Gun Skills: Just for Fun

posted on November 18, 2023
playing cards
Photo: Peter Fountain

Firearms proficiency is critically important, which should mean we all practice often, but most people just aren’t wired that way. If we were, we’d eat right, exercise and floss more! Alas, if it isn’t fun, we won’t do it. Luckily, range time doesn’t have to be about rote drilling and stringent record keeping. There are plenty of ways to get our rounds in while having a blast. Some of these can be competitive, while others are just playful, but all of them also help develop several important aspects of firearms handling.

Shotshell-Hull Bowling
Align your sights, breathe, press the trigger straight back and follow through. Easy, right? Believe it or not, we get so used to poking big paper targets that these fundamentals often elude us. This game is excellent for developing the finer skills of pistol marksmanship using nothing more than your favorite handgun and a bucket of fired shotgun hulls. (Never attempt this drill with full shotgun shells.) The tiny targets force you to concentrate on the fundamentals, particularly if you’re trying to hit one on its side to pick up a split.

1. At 5 yards, arrange 10 fired shotgun hulls in a triangular formation (in a bowling-pin setup of four pins on every side of the triangle and one in the middle) at eye level.

2. Player one is allowed two shots to knock over as many “pins” as possible.

3. Unload firearms and reset the course.

4. Repeat with the next player.

5. Score can be kept using the traditional bowling scoring system or by simply counting pins.

6. The game is completed after 10 “frames” or whatever the group decides on.

Simon Says
Remembering an order of events can be difficult, and once you add in gunfire, you’re more likely to forget everything thanks to the adrenaline. Unless you practice thinking and shooting simultaneously, you will be at a disadvantage should things get serious. If you remember the electronic version of the game “Simon Says” from your childhood, this next activity may remind you of it. All you’ll need are four targets, a buddy and a lot of ammo!

1. Select any four targets of your liking. For easier games, make the targets as different as possible; for a challenge, choose four of the same.

2. Arrange the targets at a normal practice distance for your gun’s barrel length or at whatever distance you feel that you can earn a 95% hit rate or better. (If using metal targets, ensure they are beyond the minimum safe distance recommended by the manufacturer.)

3. Start by shooting four shots at as many or as few targets in whatever order you see fit.

4. Your opponent will then copy your routine.

5. If successful, your opponent will then fire their chosen routine and add a shot.

6. You’ll then copy this routine.

7. If successful, you’ll fire a new routine and add yet another shot (now totaling six).

8. The volley continues until one shooter makes a mistake, awarding a point to the winner.

9. The game is over once a shooter earns five points.

Pistol Poker
Knowing your limits will illuminate where your effectiveness ends. The trouble is that most of us won’t push into that uncomfortable zone without a little persuasion. Two decks of cards are all that stand between you and a course of fire that is both engaging and entertaining. This game can be played by yourself or with a friend for more competition.

1. Pull all of the 10s, royals and aces from one deck.

2. Hang the 10 cards at 3 yards, the jacks at 5, the queens at 7, the kings at 10 and the aces at 15.

3. Pull the same cards from the other deck.

4. Shuffle and deal a five-card “ghost” hand from this deck’s selections, face up.

5. Fire five shots at the cards downrange, trying to beat the ghost hand per poker-scoring rules.

6. To play with other people, simply eliminate the ghost hand and have them shoot a five-card hand from the cards hanging downrange, then try to beat their hand.

Note: You can play this with the high cards as described or go for any shuffle. You can also mix it up with the jokers.


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