Indoor Range Time vs. Firearms Training
Often times I will hear people talk about how the "shoot all the time" either at an indoor gun range or at a private location (private land, etc.). In an effort to avoid sounding confrontational, I generally just nod my head... Inside, I'm dying to ask them: "Great, but how often do you train?"
Is there a difference?
Let's use the case of an indoor range- though the activities included are just as relevant to the folks at a private location. When you visit an indoor range, you will go into your narrow little world where you will hang your paper target and send it to whatever distance you'd like to shoot at. Then you will open up your firearm case, load your magazines, insert your mags into your firearm, and begin shooting your target at whatever cadence you would like to shoot at. When you have gone through all of your ammo in that mag, you eject your magazine, lay your firearm down on the stand in front of you, insert a new magazine, and repeat. Over and over and over. You might change distances, you'll likely change firearms, and you'll shoot at different targets throughout the course of your session.
Let's look at what you've accomplished at the above training session. You have certainly had the opportunity to practice your marksmanship skills. You have hopefully made a specific effort to improve your 7 fundamentals of shooting. And you've had ample opportunity to pick up plenty of bad habits if you weren't careful to mentally block out some of repetitive non-sense that you have to engage in at an indoor range. The same is true for most people when they go into their backyard and shoot at their targets. They stand in a static position, shoot at a static target placed at a pre-determined distance, and engage that target with whatever shot cadence they are comfortable with. Minimal (if any) weapons manipulation skills improvement, zero thoughts as to defensive tactics, minimal thought into shooting technique. Just lead down range and we hope for the best...
This is not training.
Let's consider an alternative scenario... Let's consider that you have access to an outdoor range area with some sort of safe action bays. In other words, you can shoot in multiple directions and can move around while doing so. Let's assume that you can setup multiple targets at varying distances. Perhaps you can utilize a vehicle or some other form of cover/concealment during your drills. You can now set up a scenario where you can force yourself to improve as a shooter instead of wasting the ammo that many of us would love to be able to get our hands on.
Set up a three or four target course and start from concealment. Move to one direction and time yourself with a shot-timer. Then move to another direction and see the time differences. Move backward, forward, to cover, from cover, etc. Force yourself into mag changes by having a friend download your magazine with an unknown number of rounds (so that you don't count your shots, you cheater) and force yourself into a reload scenario while moving. Have a friend include dummunition rounds in your magazines at various places so that you are forced to engage in malfunction identification and correction.
Practice drawing from concealment using your actual everyday carry gear, and not just the fun gun(s) that you want to shoot. Come up with drills to force yourself into skill sets that you currently need to improve. Write down your times and then compare them after each training session. Film yourself and try to identify deficiencies in your training such as a poor or improper grip, re-gripping, closing one eye while shooting, lowering your muzzle while transitioning between targets, etc. You can see a LOT of things you need to work on if you will film and analyze yourself when seriously training.
THIS IS TRAINING!
Consider training with a shot timer and a notebook to track and quantify your progress. You might be surprised at what you can track and how quickly you can decrease your learning curve. A few well-placed, small investments can really go a long way in your improvement as a proficient shooter. Instead of buying that next "safe queen" that you're going to waste ammo with, why not spend half that money and buy some resources that will help you reach a decent skill level that you can use in actual defense of yourself or your loved ones?
There are many additional tools and resources that you should consider using during your training, as are outlined below: