5 Tips for Getting Your Wife to Love Shooting

It never ceases to amaze me how many guys out there seem to be unable to get their wives to the range. Shooting is an incredibly enjoyable sport that has the ability to turn just about anyone into a convert.

Getting some range time with my wife.

What I see instead is a bunch of people going about it the wrong way. It’s not hard to get someone interested in shooting, but many of you are simply doing it wrong. You may be shooting yourself in the foot if you aren’t careful about the way you try to convince someone to come to the range.

When I first got into shooting about 5 years ago, I recall a conversation with my then girlfriend (now amazing wife) when I told her I was going to try shooting. We were en-route to our dorm at college when I brought the subject up, and in less than five minutes she started crying, She thought I was going to die, because clearly all firearms are bad and only hurt people.

Flash forward 5 years, and not only does she own her own guns, but she teaches men and women alike how to shoot rifles. While she probably isn’t the most dangerous person on the planet when you’re up close, if you’re 100 yards or further away you better have hard cover.

I didn’t do anything magical to make her interested in shooting, I just didn’t goof up and make any stupid mistakes to turn her off from shooting. These tricks shouldn’t be a secret to anyone, but sadly they are.

Have Someone Else Teach Her

You may have been shooting for a million years and be the best instructor on the planet. Odds are if you’re married (or dating) she doesn’t want to hear it from you. The best thing I ever did when I brought my wife shooting the first time was to have an instructor at the range teach her. He showed her all the basics of safety and operation, then coached her on making good groups. I hung around for moral support, but this allowed her to hear all the basics from a neutral third party.

Whether we intend to or not, all guys seem to exude some sort of mystical aura that makes the women in our lives hate us when we try to teach them something. It’s not necessarily your fault, and you might even be the exception, but why take the risk?

My wife enjoyed her first visit to the range, and as a result she kept coming back.

When You Do Bring Her, Shoot Fun Targets

I didn’t really follow this one very well myself because we used to shoot indoors, but if you want a new shooter to enjoy themselves, shoot something easy and enjoyable. Clay pigeons, jugs of water, or anything else that might explode when you shoot it can’t hurt the acclimation process. The first time out, very few people will really enjoy shooting tiny targets. Bulls eyes can be great for competition, but how exciting is that?

On the other hand, provide ample opportunity for your wife to smash things down range and she’ll be hooked for life.

If she is taught well, she’ll probably be better than you

My experience has been that women shoot better than men. For some reason they are more stable, have better trigger control, and can align those sights better. As a result your wife, if trained properly, will be shooting better than you before you know it. You may rest easy knowing that your tactical training and high stress shooting will probably always put you at an advantage, but she’s going to be more accurate.

This isn’t a bad thing, but try not to be too much of a chump when it happens. If she produces better targets, don’t cry about it. Or at least don’t cry too hard about it. If she feels like she’s doing well and can match or beat your performance, that should probably help her own enjoyment level.

When it comes time to buy her a gun, don’t pick it out for her

How many guys end up trying to pick out a gun for their wives? It’s usually some tiny revolver with pink grips or some other rainbow colored pocket gun. STOP!! Don’t assume you know what she wants to shoot. My wife is the exact opposite. She shoots a full-framed Beretta 92FS and has her own AR-15, not a bit of pink furniture in sight.

Is she the exception or the rule? Does it matter?

What really matters is that she picked them out. When it comes time, don’t bring her to the gun shop and try and guide her to what you think she wants. Do help her avoid some really bad decisions (if she wants a Hi-Point please guide her to something…. more better).

Let her come into her own

Finally, let her develop into her own shooter. This means two things: don’t force her to come with you to the range or shoot something she doesn’t want to. Make it enjoyable so she wants to shoot, and she’ll make sure she’s with you when you go to the range. And also don’t be condescending. Guess how I learned that tip. You may know more or be more skilled (for the moment), but don’t try and hold that over your wife. As soon as she feels like it’s no longer fun, you are on your own.

The downside: buy more ammo

Once she starts enjoying it, be prepared to go through ammo twice as fast. Getting your wife enthused about shooting can be great for your relationship, but remember it will hit you where it hurts: the wallet.

