reloads.

I hate to say it, but chances are you can reach a point where you will cease to get much better unless you get professional-styled training or substantially increase your practice time. There really are limits to just how much you can improve if you shoot like regular shooters, once or twice a week for a short period to time.

May 2, 2005, 09:53 AM
one suggestion, is there any shooting competitions in your area? like idpa, uspsa ipsc steel pins... most shooting sports have differnt skill levels to keep things challenging and to make things level. many times you can get tips and pointers from more advanced shooters. you can also watch the competition and pick up some new ideas to use in your own training. that and it is a good place to talk guns and shooting and have fun at it. and just remember that you are shooting against your self and for improvement in shooting skills and enjoyment, if you score good and win somthing great if not no big deal, go to improve your self.

Bartholomew Roberts
May 2, 2005, 10:09 AM
I find one of the most important things I do during practice is work on developing "good" habits. Speed is a lot less important than doing all of the movements correctly and instilling good habits.

I look at practice as a place to try new concepts and see how I like them and as a place to drill the basic fundamentals so that they become as automatic as breathing. I find I will start to get sloppy and cut corners on fundamentals if I don't regularly do a nice slow drill of the basics.

Guy B. Meredith
May 2, 2005, 11:32 AM
I will second comments by Double Naught Spy and Bartholomew Roberts. Practice is just an adjunct to good training.

Practice alone does not necessarily go anywhere. You can practice poor habits endlessly and that is all you end up with. I am in this pickle. I have had safety classes, shot IPSC competition, but never had professional training on basic grip and trigger pull technique. I sincerely wish I had.

Every couple of years I stumble onto some revelation that puts me up an incremental amount. Professional training could have saved a lot of time and thousands of wasted rounds.

One revelation was comments on Jerry Miculek's video pounding in the concept of watching the front sight. Another group were how to be aware of and work with my significant tendency to flinch. Last weekend it was a comment from Shooting USA to grip the revolver as if shaking hands (had only been using shooting hand for support). Working with Jerry's comment and the Shooting USA instruction I have more than doubled my competence in the last month after 6 years of shooting.

May 2, 2005, 01:37 PM
Thanks for the input everyone; I think where this is going is that some professional, quality instruction is what I really need. Problem is, I don't know where to get it around here.

I've been thinking about trying to join the Greenville Gun Club in Greenville, SC, ever since I read on their website that they have an IDPA style match every month. It is about 30-40 min drive from here (at least) but that sounds like something that would help me out. Maybe this summer, if I have some time on my hands...

May 2, 2005, 02:02 PM
ttbadboy - my IDPA requires a 40 min drive - last year when I started at this club I was hesitant to have to go so far when I have range facilities nearer.

The lure of compo's tho took over and I find too I am with a fine bunch of folks. It is worth the time and gas money.

I have even driven over almost every Wednesday all winter - for indoor 22 pin shoots! Now weather gets better I can at least save some gas and take bike - strapping range bag on rear seat - so I get to enjoy a ride as well as shoot! We start Wednesday evening outdoor shoots this week - alternating .22 steel shoots and 60 round PPC. :)

May 2, 2005, 02:41 PM
"simply shooting more rounds down range is not making me a better shooter"

Shooting rounds down range reinforces the level of skills used in firing those shots. If you want to get better, you must "practice" using better techniques more consistently.

FWIW, based on forty years of pistol shooting including several years of Bullseye competition:
The four major basics in pistol shooting are sight alignment, trigger control, consistent grip, and stance. IMO stance is a far, far fourth in priority!

To get better, pick one of the major three basic skills for each pistol shooting session and concentrate on performing it better than before. Next time, pick another basic skill and concentrate on it. Rotate among the top three basic skills until your muscle memory retains the improved skill levels. I suggest the following sequence: 1) consistent grip, 2) sight alignment, 3) trigger control. In any practice session, STOP when you can no longer maintain a high skill level in the three major basics. Remember your practice reinforces whatever level of skill you are using.

If you keep on doing what you always did, you will keep on getting the same old results!

Good shooting and be safe.

May 2, 2005, 03:16 PM
i'd check with your doctor to see if Levitra is right for you.

wait, what are we talking about? :neener:

May 2, 2005, 03:34 PM
If you are getting consistent POI try this diagnostic to help you understand where your technique is breaking down.

Standing Wolf
May 2, 2005, 08:29 PM
Sure, it is a lot of fun, but I don't see my skills improving. Anyone else in the same situation? Where to go from here?

