The Cornered Cat
Practice when ammo supplies are short

The question came up the other day: “How can I practice when ammunition supplies are so short?” Here are my ideas for improving your skills even without running through a lot of rounds.


Dry fire to practice better trigger control. Invest in a laser system for more interactive dry fire.

Invest in a Training Barrel (from Blade Tech) or a barrel blocker (from Train Safe) to disable your gun so you can safely do more dynamic things during your dry practice.

Practice your drawstroke — concealed and unconcealed — from every holster and holster type you own. Ditto for different types of clothing & outfits, which do change the dynamics. Go for efficiency and smoothness of motion, gradually increasing speed as you go.

Figure out your safest direction of fire from inside your bedroom, children’s bedrooms, and two indoor locations within sight of each outside door to your home. Rearrange your furniture to provide safer backstops for likely directions of fire in the unlikely event of a home invasion.

Find a place where you can get behind cover or concealment while still watching the door from inside your bedroom and your children’s bedrooms. Do the same for each outside door to your home. Practice using them using your barrel-blocked firearm or a dummy gun.

After you have done both the above: with a friend , using dummy guns or disabled guns, role play a home invasion. Then do a debrief. What worked? What didn’t? Was there anything you should have considered beforehand that made a difference during your role play?

Do the same thing with airsoft guns. (Don’t forget to wear eye protection etc.)

Train your brain: read books about self-defense or shooting skills. Remember you cannot learn the actual physical skills from reading! However, you can learn which skills may be needed, and why. You can also learn a lot about criminal behavior and psychology, pre-assault cues, useful tactics, etc.

Train your brain: watch videos from qualified people (not just youtube phenoms) about subjects that interest you. Take notes for further research and do the research yourself.

Practice moving smoothly while holding a dummy gun or barrel-blocked unloaded firearm.

Practice reloads using dummy magazines and a barrel-blocked unloaded firearm. Go for efficiency and economy of motion, gradually picking up speed without sacrificing smoothness.

Join the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. When their informative videos arrive in your mailbox, watch all of them. Take notes and do the preparations they suggest.

With a friend, role play a 911 call and the arrival of an officer on scene after a shooting. Practice what you will or will not say.

Take a class that teaches gun retentions and gun disarms. Practice these physical skills until you have confidence in them. Then teach the same skills to a friend so you know you really have the skills down. Play with the skills a little (slowly! safely…) from different start positions and circumstances so you know how they might work in a more dynamic situation.

Take a Rory Miller seminar which includes his material about the logic of violence. If you can’t do that, at least read his books and his blog posts so you begin to get a better grasp on how violence happens and how to survive it.


All the above can be done without using any rounds whatsoever. The ones below require at least a few rounds.

Take a shooting class from a professional firearms trainer. Yep, that blows through quite a few rounds up front — but it will stop you from wasting rounds the rest of the year, as you will learn more efficient ways to practice the essentials. Most people ingrain poor habits (or at least inefficient ones) because they haven’t made an up-front investment in good training. This is a big mistake! When ammo is at a premium, you really need the advantage of clear instruction from the beginning — it reduces the number of rounds it will take to reach proficiency and stay there.

Practice reloads more: load your gun with only one round. Put only two rounds in each of your magazines. Now you can draw, fire one, reload, fire one, safely holster. (You’ll have one in the chamber when you holster using this method.) That gives you a lot of gun handling practice — drawstroke, accuracy, reloading the gun, accuracy, and holstering — for every shot you fire.

Use dummy rounds to extend your ammunition supply while you practice malfunction clearing and improve your trigger control. Try mixing the dummies randomly throughout your practice ammo. Fill several magazines at one time with varying numbers and patterns for dummy placement. Now scramble the magazines so you don’t know which one has which pattern. (Or have a friend fill your magazines for you.) Every time you come across a dummy, tap the magazine to be sure it’s in place and smoothly rack the slide. Do this immediately every time — don’t just stand there staring at your gun like a duck in thunder. Immediately clear the ‘malfunction’ and take your next shot.

As you use the dummy rounds, you’ll discover whether you have a flinch. If you find your front sight takes a dramatic dive toward the floor every time you come across a dummy, unload the gun and practice at least five (preferably ten) excellent dry fire shots before you go live again.

Shoot tests and standards from the pros. This lets you practice a bunch of different skills from different distances in an efficient way, and it forces you to practice things you aren’t already good at. Look at standards from LFI, Gunsite, Hackathorn, Givens/Rangemaster, FAS, Thunder Ranch, etc — places with good reputations for high quality shooting. Also try the IDPA classifier and track your scores.

7 Responses to Practice when ammo supplies are short

  1. wkeller says:

    All such good advice. There’s so much more to practice and learn than just standing at the line making holes in paper!

  2. larryarnold says:

    When you’re light on ammo it’s also a good time to practice long-range, precision shooting, as opposed to close-quarters double-tap-one-to-the-head drills.

  3. mgutterres says:

    All great suggestions. The only thing I would add to your list is set up a .22 clone (or conversion) of your primary weapon system(s) and shoot that instead of full power loads.

  4. Sigeow says:

    Can any one suggest a laser training system? So far I haven’t read very good things about the ones I’ve found.

    Do any of them work with a Crimson Trace laser?


  5. Rob Morse says:

    I looked at airsoft gas powered training pistols from KWA and KJW. Most of the reviews said the guns had a limited warranty period, didn’t last long and had limited repair parts. Does someone have long term experience with these as training guns? It would be nice to practice with them at home particularly given the price of 45 and the scarcity of 22 ammunition.

  6. kparker says:

    In addition to the blocker or the training barrel, what about a entire blue gun? Yes, there’s a lot more expensive than a barrel blocker, and no, none of the accurate molded-in features like safeties actually move, but still a lot of people prefer something that’s more visually distinct for training.

  7. kparker says:

    One of the details for safe retention and disarm practice is to tape over the trigger guard so you don’t accidentally put your finger in it. I’ve seen people almost get their finger badly mangled when they were too-realistically playing the bad guy during disarm drills by having their finger on the trigger.

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