Range Time/Number of rounds - point of diminishing returns?
Wife and I are new to handguns (M&P22/9/40). The handguns are for home defense and recreation. I might be interested in IDPA if I can get competent as part of my post-retirement plan. I'm a very fit senior citizen, but new to this discipline. Other than the pure joy of putting holes in paper I can't currently see much benefit is going beyond 100 rounds or so on a weekly range trip: concentration lags and a bit of fatigue sets in. Few ranges permit holsters and few have steel so the opportunity for diverse practice is limited; we can probably get to a range once a month that is a bit more flexible.
I'm interested in what others new to the sport have experienced in this regards
It's not so much about the number of rounds fired as is it is how you fire them. Some shoot 200 hundred rounds and make no improvements or gain additional skills... where others can shoot 50 and actually improve their skills or gain new proficiencies. Here are a few tips to keep your sessions fresh while working on different skills to improve your fundamentals.
Vary your targets... try using dot targets where you fire 1 round per dot (1-2" dots). Start close and move the target back as the drill becomes easier and you are hitting each dot. This type of drill will get you moving from target to target and keep you from falling into the time/ammo wasting routine of dumping 20-50 rounds into a single target where you end up with a big ragged hole. While fun, there are many other things you can try.
Here is an example of a classic standard target...
A lot of ranges do not let you practice drawing from the holster... don't let this discourage you. You can always practice raising and firing from the low ready or retention ready position. This will improve your target acquisition skills and keep your range time more interesting. One round or double taps (if allowed) per presentation.
Firing using your strong hand or support hand (one hand shooting) is something many either forget to practice or they just don't think about it. Remember to use good form as you "punch out" the pistol, locking your wrist and slightly canting your firearm inward for added support (utilizes natural bone structure). Draw your other hand into the center of your chest for added balance & stability.
Try point shooting, where you don't acquire the sights and use your natural point of aim and your indexed finger to drive your POA (point of aim). Your finger should always be indexed or "high on the slide" anyway for safety... use this as your basis for your aim for point shooting. Most are amazed how far out they can accurately point shoot. Understand you should be trying for combat effective shot placement... we're not going for marksmanship groups here. Again, start closer and move the target her out as your skill & proficiency improve. This skill... more than others is important for surviving real world encounters where close proximity of a threat does not allow time for use of sights.
I'll post more drills a little later and add some pictures of targets below...
Shoot N' C or Glow Target type targets let you see your hits and are a nice change. I recommend the 6" target... I believe in the theory of aim small, miss small.
Another target that doubles as a rifle and a pistol target. One big target in the middle and 4 additional, more precise targets in the corners.
Taking a class from an experienced, reputable instructor at an outdoor range can be very beneficial to new AND experienced shooters. Our outdoor classes incorporate lots of holster work, movement, reload drills and malfunction drills as well as positional shooting. Our students go through 400-500 rounds on average per day. All learn drills and skills that they can take home and practice to keep their proficiency since shooting well is a perishable skill.
I could not agree more with this advice! Especially the point shooting technique. I call this tactical defense shooting b/c you're learning how to just point and shoot your weapon with both eyes open as if you would during an actual encounter with a real threat. In that scenario you simply won't have time to actually "aim" your weapon, and the target isn't going to be stationary, so you'd better be able to hit a moving target really quickly. The point shooting practice will help you acquire this discipline required for your best chance of survival.
Originally Posted by TAPnRACK
WRT shooting for accuracy, again, I agree with the TAP! Practice, practice, practice, but it isn't about the number of rounds you shoot. It is about doing the most with each round you shoot, and if you've identified your limitations you're on the right path. You will probably find that as you do practice those limitations may become strengthened just like working any other muscle discipline, but if not don't worry. Just operate within the bounds of your strengths. Use your best defensive weapon, your mind, to keep you out of trouble.
Competition is another animal altogether. I don't shoot for competition. It just doesn't appeal to me. As long as I can effectively hit my target I'm good. I'm more of a practical, defensive minded person who does enjoy shooting, but I don't spend a lot of time at the range on a single visit. I usually shoot no more than 100 rounds, and I know what I'm there to work on, so I stick to that and get out of there. That sort of helps me to not get burned out, per se.
