Do You Have Range ADD?

medium_3031432841Have you ever been to the range with more guns than you can carry in your arms in a single trip? Do you switch guns between strings of fire often? Do you shoot the same target for the whole range session or with multiple guns?

If so you might have Range ADD.

A few weeks ago, I went to the range with a friend and former coworker for some social shooting and to catch up. While we were there shooting on a common firing line with other members of his club, I noticed that everyone on the range appeared to have a case of what I consider range ADD.

Now maybe everyone was there for a social outing and only wanted to throw lead with their friends. If that is the case, that’s fine, I’m as much for enjoyment of second amendment rights as the next guy. You don’t need a rhyme or reason to be at the range shooting, and Americans enjoying their liberty is always a great thing.

That said, I’m also a huge proponent of making every round down range a learning experience. Ammo is too expensive and hard to find these days to throw down range with no return on investment. Even if I shoot firearms that I know I’ll never use to defend my life or home, I still make efforts to use the opportunity to practice fundamentals. Learning and improving on fundamentals requires consistent practice and feedback. Range ADD prohibits both feedback and consistency.

Three Ways You Can Avoid Range ADD

Bring Fewer Guns

The first symptom of range ADD is bringing too many guns. Do you need to only own one or two? Absolutely not! Owning more guns is never a bad thing. But you don’t need to bring them all every time you head to the range. I like to bring between 1 and 3 depending on my plan for the range trip. If I’m working on pistol skills and I feel like bringing more than one gun, I might bring my carry gun, a .22 pistol and a ‘fun’ pistol that might be part of my historical collection.

I would start with the carry gun to practice defensive skills before transitioning to the other pistols to continue working on marksmanship skills. I am still enjoying my “toys” while also making the trip a worthwhile training experience.

Plan Your Range Day

If you are heading to the range without a plan, you are almost guaranteed to get less out of your day than you would with a plan. Do you need your plan to detail how every round will be shot? No. But knowing which drills you plan on working on is a good start. Maybe you start every trip with a diagnostic drill and then choose drills to work on your weakest areas that day. Your plan can be flexible as long as it has some logic behind it.

Rotating through guns with every string or shooting at random is going to make it harder to improve on fundamentals.

Use Good Targets

No matter what you are shooting, make sure you change or paste targets frequently enough to get solid feedback, and use targets that help you learn. Shooting your target to swiss cheese with your entire collection makes it difficult to see where your shots went, and therefore removes the target from your feedback loop. If that’s your plan, why use a target at all? At least you might see where your hits land on the berm. If you don’t want to head down range as often, hang more targets, or use reactive targets like clay pigeons or steel. Feedback is necessary for improvement.

So do you have range ADD? Please share your opinions and experience in the comments below!

photo credit: dagnyg via photopin cc

How To Carve Out an Ideal Dry-Fire Space In Your Home

Dry-FireI’m a strong proponent of dry-fire. Dry-fire is far cheaper and frankly more effective at developing skills related to shooting than live fire. Spending time at home dry-firing can improve your skills and requires far less time and commitment than heading to the range.

The key to being effective with dry-fire in your training is to make sure it becomes a consistent habit. Habitual training is far more valuable than sporadic and uncoordinated training sessions. Want to make dry-fire a habit? Find a space and designate it for your training to help eliminate excuses and make dry-fire easy.

What makes an ideal dry-fire space?

There is definitely an ideal setup for dry-fire. It can vary a little from person to person, but some aspects will always remain universal. You can’t always mimic this ideal dry-fire space in your own home, but the closer you can get, the more safe and effective you will be.

Remember that safety is paramount in dry-fire. Anytime you pick up a firearm and pull the trigger you need to be conscious of the potential repercussions of doing so. When mishandled, firearms can be very dangerous.

Remove all ammunition

The first rule of dry-fire is to remove all ammunition from the practice area. If you want to set up an ideal dry-fire space, you can take this a step further by banning all ammunition from your dry-fire space at all times. If you are using a gun that normally remains loaded, you want to load and unload away from the dry-fire space (and equally important you will only dry-fire in your designated space).

