One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the number of people who buy a gun "for defense" and then toss their new gun in a drawer and forget all about it. Ask them even the simplest thing about it a couple of months later, and the answers are so predictable you have to wonder how much leaming is in their DNA make up. How many rounds does your magazine hold? I dunno. Does it have an external safety? I dunno. How's it shoot? I dunno, never shot it. Really? Then how do you know if it even will shoot? Leave it that drawer long enough and I can almost guarantee that it won't, and at that point the only thing it will be good for is throwing it at an intruder and hope it hits him! Could have saved yourself a few hundred bucks and just pick a drawer full of rocks from the garden. At least they'll throw well which a gun probably wouldn't! If you're going to have a gun for any reason you need to take to the range on a regular basis and practice with it.
Still just plain target practice is only going to take you so far. Oh sure, it'll do you plenty of good if all you plan on doing is having fun or competing in Bulls eye competitions, but if you plan to carry for self defense then you really need to do something a bit more. Something to help prepare yourself to be something other than a target, which is exactly what you'll be if you just stand there in fight like you were just having another day at the range and your gun is sitting on a bench waiting for you to pick it up. On the other hand, there are some ranges where that's the only thing they'll allow you to do, in which case it's better than not practicing at all.
The first thing you really need to practice is drawing and then reholstering your weapon, especially if it has a retaining system of some type. Believe me, you do not want to be fumbling with it when you need your gun right now! But if you don't commit it to muscle memory then that's exactly what you'll find your self doing. In fact you don't even need to be at the range to practice this, just make sure your weapon is unloaded first. I know this sounds ridiculous, but when you first try it you'll find it really isn't as easy as it sounds. For example, if you count on a jacket to conceal your weapon then you'll need to find a quick, easy, and natural movement that will let you flip you jacket back out of the way of your draw and quickly release the restraining system your holster uses all before you can even start your draw, and then when you go to reholster your weapon you need to be sure that your coat tail doesn't end up inside the holster along with your weapon. I can almost guarantee that if you don't make this an automatic reaction then sooner or later your coat tail (or shirt tail) will end up tangled around the trigger and you'll end up shooting yourself in the leg or foot! Don't believe me? Then check out this video. That's exactly what happened to the police chief shown in it.
Once you're comfortable with drawing and reholstering your weapon, you'll want to try and find a range that will let you practice firing from the holster. Some will while some won't, and most of the ones that will let you will want you to either take a class first or insist you do so under the supervision of a range master (at least for the first time any way). Once you have, if you've no or little experience drawing from your holster and shooting, just spend a few sessions just drawing and shooting one or two rounds. Don't worry about accuracy at this point, just practice drawing, shooting, and then reholstering until it feel completely natural to you. Speed and accuracy will come with time.
Once firing from the holster and reholstering feels as natural and smooth as walking, now it's time to start working on accuracy. There's several ways to do this. The simplest way is to just use the common silhouette targets just the same as if you're doing normal range shooting. Or you can up the ante and cut a hole in your target. The idea here is that when you shoot, you want all your rounds to go through the hole you cut. If a fair number are making their own holes then you need more work. If the majority are going through the hole you cut, then next time cut the hole a little smaller. The trick is that when you're shooting for self defense, you really don't care if all your bullets are making a nice 1 inch group; you just want them to hit something vital that will stop your attacker from hurting you or your loved ones.
Another drill you can try will let you work on both speed and accuracy at the same time. With this drill you'll need either a shot timer or a buddy with a stop watch (or at least a second hand on his watch). The idea for this drill is that you take a preselected amount of time on each of your shots so that you can work on muscle memory and technique. So when the shot timer (or your buddy) says go, you draw your weapon to the count of say five, then aim to the count of five, then fire using the best trigger control you possibly can to the count of five, then reholster again to the count of five. All in all, this should take you about a minute. After you've practiced at this rather slow speed a number of times, then you speed things up doing the same thing but at a count of four. Then three, then two, then one. Since technique is the best way to guarantee accuracy, this drills that technique into your muscle memory better than any other drill I know; and when the chips are down, muscle memory is what will keep you on track and hitting what you're aiming at.
"But wait!" I hear some of you saying, "I thought you said not to stand still! Yet these drills are doing just that, aren't they?" And you're right of course. So far everything I've rambled on about does involve shooting from a static position. The trick is that if you can't hit what you're shooting at is you're standing still, you probably won't be able to hit the broad side of a barn from the inside when you're trying to move and the adrenaline is pumping through your system like water from a fire hydrant. So work these drills first to get that all important muscle memory going since that is what will allow you to hit your target under pressure. Get to the point where you can do it right every time without thinking about it. Then, and only then, you can change it up just a little bit. When these drills are instinctive, start taking a step to either the right or the left as you draw. That's all. Just a simple step to one side or the other. It sounds absurdly simple, but it's actually much harder than you might think. I can almost guarantee that the first time you try it you'll find your aim is so far off that you'll be wondering what went wrong. Nothing did actually. It's just that unless you have a background in some form of the martial arts or are just naturally gifted, you aren't used to working your upper body and your lower body at the same time that way and it's going to take some practice to get used to it. That's part of why I want you to get to the point where the motions of your upper body as you draw, aim, and fire your weapon are programed into muscle memory; because once it is you'll be able to concentrate more effectively on making your legs do what they're supposed to do. It won't take long, but it is something that needs to be learned, not just done. Then, once you can move to either side easily, start stepping on the diagonal. Forwards and to the right at the same time, or backwards and to the left. Mix it up. Try doing it at home using a squirt gun or even a stick in your hand instead of your handgun. I know, I know. It sounds dumb, and you'll feel even dumber doing it; but it really is worth it in the long run. Hell, every martial arts instructor I've ever had would spend the occasional class just having us do front cross overs and rear cross over forwards and back. Yes, even the advanced belts would be out there with us; and I'm talking the truly advanced belts. Second and Third degree Black Belts would be out there right along with White and Yellow belts looking as stupid as hell, but it works. It teaches you how to move and keep your balance. Even more, it teaches you how to move and keep your concentration on the other guy, the one trying to fill you with holes. And before very long at all, you'll be able to draw, aim, fire, and move towards cover all at the same time without even thinking about what you're doing; and at that point you'll truly be ready to defend yourself.
Now don't get me wrong. All of this is hard work, and it sounds as boring as all get out; but it doesn't have to be. Get your friends together and make a game of it. See who can hit the smallest hole. Or maybe see who can work their way to the shortest time on the shot timer with everyone starting with a five count on each step and working your way down almost like a twist on the game of horse. Or maybe you can find a range or club in your area that has IDPA tournaments! There can be a real rush to competing in an IDPA match, and to win you'll have to use everything these drills are designed to teach you. Plus, you'll probably meet some people who can teach you even more drills you can use to train yourself with without getting bored with the same old same old every time. Hell, maybe we'll even meet and you'll have a drill I don't know that you can teach me. I'm always looking for new drills and new tricks. After all, the day I stop learning is the day some one should push me over and burry me where I fall 'cause I failed to notice I'm dead.
But for now, as always, I've reached the point where I'm starting to write a chapter in a book instead of just rambling on for a blog. So go out and have some fun this weekend. Fire off a couple of boxes of ammo, and maybe, just maybe, try one of these drills. Either way I hope to see again soon in this little corner of cyberspace I call my own. And as always, remember. If you're going to do something, do it with attitude!