One last thing. Find the best round for you. The one that you can shoot comfortably and enjoy. A lot of folks find the .40 to be a bit snappy and harder to place than a 9mm or even the .45, but if you can hit your target with precision with a .380 or a .40 cal then don't back up from using that as your defense round. I carry the Glock 19 Gen4 9mm. I love the .45, but the 9mm is very manageable for me, and I can hit the target quicker and more accurately than with any other round. All of these rounds are great rounds, but you pick what is best for you. Placement is power, as I've heard it said, and that is king. It doesn't matter of you're shooting a .22 or a .50 cal, if you can't hit your target it's all academic.
Hey...welcome to the realm of shooting and best of luck!
Another great shooting exercise that only requires 10 rounds is the: 1 & 1 Drill.
Load 1 magazine with 10 rounds and have a second magazine that's empty. Insert the loaded mag and chamber a round. Eject and store the loaded mag (in mag holder) and insert the empty one into the gun. Fire 1 round center mass... this will cause a slide-lock (emergency) reload. Eject the empty mag and again insert the loaded mag. Chamber a round and repeat the process until all 10 rounds are fired. This drill gets the shooter in the habit of quickly dealing with an emergency reload due to running out of ammo (slide-lock reload). This can be done from the draw or from the low ready position (depends on range rules). Go as fast as your comfortable keeping safety in mind. Build up your speed and build muscle memory. This is a great drill that allows you to fire 10 rounds and do multiple mag changes and slide releases (overhand grip preferred)... talk about bang for your buck in terms of high quality training using minimum ammo.
Also keep in mind you should always bring the firearm up into your "personal workspace" as to keep an eye on the target/threat as you conduct the reload. This area is your upper chest or chin area in front of you... it also allows you to quickly diagnose malfunctions. Lowering the weapon low, naturally draws your eyes/head down which may cause you to lose sight of the threat and/or be engaged by a second threat... remember, in real situations we react how we train. This is a bad habit in training and bad idea in real life.
As always... start slow when trying new things and be safe, and follow the rules of the range your on.
Really appreciate all the great advice. My wife and I intend to create a "plan" for home and range. We have two M&P 22s, an M&P 9 and and M&P 40 so the 22s are available for less structured "fun". Our recent instructor really emphasized good mechanics including draw stroke, quick diagnosis and reaction to malfunctions, maintaining situational awareness and probably 4 things I've forgotten. I really like the notion of a target with multiple aim points as a training aide. We're already using reactive targets, but I confess they are of the 8" variety; I'll throw these out and buy some smaller ones.
Sounds like you're well on your way! Nice selection of hardware, btw.
How to Practice Presentations (drawing from the holster) When Your Range Won't Permit It:
1. Empty your pistol. Check its chamber.
2. Take all live ammunition out of the room.
3. Come back with snap caps for dry-fire practice. Check your gun again, to make sure it's really empty.
4. Load with snap caps. Holster the pistol.
5. Make a presentation toward a safe wall. Do not use a target or other aiming point. Every time you make a presentation, dry-fire the pistol.
Make your presentations slowly. Do not go fast. Speed is not the issue here; smoothness is what you are trying to achieve.
Fix your gaze on a spot on a bare, featureless, safe-direction wall.
Make a slow, smooth presentation toward the safe, blank wall.
Bring the pistol's sights up to your eyes, and smoothly establish a correct sight picture.
Smoothly press the trigger until the gun "fires." Do not lower the pistol; instead, follow-through for the slow count of at least five.
Reholster, and start all over again.
Go slowly. Be smooth.
Speed comes with long-term, slow, smooth practice. Do not try to be quick.
"Smooth is faster than fast."
Do about 10 minutes of dry-fire practice each and every day.
More will just tire you, and you will learn nothing. Less will not teach you enough.
Be self-critical, and correct your errors as you go along.
Then, once a week, go to the range and do at least 50 rounds of slow, smooth, thoughtful live fire.
If you strive for smoothness, you will be surprised at how quickly you become competent.
^ Very true Steve...and well stated. Some of the best training dosen't even involve shooting, and it's free!
Well......it might just be me. When I go to the range, I'm not so worried about how many rounds I'll fire, as I am what kind of food I'm going to bring with me.......or.......what fast food joint is close by.
