Practice priorities for the Armed Citizen

taping D-1

“Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for all the trees.”

First of all, let me say that I distinguish between ‘training’ and ‘practice.’ Training is something you do with someone else’s guidance and, hopefully, observation, if it’s a physical skill. ‘Practice’ is something you do on your own.

Training, therefore, is generally structured by the trainer. However, you as the individual decide what training program you choose to undertake. Practice, on the other hand, is generally structured by an individual, although it may include a program set up by a trainer.

In either case, we have to establish our priorities of what our program is going to be. That can be a more involved process than we realize. It’s easy to be sidetracked either by what we enjoy, regardless of its relevance, or by what others tell us is significant, without establishing its importance in our skillset.

The first shooting by an Illinois Concealed Carry License holder provides an example. It’s great that he was able to run off his attackers. It’s not so great that he launched several bullets that missed the criminals and ended up who knows where in a densely populated urban area. We really can’t hope that the “Big Sky, Little Bullet” concept is going to work out for us. How much different is that than ‘celebratory gunfire’ that sometimes has tragic consequences?  Not much, in my opinion.

At the end of a recent Handgun Fundamentals course, I was asked “where do we go from here?” For the person who has recently acquired a pistol for defense, a good start is the NRA’s Defensive Pistol I Courses of Fire. It is a well structured and incremental approach to skill practice. It is self paced and can be shot on your own.

For the person new to carrying a weapon, the NRA Defensive Pistol II Course of Fire is an excellent regimen. Most State Weapons Carry Qualification Course don’t require drawing from a holster and many forbid it. The NRA course provides a standard that those who carry weapons should strive to be able to meet. What I like about it most is that it is a 100 percent standard, not 70 or 80 percent like a qualification course. We need to accustom ourselves to the concept that if we shoot at a criminal, ALL the rounds we fire must hit the target. That’s being responsible.

Most people have to limit their livefire practice to indoor ranges where drawing from the holster is not allowed. This presents an issue to those who carry pistol in holsters. There are solutions, though.

Like many of my colleagues, for a long time I said the hard part of the drawstroke is establishing grip. I’ve changed my opinion on that. The hard part of the drawstroke is getting the pistol indexed on the target enough to get a good hit with the first shot. John Shaw, a World Champion shooter, clued me in to this many years ago. Note that I didn’t say a ‘perfect’ hit.

Indexing the pistol to the target (presentation) is easily practiced from a high ready position starting at the pectoral muscle of the body’s dominant side. Starting this way is not generally a problem at an indoor range. And since I recommend practicing one shot per presentation, the ‘no rapid fire’ limitation at many indoor ranges isn’t an issue either.

The initial NRA DP II standard is to hit within the 8 ring of a D-1 target at seven yards with one shot in five seconds. The Pro-Marksman rating requires this to be done 20 times. The 8 ring is 12 inches in diameter. I personally prefer to tighten the standard to the 10 ring, which is 8 inches in diameter. If practicing from the high ready, the time standard needs to be cut down to something like four seconds, which is still very generous. Once shooters meet the initial level (Pro-Marksman) of the Defensive Pistol courses, they can work their way up the succeeding levels of the Program.

Whatever practice priorities you may choose, NRA DP or other, make a conscious decision about them. Just because you read in a gun magazine, on the Errornet, or I say it’s the thing to do, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Look at what happens to people in your walk of life and think about your lifestyle. Then adapt your practice priorities to your life.

2 responses

  1. Claude, about a year ago I wrote a series about “Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol”

    Reading what you wrote above, it gives me some additional things to think about in terms of breaking skills down — like the press out/presentation. One key issue is, as you said, range facilites. I get spoiled out at KR Training and I forget a lot of people go to the local indoor range where there’s no drawing from a holster, and it’s gotta be slow fire. So yeah, simply working from the high ready, pressing out and breaking one shot is not only a key skill, but then can be something worked on within the constraints people have available. Thank you for the additional thoughts.

    Regarding the “good hit” and “not a perfect hit”, this is why I coined the term “(un)acceptable hit”.

  2. This is a most useful couirtbntion to the debate

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