This article is written by Ronald Andring, Sr. over at the Brubaker Arms blog. Mr. Andring has some good words on firearms practice – how often to practice, what to practice, why practice.
Ronald Andring, Sr. is a veteran of a 30+ year career in law enforcement and corrections, serving with the Washington State Patrol, the Walla Walla Police Department, and the Washington Department of Corrections until his retirement in 2005.
Looking back to my first pistol purchase I also bought a box of ammunition and some targets, went to the range, shot some holes, and believed I could adequately defend myself in any situation. Such is the ignorance of youth. That was 45 years ago. Since then I have become both older and wiser. Not only have I become aware my practice strategy must evolve, but also the skills I developed must be constantly renewed as they can fade over time. I am now constantly asking myself when is good enough enough?
Regardless of our present skill level, those skills will degrade to some degree over time. The adage “use it or lose it” applies to all of the skills we develop in life, most importantly, self-defense skills. In an actual self-defense situation those skills will be degraded further because of the body’s natural stress response. We all respond similarly, to some degree, in stressful situations. Our heart rate and respiration quicken as our visual focus narrows. While this response helps us focus on a potential threat, it also leads our brains to fall back on our training for a response.
Regular training of defensive skills is important to successfully surviving a potentially deadly encounter. While a shooting range is required to actually practice firing your weapon, many related skills can be regularly practiced without firing a shot. These skills can be practiced using an inert firearm, or with an actual firearm, as long as it is unloaded. Before doing any practice with a firearm outside of a range be certain the magazine or cylinder is empty and there is no round in the chamber.
Practice Your Draw Stroke
The draw stroke is a skill which can be practiced anywhere. All it requires is a holster and your firearm. When practicing the draw stroke you should focus on each step, beginning slowly and working up your speed as your proficiency improves. The last thing you want is a premature discharge while drawing your weapon. The draw stroke is not a single action, but a series of steps that must be completed in order to successfully bring your weapon on target ready to shoot if necessary. There are four elements to the draw stroke, and each contributes to a successful presentation of your weapon to a target, and returning it safely to the holster.
The first step is getting your firearm ready to draw. Whether your firearm is concealed or opened carried this step is the same. It will also be similar whether your firearm is carried in the appendix, hip, back, shoulder or ankle position — use your support hand to sweep any cover garment up and away from your firearm. The last thing you want is to catch a sight, hammer or other portion of your firearm on your clothing. This could result in a delay, or worse, pulling your firearm from your hand.
At the same time you want to get a full firing grip on your firearm. A full firing grip means you are grasping your firearm in the same manner you do when you eventually shoot. If you do not have a full grip this will mean losing precious time resetting your grip later in the process, or possibly dropping your firearm. Without a full firing grip, at the end of the draw stroke your accuracy will likely suffer a decrease in accuracy. At this point you want to be sure your finger is off of the trigger to prevent a premature discharge.
In the second step your shooting hand should move sufficiently to bring the muzzle well out of the holster and bring your weapon to your chest with the muzzle facing forward. From this position you can fire quickly if necessary, which may be necessary if an attacker is on top of you already. If your firearm is equipped with a safety you should also practice releasing the safety in this step.
The third step of the draw stroke is to bring your support hand to your shooting hand and establish your strong two handed grip. Your shooting hand will be pushing forward into the palm of your support hand while your support hand is pulling back into your shooting hand. You should still be keeping your finger off of the trigger at this point, unless you need to shoot.
The fourth step is extending your arms into your firing position, focusing on your front sight, and if necessary to shoot, putting your finger on the trigger. At this point you will be acquiring your target, and making your decision about shooting. This same step can be used to bring your firearm to a low ready position, with your finger off of the trigger, if shooting immediately is not warranted.
Whether firing or not, re-holstering your firearm is equally important practice. Before re-holstering your firearm, be certain your finger is off of the trigger. Many an accidental discharge has occurred because the shooter had his/he finger on the trigger while re-holstering. To re-holster bring your arms back toward your body, separate your hands, bring the muzzle to the opening of the holster and push your firearm firmly into place…