The vast majority of my outdoor range shooting was 8 hrs. or more in length. And, there was always a lunch break somewhere in there.
Back when I was one of the people putting on our "practical shooting" exercises, I had an idea that would fit right in with your personal shooting desiderata.
Originally Posted by paratrooper
An egg at 50 yards is a really good rifle target, particularly when there's a time constraint involved.
So you'd get to shoot at a row of, maybe, five eggs; and you'd be given, maybe, seven seconds to hit all five, starting at port arms.
And then you'd have to eat all of the eggs that you'd missed or never shot at.
Sounds OK, right? Well, my plan involved raw eggs, not hard-boiled ones.
And a bit of humor to boot!
All good advice, and the purpose of shooting is to keep the muscles and brain trained. It is not quantity but quality. But try different things, especially one handed shooting, hand turned to different positions (palm down & palm up), weak hand, point shooting (not aiming with sights), etc. If you can shoot one handed, you can easily shoot two handed. Make sure you do some shooting with the ammunition you will use as your self defense ammo, as it may have higher recoil and flip. Unless you live or travel in bad areas, the chance of a SD situation is very slim. However I carry and practice for the just in case scenario, and am a retired LEO.
With all due respect...
Originally Posted by robkarrob
The person who began this thread states that he and his wife are brand new to handguns.
Although the advice offered in the previous post is good and useful, I suggest that some of it is not appropriate to the rank beginner.
One must first establish good basic technique—sight picture, steady hold, trigger press, and then presentation—before going on to the extremely useful complications mentioned.
Only then should one go on to one-hand, "weak"-hand, and different-position shooting.
However, the advice to always use full-power, equal-to-self-defense ammunition in your practice is both excellent and completely appropriate.
Perhaps a decision the rank beginner is able to make. At least the advice can be incorporated at the appropriate time.
Btw Steve, I always appreciate your insight and learn something often.
I should get extra credit for starting a thread which has produced all this valuable information. Very much appreciated. I'll be writing down a mini-plan prior to going to the range and I want to get out of the habit of emptying a magazine low/left before I pause to diagnose the problem. Fortunately, living in California, emptying a mag consists of 10 trigger pulls thank goodness. We're headed to the range next Monday and they do have a steel area so after working on bullseye targets we'll be able to take a break.
Definitely going to be doing more living room dry firing. We have snap caps and if I don't have an empty mag on had I empty the mag into our ammo box and carry empty mag and snap caps into the living room. If I have a mag already loaded with snap caps I'll empty it to verify 100% that there isn't an FMJ lurking about. We have a $.02 cent pie plate on the wall so I can practice my draw stroke to my heart's content. My dry fires for some reason never go low/left - go figure.
Clearly it doesn't take much to get a bunch of ole bullet heads talking!
These guys have given you plenty of info to work off, and there will be more.
What impresses me is that you, being new to shooting, have realized that at some point you just start wasting time and ammo that can actually degrade your progress- EXCELLENT Sir!
The dry time is where you can hone in your basics and develop proprioception, the so called muscle memory, just make your dry practice count and just as with shooting stop when you see deterioration from fatigue. When you go live try to pretend there still is no ammo creating recoil, but it isn't easy. Just focus on your task at hand and stop again at fatigue, but mix things up to keep it interesting. Using multiple targets and different sized ones keeps it from getting monotonous as quickly. With time your skills and speed will magically (not really) improve, then you can get a timer and push yourself with advanced drills.
I've been lucky and have only shot at one indoor static range once while visiting a friend, hated it. For about 2 years I did drive an hour away one night a week for an IDPA type match at an indoor range but I finally stopped. The drive and late nighter wasn't really bad but it was an old range and lead inhalation became an issue for a few that wouldn't wear a mask, figure at least 10 people running through the range shooting 28-30 rounds in less than a minute with only enough time to score and tape target holes so the next guy could run. Unless there were a lot of people there we would run 3 times and have to break to let the smoke clear the range, that's what got old with me along with that thick chunk of white mask on your nose messing with you. Long story short, if it's possible to do an open range you'll love it as long as there aren't a bunch of hardass commandos posing as range officers. Now you can utilize a 179 degree arc of fire while moving with multiple targets- there's your practice for shooting matches.
Enjoy the learning curve and welcome to the forum.
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