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Reload Image

I try to shoot as much as I possibly can and still get all the other things I have to do accomplished. However, when life’s complications take hold, getting to the range is usually one of the first things to get cut. Because of this, I need to make the most of my range time and also try to squeeze in some training that doesn’t require me to pack up and head to the range.

With all the modern technology out there, I have found a couple of ways to augment my range time that are also complementary to my range drills. Unless you are a professional shooter, you have to work a “real” job to pay for your guns, ammo and all those accessories. That time, along with your family responsibilities and everything else,
takes up precious waking hours, and dreaming about being a better shot won’t make it so.


I am always on the lookout for something to make me a better shot—and a faster one—and maybe even save me
some money, as well. Several years ago, I bought my first S.I.R.T. pistol while attending an NRA annual meeting. During the instructor seminar, I saw the demonstration and decided to take the plunge and purchase one.

Since then, I have bought several more and use them regularly in my classes. I have the Glock 17 model, which feels the same as my real one, fits my holster and even accepts the magazines. The downside: There’s no recoil.
During the 2016 NRA Annual Meeting, I went the extra step and bought a compatible laser program from the folks at L.A.S.R. It allows me to configure my targets in the same manner as my live-fire drills, and I can shoot two to 300 shots in a session—without any additional cost—while still getting the instant feedback that is so important.


El Presidente: This drill was good enough for Jeff Cooper, so it’s good enough for you! Having an alternate to live fire is important, especially if I am training on a drill such as the El Presidente. For the El Pres, you place three USPSA or IPSC targets 3 feet apart from each other. Using the USPSA classifier rules, stand 30 feet from the targets. Starting with your back to the targets, you turn at the buzzer, draw, fire two rounds at each target from left to right, reload and fire two more rounds at each target. This one string of fire uses a total of 12 rounds. I will normally do 10 to 15 strings in a session practicing the El Presidente drill. That’s between 120 and 180 rounds. The cost could add up quickly with live ammo—not to mention having to pick up all that brass. I still run the drill live, but using the S.I.R.T and the L.A.S.R program saves me money and still allows me to work on all
my fundamentals … except recoil. (I might have to break down and buy one of the several training pistols on the market that do provide recoil. After all, it’s only money!)

Seek Cover (Getting off the “X”): Another drill I like to use that works well with both live and S.I.R.T is to use two targets with the distance adjusted to your skill level. I set the targets about 3 feet from each other, with one target 3 to 6 feet farther away. I also set up something I can use to simulate cover. From the draw, I engage the close target with two rounds, followed by a single shot to the head. Then, I engage the second target in the same manner. When loading for this drill, it is best to have someone else load your magazines.

Have them insert a dummy round to simulate an immediate-action response (that is, tap the magazine, pull back on the slide, observe the fault, and re-engage the target). If no one is available to load for you, the other option is to load only two rounds in one of the magazines. In both cases, you can seek cover, correct the malfunction and then re-engage the target.




One of the least-talked-about tools for improving your overall shooting experience is snapcaps. There are several manufacturers of these “dummy” ammunition rounds; and, for a few bucks, you can use them for more than just dry-firing. When choosing your snapcap, make sure it is easily identifiable as a practice round and avoid those that look too similar to live ammunition.

Below are some good reasons to keep some of these in your range bag:
1. You can use them to practice loading and unloading magazines and revolvers.

2. They can identify issues with your trigger pull: Mix some in with your live ammo at the range and have someone watch you to see if you are dipping your gun in anticipation of recoil.

3. You can mix them in with your ammo to work on your immediate-action drills. Get used to clearing jams and misfires. If you are nonchalant at the range, you will also be nonchalant during the real thing.

4. They can save wear and tear on your firing pin. Check your gun manual to see if you should be dry-firing without something for your firing pin to fall on.

“I am always on the lookout for something to make me a better shot — and a faster one…”

When coming back out from cover, make sure to “pie” around any corners to avoid immediately exposing yourself to return fire. When reloading, keep the gun up in front of your face and between you and the threat so you can still maintain awareness of what is going on. Fatal mistakes come from dropping your weapon to waist level or other locations that don’t allow you to maintain awareness of your surroundings.

Move to Cover: This last drill involves a bit more movement. I set up three targets about 2 feet apart and staggered in depth 2 to 4 feet each. Starting distance is 10 to 15 feet from the closest target. I also set up barricades to simulate cover at 20 feet and 25 feet from the first target. From the draw, I engage the closest target with two rounds and then move rearward to the first covered position. From behind cover, I engage the next farthest target with two rounds and then move to the last position of cover at 25 feet. Again from cover, I engage the farthest target with two rounds and then scan and access the area for any additional targets. For added training, continue to maintain awareness, and try to get out your phone to call for help. This will give you an idea of how difficult it might be to maintain awareness of your targets while trying to contact 911.

Seeking cover should be included in your training regimen if you carry a handgun for self-defense. Look for something that will protect you from small-arms fire. Car doors and interior walls will not protect you in most cases.

These are intermediate drills and are not meant for beginners. However, if you carry a firearm every day for protection, you should be working toward at least this level of proficiency. Going to the static range and firing a full magazine, one after the other, without practicing reloads or immediate-action drills could be a mistake you
pay for: You don’t want to do a rapid reload or conduct immediate action drills for the first time in a real-life situation.


Use multiple targets. Why? Because bad guys tend to travel in multiples; and if your muscle memory is just one target, it could be troublesome. Not all muscle memory is good. I remember hearing of an incident during which an assailant killed a law enforcement officer while he was reloading. During the investigation, they found the officer’s expended ammunition in his pocket. A habit he had developed during range training cost him precious time to reload. The end result was tragic. Get used to dropping magazines on the ground, getting your knees dirty while taking cover and scanning for additional threats. Those are habits that can save your life. Each of these drills requires you to maintain safe gun-handling procedures. If the drills seem too advanced for you, slow down a bit. Start from the high- or low-ready stance instead of the draw. Moving from cover to cover doesn’t require running on your first day of training; walk first. You should also run through these in dry-fire mode to prevent accidents until you are ready for the full-up version.


Vary your training sessions; it will give you more experience for what might happen. There is no way to train for every situation. Getting better won’t happen while you sit at home, watching John Wick. Some ranges will not let you conduct these drills—which also makes training difficult. This is especially true of most indoor ranges.
But I don’t blame them. I would be a little worried if someone I didn’t know started shooting these drills next to my shooting lane. If you have the capability, film yourself while you practice. It can help you identify weaknesses and areas that might not be working the way you want them to. You will never get better unless you train. Find a good instructor, and get some help. Avoid bad habits, and train as if your life depended on it!

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.