If no ammunition enters your dry-fire space, you can have a reasonable expectation that your gun will remain inert.

Have a good backstop

The second safety rule that often comes up in relation to dry-fire is to have a safe backstop. Some people use body armor behind their target or dry-fire at a book case (from the side to force any negligent discharge to travel through your reading material).

I find this approach a little over the top. After all if you are diligent about removing all ammunition why would you need a backstop? That said, caution should still be taken in choosing the location and direction of your dry-fire. Instead of a formal backstop, I prefer to guarantee that no person or thing will be in the path of my muzzle when I dry-fire. Dry-fire at your wife’s cat? Not a good idea. Dry-fire at a wall at the back of your home that has miles of state forest behind it? A much better idea.

Have a good floor

You wouldn’t immediately think that the floor would be important for dry-fire, but I think it is. Effective dry-fire covers more than just squeezing the trigger. You should be drawing, reloading, and even moving. A really hard floor can spell disaster if you drop your expensive mags or pistol on it.

Ideally you would have a thick and durable rug or carpet to provide cushioning. Realistically this isn’t always possible. There are alternatives such as a padded box to catch things like mags that you intentionally drop.

Work space can be key

When I dry-fire I tend to take notes about what I do and will often have a written plan beside me. I also like to have space to stow my magazines and pistol while I’m rearranging my gear. Finally, my laptop almost always gets involved, providing a cheap par timer. For me this means having a good work surface available. This could be the edge of a bed, a desk, table, or even some other improvised surface.

What to bring to your dry-fire space?

Once you have a designated dry-fire space you need to make sure you bring the right equipment to make the most of your dry-fire. The right tools make any job easier, and that applies to dry-fire as much as it does to building a shed or fixing your car.

So what do you really need for dry-fire? A few things are crucial:

  1. Your firearm – unloaded. If you have one, an inert dry-fire barrel can further improve the safety quotient, but it will hinder your ability to practice some things.

  2. Spare magazines – you will need magazines if you intend to make your dry-fire dynamic. The more magazines you have, the less often you need to bend down to pick them up. I usually use 6; your mileage may vary.

  3. Timer – shot timers are very helpful when your goal is to work on your speed. I generally use a timer in par time mode since most timers will not pick up dry-fire shots. Rather than mess with my range timer I tend to use my laptop and this great app.

  4. Notebook – Recording your progress allows you to measure yourself against past performance.

  5. Target – you definitely do not want to forget a target in dry-fire. My preferred dry-fire target gives me a variety of things to aim at and is scaled to take best advantage of the space I have.

A few other things help further improve your experience:

  1. Snap caps – these allow you to see that a reload actually worked (when a snap cap round ends up in the chamber), or they can be used for malfunction clearing drills.

  2. Weighted magazines – can allow you to practice certain manipulations more realistically. Some large capacity polymer framed guns handle significantly differently when full compared to empty.

  3. Video camera – recording yourself can be a very helpful tool for diagnosing shooting errors. Going back to the tape can help you see why your reloads fail or how to shave time off your draw-stroke.

Some example setups

Over the past year or so I have had two different dry-fire spaces. Originally I used my bedroom for convenience and comfort. This works great when you only spend time dry-firing at times when your spouse will not be in bed. If he or she is sick, good luck.

More recently I moved to the basement in anticipation of the incoming baby. Getting away from the main family spaces allows me to dry-fire in the morning before work or any time I don’t want to disturb the wife and kid.

Bedroom Setup

My bedroom setup was convenient for a variety of reasons. The carpet protected my mags, and my bed was correctly spaced from the wall to provide a good distance from my target and serve as a surface for my equipment. The nearby dresser also provided a great place to conveniently store all of my mags and my notebook between sessions.

As mentioned before, the big down side was that I was limited on when I could use the space. My wife isn’t a morning person and has been home for the past 9 months cooking up a baby, so trying to dry-fire in the bedroom before 10am noon isn’t really a great option.