Improve Your Training With This Simple Trick

Photo credit: pontuse

How specific are you about the techniques you use? Can you describe the process of drawing your pistol in extreme detail? Or how about your grip?

Some of you will respond with a definite yes. The rest of you are either very early in your training journey or just aren’t committing a whole lot of time or energy to exacting practice.

Whichever category you fall in, there is a solution to make it easier to identify exactly what it is you are doing, and even better, document it.

I call this solution the ‘codex’.

What is the codex, and what does it contain?

The concept behind the codex is a document that describes everything you are training. It should describe the equipment you are training to use, and the reasoning behind your equipment selections. It should describe in great detail (and justify why you do them the way you do) the various skills you use: draw-stroke, reloads, and even the fundamentals like grip, stance, and how you work the trigger.

Why should you write a codex?

Documenting these details forces you to think about the skills you might currently take for granted, and it should help explicitly define what you do. The problem for a lot of people who are working on training these skills is that they practice without focus.

A great deal of the skills you use should be describable in a precise and clear manner. Sure, some speed and efficiency comes from pure repetition, but we all need a place of reference to make sure the technique we are practicing is a good one. What exactly is your technique, and what makes it good?

When you train specifically, you are going to make skills gains far more quickly. And being precise means less time relearning or fixing broken skills.

Who should write a codex?

You should! Anyone who trains any skill would benefit from thinking about it enough to precisely describe it on paper. Thinking precisely about your technique should help you discover efficiency you didn’t know was there. This is the same as the concept of learning by teaching. Making yourself understand a concept well enough to communicate it has enormous benefits.

How do you write a codex?

Start with what you already know and put it on paper. Break down all the skills and tactics that make up your personal defensive doctrine and start describing how you do them.

This may be easy for you. If it isn’t, the most likely reason is that you haven’t invested any time thinking about how instead of what. If this is the case, start with one skill at a time and break it down. This process of rediscovery should help you grow in your training and will be well worth the effort!

When to write a codex?

Right now! Start chipping away at writing down all the skills you train regularly. Set aside a few minutes every day and you should get through everything in no time.

If you are just starting to train, writing down what you think you know should help you break past the common problem of oversimplifying the process associated with a skill.

For those who have been training for ages, finally writing down what it is you are doing might be the assistance you need to finally fix some bad habits and make some significant gains.

Just because you write your codex today doesn’t mean it’s finished. A document like this should be living, meaning it is constantly changing as you change. Attend a class or make a discovery that causes you to change how you do things? Update your codex. Even better, keep the old versions around and you can compare your growth as time moves forward.

By spending the time to write a codex, you will stop the cycle of haphazard training. Be specific about the skills you use, and reap the rewards.

Do you want to see an example of a codex? I’m in the process of writing mine. Subscribe to the email newsletter and I will send you a copy when it is complete. Have questions or need assistance writing yours? Post a comment below or hop on over to the contact page and drop me a line.

Have you ever written down how you perform your basic skills in detail?

Is Specializing Your Skill-Set a Mistake?

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

Should you be training generic or specialized skills when dealing with firearms? What exactly does this mean? I’m talking about determining the benefits of learning the best way to run your gun vs the best way of running any gun.

An example: there are several methods of executing a reload. You can use the overhand (aka “slingshot”) method, use your firing hand thumb on the slide release, or use your support hand thumb on the slide release. All three options have advantages and disadvantages. Do you decide which method to train based on the features of the gun you use most, or based on what is most applicable to any gun you might encounter?

The overhand method is perhaps the most generic. Not all guns have slide stops or have slides that lock back. Additionally the overhand reload skill works exactly the same as our tap-rack-bang malfunction clearance. On the other hand, this method is the slowest of the three options if you do have a slide release due to the huge amount of movement required to handle an otherwise simple task.

The firing hand thumb is the fastest method provided the slide release is positioned such that you can reach it with this thumb. You are moving your thumb less than an inch to perform what requires movement of an entire hand when using the overhand method. The downside is that the same muscle memory can theoretically cause you to inadvertently stop the slide from locking back.