Nothing hones one's skills better—or faster—than competition.

May 2, 2005, 09:20 PM
Interesting diagram, though I am left handed so the sides may have to be reversed.

I'd like to start some IDPA shooting this summer... looking into it now.

May 2, 2005, 09:38 PM
I 2nd the notion that good consistent training is a good idea. What you do in practice will affect what you do in a real situation. An example is, I save all the brass on my Enfield #4 Mk I. When I was hunting with the rifle two years ago, I had a deer jump out of the brush and hightailed it down a ditch. My first shot grazed the top of his back and bounced off his spine as he ran through the ditch, my 2nd shot nailed him in the boiler plate and the third shot got him in the same place. That was one tough deer. What amazed me is that I thought, doggone it, I lost those three cases. To my amazement, they were all three in my pocket, right where I usually put them in practice. All three of those shots were taken in under 6 seconds. That episode taught me to take my practice seriously and make sure I had good habits.

Double Naught Spy
May 2, 2005, 10:23 PM
Nothing hones one's skills better—or faster—than competition.

Well, this depends on what sort of skills one wants to hone. If the skills are to be self defense related, I see a lot of problem with this logic. As near as I can tell, many types of competition promote good shooting (at least good competition shooting), but stupid tactics. If self defense related, it must be kept in mind that matches do not constitute or substitute for training.

May 2, 2005, 10:37 PM
Lately I have been practicing shooting while moving, what an eye opener. I start concealed then draw and move left to right(while engaging one or multiple targets)then right to left. Following that with some backwards and forwards movement. Then throwing in a little diagonal movement. I figure in a self defense situation I will want to be moving twords cover while trying to discourage my attackers.


Texian Pistolero
May 3, 2005, 03:41 PM
Heres a grab bag of suggestions, to supplement other excellent advice:

1) Get fit, skip rope to improve over all coordination,

2) Do paintball at least once to get the John Wayne out of your step. (That first smack was the most important tactical lesson I ever had.)

3) Have a logically selected toolkit, ata a minimum, handgun/shotgun/ semi-auto rifle.

4) Keep a logbook of all your range trips & training, using standard format, such as:

Where, when, weather
Training objective(s) (having fun is OK!)
Guns/Ammo fired
Results: Were objective(s) accomplished? Any malfunctions, why?
Recommendations for future rane trip/training
General comments:

5) Do scenario analysis on specific defense shooting/confrontations reported in your local media

6) reactive targets such as metal spinners give you immediate nervous system feed back. A lot is lot in translation when you have to go down range to check your target.

May 3, 2005, 04:40 PM
2) Do paintball at least once to get the John Wayne out of your step. (That first smack was the most important tactical lesson I ever had.)
Too true. :o I got tagged out of my first paintball match before I ever fired a paintball marker. I had no idea of tactics or "keep your head down" or that sort of thing. I knew who I wanted to hit, and I waited for them to get "in range," but the next thing I knew "pop pop pop" and I had been hit in the shoulder, the elbow, and the forearm. :fire: :cuss:

I made it a point the rest of that day to never go down before hitting someone else. :cool: :evil: :banghead:

Eskimo Jim
May 3, 2005, 04:55 PM
I typically practice some accuracy at reasonable distance then longer range. I practice reloads either with a magazine or speed loader depending on pistol or revolver.

I also try to put two targets out and practice transitioning between the two targets.

Practicing the draw is tough in an indoor range because most don't allow it.

I also try to practice controlled pairs/double taps, whatever you want to call firing two shots with two sight pictures. I try to work in some strong hand only and some weak hand only shoots too. has a great section on various drills.


May 3, 2005, 05:39 PM
I played paintball about twice a month for several years, including sponsored tournaments.

I wouldn't recommend paintball as being useful in any firearms training... IMO, the two have nothing to do with each other.

I think I'm going to look into taking pistol classes over the summer. There must be some around here somewhere.

May 3, 2005, 08:07 PM
First off I want to say that I by no means am an "expert". I was in the US Army active duty for six years and now work at a max prison on a Special Security Team. I am also a member of the facility Hostage Rescue Team. Been on this for about 6 months. In the few months I have been on this team I have learned more about shoooting and tactics than I could have dreamed. I sounds real easy to shoot while walikng, Running, ducking and whatever else but its not. Actually going into a " Room " and encountering " Threats " and firing on them without shooting a team member is difficult. I have learned alot and good god so much more to learn from here its amazing. I just keep trying to get better and more informed.

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