 BedroomArea

Basement Setup

The basement setup is less ideal in some respects, but it allows me to train when I want. I have an additional safe in the basement, allowing me to keep a pistol and all of my training gear stowed near my dry-fire space. In the short term I have been using a stack of styrofoam shipping containers as a temporary work surface, which will be replaced by my workbench when complete.

The floor in the basement is definitely not ideal for dry-fire. Concrete and magazines is a recipe for eventual disaster. To mitigate this I took a cardboard box (thanks Ikea) and cut the top off. I filled this box with bubble wrap to provide ample cushioning.

 MagBox

I move the box around as necessary to catch my mags. While I usually manage to miss the box a few times per session, I find that dropping a few mags a week on concrete is far better than dropping each one on concrete 30-50 times per week.

BasementArea

Dry-fire is a great, inexpensive way to improve your shooting skills in the comfort of your home. Just how comfortable is largely dependent on how much thought goes into your dry-fire area. A well designed dry-fire area results in safe and efficient training.

Now it’s your turn. How is your dry-fire area setup? Please let us know in the comments below.

If you would like to share pictures and a please send them them to nick <at> indestructibletraining.com, I’d love to see how you train.

Let Me Introduce You To Your New Best Friend: Your Target

The best tool for improving your marksmanship is your target. Like your best friend, your target is always there and willing to help. But unlike your best friend, your target will not lie to you. Whatever you are doing wrong or right, your target will provide an immediate and unambiguous record. If you know how to read your target, there is a wealth of knowledge to be had every time you go shooting.

The principle is simple really. Just about every common shooting error presents in a predictable way on your target. If you make one of those common mistakes, your target will show it. Knowing how to identify these mistakes can help you easily self-correct and improve your shooting.

Learning to read (your target)

A variety of individuals and organizations have published charts to assist you in identifying your errors.

Using a chart to identify your errors can be straightforward, but if you haven’t done it before there are a few tricks to make it easier.

Step 1: shoot the target

Until your target has holes, there isn’t much it can do for you. Kind of like if your wife were to ask you if an outfit looks good on her despite the fact that you haven’t seen it. The question gets you nowhere except a trip to the doghouse. You can’t blame your target when you shoot poorly, but she still blames you if she doesn’t like your answer. Go figure.

Step 2: consult the chart

Once you have holes in your target, the fun begins. Now you can compare your target to a chart and identify your shooting errors. How you compare will depend heavily on the kind of chart you are using.

These charts come in two main varieties: shot group examples, and wheels. The shot group example charts tend to show pictures representing example groups. With this kind of chart, find the picture that most closely represents your target.

With the wheel charts, things are a little different. Here you need to compare your group position to an area on the wheel. Once you have found a group or a section on the wheel, you should now have a list of one or more errors you could be making.

Step 3: process of elimination

Once you have your list of errors you can start eliminating potential problems. For example the first chart below indicates that with the pistol groups hitting low left generally can be caused by poor trigger control or poor sight alignment.

In order to identify which of these errors you could be committing, you should start by posting a fresh target and shooting another group. This time focus on not making one of the errors you found. With the above example you might choose sight alignment. Make sure those sights are perfectly aligned for each shot. Did the issue go away? If not then repeat but try focusing on a perfect trigger squeeze.

If you go through all the listed options without fixing your issue, you have one of a few potential problems: you were unable to actually self-correct one of the issues, your chart is incomplete and you are committing another unmentioned error, or you are combining multiple unrelated problems which happen to combine to look like a different problem altogether.

Potential pitfalls

Before you head to the range and expect these charts to be your new savior, remember one thing: these charts are imperfect. The real world isn’t always black and white. It’s not impossible to be doing more than one thing wrong (sometimes they will even cancel each other out, masking the problems altogether).

Sometimes you might find new and exciting ways to screw up too, meaning your mistake might not be on the charts at all. Congratulations, have a cookie.