The third option, using the support hand thumb, works across a variety of handguns that have a slide release, though you may have issues if you have trained specifically with guns that position the slide release in a specific spot. This is almost as fast as the firing hand thumb but is slightly more generic.

I have seen top tier trainers advocate all three methods.

Why is generic better?

If you intend to be shooting a variety of guns, generic skills are better. If you carry a pocket pistol in the summer and a duty pistol in the winter (or perhaps carry a pocket pistol when not working, etc.), you want a set of skills that translates to both weapon systems easily.

Special forces and high-speed-low-drag operators might need to work with a variety of firearms to operate with indigenous weapon systems to perform their missions. Some people just don’t get to choose their tools.

Why is specialized better?

Performance. If you know you will be operating a specific firearm all the time, adapting to that firearm means you can get the most performance out of it. Being faster and more efficient can be the difference between life and death, so maximizing performance should improve your chances greatly.

Personally I carry either a Glock 26 or 17 depending on wardrobe. Both pistols have the same control in the same place. I choose to specialize and use the firing hand thumb as it is the fastest and most reliable for me. I’m most likely to use my guns to defend myself. I don’t mind my reload performance suffering a bit when using my ‘range toys’ if it means I can have maximum performance when using the tools I carry.

Being generic without a need only hurts you

For me, generic skills would reduce my performance with the tools I am most likely to use in favor of tools I am unlikely to use. Does that make sense?

Are you really expecting a ‘battlefield pickup’ to be your tool for survival? Most of us will never live the plot of the Die Hard movies… prepare yourself to use the tools you carry every day.

Customization of your tools

Extended magazine releases, extended slide stops, and improved triggers are commonly used to improve pistols. Oddly, the people who make these customizations can often be proponents of generic skills. If you want to be able to handle any firearm, why make your pistol specialized? Logic would dictate that keeping your pistol as stock as possible makes it easier to transition to another of the same model, if not a completely different pistol.

Changes to your gun to maximize performance are very similar to changes to your skills for the same purpose. Make sure you are at your best with the tools you are going to need the most.

Counterpoint: long guns

One counterpoint I must mention: generic skills might be an advantage with a long gun. I’m far less likely to use a long gun in a violent confrontation. For most people that will use a long gun, there is a far greater chance they might be using one that isn’t theirs than with a pistol. The proliferation of AR-15 type rifles means that a ‘battlefield pickup’ is probably an AR-15.

Learn to run your AR-15 with stock controls (lose the BAD lever or ambi firecontrols). Unless your unit or department standardizes on these upgrades, you are far more likely to pick up a gun without them.

This all boils down to one simple concept: if you are training to use the tools you carry, then optimize your performance around them. If you train to be proficient with any tool you pick up, then generic skills are justifiable.

Ultimately generic skills are great, if you have a need for them. Otherwise they just hinder your performance with the tools you are likely to use. Carefully weigh specialization and see if it helps you.

Do you make the mistake of relying on one gun?

Equipment fails. Usually at the worst conceivable moment as evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this from my wife’s laptop. Mine kicked the bucket.

Convenient.

I wish my laptop was the only thing that failed me recently. Almost two months ago I wrote about how to prepare for a carbine course. I was preparing for a course I took a little over a week ago, a combined pistol/carbine class taught by Larry Vickers.

As part of my own preparation I had been familiarizing myself with my go-to rifle; making sure I had it zeroed and could make good hits quickly with my new Aimpoint Pro. Everything was working well; when I did my part I was shooting ragged holes at 25meters.

And then something happened.

A little heat and my rifle suddenly opened up to 8.5×11 size groups.

It definitely was the rifle. More specifically, it seems that it was the barrel. I removed the barrel and shipped it back to the manufacturer, CMMG. Long story short, the barrel was bad and produced poor groups for them as well. They ended up shipping me a complete upper to replace it. CMMG definitely stands behind their products.

In the meantime, being very short on time, I ordered a brand new Daniel Defense barrel. The barrel came in with a week to go before the class, as did the new Troy MRF-DI Battle Rail I ordered. Unfortunately I could not install the rail on the rifle. After spending a huge amount of time on the phone with both Daniel Defense and Troy it appears that the rail was out of spec.

As a result I had to overnight some plastic handguards to be up and running in time for the class, and took some time off work mid-week to zero and verify function of my rifle before the class. Everything worked fine and thankfully I got through the class without a hiccup.

What can we learn from my month of equipment failures?

I certainly learned a few lessons, the most important being that one is none. Backups are a good thing. If I had another rifle in a workable configuration I would have been good to go without the last minute parts shuffle. Don’t rely on one piece of equipment if you can avoid it.

The next most important lesson is avoid buying parts for a rifle under a time crunch. No one local ever seems to stock what you need, and most online distributors are out of stock on 50% of their merchandise at any given moment. If you need to build or buy a rifle for a class, make sure you do it months ahead of time. Invariably something will go wrong and you’ll need the time to sort it out. If you’re luckier than I am, you don’t have anything to lose by gearing up early.

Warning: Failure Does Happen

Photo Credit: Charles & Clint

One principle I have based my training on is that our failure is defined by our training as much as our success is. Mistakes are to be expected because no matter how much we train, perfection is unattainable. The best we can hope for is to make fewer mistakes. When these mistakes do happen, it is our training that defines how we will react to these failures. If you never practice, your default reaction will be a surprise. But when you train hard and consistently, you can expect to look no worse than your worst day in training if you need to defend yourself. The more you practice, the better your ‘worst’ becomes.

Before I went on vacation I shot my second IDPA match. I did pretty well in this match, but I made some major mistakes. While some of the mistakes themselves are pretty disheartening, I also learned something about my training. After dropping a magazine on two separate stages during a reload, I managed to recover quite well.

My favorite mistake was on a stage that involved a vehicle. You started in the car, picked up the loaded pistol on the passenger seat and engaged a target out the passenger side window until slide lock (4 rounds), debussed out the driver side and were to engage targets across the hood from next to the driver side door.

During this reload is when I dropped the mag. I didn’t just drop the mag though… I filled it with sand and stuck it into my pistol. The pistol failed to go into battery and I now had a fight on my hands. Tap rack and bang didn’t solve it, so I ended up removing the magazine and clearing the pistol out completely.

It sucked. A lot.

I’m not proud of dropping that magazine. I am proud of how I dealt with the issue. I didn’t lose my cool, and I just worked through the problem. Amazingly I didn’t come in last place on the stage and got plenty of compliments on how I dealt with it. I now have a good idea of what my ‘worst’ performance might look like, and it doesn’t bother me too much.

In training: always work through it

There are two lessons to be learned here. One is to not drop your magazine in the dirt. The other more important lesson is to always work through it. If you dry fire and manage to foul a reload or a draw, don’t stop until you are done.

Even if it’s not quick and clean, the important thing is completing the task you started.

Your natural response should be to deal with the problem, not run away from it. While we strive for perfect practice, we must also realize that in real life you don’t get do overs. If you make a mistake, make it right.

In pressure testing: don’t lose your cool and always work through it

When you get to a match or you are working on some evolution intended to pressure test your skills, work through your mistakes. This should be pretty obvious (and second nature if you practice this way) but it needs to be said.

When bad stuff happens to you or you make a mistake, stay calm and fix the problem. Redo’s don’t happen in real life so why should they happen in your training?

In real life: work through it

It should be even harder to screw this up in real life with a full adrenaline dump. Just like in training and testing: when you make a mistake work through it. Don’t stop to scold yourself or waste time swearing under your breath or hating yourself.

Fix the problem! Fix it now!

The costs of not working though a problem in practice are low at face value, but when it causes you to not react the way you want on the street, the cost is high. Again, real life has no redo’s and your attacker won’t reset if you ask him to when you make a mistake.

My point is redundant just like your training should be. Hopefully you make fewer mistakes as you train more, but when you do make them, make them good mistakes. Fix the problem and get it done. Don’t immediately stop and restart in an attempt to avoid making the mistake in the first place. That’s for after you fix it.

Unless you make the mistake more than you do it right, you need to work through it so you will have the confidence you can work through similar mistakes in a life or death situation. You need your default reaction to be a good one when it really counts.

