I spent October 23-24, 2010 with Tom Givens of Rangemaster taking his Combative Pistol 2 course, hosted at KR Training. While my general AAR is here, there were some things that came up in class that I wanted to speak about in greater detail. What follows is inspired by something Tom said or we did in class, but is ultimately my take on things and how thoughts gelled in my head. I would encourage you to train with Tom Givens, if you ever have the chance. Reading my blather is no substitute.
That’s what a lot of people do, and call it “practice”. You’ve seen it, and you’ve probably done it too. You go to the range, throw some lead downrange with no particular goal or purpose. You might feel good afterwards, but you’ve accomplished nothing.
When you go to the range, you need to practice with a goal and purpose. One drill we did in the CP2 weekend involved a target with 3 sections: 8″ circle, 6″ circle, business-card-sized rectangle. The intent of the drill? To teach cadence. When the target is smaller you have to shoot slower, but cadence should still be good. This target taught us transitions and changing up cadence. For instance, start on the 8″ circle and fire 2 shots, move to the rectangle and fire 2 shots, move to the 6″ circle and fire 2 shots. Those first two shots should be fast, the second two slow, and the third two in between.
The final drill of the class involved 9 rounds. Actually 8 live rounds and 1 dummy. It had a par time of 15 seconds. It’s a fairly simple drill:
- Setup: Take 5 live rounds and 1 dummy and put them into a magazine, with the dummy mixed in somewhere (not the top round, not the bottom round). Have one reload on your belt, at least 3 rounds in it. Target is whatever you want, but we used a typical “man-like silhouette” target (you could use something like an IPSC or IDPA target) and I believe we were at 7 or 10 yards… I honestly can’t recall right now.
- Draw and shoot the target. Eventually you’ll hit the dummy, so fix the malfunction and resume shooting. Once you hit slide-lock, reload, shoot 3 more.
That’s all there is to it. It’s a very simple drill. Once you can clean it consistently in 15 seconds (or if you establish your own par average), then try to do it faster. The first time I ran the drill I had one shot just outside the target zone (went too fast) and had to run it a second time. On that second time I did it in 10.7 seconds (Givens did it in about 8.5). So I need to get it down to a consistent 10.0, then 9.5, and so on. The thing is, to accomplish that drill correctly requires a great many number of things, and was the culmination of all we learned that weekend:
- Malfunction clearing
- Not blowing the first shot (because you have 3 first shots in this drill)
So much, packed into one little drill. Really only 8 rounds. Take a box of 50, you can practice this drill 6 times, and it’ll probably take you 5 minutes to run it those 6 times including setup time. So in 5 minutes you’ll get more done than going to the range for an hour and casually throwing lead downrange. Which is more worth your time?
When something unexpected occurs during practice, roll with it. A great example was in the CP2 class, Tom was demonstrating a weak-hand-only shooting drill. He didn’t know how many rounds were in his gun so he got one shot off, slide locked back, and he immediately performed a one-handed weak-hand reload and got back into action. That the demo didn’t go off as planned was fine, because it presented an opportunity to demonstrate an important mental skill: being aware of what’s going on and immediately addressing it.
Do you have magazines that hold a lot of ammo? Instead of loading your mags all the way full, load them somewhere less than full and to random amounts. You do that, you’ll get a lot more practice on your reloads.
Do you have something you hate? Something you suck at (e.g. weak-hand-only shooting)? Spend an entire session working on it. So what if the guy in the stall next to you looks at your target and thinks you suck. What does his opinion matter? Work on what you hate until you love it… that when other people would groan about shooting WHO, you grin and revel in it.
When you go to the range to practice, have a goal in mind. Have a purpose. Have skills and drills to work on. Don’t just waste time and money throwing lead downrange. Work with a purpose, always improve.