Excuse me sir, how do you get to the Bianchi Cup?

Practice, practice, practice!

As fun as it can be, going to the range, standing there and plinking away at targets isn’t the most efficient way to improve your shooting. Like anything else you want to get good at, you need to structure your practice. After all, NFL players don’t just wander around stadiums throwing and kicking balls at random things. They have a practice regimen designed to improve core skills and measure progress. I think the key concept here is “measure progress.” If you can’t come up with some way to document and track your skills, how do you know if you’re getting better?

Maybe I’m still emotionally scarred from piano lesson practice, but the concept of “practice” doesn’t sound all that fun to me. Fortunately, we’re talking about shooting guns here, so given the inherent fun with that activity in general, it’s much easier to develop practice routines that are also fun. Here are a few drills that I’ve run across that I like. They’re fun. They build your skills. They help you measure progress. And most importantly, they address some of the different types of gun skills you might need.

If you want to get all Annie Oakley, pick up some of these self-sealing target cubes. They're close enough to five inches for the 45 drill. Better yet, they move when you shoot them, so you target gets more challenging with each shot.
If you want to get all Annie Oakley, pick up some of these self-sealing target cubes. They’re close enough to five inches for the 45 drill. Better yet, they move when you shoot them, so you target gets more challenging with each shot.

The 45 drill

The 45 drill is a great way to develop speed while getting shots on target. I love this one because it’s so darn simple at least one of my two dogs could remember the steps. I think this drill was developed by gun writer Richard Mann, but I’m not 100 percent sure on that. If you have other information, please feel free to share in the comments.

How simple is it? Can you remember the number 45? Great. You’ve almost got it. The drill has four things related to the number five. You fire five shots, in five seconds, at a five-inch target that’s five yards away. Get it? Don’t get all worked up about the five inches at five yards thing. Bring a couple of paper plates to the range. That’s close enough.

Oh. One more thing. You have to start from your concealed carry holster—that’s part of your five-second time limit. If your range doesn’t allow draws, or if you’re not comfortable with that skill yet, no worries. Just start from a low-ready position with your gun pointing to the ground in front of you at a 45-degree angle.

But what about the timing? You can have a friend time you. Or you can get fancy and use one of the free shot-timer apps for smartphones. If you have an iPhone, you can get a free SureFire Shot Timer app here. Android? No problem, you can find some free shot-timer apps here.

You can treat this drill as a pass-fail scenario—either you complete it with no misses inside of five seconds or you don’t. Or you can work to improve your time. Your choice. Hey, when you get really good, move to a three-inch target.

The dot torture drill

This one is a little more complicated, but it’s a great way to exercise a bunch of skills with just one 50-round box of ammo. I found this drill, and a printable target, at Pistol Training.

It’s a little different because it’s not a speed drill. It’s a drill designed to improve your accuracy and shooting motions at your own pace. You shoot some of the dots for best group accuracy. You shoot others from a draw—repeatedly. You’ll shoot some with your strong-side hand only and others with your weak-side hand only. You’ll do a little bit of magazine reloading practice. In short, it’s a great way to run through the repertoire of shooting skills with just 50 rounds.

I won’t go through the detailed instructions here as the instructions are printed on the target itself. Download the target from the Pistol Training link, print a few and head to the range!

Old golf and baseballs make excellent Range Junk Jamboree targets. Sorry, outdoor ranges only!
Old golf and baseballs make excellent range junk jamboree targets. Sorry, outdoor ranges only!

The range junk jamboree

Before I go into detail on this proven method to get you in the experts lounge, I have to make a small disclaimer. This practice routine is for outdoor shooting ranges only. If you do this at an indoor range, you’ll probably end up buying a brand new range renovation, and that will really cut into your practice ammo fund.

Again, if you have access to an outdoor range, I’ll bet you a nickel there’s stuff on the ground out there. Spent shotgun shells. Tin cans. Tennis balls. Bits and pieces of clay targets. Why not develop your own on-the-fly drill? I like to load five rounds in my magazine, start from a holster or low-ready position, and begin a seek and destroy mission. They key is to find, acquire and hit a new target with each round. Shooting five times at the same thing won’t do you a whole lot of good. Shooting at a target five yards away, then one 25 yards away and other other back in at 15 yards will get your eyes and hands moving. Start slow, being sure you hit each target with one shot. As you get better, increase your speed, but not to the point of missing. You’ll be amazed at how much more quickly you’ll be able to transition to a new target and hit it on the first try.

One caution. Be sure not to stray too far off to the side as you seek targets. Make sure you’re shots are all going safely into the backstop. Oh, and be careful not to hit other folks’ targets!

If you need to, bring your own range junk. Golf and tennis balls are great for this. Just make sure to pick up your mess when you’re done!

I think with a little buffing, those golf balls will be just fine for my next 18, don’t you think?

Images by Tom McHale

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