Have you ever made a mistake in competition or training? How did you deal with it? Post a comment below and share!

The Secret to Training on the Road

Photo credit: sookie

I don’t travel very often. A vacation every once in a while and a trip for business here and there.  One of the biggest costs of traveling is the time it takes out of your training. Sure, sometimes you really need that break from training to help reset yourself and rest so you can go back at training hard again. But if you travel a lot, it can be a serious detriment to your progress.

If you are anything like me, getting home and seeing your skills or fitness droop because you haven’t been maintaining them is a frustrating thing. There are a few ways to keep your skills fresh despite being away.

Dry-fire in the hotel room

Traveling anywhere that allows you to carry your normal concealed weapon is a great thing. Not only do you have the means to protect yourself, it also enables you to dry-fire while on the road. Dry-fire is great practice, and it can be an excellent way to keep your skills up when traveling.

The most important thing when practicing with dry-fire is safety. Make sure no ammunition is anywhere near the firearm you are practicing with, and make sure you are practicing in a safe direction. In a hotel this can be very hard given the density of the building and the number of people around.

At home I prefer to dry-fire against a concrete wall or utilizing a wall with nothing valuable to shoot behind it. In a hotel this is often difficult to do. Keep an eye on which side of the hotel you are on, and what is located where. This past week when I was traveling, I noticed the hotel was located directly in front of a mountain and had a a great view of it from my window. Dry-fire at this wall was safe because even if a round somehow went off, it would end up in a huge berm not far from the hotel.

If this is not an option and you travel frequently, a Kevlar vest is a very portable option that can be hung or placed as a backstop. Its more expensive than some other options, but it does give you some peace of mind when dry-firing.

Just because you have a backstop doesn’t mean you can be lax in your safety. Dry-fire is inherently dangerous and requires your conscious commitment to safety. Your business trip or vacation will end quite quickly and uncomfortably if you fire a round in your hotel room.

You can get fancy when practicing in the hotel room like you do at home, or just work on sight alignment and working the trigger. Keep in mind that the more props you use in training, the more you’ll have to travel with. I prefer to travel light, so simple and abbreviated sessions are all I need to keep me from losing my skills.

Workout just about anywhere

Training isn’t just about shooting. For me it’s very much about getting into and staying in fighting shape. Most hotel fitness rooms are anemic in the equipment they provide. A couple of treadmills or an elliptical and maybe a weight machine or two.

Most of my own strength training comes in the form of body weight exercise: pull-ups, push-ups, squats, crunches, etc. All of these except pull-ups can be done easily in a hotel room. Do the same bodyweight routine minus the pull-ups, or find a bodyweight routine if you normally hit the weights. Just like at home, a park or playground can provide a great outdoor gym and is the perfect venue to work on your pull-ups.

Find a local range

If you are traveling for long enough it is probably worth looking for a local commercial range. Bring that Kevlar you bought to dry-fire in your hotel room and be prepared to pay through the nose for range time. If you really want to keep your skills up you need practice, so this might just be worth it for you.

Traveling can be necessary for work, and even for pleasure. Rather than have it put a stop to your training, find ways to maintain your skills on the road. Use these tips and come up with a plan before you pack for your trip.

Do you train while traveling? What tips can you suggest?

Equipment Issue? Three tips to make sure it’s not you

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army

A common experience around firearms is the blame game. Is it the rifle or pistol that’s shooting crappy groups, or is it you? Too often it’s the gray matter behind the gun that is causing the problems, but the blame is put on the equipment.

Still, there are times when it really is the gun that is to blame. Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing if you are the cause of a problem, or if it is the equipment. When you are an experienced shooter, this determination gets easier as you have years of evidence of good shooting to fall back on. For the new shooter, this can be a difficult problem to solve.

There are a few steps you can take to help narrow down the culprit and save yourself some frustration. If you are shooting a new gun for the first time and run into issues, or your groups suddenly open up or move, here are a few ways to help identify the cause.