Charts

Not all charts are created equal. They tend to all have common themes and areas where they overlap, but some charts list errors that others don’t. The amount of information on these charts can differ greatly. Which one you use is up to you. When in doubt keep a collection of various charts – more information is never a bad thing so long as you can parse it.

There are many similarities between disciplines, but for the most part these charts are targeted towards one type of shooting. Below are some charts I have found for analyzing pistol marksmanship. If you are looking for a chart that covers rifle marksmanship errors, check out an Appleseed, they provide some great materials.

1. Target Shooting Canada:

This is a good fundamentals chart of the group examples variety. This is a great place to start, especially if you are just starting out.

2. NEShooters (Awerbuck):

This analysis tool caters more to the tactical/defensive shooting crowd. Personally I take exception to a few of the listed errors: in particular 9 o’clock shooting errors being caused by not resetting the trigger quickly enough. This is a good example of a more complicated wheel type chart presenting all of its information in one diagram.

3. Degrata Tactical:

Another good general fundamentals chart, similar in many ways to the first. While the first one had brief lists of errors, this actually provides advice on correcting technique.

4. Xavier Thoughts:

This chart is probably one of the best because it’s so simple. Unlike the other charts I listed, this one is a very concise and clear wheel type chart, but it does require a bit more knowledge to use.

Analyze your groups regularly to improve

Your target doesn’t lie. If you want to improve your shooting and don’t have the luxury of the oversight of an experienced instructor, the next best option is to look at your target. Let your target do the teaching. With the right materials, you can identify your errors and correct them yourself.

What group analysis resources do you use in your training? Post a comment and share!

The Secret to Setting up a Dry-Fire Area

I am obviously a big fan of dry-fire and dry-practice. I have proclaimed its usefulness, and how much it has helped me in my own pursuits to improve my shooting skills. What I would like to talk about today is one secret to getting the most out of your dry-fire practice: a well organized dry-fire area.

Setting aside a place in the house for dry-fire can simply make your practice safer, but it also allows you to get more done in a shorter period of time. With a designated dry-fire area, you can get far more out of your practice than a lonely wall might give you.

Improved Safety

Safety is one of the biggest reasons to set aside a place in the house for dry-fire. Ideally you need a backstop even without live shooting, because accidents do happen. Select a part of your home where you will have peace of mind knowing what is beyond your target.

Dry-firing against an interior wall is probably the riskiest thing you can do unless you live alone. Pointing a gun through a wall that might be the only thing between you and your wife, husband, children, or other loved ones is not a great idea.

Your best options would be something like a concrete wall (say in a basement) or an exterior wall with nothing valuable behind it.

Your dry-fire area should contain no ammunition. It is your personal responsibility to make sure no live ammunition enters your dry-fire area. If you have no ammunition, then the risk of an accidental or negligent discharge is significantly reduced.

Make use of good targets

Another advantage to a dedicated dry-fire area is being well-organized. When dry-firing you will want to make the best possible use of good targets. Scaled down targets of various shapes and sizes are great for practicing presentation of the pistol and transitioning between targets.

One of my favorites is this scaled down F.A.S.T. target put together by Todd Louis Green from Pistol-Training.com. If you are training more for competition than self-defense, scaled down IDPA or USPSA targets are also an excellent idea.

The advantage to your own dedicated area is that you can post all of these targets simultaneously. You can post targets scaled to different sizes (to represent different distances) and be able to do all your dry practice without needing to change targets.

Necessary equipment

A good dry-fire session might include some timed practice, so you should add a shot timer with a good par feature (or a PC application that can mimic the same thing). I use this flash application from predatortactical.com.

Barriers for good dry-fire

One thing that is missing from many dry-fire routines is barrier work. Do you dry-practice making use of cover? This can be difficult without good preparation.

My recommendation is to build yourself some soft lightweight barriers out of large pieces of foam board or cardboard. A lightweight barrier is easily moved into your practice area, or out of the way for storage.

