The Cornered Cat

Near the end of a defensive handgun class some years back, I told my students that in order to retain what they learned during class, they would need to practice the techniques and drills we’d worked on together.

With a downtrodden look, one of my students replied, “My range won’t let me.”

This article is for him, and for people like him.

Note: the drills suggested below will not take the place of live fire on a hot range, and they are not intended to do so. Nor will you be able to teach yourself how to perform any of these advanced skills from the ground up using these adaptive techniques. However, if you have already learned these skills elsewhere, preferably under the watchful eye of a competent instructor, these adaptations to restrictive ranges may help maintain the proficiency you’ve already acquired. And that’s all they are intended to do.

 

 

 

If your range won’t let you

Draw from the Holster

You can instead…

What you’re giving up…

By practicing a smooth presentation from the compressed ready on the range, you are effectively practicing the latter part of your drawstroke (including getting your hits) in a quick and efficient manner.

By performing the complete drawstroke in dryfire at home, you are able to practice competently and safely getting your firearm out of its holster.

You will need to concentrate very hard upon smoothness every time you practice the complete drawstroke, in order to avoid creating a pause or a jerk at the point where the two practice systems merge.

 

 

If your range won’t let you

Rapid-fire or Take Multiple Shots

You can instead…

What you’re giving up…

Trigger simulation techniques surrender the ability to practice handling repeated recoil. But trigger control is arguably the most important part of the multiple-shot equation, and when you practice immediately snapping the gun back into alignment after every shot, you are learning how to handle recoil efficiently.

When you practice taking a second shot in dry fire or on a dummy round, you have an excellent opportunity to practice good trigger control at speed. Beware of building lazy habits that prevent you from automatically clearing malfunctions.

 

 

If your range won’t let you

Shoot Multiple Targets

You can instead…

What you’re giving up…

Nothing significant. The most important element to practice is the fact of moving from one definite aimpoint to another, not so much the distance between those two points.

But what if your range won’t allow rapid shots or multiple targets? Try this: using a target that has two distinct aimpoints, live fire the first aimpoint, and then dryfire the second one as rapidly as you can. If you have a revolver, you can even reverse the process, dryfiring at the first aimpoint and live firing at the second one.

 
 

If your range won’t let you

Work in Low Light

You can instead…

What you’re giving up…

Although it is possible to practice the physical manipulation of basic flashlight techniques in broad daylight (and you should), it’s not possible to realistically simulate aiming the flashlight at the same time you shoot the gun on a live range unless you are able to turn out the lights. Nor is it possible to use taped sights, sunglasses, or Magoo glasses to simulate target identification by flashlight.

Additionally, you will not be able to test or simulate the effects of muzzle flash using any of these techniques.

Caution! All low-light and impaired vision drills entail a certain inherent element of risk. If you are not confident of your ability to practice these things safely, do not practice them at all. It’s just about that simple.

 
 

If your range won’t let you

Shoot While Moving

You can instead…

What you’re giving up…

It is so important to first practice your basic footwork without the gun that it’s tempting to say you’re giving up nothing at all by using the empty hands practice technique. Obviously, however, you’re giving up immediate feedback about your ability to hit the target while moving.

Airsoft guns can be used for basic technique drills such as moving while shooting just as well as they can be used for scenarios and force-on-force games. But you cannot practice recoil control with these devices, and the quality of your equipment and mindset will dictate how useful any marksmanship drills will be.

Gun games such as USPSA and IDPA are a great way to become skilled at firearms manipulation and they let you practice a lot of things your static range will never allow. Their best usefulness comes from giving you an incentive to practice sometimes-boring handling drills and providing a venue where you can use skills you otherwise won’t have opportunity to exercise. Remember that a gun game is not training, nor is it intended to be; it is simply practice.

 

 

If your range won’t let you

Shoot Moving Targets

You can instead…

What you’re giving up…

These range drills may help you build a good foundation, but they don’t let you put all the pieces together. Games are only games, but can be good practice for those with the right mindset.

 

 

If your range won’t let you

Shoot from Kneeling or Prone Positions

Use Cover or Other Barricades

You can instead…

What you’re giving up…

When practicing unfamiliar positions in dryfire, you lose immediate feedback about your stability, especially stability during recoil. You also lose the ability to track important details such as whether you’re blocking the ejection port of a semi-auto or impeding the cylinder rotation of a revolver. For this reason, it’s best to learn these positions on a permissive range before you try practicing them in dryfire at home, so that you don’t drill techniques that will not work well for you in live fire.