As we’re getting into the new year, I think it’s a good time to brainstorm and reflect on our firearm goals for 2024. It’s important to keep putting effort into ourselves and what we find important, so we continue to improve and move toward our goals. Whether it’s getting that new gun you’ve been saving for, increasing your doomsday ammo stockpile, or refreshing your tactical training, we should all create a plan of what we’d like to work on for the year to come.
We all want to make a bit more room in the gun safe and expand our firearm collections. I’m sure we all have a good idea of some new guns we’d like to get a hold of. Maybe you want to finish that AR build. Perhaps, you’re in the process of upgrading your Glock. After the recent SHOT Show, I know there’s certainly a lot of firearms I want. I like to buy firearms for certain tasks — which there are no shortage of. Whether it’s a bolt-action rifle for hunting, a micro 9 for carry, pump-action shotgun for home defense, or a .22 for fun plinking at the range, every firearm has its purpose.
Past shortages had me dipping deeper into my ammo supply than I would have liked, as I’m sure it did many of you. Even if you’re sitting on a heap, it’s never a bad idea to acquire more. I’ve been slowly building my stache again, but I’d like to take it a bit further this year.
Additionally, I’d like to improve my organization system to keep better track of what I do, or don’t, have. The goal is to update a logbook of past and future purchases and to add some more caliber-specific separation. Depending on the number of calibers and amount of ammunition you have, you may consider separate storage containers for rifle, pistol, or shotgun ammo. If you have a lot of variety, try individual containers separated by caliber. This is my system, find what works for you.
Perhaps you’re looking to add some more optics or accessories to your arsenal. With more firearms coming optics-ready from the factory, there’s no better time to get a red dot sight. A red dot optic is a good way to help increase your accuracy and speed with either a long gun or handgun. Maybe you’re looking to stretch out further and need some new glass for your rifle. A better magnified scope can be just the ticket to ringing steel or downing animals at greater distances.
Be sure to stock up on magazines and spare parts too. If you want to keep your firearms running, you’ll need plenty of spare parts and the knowhow to properly install them. Magazines have a lifespan — springs run out and feed lips split. Additionally, firearm components, such as springs, extractors, ejectors, trigger parts, etc., all have a service life. It’s important to remember that firearms are mechanical devices, parts fail and need to be fixed. This is especially important for older or less common firearms where future parts availability may be in question.
Another great skill to take up for the new year is reloading. Learning reloading not only helps you increase your ammunition supply, it allows you to really dial in some of your loads to your particular firearm. Reloading supplies are available in a wide number of configurations for different size operations and price ranges. If you’re just dipping your toe in, try getting a small press and focusing on a single caliber you use a ton, such as 9mm or .223.
Maybe you’re already a seasoned reloader, but you’d like to work on increasing your reloading capacity or perhaps caliber variety. Take your setup to the next level with a new press or case preparation supplies. This can help speed up your operation and give you more options.
It’s important to continue putting effort into your training, so you can keep growing as a shooter. Do not rest on your laurels, and constantly push the envelope to better yourself. Get more training, whether that be in a formal setting or more focused individual range time.
Don’t just mag dump into your targets, figure out why all your shots may be hitting low left (or right if you’re correct-handed). Spend time working on your trigger control, breathing, sight picture, grip, malfunction clearance, and reloading. Work on drills designed to assess your split times, double-taps, and drawing your pistol. Be sure you are focused in your training.
There are several specialized classes focused on topics, such as CCW, home defense, and engaging multiple attackers. There’s no supplement to getting hand-on training from experts who can correct any issue you may have in real time. However, be sure to research instructors to find someone accredited who aligns with your goals.
You may also want to start working on transitioning from iron sights to a red dot optic. A red dot can help you make faster, more accurate hits. However, it does take some getting used to, especially if you’ve been using irons your whole life.
If you don’t already, start keeping a log of your work at the range to track your progress. Note the firearms used, rounds fired, group sizes, POA vs. POI, shot times, malfunctions, and anything else you may find valuable. Reflect on what you did well and what you can improve, so each training session builds on one another. This is how you will make the most of your practice and training time.
Another good method of practice is competition. In addition to being fun, the added stress of shooting competition can help prepare you for defensive shooting. The timer can mess with any shooter. Under a time constraint, with a bunch of eyes on you, increases the pressure to perform. It can cause you to slip up, even if you wouldn’t under normal conditions.
Another benefit of competition is that it allows you to test your equipment to ensure it runs in a more real-world situation. Parts breaking, springs wearing out, bad magazines will all be wrung out in competition.
There are plenty of shooting competition types — IDPA, USPSA, Bullseye, Trap & Skeet, 3-Gun, etc. — all with their own focus and requirements. The International Defensive Pistol Association, or IDPA, focuses on defensive pistol use. Bullseye shooting takes an emphasis on precision. 3-Gun requires you to balance your skills between a pistol, rifle, and shotgun. Find what type of competition appeals to you, and go after it.
There are plenty of great local competitions with experienced shooters who love to help newcomers to the sport, so don’t be nervous. Every great shooter has been where you were at some point, we all have to start somewhere. As long as you follow the safety rules, you’ll get along just fine.
A new year is a good time to introduce new shooters to shooting. Reach out in a friendly manner, and get new shooters involved in the sport. If you’re able, take them to the range and teach them the basics of firearm safety and shooting. Give them a good foundation to build on.
If they’re younger, or into video games, show them the cool, tactical guns to pique their interest. For others, maybe show them something a bit more basic and less intimidating. Be certain to impress safety and the seriousness of firearm ownership, and be sure to represent gun owners well.
Don’t give a scared, new shooter a 12-gauge shotgun or .500 S&W Magnum revolver, and laugh when they drop the gun during recoil. Not only is that irresponsible and dangerous, it may deter a potential new gun owner or shooting enthusiast from continuing the sport. Start with a rimfire .22 handgun or rifle. This gets people excited about making accurate hits without flinching and the loud concussive bang. If possible, take them to a quieter outdoor range that’s a bit more spaced out. You can’t control what the people around you shoot, but it’d be better if they weren’t scared by someone blasting off a 7-inch AR pistol.
Talk about firearms ownership and advocate gun ownership to others. Give your reasonings and expose others to the fact that it’s not just for extreme preppers concerned about the zombie apocalypse (not that we don’t love you). There are plenty of regular individuals who want to take responsibility for their own safety and security. Dispel any negative rumors and normalize legal firearm ownership.
Finally, consider getting more involved with gun rights groups. Groups such as the GOA, SAF, USCCA, and others are excellent resources. Attending meetings and lectures is a great way to learn what’s going on and gain ideas about how you can help. Self-defense is a right. You should have the best ability to protect yourself, and these groups are working every day to protect those rights. Also consider donating to keep these groups fighting for our Second Amendment rights.