Train Now or Later?

posted on March 28, 2015

When the time comes to train with a personal-defense firearm, particularly a handgun, basic marksmanship is just one part of the equation. In order to be competent and proficient, you must learn the mechanics, or what I like to call running the machine.

There is little doubt as I pen this article the cost and availability of ammunition for training and practice is a big concern for most people. The cost of several hundred rounds of centerfire handgun ammunition has to be taken into account along with the decision to enroll in professional training. Naturally, we want to train with the actual firearm we plan to use as a personal-defense tool, but feeding the beast can be an expensive proposition.

A Practical Solution

The .22 LR pistol has been a fantastic training tool for teaching new shooters for decades. I began my handgun shooting career with a Ruger Mark II pistol on loan from a friend. Introducing new shooters to marksmanship fundamentals with a .22 LR is a solid recommendation.

Unfortunately, when the time comes to learn to master the fundamental mechanics of a dynamic or fighting pistol, most standard .22 LR pistols don't quite fit the bill. Historically, few .22 LR handguns mimicked the standard fighting pistol to be used in practical training. The SIG Sauer Mosquito and Walther P22 were close, but not quite there. The requirements for a practical .22 LR pistol for training consist of identical or near-identical handling characteristics, to include all manual controls, the trigger and the ability to use existing duty holsters.

The introduction of the Smith & Wesson M&P22 pistol is one of the most significant events in the handgun training arena in recent years. The M&P22 pistol so closely replicates the duty-sized M&P9 and M&P40 pistols, the same duty and concealment holsters can used with each. From the standpoint of controls, the M&P22 pistol mimics the M&P9 with the exception of the added manual safety on the .22 LR version (though the M&P9 is also available with a manual thumb safety).

Field Testing

To put theory to the test, during the Student of the Gun University Fall Semester training, two young men, Mark and Don, went through the entire firearms training portion using M&P22 pistols. Mark used a Blackhawk Serpa holster and Don a Comp-Tac model, both of which were designed for the M&P9.

For three days, they ran all of the drills in the Pistol 101 and Ballistic Problem Solving course with only the .22-caliber pistols. The drills included pistol manipulation, malfunction clearing, holster/presentation drills and numerous live-fire exercises. At the end of the last day, the experiment was concluded to be a success, as both men showed dramatic improvement in all areas.

Any semi-automatic pistol needs high-velocity ammunition to run reliably. The loads ran through the M&P22s included Winchester Super-X and the CCI AR Tactical ammunition. The downside was we only had two magazines for each pistol, thus requiring more reloading time, but this problem is easy enough to remedy by picking up relatively inexpensive additional units.

Train, No Matter What

There's a difference in being a cheapskate and genuine frugality. If you can afford the cost of centerfire ammunition, you should indeed spend the money and use it during training. However, if the decision is to train with a rimfire replica now, or wait until next year and train with a centerfire pistol, my vote is to take the training now. Learn to master the mechanics of the gun and to run the machine. After the physical skill is developed while using a .22-caliber pistol, it can be easily transferred to other handguns.


Mossberg 500 and 590 shotguns
Mossberg 500 and 590 shotguns

Mossberg 500 and 590: America’s Defensive Shotguns

Since 1961, the O.F. (Oscar Frederick) Mossberg company has sold more than 11 million of its Model 500 pump-action shotguns, making it the most popular shotgun of all time, if not one of the most sold guns in any category, period.

Customizing the Colt Detective Special

Got a gun with that has seen better days? Perhaps Grandpa’s favorite gun was obviously “well loved?” Talented gunsmiths and other artisans are out there who can give your favorite firearm a much-needed face-lift.

First Look: Dead Air Armament Primal Suppressor

Dead Air Armament is adding the Primal, a new.46-caliber magnum rated suppressor to their lineup of firearms sound suppressors.

9/11 20 Years Later: A Special Smith & Wesson

There are still heroes in this world. We mourn the loss of one some 20 years later on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Why Defensive Firearms Training is So Important

Yes, you may never have to fire your handgun in defense of your life or family, but the possibility always exists.

Review: Smith & Wesson Shield Plus

In retrospect, Smith & Wesson had nobody to blame for the situation but themselves. The company didn’t invent the subcompact, lightweight, single-stack nine, of course. Walther and Beretta had preceded the original Shield to market by a few years with the PPS and the Nano, respectively, and Kahr had more or less created the niche back in the 1990s.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.