Check for loose parts

The most likely cause of a moving group or a group that opens up is loose sights. Check the front and rear sight or your scope and make sure they are tight. I have seen shooters not realize their sights were loose until their front sight or scope walks itself off the gun.

If you are frustrated at your performance, double check the sights before you get too upset.

The sights aren’t the only part that can come loose. Check that barrels are secure (on rifles) and for excessive slop in the action on pistols. Some rifles like the 10/22 can lose accuracy if the action screw (or any other mechanism) holding the action in the stock becomes loose.

These are easy things to check and are a good first step if you are having problems.

Have someone else shoot the gun

If the issue truly is the gray matter behind the gun, having another experienced shooter try the gun should prove it. Try to have someone you know is a better shooter try the gun, or just go for an increased sample size and get multiple shooters to try it.

An issue with the gun will become quickly apparent if no one else can shoot it better.

In the absence of other experienced shooters, shooting from a shooting vice or ransom rest is great alternative that takes any issues you may have out of the picture.

Shoot a different gun

Sometimes neither a rest or another shooter is available. When this happens, your best bet is finding another gun to shoot. Maybe it’s a completely different gun, or just another of the same model. If you can demonstrate the skills needed on a different firearm, you can either eliminate yourself as the problem or start narrowing down skills that might be specific to the gun you are having trouble with.

An alternate gun isn’t a perfect test, but whenever I feel like I’m doing horribly with a new gun, I like to go back to a known standard. I pick up something that I know I can shoot well to prove my technique hasn’t taken a vacation without telling me.

Poor results from your shooting can be very frustrating. Knowing how to resolve these issues quickly and calmly not only helps you get back to being productive faster, but it also eliminates unnecessary self doubt.

How do you identify whether an issue is you or the gun? Post a comment below 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?

What Everybody Ought to Know About Preparing for a carbine course

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

Next month I am signed up to take my first ever carbine course – a Carbine/Handgun course with Larry Vickers. I have great familiarity with how to get the most out of a rifle, but I really don’t have any true experience learning how to run a carbine properly.

I have taken pistol courses before, but there is a lot more going on in a carbine course. The equipment requirements are much more significant (we are after all running two guns), and the total number of skills that are involved is exponentially higher than just running a handgun.

Making preparations

When showing up to any class, it’s definitely worth investing some time upfront to make sure you arrive prepared. A three-day class like the one I am taking comes with a hefty price-tag, especially when you start adding up the ammo costs. Don’t waste the opportunity by coming unprepared.

Gear

A carbine class has much steeper equipment requirements than a simple pistol class. You need both a carbine and a pistol, some number of mags for each, a sling for your carbine, a huge pile of ammunition, a holster, and some sort of load bearing vest or belt.

When preparing for a class like this, there are four things you need to accomplish when getting your gear together.

1. Identify what you need

Scour the class listing and determine exactly what equipment is required for the class. The class instructor will generally list exactly what he or she expects you to bring. Don’t skimp on meeting these requirements.

It is also a good idea to read after-action reports and course reviews from other shooters who have taken this class in the past. Often another shooter’s insights into what they found to be useful or what they wish they had can save you a ton of pain. This also leads into the next point…

2. Research the gear

Once you have identified what equipment you need, it’s time to start selecting which products you will choose to meet your requirements. The number of holsters on the market, for example, is huge. Not all holsters are created equally so spend some solid time researching what is available and what will fill your needs perfectly.

Gear can be expensive and just adds to the already mounting cost of attending a course like this. Do your best to select items you only need to buy once. Better to spend a little extra money now than to find out your purchases were wasted on shoddy items that will need replacing. If you already have something that will adequately meet your needs, don’t buy something special just for the class.

3. Buy your gear

Now the fun part: spending money. Shop around so you don’t overpay, but definitely get your stuff on order sooner rather than later.

The last thing you want to do is to show up without your kit. The class I’m taking is in July, and I have just about everything I think I’ll need in hand and have had it in hand for a few weeks now.

4. Test your gear

Once you get your gear, make sure you set it up and test it. Don’t show up to the class and put all of your gear together for the first time.