In order to be best setup to use these tools you should consider a small table, perhaps an end-table or a small folding table. This gives you a place to put any electronics you might use, but also a place to stuff magazines.

Wait, did he just say stuff magazines?

Do yourself a favor and buy some snap-caps. If you are practicing pistol skills, not only will these give you a solid way to practice malfunction clearance (tap rack and bang doesn’t work so well on an empty mag), but it will also make practicing reloads easier.

Ultimately having a dummy round to chamber will allow you to practice moving as fast as possible, and verify that you are actually successfully reloading.

Space and movement

Practicing staying on the sights while moving is another skill that is often left out of most dry-practice sessions.

Make your space ideal for practicing movement by keeping an open and clear floor. Ideally you would have something like a 10ft x 10ft space to enable you to move in a variety of patterns while practicing keeping your sights locked on the target and dry-firing.

While we’re on the subject of space – another quick tip is to use a room with carpeted floors. Not only will the carpets protect your mags as you practice reloading, but it’s not as likely to be dinged up by them either. If you prefer staying out of the doghouse, avoid dropping mags on a nice tile or hardwood floor! I find my fastest practice sessions send magazines flying across the room, so keep fancy furniture and decor around at your own peril.

Dry-fire is a great way to develop firearms manipulation skills. You can improve your draw-stroke, trigger control, sight-alignment, reloading, malfunction clearance, shooting around obstacles, transitioning between targets, shooting on the move and a variety of other skills.

Set yourself up with a dedicated place to practice, and you should improve the benefits you gain from dry-fire.

Do you have a dedicated dry-fire area? How did you set it up?

Are Long Range Skills Valuable For Self-Defense?

Photo by AMagill

Most people will readily agree that if you are using a rifle for anything other than defending yourself in relatively close quarters, then it is probably not self-defense. Taking a shot at 300 yards is not easily construed as self-defense except for the most extreme of circumstances.

The simple conclusion to take from this is that working on skills for shooting farther than what self-defense ‘dictates’ is probably unproductive for our goals of preparing for self-defense scenarios. This is mostly true, but I believe that there is still plenty to be taken from long distance shooting that can be applied to running a gun in a fight.

Long distance shots might be unlikely but not impossible

Most gunfights occur in relatively short distances. Everything from bad breath scuffles at point blank range to 10 yards or farther. It is logical to assume that training for longer range shots would be counter productive.

But just because we are not as likely to take shots with our carry guns at 25 or 50 yards doesn’t mean that those cases can never happen. Keeping distance between yourself and an attacker is a great strategy. If someone is shooting at you from those distances do you really want to get closer?

Pistols have drop too

Most of us will never get into a gunfight with a rifle at full-distance rifle ranges. Unless you are serving overseas, you are unlikely to be defending yourself from an attacker taking shots at long distance. So what is the value to knowing how to shoot at these extended distances?

One key to mastering your rifle is learning about trajectory and bullet drop. Bullets don’t fly flat, and as a result you need to compensate for the path of the bullet when shooting. You might not find yourself needing to apply these concepts with a rifle, but what about your pistol?

Most of us shoot our pistols at distances where any sort of drop is negligible, but when you push out to farther ranges you will experience bullet drop. If you want to be capable of using that pistol at all practical (and maybe some unpractical) distances, you need to understand the trajectory of your rounds. There is no better way to explore and understand this concept than long distance rifle shooting. When you understand trajectory with a rifle, you can apply the same concepts to learn what your pistol does at distance.

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals

Finally, practicing at distance is a great way to practice your fundamentals and push yourself beyond your current limitations. Long distance shots require great sight alignment and excellent trigger control. If you can make a torso shot at 50 yards with a handgun, then making the same shot at 5 yards can only be easier.

Even if you don’t think long distance shots are likely to occur in a self-defense situation, there is plenty of value to be had practicing these shots. Whether it’s to be prepared for the unlikely event you need to take a long shot, or just to reinforce the fundamentals, practicing at extreme distances is a great way to push your limits and improve your skills.

Do you practice long distance shooting?

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