By Linda M. Gilbertson
Sometimes it is best to train in shooting alone. It allows you to focus on what needs to be practiced and assures that your practice time will be short, sweet and to the point. When training with others there is a tendency to spend time on war stories, goofing-off with others’ firearms and the shooting of a lot more ammo than is necessary. Let’s look at how to focus, be prepared and accomplish your goal.
Keep It Short—Focus
When preparing to go shooting, keep in the mind all that you need to bring with you. Perhaps you need to make a list to assure that you have everything before you leave home. If you live a great distance from a range or a shooting area, finding out you left something behind is a big frustration. A wasted trip is not what you want. Not if your visit is controlled by time constraints.
The equipment will depend upon what you hope to accomplish. Will you be training in competition bull’s-eye, personal protection, long-range rifle or black powder? Are you trying out a new cartridge load or just practicing the fundamentals of shooting? Are you going on a hunt? Do you need to bring a timer, shooting mat, knee and elbow pads, chronograph or spotting scope? Don’t forget your IWB (inside the waistband) or OWB (outside the waistband) holster. Will you be shooting just practice ammo, or do you need to bring some personal protection ammo as well? What color of lenses on your shooting glasses should you use for the weather conditions? Don’t forget your hearing protection. Does your range provide a shooting table, bench, a target base and backer? If you’re not shooting at a range, do you have a portable table, bench, target base and backer? What targets are you going to use? Don’t forget your brass bag if you want your cases back. Many times, people have shown up at the range with everything except a gun. What are the weather conditions? Shooting black powder on a windy day is counterintuitive.
Keep it Sweet—Be Prepared
When you shoot at the range and you’re concentrating on personal protection, select one type of concealed carry method at a time. Perhaps you’re carrying an OWB Fobus SP-11 Paddle Holster for your Springfield XD and you need to work on the proficiency of quickly drawing it from under clothing. In dressing for practice, choose clothing to simulate what needs to be practiced. Bring a jacket or shirt to wear over the holster so you can practice sweeping it aside to reach the pistol in the holster. You don’t need to worry about a belt as this holster does not require it. Have your pistol, ammo, magazines, magazine loader, brass bag and holster in your range bag. If you have multiple magazines, have them pre-loaded so that you’re ready to start shooting immediately. If you’re concerned about the speed at which you draw and present the pistol, then of course consider including a timer. If you have grip issues, bring a handy racker to help you manipulate the slide in the event of a malfunction. Perhaps a cleaning rod should be available in the event you have a squib load. Don’t shoot a lot of ammo, because after a certain time, you’re wasting it. If your objective is to reset your mind to the fundamentals of pistol shooting and increase your speed in presenting the pistol and hitting your target, this can be accomplished with 50 rounds of practice ammo and 10 rounds of personal protection ammo. Warm up with a plain piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper, switch to a situational target for mental concentration and hit placement. Vary the distance from 3 yards to 7 yards. This should take you no more than 1 hour.
Bull’s-eye is a great training opportunity to perfect sight alignment/trigger control and breath control. Just remember, that shooting is done one-handed. Choose something like a Browning Buck Mark Bull’s-eye pistol, .22 ammo and a couple magazines. A carpet mat is useful to protect the pistol and/or the table you’re using. Consider bringing binoculars (bull’s-eye is shot at 25 yards and 50 yards) and bull’s-eye targets. Have a pencil and paper in order to document your score to see if you’re progressing. Since bull’s-eye requires intense concentration on sight alignment, consider bringing a set of reading glasses to enhance the front sight. Also, bringing a timer will help count the 10 minutes, 20 seconds and 10 seconds used in competition. The standard bull’s-eye target is used. If you’re not at a range, bring a portable table, target stand and backer. Generally, you’ll find you’ve had enough in 1 to 2 hours.
In rifle shooting, slightly different equipment is required. For this you need to remember to bring a shooting mat, rifle rests, spotting scope and ear protection acceptable in rifle shooting (earplugs). If shooting in different positions, you’d best bring knee pads and elbow pads. Have your rifle already pre-set to your length of pull (LOP), the stock’s comb height and stock angle. If they aren’t, then you’ll be taking extra time to properly fit the rifle to your body. A .223 M4 has an adjustable stock which is easy to set to your LOP. An EOtech scope already mounted makes finding your mark quick and easy. Remember to bring new batteries for the EOtech. Once more, pre-loaded magazines will have you ready to shoot when set-up is complete. Consider wearing a rifle shooting shirt with padding on your shooting shoulder to help cushion the recoil. If bench rest is one of the positions you need to practice, then bring a portable table, bench, target stand and backer if you’re not at a shooting range that provides these. The longest period will be spent moving target backers and stands from 100 yards and beyond. Shooting time will vary, but you’ll probably be done in 2 to 3 hours.
Black powder is a sport where training by yourself is a good idea. There are steps which you must take to reach the point of firing your pistol or rifle without any interruption causing you to wonder, “Where was I?” in the step process. I believe this has happened on more than one occasion where you may have to remove the powder you just inserted, because you forgot if you did it or not. This is also the occasion where the shooter may insert another ball, unaware that he or she had already performed that step. When shooting black powder, place your equipment in a pattern on the shooting table whereby you can tag where you’re at in the event you’re interrupted. Make sure you have your powder flask already pre-filled, so you’re not wasting powder if the wind should pick up. Most times, your wads and .50 balls can be prepared in a holder which makes it easy to tap into the mouth of the barrel. Like powder, cloth wads have a tendency to drift off the table if not contained. After you’re done with your range rod, place it somewhere whereby it signifies to you that you’re loaded and ready to shoot. Black powder shooting is a lot of fun, and you can spend multiple hours enjoying sending a lot of lead balls down range. Generally, 2 to 3 hours will accomplish what you’ve intended.
Keep It to the Point—Accomplish Your Goal
The purpose of shooting alone is to concentrate on what needs to be accomplished and to complete it with little interruption. Considering time constraints, it’s understandable that some shooters choose to shoot alone and not with a group. Some people practicing for national or international competitions need intense concentration and therefore choose a specific day and time of the week to practice when no one else is around. Others may be getting ready for a hunt and have limited time to sight in their scopes. They need to be able to move their targets from 100 to 300 feet when necessary and not when everybody else is ready. You can’t suddenly call the line safe whenever you want and expect everyone on the line to agree.
This is indeed an expensive hobby if you permit yourself the distraction by others. I’m not discounting the enjoyment of training with others, but I’m concerned with the potential lack of direction. We’re all busy people, and free time is minimal to many. Keep it short, sweet and to the point, and you’ll find the time satisfying, successful and within your budget.
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