Every now and again at the range, I catch myself being lazy and not doing all of the things I know I should. Being lazy on the golf course or in the kayak while fishing can cause nothing more serious than a less positive, less productive day. At the range, however, it can program behavior that could be downright detrimental to my ability to prevail in a fight for survival. Based upon what I regularly see to my right and left on the firing line, I’m not alone.
It’s sometimes hard for me to accept, but I do understand that there are some people who shoot simply for the sake of shooting. They never contemplate firearms as defensive tools. My admonition here to stay sharp and focused does not apply to them. They should keep having fun at the range doing whatever they want to do, as long as they are complying with the always-applicable rules of gun safety.
I am speaking to what I believe to be the majority of shooters who find shooting fun, challenging and stimulating, but also see it as a developed skill that could save their lives someday. Maybe it has been some of the relaxed enjoyment I’ve had filming NOIR with my good friends, but I’ve come to the conclusion that we should always incorporate some serious range time into our shooting sessions. This is time when we focus on defensive skills and ensure that every action we take would make our favorite shooting instructor proud if he or she were watching our every move.I plan to stick with the fun shooting for the rest of my days, but I’m also going to set aside time when I do everything by the defensive book.
Recently I’ve had too many times when I have winced after finishing a shooting string on steel, knowing that my shooting instructor, James Yeager, would be hurling a string of colorful insults at me for failing to do what he has taught me through the years. Whether it’s my failure to explosively draw my gun, perform a tactical reload, immediately and aggressively deal with a malfunction, scan for threats or incorporate movement when appropriate, all too often I find myself being lackadaisical.
The positive thing here is that I recognize the problem. Now, it’s my duty to do something about it. I’m still dedicated to the athletic shooting that Colion and I have had so much fun developing over the last year. It’s a great mix of shooting and physical ability, and it has made for some of my most enjoyable and competitive moments. I don’t like losing, but Colion has gotten the best of me a couple of times and it’s fun to see because I’m witnessing his development as a top-tier shooter.
I’ve decided I’m going to distinguish a little more between business and pleasure at the range. I plan to stick with the fun shooting for the rest of my days, but I’m also going to set aside time when I do everything by the defensive book. I’m going to do what I’ve spent so much money and effort through the years learning in class after class. Some of this includes:
- Drawing from the holster like I mean it, whether I’m shooting at three yards or 50 yards.
- Getting first shots off as quickly as my front sight is on the target.
- Ensuring that I don’t fall into a fixed number of shots every time I engage a target. There are times when five good hits might not be enough.
- Taking at least one step right or left when drawing or doing something administrative, like a reload, in order to ingrain movement. As James says, getting off of the “X” is essential.
- Thinking about cover and concealment. There may not be any to use at the range, but thinking of it will keep it fresh in my mind.
- Performing an emergency reload immediately when my gun goes dry, and always completing a tactical reload before reholstering.
- Scanning my environment after each target engagement when appropriate. This doesn’t mean reflexively moving my head and eyes around; it means looking for things around me.
- Keeping my eyes on the target at all times while performing actions like reloading, reholstering and recovering partially loaded magazines from the ground.
- Loading dummy rounds intermittently in my magazines so that I keep my malfunction clearance skills sharp and absolutely reflexive.
- Fighting through any kind of mechanical trouble I face with a gun until it is up and running. If this means I have to field strip it to fix a problem, I will do it like my life is counting on it.
I can do all of these things and still keep the fun alive and well. The business end of my training could amount to 15 minutes at the end of a man-on-man competition with Colion on the athletic shooting field. My duty is to make sure that it happens. It will keep my skills fresh and sharp. I’ve worked too hard to gain them to see them atrophy. Hopefully, many others who share the defensive mindset choose to do the same.