More Bang for the Buck: Ammo-Efficient Practice

posted on November 6, 2021

Ammunition is still a lot more expensive than anyone would like; and, in this increasingly hectic world, it seems like time is also increasingly rare. At the same time, more people than ever have chosen to carry a gun for self-defense. How can we all practice life-saving skills if time and ammo are hard to get?

This one-box practice session can help. These drills will allow you to work on all the important fundamentals of defensive shooting: drawing, rapid shots to small targets, multiple targets and pure marksmanship. These can be performed at any range that allows you to draw from a holster, or, if they don’t, then from a low or compressed-ready position. All the targets for these drills can be downloaded from the internet or are commonly available items like paper plates or 3x5 index cards, so you can save your money for ammo. The only extra item that’s highly recommended is a digital shot timer, which allows you to benchmark your performance and thereby track your improvement over time.

Drill 1: Immediate Incapacitation
This drill is to practice immediately stopping a threat.

Set a target at 7 yards with a horizontal 3x5 index card (with the 5-inch edge parallel to the ground) at approximately the same height as your eyes.

Using the shot timer to give yourself an audible start signal, on the beep, draw and fire two shots into the 3x5 card with no time limit. Record your time only when you succeed in putting both shots in the 3x5 card.

Repeat four times for a total of five runs (10 shots fired).

Calculate the average of the successful attempts. Next time you do the drill, see if you can beat your previous average. A well-practiced shooter can draw from concealment and get two shots into a 3x5 card at
7 yards in 2 seconds or under.

Drill 2: Transition Between Targets
This popular drill from iHack develops your ability to quickly transition between targets.

Set a target at 5 yards, on which you have one sheet of 8.5x11 paper with three 2-inch circles running laterally. Prepare a shot timer to give you 3 seconds for each of the next three steps.

Starting from the low-ready or compressed-ready position, fire one shot at each target, left to right. Then fire one shot at each target, right to left. Finally, fire one shot at each target, starting with the middle circle and proceeding to the other two in any order.

Any shots fired after the 3 seconds per round do not count. If you made at least seven of the nine shots, you “passed” the drill. Once you are passing from the ready position, try from the holster and then from concealment. Well-practiced shooters can hit all nine from the holster.

Drill 3: The Test (10-10-10)
This drill will help you practice making fast, accurate shots.

Set an NRA B8 or B8 repair center target at 10 yards.

From the ready position, fire 10 shots with a 10-second time limit at the target.

Add up your total hits. Bullet holes touching the next higher scoring line count as the higher point; for instance, if you have a round that’s mostly in the seven-ring but touches the edge of the eight-ring, it’s an eight. Any round completely outside of the eight ring is a test failure. Additionally, for every shot over the time limit, take away your highest point value shot on the target, so if you shoot eight nines and two tens, but one shot was over the time limit, you’d take away one of those 10-point shots. Your goal is 90 points or more in under 10 seconds. To increase difficulty, start from the holster instead of the ready position.

Drill 4: Failure to Stop
This drill is a staple of defensive, military and law-enforcement training, and assumes the threat is not stopped with the first two shots.

Set a target at 7 yards with a paper plate (or sheet of paper folded longways) “body” and a 3x5 index card “head.”

Using your shot timer, on the beep, draw and fire two shots to the body and one to the head.

Repeat seven times for a total of 21 rounds, keeping track of your time and hits on each run.

Take the average of your times where you scored all hits. Next time you can, try to beat that time. A well-practiced shooter can shoot this in under two seconds.

You’ve fired 50 shots (10+9+10+21) and worked all the fundamental pistol skills. Again, tracking your performance over time using a shot timer and notebook is key to improving. Ammo prices don’t look like they’ll return to pre-pandemic rates any time soon, but you can still improve using these drills.


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