The first goal of testing your gear is to make sure it all works from a basic level. If your gear won’t function together, or you can’t operate it, then you have a problem. Maybe something doesn’t work like you thought it would, or just doesn’t fit (for example a MOLLE mag pouch doesn’t work with the dimensions of your vest).

Once everything is on, you want to make sure the equipment is comfortable. Sure it must be functional, but remember that a three day class is a long time to be wearing uncomfortable gear. Maybe things are too heavy or just dig into you… make sure you identify and fix these issues now while you can.

Once you determine that your gear is comfortable, you want to spend some time trying to use it. Start off with dry fire/dry practice. Can you get magazines out of pouches and into your guns? Does your tactical sling work for you when you try transitioning to your pistol? Can you assume prone and kneeling positions with your gear on? All of these things matter and should be identified early.

The last thing you want is to be fighting your gear while taking your expensive class. You need to be a sponge ready to absorb all the instruction you can get. If you are distracted by failing gear, you won’t be getting the most out of the instruction you came for.

You also need to test your firearms. Don’t show up with a carbine and a pistol that have never been shot before. Put 500-1000 rounds through each and make sure they operate without issue. A semi-functional gun can do a lot to make your experience a crappy one.

Prepare your skills

Gear isn’t the only thing you need to bring with you to a class. You also need to bring some level of skill. Most instructors have a certain expectation of what you are bringing to the class. In any course beyond a basic pistol intro type class, you need to show up safe. If you can’t handle a firearm without putting everyone in the tri-state area at risk, then you need to get some help for that before you step foot on the range for your class.

Most instructors also have some basic expectations for skills. Try to identify what those skills are by reading class reviews and the class listing. Practice those skills before showing up and make sure you have them.

Don’t be that guy

Whatever you do, don’t be that guy who shows up to an intermediate or advanced level class with no skills and an inordinate need for attention and assistance.

Nothing frustrates someone more than having their expensive class squandered because some nitwit doesn’t know the basics or how their gear works.

Skills to be familiar with

Regardless of whether you have taken a class or not, you want to have some basic skills worked out. Many instructors will ‘test’ you to see what you brought to the show. Don’t be figuring these things out for the first time at the class, show up with some base level stuff:

  1. Drawing from your holster

  2. Accessing pouches

  3. Shouldering/shooting your rifle

  4. Operating your sling

  5. Adjusting your sights

  6. Malfunction clearance

  7. Any other topic that you expect to be covered in the class*

*This could be anything from low light shooting to shooting around barricades, etc. Be careful and tread lightly here. The last thing you want to do is ingrain a bad habit before taking a class. You do want to show up with enough competence to not slow the class down and have a good starting point to build from.

All of these things can and should be practiced dry, but also ideally in live fire as well.

Be prepared to enjoy your class

All of this adds up to one thing: enjoying your class and getting the most out of it. Three days (or two or one) is not a lot of time to learn a set of skills. Set yourself up to learn as much as possible and get the most from it.

You are paying for the class, why not take advantage of it?

What do you do to prepare for a carbine class?

Best of the Web 5/18/12

Another week, and some more great posts.  Here are my favorites from the past 7 days.

Mental Performance Blocks (gunnuts.net) – Caleb discusses a topic very near and dear to my heart.  I think most of the time that I perform poorly it has more to do with overconfidence or psyching myself out than a lack of skills.

Don’t Shoot .357 (thetruthaboutguns.com) – Have I mentioned that I don’t think revolvers are a very good defensive weapon?  Sure they can be good in the right hands, but here is yet another reason why you should just ignore the revolver when selecting a defensive weapon.  Many extol the virtues and the power of .357, but it comes down to being a difficult round to shoot.  If you are going to bring a revolver to the fight, at least use .38 special.

Training with a DA trigger (gunnuts.net) – A second good posts from Caleb this week… this one is about the double action trigger.  There are a lot of beliefs out there that a double action/single action pistol makes training more difficult than with a gun that has a consistent trigger pull like a striker fired gun for example.  Caleb tries to debunk this myth.  While he makes some good points, I think most DA/SA guns have a DA trigger pull that borderlines on ridiculous, making DA/SA a liability when you need to hit quickly the first time.

 

 

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