There are many of us in the shooting sports, who approach each range visit not only with great eagerness, but also a deep seated desire to improve on our skill set. Shooting is a degradable skill, and whether you are a bulls-eye competition shooter or a defensive-style shooter, proper practice is essential to not only maintaining your current level of training, but to improve beyond it.
With the goal of improving in mind, here are four exercises to warm up with during each range session. These are simple exercises, that help me focus and make the most out of each session. I tend to begin slowly, as I have a tendency to get a bit “amped up” shall we say, and fight an inclination to get trigger happy and indulge in some rapid fire. (Not that there is anything wrong with this- but I do need to concentrate on shot placement rather than letting lead fly for kicks.)
First, breathe. Simple, right? Breathe in, breathe out, lather rinse repeat. However, as it was pointed out to me recently, when I get excited, there is a decided tendency to hold my breath. Holding my breath decreases my accuracy quite a bit. To combat this, I inhale, squeeze the trigger, exhale, hold the trigger, inhale and allow trigger to reset, squeeze the trigger… You get the idea. Initially this exercise is done deliberately slowly, to reset my initial desire to get overly enthusiastic and trigger happy.
Second, another valuable training tool- practice proper magazine changes! Initially, do them slowly with precision, at eye level. In the event that you need to defend yourself, being able to change your magazines and maintain awareness of the situation around you is critical. By practicing reloads at eye-level, you not only are eyes-on with the target, but you are also back on target much quicker.
Third, trigger control. In the first step, I mentioned the importance of breathing during and after your trigger squeeze. Now, you are going to take it one step farther. After you take the shot, hold your trigger to the rear until you recover your site picture. Rather than releasing the trigger, allowing it to spring forward completely, maintain pressure and hold the trigger all the way to the rear. When you have recovered your site picture, ease the pressure up, allow the trigger to move forward to the reset point. Then, take your follow up shot. Your shot placement will improve drastically.
The fourth thing is always critical, and comes first, middle, last and always. Practice proper safety habits. Avoid becoming complacent at all costs. By following the four rules of gun safety, you are ensuring the safety of all those who are shooting with you.
Have a plan for your shooting trip. Do your best to establish excellent safety habits, and remember to breathe and move with purpose and deliberation.