Thursday, October 23, 2014

Concealed Carry: Practice Pefectly

When I was 14 I begged my parents for piano lessons. I love music of a variety and wanted to learn the correct way to play a piano. I already could play by ear pretty well (thanks Dad!). They finally gave in and I went to a member of our Ward who taught piano. She was a good teacher but I wanted to play different songs than the “kid” music she was assigning. I have a really good ear and can play almost anything if I hear it and especially if I see someone play it. So, I would ignore the piano, or play what I wanted, during the week, and then ask my teacher to play the song. She would play it and I would watch. I then would repeat back to her what she just showed me. Worked well for quite a while, then she caught me. My parents were paying for lessons and I was not practicing because I didn’t like the songs. They put a stop to that. The old saying is so true, “Practice makes perfect.” In the case of shooting, “Perfect practice, makes perfect.” Shooting a pistol well is not too easy. It takes learning the basics, and then practicing the basics. I have a co-worker who is a great hunter. He’s been doing it most of his life. He’s very good with a bow. He wanted to get his concealed carry license so he borrowed a pistol and went out to a field and shot it. He said to me, “Shooting a pistol is not very easy.” Yes, he is correct. It takes practice. That’s one of the first thing a person learns when they buy a home defense gun. Regardless of what it looks like in the movies it’s pretty darn tough to shoot a pistol well. Personally, I’ve always been amazed at how fast handgun skill falls off without constant maintenance. For most of my adult life I’ve been fortunate enough to practice with a pistol weekly. Even with this, when I’ve had to stop for a week or so, it’s always a challenge to get back to the level I was in the past. So what are we supposed to do if we can’t get to the range enough?
To start, you need to make sure you are getting the maximum amount of benefit from the time you have available. Some of this doesn’t even have to be range time. Dry firing is a fantastic way to learn trigger control and the technical qualities of your grip. These are two items that should be beat into you muscle memory with repetition. Squeezing a trigger and holding a gun are two things you don’t want to have to think about. A near reflex-like quality is what you’re trying for and a half-hour or so a night of dry-firing will build this up in a hurry. You can also practice your draw.
When it comes to concealed carry guns the draw is just as important as trigger control or grip. There are a few models of gun on the market these days with owner’s manuals that tell you that they can be dry-fired as much as you like without damage. In my experience this is more or less wishful thinking on the part of gun manufacturers. My advice is to buy some snap caps regardless of handgun model and use them. It’s a small expense compared with getting the pistol repaired.
Live fire practice is another area you want to milk for everything it’s worth. You may have noticed that marathon runners don’t tend to spend a lot of time doing pushups. Runners run to get better at running; if you want to be good at something you should practice that specific skill as well. A lot of shooting ranges don’t allow drawing. If you’re trying to get a feel for your self-defense rig, banging away with it from a perfect Weaver stance without practicing your draw isn’t going to teach you what you need to know. It’s absolutely essential to find some place to practice where you can learn a smooth draw, reloads, shooting from funny angles and off-hand draws. If this means leaving a legitimate range for a gravel pit, it’s worth it.
Regardless of how much time you spend with dry-fire practice, live fire time is always going to be the heart and soul of shooting practice. An unloaded gun will never command the same respect from its user that a loaded gun does. Whether we like to admit it or not, live fire practice is different from dry-firing. We’re all a little slower and more cautious when there is a round in the chamber. This is why live fire is so important.
A shooter needs to practice at short range with the weapon in odd positions to discover where their brass flies. Magazines or speed loaders with live rounds have a different feel to them, at least in the mind, and all the fumbling with them must be ironed out. Perhaps the biggest difference between live fire and dry-firing is recoil. That pistol that sits in your hand like a brick in the living room bounces around like a jackrabbit out on the range. A shooter can always learn to deal with this, but live fire is always going to be the method for this learning.
Commit to this type of practice from the very beginning. Many people do things backward. They get their concealed carry license, then buy a pistol, then learn to shoot. I think you should find the best gun for you, learn to shoot it, then get your license. Then PRACTICE!
In all things be legal and safe. Dry fire can be dangerous so learn to do this safely. Be safe at the range too.

Semper Paratus
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