Throwback Thursday: Mastering the Art of Firearm Training

man shooting pistol with red dot

The ammunition supply seems to be loosening up a bit. While I am hoping for a return to the good old days, ammunition will probably remain relatively expensive. Just the same, we must push forward with training. We must decide what our life is worth and perhaps make do with less ammunition for training time. However, that is not an excuse; we must master the art of training.

There are many drills to perform and while some are better than others, the problem we face remains the same. A study of dozens of personal-defense incidents confirms we will face one or two threats at relatively close range. We won’t have much time. Recreational shooting is fine, but we must be able to win a fight. Some skills are essential.

man drawing pistol from concealment
The presentation must be smooth and snag-free.

Whatever the handgun you choose, the problem will be the same. The .32 ACP pocket gun or .45 ACP house gun may be tasked with facing the same threat, and the actual threat is unpredictable. Speed to an accurate first shot matters most. You should have an understanding of what to do if the adversary interferes with the draw and how to fire at very close range.

Much of the mechanics may be practiced in dry fire. Time and money are precious, and you don’t want to waste your time. The problem to be solved in each drill should be realistic. These drills train the brain to a rapid response. They must be conducted often, as skills are perishable.

Practice the Draw

The first drill I perform on a daily basis is to present the firearm from concealed carry. The presentation leads to the firing stance. I practice a half dozen draws a day. The first one is the cold one, and the only one that counts. We all get better with time. If you make a mistake for real, you are going to be perforated by bullets or stabbed. Get it right the first time!

Practice the draw by shooting the elbow to the rear and coming from under the holster to scoop the handgun out of the holster as you execute the draw. Continue by driving the handgun toward the target. Get on target quickly. If the adversary is at intimate range, fire from the retention position. If at three yards or so, use one hand, at all ranges farther than three yards, use the two-hand hold.

The goal is consistency and avoiding mistakes. Don’t get the gun wrapped up in the covering garment as you draw. Be consistent and smooth, and speed will build. Some ranges do not allow concealed-carry draws. That is understandable. Practice this using dry fire as often as possible with a triple-checked unloaded firearm. You don’t have to pull the trigger, just get the firearm up and ready to fire.

Man firing from retention training
Be prepared for the adversary to interfere with the draw at close range.

Meat and Paper

On the range, practice getting the pistol on target quickly. Use the semi-auto slide or revolver cylinder for a rough aim at very close range. This is called meat and paper, with the handgun the meat and the target the paper. The outline of the handgun is against the target. If you see the flats of the slide or the long revolver cylinder you are not properly aligned. This isn’t point shooting, it is aiming, but you are using the handgun as a rough index over the target. This is very fast.

As the range is longer and the handgun isn’t surrounded by the target, concentrate on the front sight. Get the front sight on target quickly. Hold at the threat’s belt-buckle level and fire with the front sight as the primary aiming focus. When I see most folks firing in training, they seem to have the technical aspects of marksmanship squared away. The shortcoming is usually in dynamic implementation.

woman shooting on range
Change up the drills and include multiple targets in your drills.

Longer Range Training

As the range becomes longer, slow down and use a more precise sight picture. At 10 yards, you should be able to fire five rounds in five seconds into a group smaller than five inches. Fire, allow the trigger to reset as the handgun rises in recoil, and then control the pistol and align the sights for an accurate shot. A string of fire is a series of rapid, but properly aimed, shots. Don’t fire unless you are sure of your target. Aim, fire, recover, fire.

An important drill that is overlooked by practically everyone practicing alone is to take cover. This is a stark difference between range drills and reality. You may practice in the home, dry fire, or on the range. An important decision when sprinting for cover is to decide whether to draw. The draw conflicts with movement. It is usually best to reach cover and then draw. Only very advanced shooters are able to effectively shoot on the move. So, if you are under fire, you should immediately sprint for the nearest cover (if possible/available).

A building, wall, vehicle, or freestanding structure may offer cover. You may get into a solid braced position and return fire, or you may simply remain behind cover and keep the pistol at ready. This isn’t the cinema and a win is living without bullet holes. Move to cover, draw the gun, and since it is a valuable skill, brace and fire from cover during practice.

man training kneeling and shooting behind cover
In this drill, the author uses a post to stand in for a wall in dynamic training.

Multiple Targets

Another skill that may be important is addressing multiple targets. If you are caught in the open and have more than one person firing at you, speed and finding cover is important. I draw and engage the target on the right first — I am right-handed. A left-handed person may engage the left-hand target and sweep right. As soon as possible, I am moving and moving toward the last target, the one I have not addressed.

I am hoping the concept of shielding will be valuable, moving to one side of the threats to decrease their ability to combine fire. As I move, I fire as accurately as possible to get body hits. I am not keeping score; I am building skill. However, if you miss during this drill, you need to work on marksmanship or slow down.

man firing pistol
A firm grasp at all times is needed to ensure the pistol functions and you hit the target!

Training Instruction

Practice shooting skills often. If you can afford the time and money, get training. Many instructors have been to a lot of schools. Police and military instructors have real-world experience. A lot of folks know shooting and are good at it. An instructor that understands crazy is worth his or her weight in gold.

Do you train with your firearms? What types of training do you practice most? Let us know in the comments section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July of 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. I have to say that buying this .25 caliber rifle was a disaster. First the product was defective, it wouldn’t fill and I have years under my belt with PCPs , and I am a qualified scuba diver. So I know high pressure and tanks. Also after getting no help from the manufacturer, I took it apart myself. Holy spit was this Bullpup a disaster!! The seals were all rotted or knicked. Someone put super glue over parts that should never have glue on them. I found 6 .25 pellets lodged in the barrel just after where the plunger pushes the pellet from the magazine. It was clearly used and it was sold to me by a reputable company as brand new. And the sad thing is they never once tried to fix the problem. So with my 46,000,000 views on a very popular website I posted everything about the piece of spit I was sold and the company who sold it. Since then I took the parts from that disastrous pos and made my own pcp which blows that Walther reign out of the ionosphere. Reputable companies “piramid” should be Ashamed of themselves for selling me that piece of worthless spit. And they didn’t even honor the warranty. Unbelievable

  2. I enjoyed reading your article. I personally practice dry fire exercise on a daily basis. I work nights and after the wife and children are gone before I lay down to sleep. I rehearse waking up to someone in my house. I believe that is when someone would break in, is during the day when they think no-one is at home. I also rehearse coming home to a break in and practice clearing my home. Obviously if this really happened I would back out and call 911 and let the police handle the situation, unless I heard my wife or child calling out due to the unthinkable happening. I also rehearse my draw from the concealed position, i.e. T-shirt or jacket covering the weapon depending on what time of year it is. All these exercises can be done in a matter of minutes each day. On range day, Saturday or Sunday, I always set up multiple targets at a variety of ranges usually 5, 7, and 10 yards and practice engaging all 3 targets with 2 shots in each. I know that many pistols today come without a safety, however if you practice drawing your firearm and it has a safe position you must also practice removing the safety during a dry fire exercise, if not you could be setting yourself up for failure and allowing the bad guy to win.

  3. The range I frequent will let you draw from a holster or concealment after getting a card to do so. My favorite drill is to run the target out to 7 yards, then hit the automatic return, and step off the “x” to fire three shots as the target is coming toward me. If I’m doing good, I will bring it in to 5 yards. Making it a bit more challenging.

  4. Thanks for posting this. The stupid COVID-BS has allowed rust to accumulate.

    Time to scrape it off.

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