I have been asked several times how much practice is needed to get really good with a handgun. Obviously, “really good” is subjective at best, but let’s try to define it as best we can. I consider “really good” to be good enough to defend yourself under all sorts of circumstances. “Really good” is better than average accuracy at speed. Most any of us can come close to hitting what we are trying to shoot if we take our time and execute the fundamentals of marksmanship, but at speed it is a different story. What I mean by “at speed” is simply this, very quickly with no wasted motion, quick enough to get the job done in a self defense shooting scenario.
Now here is the bad news. Most all of my students are not what I would consider to be “really good.” Many are adequate, but have a long way to go to be proficient enough to almost guarantee your survival in a lethal encounter. I say almost because nothing is for sure. So what can you students do to get better and to improve your skills? Well for one, training on a regular basis will constantly reinforce the good habits and will work to break the bad habits. Structured training makes you do the things that you will most likely never practice. The other important ingredient is that you have to put in the time and effort to get better. Just like anything else you do, the better the quality of practice, the better the outcome. Do not do ‘junk in – junk out’ type practices.
Several things have to be settled before you start your regimen of practice. You must settle on one handgun that you plan on carrying everyday and one holster that is of high quality and secure. Once you have settled on one handgun and one holster that you carry in the same place everyday, you can then start to work on practicing to get better and better with each practice session. The NRA Law Enforcement Training Division says that you should dry fire practice three times a week and live fire practice at least once every two weeks. The NRA training regimen will help you to maintain your skill level, but I doubt very seriously that you will be able to increase your skill level very fast.
To get “really good” and to get there as soon as possible and to maintain a high state of readiness with your handgun, I highly recommend that you handle the gun EVERY DAY! Most anyone can find 10 or 15 minutes a day that they can set aside to perform dry fire practice drills. Actually the dry fire drills are more important than the live fire training that you do at the range. If you want to get really good, do more dry fire. But, having said this, it is important to know that you still must practice with a handgun with live ammo at the gun range and you must do this on a regular basis. The guy that practices from May to September three times a week is not going to do as well as a person that practices twice a week all year long.
Training (live fire & dry fire) must be done on a regular basis and must be done as perfectly as possible each and every time. There is an old saying that says that “practice makes perfect,” but you all know that is not as correct as it could be. Only perfect practice makes prefect. Anything less is nothing more than practicing bad habits that can cause you serious harm. In order to know how to practice a particular skill set “perfectly” you must know how to do it without fault. This is where firearms training comes into play. We teach you the correct way to do things. We teach you what works in the real world of life and death encounters. It is then up to you to practice what you have learned and to practice it the way you have learned it.
When you go to the gun range you should practice at least twice a week and you do not need to shoot hundreds of rounds. Shoot at least fifty at each session, but make every round count. Fire every round as if it was the only round in the gun and you need to hit your target to save your life. Do not just go through the motions. Practice the things that you must do to put a gun into action to stop a deadly threat. Practice your draw from the holster that you carry every day and in the place you carry it every day. Practice your draw a lot and practice moving while drawing your weapon.
Here are the skill sets that every good shooter should be able to perform on demand without thinking about it. These skills should be able to be performed with the subconscious mind.
The draw while moving off line of the attack
The draw while moving to cover
Shooting quickly and accurately immediately after the draw
Shooting while using cover (left & right side from various shooting positions)
Speed reloads (these are reloads that are done when the gun has been shot dry)
Tactical reloads (these are reloads that are made during a lull in the fight and you are behind cover)
Engaging multiple targets at various distances
Practice two or three shots to the center of the chest and one shot to the eyeball (every deadly encounter should end with a shot to the head if the bad guy is still presenting a threat)
Practice at deadly force distances (practice from 2 yards to 10 yards). The overwhelming majority of lethal encounters occur within 30 feet.
It should become obvious that if you are attacked at these close distances, you better be moving and shooting or using cover and shooting. The old days of practicing your shooting skills while standing still on the range should be a thing of the past. Learn to move and shoot, it will save your life. A stationary target is an easy target to hit and you have become a target when the fight goes down.
Everyone of you out there that is reading this should sign up for the Tactical Handgun class. If need be, we will schedule as many of these classes as is necessary to accommodate our students. If you are not following the advice in this article, you are only kidding yourself. There is no getting around it, it takes work and time to get “really good.” Open the attachment and get signed up today.
- Practice dry fire skill sets 10 to 15 minutes a day, everyday.
- Practice live fire skill sets at least twice a week and shoot no more that 50 rounds each practice session.
- Practice with the gun you carry and where you carry it.
- Attend training as often as you can.
- The more structured training you receive, the better you will get.
How good is good enough when it comes to being able to save your life or the life of a family member?
Guy Minnis, Director of Training
HARD TARGET Firearms Training