The need for inexpensive practice and training can arise for many reasons. You may just be getting started and need time to get your gear together. You may be temporarily short on cash. Maybe outside forces have intervened, and ammunition isn’t as cheaply or widely available as you’d like. Regardless, there’s no reason to panic: there are plenty of ways to keep your handgun skills sharp without laying out a lot of cash.
This is especially true for much CCW practice. For the low price of a box of snap caps, you can run all sorts of drills in the comfort of your own home without a single live round expended. After following all the rules for safe dry fire practice, you can practice your draw and presentation, honing them to perfection. By getting creative with the snap caps, you can run malfunction and mag swap drills. And thanks to a couple of especially brilliant dry fire targets, you can diagnose shooting problems and then hone your accuracy at various ranges. Combine all of the above, and you’ll see a significant difference when you are able to step onto the firing line.
You can do more by adding some items from around the house. Balancing a nickel or a piece of spent brass on the end of your slide during static dry fire practice will tell you pretty quickly how well you’re control the trigger. For bonus points, stack up more than one nickel and really fight for a precise squeeze and release. I also found this little drill involving a pencil, a piece of paper, and your handgun of choice that will test you control of larger body movements and shooting. I’ll be working it into my personal training in the near future; I look forward to reporting the results.
From there, we move into potential home training tools that involve a bit of an investment, albeit cheaper than ammo in the long run. A BB gun, pellet gun, or air gun can make for a powerful training tool according to some trusted sources. Many models have similar ergonomics to popular CCW/self defense handguns, lending another level of realism and practicality. Plus, this can be a fun way to go plinking without using up your “real” ammo supply.
(Caveat: All the rules of gun safety apply to these guns, even if they aren’t real firearms. Likewise, be mindful of how they look to outsiders: a lot of folks can’t tell at first glance if your air gun is a real pistol or not. Thus be careful practicing where others might see and misinterpret what’s happens—that might be a fast way to meet your neighborhood law enforcement.)
So what about when you’re at the range? Well, you can get good practice in with minimal ammunition by incorporating the drills above into your life ammo practice in a safe and sane way. It’s also important to focus your efforts when shooting live rounds. Using smaller targets—aim small, miss small—reactive targets, and carefully planned drills will let you get good practice in on a box or two of ammunition. For example: if your range permits you to run tactical drills, alternate between dry and live fire so that you can double-check both technique and accuracy. You’ll get the most out of every single round sent downrange.
I’ll be honest: I think the training practices we’ve talked about here are important beyond saving money. I’ve noticed that a lot of folks confusing “plinking” with “handgun practice”, and there’s a lot more to it than that. These drills will help you learn and retain fundamental skills that may save your life if you find yourself in a self-defense situation.
I sincerely hope that never happens to any of you, but I also hope that you will be ready if it does.