Ammunition

How to Train Properly With a .22

.22 training

There are certain rules to be followed in firearms training. These rules will lead to a gradual increase in the shooter’s skill.

It isn’t difficult for a person of average ability to become a decent shot. The top tier of shooting requires more work, time, effort and expense.

Among the routes that many shooters take, is training with a .22 caliber rimfire firearm.

If done properly, .22 caliber firearms training isn’t a short cut to proficiency, but it is less expensive than training with a centerfire, much less expensive.

The Importance of Repetition

I have been at this a long time and heard many mantras, some of which are worthwhile.

One is that proficiency requires 500 repetitions of a certain skill to master, such as the uppercut, Dempsey Drop Step or the Five Fists of martial arts.

I think 500 repetitions is on the light side. Close to 1,000 is more realistic for reasonable proficiency.

This means practicing the presentation from concealed carry constantly until the effort is seamless, smooth and mistake-free.

Proficiency comes with practice, and you will become better with time and effort. You will reach a plateau of good skills and then have to fight hard for even better performance.

Other experts feel that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is needed to reach expert status. Yes, that is more than a year.

The domain may be the electric guitar, karate or mastering the .45 automatic. Those are big numbers and the effort is measured in years, not weeks.

In handgun and rifle marksmanship, even tactical work, the .22 Long Rifle firearm is a great aid.

Ruger .22 target rifle
This young Major works with a Ruger .22 target rifle.

Mistakes Many Make

If you are firing the .22 for simple recreation or target practice, the rules are different. Informal target practice or even training for hunting with a .22 is different.

The goal is deliberate practice. This means a specific type of practice toward a goal. Once the goal is met, training is over, and what remains is the practice to build greater skill.

Unfortunately, some shooters engage in what may be called “broken record training.” It is simply repeating the skills you already have.

It may be rewarding to the ego to make a good run on steel plates every time you go to the range, but it is just repetition, not training.

It is like running on autopilot. Something I do every day is autopilot. I sing to myself. I know a lot of songs.

I do not have a good voice or good control over my voice. I am not a professional singer, so this time wasted is quite enjoyable. But I have not learned much.

Shooting skills are much the same. You can think you are pretty good if you don’t have a measure. Mix and match is another dead end.

Going to the range, mastering one drill, firing one we cannot quite get and dropping the challenge, then doing something we can do, doesn’t help.

Taurus TX22 .22 pistol
Firing the Taurus TX22 .22 pistol is an inexpensive means of gaining experience.

Results Matter

Range work should be productive learning. It is possible to repeat something many times and not become much better. You may be reinforcing bad habits.

After all, most of us pick up bad habits sometimes called training scars. We have to get rid of them or they scar our later performance.

Practice often lends permanence to poor technique. Training moves past poor techniques.

Your confidence level is enhanced by being able to execute drills successfully and consistently. You must isolate the techniques that allow you to succeed.

The aforementioned broken record type training is most of all dull after a while and often abandoned. Success isn’t measured by time at the range, but by results.

Prepare, Then Prepare Again

Deliberate practice involves a system and a plan you are invested in.

The problem—presenting the handgun and getting a hit in less than 1. 5 seconds at 7 yards, running the El Presidente or running double taps on targets—must be clearly defined.

Dry fire practice is a big part of what we do. We are building a skill: the trigger press, sight alignment and sight picture.

But live fire must always be the litmus test and some things must be mastered through live fire. We have to monitor our progress.

How slow were we? How fast? How far off did you miss? Are you going too fast or too slow?

Are the groups too small in rapid-fire, indicating you are going too slowly, or is the dispersion too high?

Few take the time to train, analyze and execute in this manner, but it must be done.

You must maintain concentration and limit the training time to your ability to focus. It may be an hour, usually less. With practice, focus grows.

There are times when you feel better and times when you are dragging. Try to practice when you have the most energy as you will learn the most.

Unlike high school and other chores, you may be flexible in firearms training. To maintain clarity of intention, be certain to record your progress by video or notebook.

.22 Marksmanship
The .22 allows worthwhile practice.

.22 Training Tips

Now we come to the point of the report: properly using a .22 for this very important training.

The advantages of the .22 are many. The cartridge itself is inexpensive compared to a centerfire cartridge. Recoil is modest to nonexistent.

This allows the shooter to concentrate on marksmanship, trigger control, sight picture and sight alignment.

All of the principles of marksmanship may be practiced and mastered using a .22 caliber firearm. But wait, what about follow-through?

How do you learn recoil control with a .22? The average shooter using a .22 doesn’t grip the firearm as hard as they would a 9mm or .45 ACP.

This is OK for fun shooting, but you should always execute a hard grip in training. The .22 should be used with a hard grip just as the 9mm will be.

If you are training with a .22 rifle, then keep it snug in the shoulder and lean into the rifle. If you are using a handgun, then maintain a proper tight grip and control recoil.

Taurus TX22 Recoil
While .22 recoil is modest, it exists as this image illustrates.

When practicing splits between shots, double taps and rapid-fire, it is ridiculously easy to fire a magazine full of .22s and keep the firearm on target… or is it?

The only acceptable means of firing is to fire as if each shot is the only one that matters. This means recovering sight picture and sight alignment before firing again.

When practicing with the .22 caliber it is important to not run away with speed. Don’t fire any faster than you do when practicing with the 9mm.

Fire, recover, align the sights and fire again. Do the same with the 9mm. The .22 is a great training aid.

Conclusion

Treat it seriously and apply the same effort to the .22 in marksmanship training as you do with centerfire. The result will be a real improvement in ability.

If you are a hunter, training with the .22 is relevant. Target shooting, learning to use optics or red dot sights is best accomplished with the humble .22.

It is the finest and most cost-effective tool we have.

Do you train with the .22? Let us know your thoughts on using this caliber in the comments below.

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 (4)

  1. In previous years the National Marksmanship Program gave access to 22 rimfire training. What program 8s available for self instruction today that I can verify my results with. Love plinking. Done it for decades. Which 22 would be better used to assist 9mm accuracy? Current have a buckmak and a Remington 597.

    Thank you.

    PS
    What 8s the best available upgrades to my S&W AR15.

    Thanks. Live out in the woods in northern Michigan. Like it that way.

  2. I grew up in the country and it was a daily thing for my brother and I to grab our .22’s and head off to any number of our plinking spots around the farm. We were learning skills in marksmanship that I did not realize until recently that others had never had the opportunity to learn. I have friends that are finding an interest in shooting but had never had a BB gun growing up and they head off and buy an AR-15 and an ultra-compact pistol and head to the range with a very optimistic idea that they will hit the targets just like a video game. They quickly become frustrated and loose interest. I introduce them to the .22 and they can go to the range and have some fun and satisfaction that they are improving and then will be effective with the larger calibers one day.

  3. I could not agree with you more. I was having problems with accuracy with my Beretta 92 (9mm), but could nail a fly with my 96 (40sw). I then purchased a Beretta 9-22 and am using it to emphasize trigger control and sight picture. I believe that forcing myself to “respect” the 22 has helped considerably with the 9mm. Since the ergonomics of the three firearms are nearly the same, I think it was a great way to establish muscle memory as well.

  4. The Browning Buckmark is a gun every shooter should have in his or her arsenal. Tons of fun, cheap to shoot and it’s amazing how quickly new shooters can become proficient with it. That makes them want to shoot more which is great for the sport. I look forward to the new Glock 44 soon to hit the market. That will provide a training experience closer to my EDC.

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