When you make the decision to carry a firearm, you have to remember that your shooting skills may one day determine not only your survival, but possibly the survival of an innocent bystander as well. So when you strap that gun on every morning, you should be confident that if faced with a self-defense situation, your shooting skills will get you through it. Because of this enormous responsibility, I believe that everyone who carries a firearm should (out of personal responsibility) do more than go to a shooting range a few times a year. So, how do I propose you improve your shooting skills, and confidence? There are two strategies I recommend.
First of all, DRY FIRE. Dry firing is simply “shooting” your gun without ammunition. If you decide to do this, make sure your gun is in fact UNLOADED!!! Once you have inspected and re-inspected your gun to make sure it is unloaded, you can practice a wide variety of things. You can practice drawing from concealment in different positions you might find yourself on a daily basis. You can tape a target on the wall and practice drawing the gun and getting a good sight alignment and picture, without pulling the trigger. Once you have that down pat, you can do that, and pull the trigger. You may wonder why I would recommend you do this instead of just doing the same thing with ammunition. The answer is very simple. If you are shooting with live ammunition, can you watch your sights the entire time, even through the recoil? Unless you can make time slow down, the answer is probably “no”. But when you dry fire, there is no recoil, so you can see if you flinched, jerked the gun, snatched the trigger, or moved your sights when the hammer went forward. Thus, dry firing will help you break any bad habits you might have.
The second strategy is competitive shooting. Before I ever obtained my concealed handgun permit or imagined I would eventually become a firearms instructor, I was a competitive shooter. The organization that most helped to develop my shooting skills for carrying a gun for self defense was the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), and as an instructor I always recommend that each of my students try shooting at one of these events.
The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is an international association with members in over 50 countries. This shooting association that uses self-defense scenarios and real life encounters. This sport was initially developed to make practical gear and guns competitive, and to test the skill and ability of the individual, not his or her equipment.
Courses of fire can fall into one of two categories. The self-defense scenarios are simulations of possible real world confrontations that usually require shots from 3-20 yards, and may require the shooter to shoot from awkward positions (inside a car, lying down on a bed, etc.) or even change firing positions and do reloads. Some common scenarios you might encounter include convenience store robbery, home invasions, car jacking, etc. The standard exercises on the other hand, are simply designed to test specific shooting skills. These stages usually do not require much movement, and are designed with only a few targets to test skills such as weak or strong handed shooting.
In the end, no one can take away your right to defend yourself, but only you are responsible for your ability to do so. So don’t be passive, but instead take the initiative to improve not only your shooting skills, but very possibly your odds of survival. And if you can have some fun at a shooting match while you’re at it, then all the better!