Fitness & Firearms: How Light Exercise Can Improve Shooting

posted on August 31, 2019

The ability to shoot a firearm accurately and dependably is the result of a number of different factors coming together at one time.  Most shooters are aware of the basic skills involved in the proper usage of a firearm, whether it’s a handgun, rifle or shotgun. Sight picture, trigger squeeze and proper grip are all essential elements of proper shooting.

After decades of shooting, I’ve learned that being in reasonable physical condition has a definite effect on one’s ability to shoot well. I’m not suggesting that shooters need to train for the biathlon in order to be competent, but awareness of one’s own physical condition is definitely a plus.

I first met Bill Jordan when I was a young kid. At the time, Bill had been through a great deal in his lifetime. He’d been a U.S. Marine in the south Pacific, then went on to a very successful career as a U.S. Border Patrol agent. During that time, he became one of the finest, fastest and most accurate revolver handlers of all time. An accomplished author in shooting and hunting, Bill often referred to his good physical condition when speaking of his shooting feats. 

I recall Bill writing occasionally about his workout routine. It didn’t involve extreme cardio sessions or lifting excessive amount of iron. He had a walking routine and worked with dumbbells on a regular basis. The dumbbells were light enough that he even travelled with them while on the road conducting his shooting exhibitions. Working with these relatively lightweight trappings was just enough to keep Bill on top of his game in the shooting business for many years.

Jordan’s dedication to a light fitness routine is something that has influenced me for years, especially during my years as a lawman. After an extremely rigorous attendance of the New Mexico State Police academy, I continued a regular workout routine. My old coach officer and partner, Heriberto Flores, and I developed a regular workout and stuck to it. Heriberto, an avid shooter and gun enthusiast, was particularly serious about working out. 

What we discovered was that our shooting skills improved as we became more fit. Agility and coordination were greatly improved. Our NMSP qualification course at the time was the 50-yard PPC. We found that our exercise routine greatly enhanced our ability to hold our revolvers steady, offhand, at 50 yards. 

Of course, along with our improved shooting skills, improvements in strength and responsiveness assisted us in virtually every aspect of our law-enforcement work.

The aforementioned elements are crucial when it comes to self-defense. In many cases, a person carrying a defensive firearm, whether a law enforcement officer or civilian, may not have the time to contemplate the aforementioned skills prior to having to use their defensive tool. In these cases, it’s sometimes necessary for the gun-carrier to rely on sheer strength–both physically and mentally.

My own workout practices have become less intense over the years, but I still strive to maintain a semblance of stamina. I don’t have to preach to anyone the benefits of even a mild workout regimen, but I will recommend it to those who carry a firearm for self-defense purposes, hunters and shooters who just enjoy their sport. Walking and some sort of weight resistance will greatly improve gun-handling skills. I still walk and jog regularly and have my own exercise program involving dumbbells and kettle bells, along with occasional barbell exercises. 

Mild-to-moderate exercise will boost one’s ability to handle a firearm more efficiently through the development of not only muscle tissue, but self-confidence, as well. 

Of course, I’ve known some great shooters who had no interest in any sort of exercise routine, and that’s okay. For me and other shooters I know, having a little edge is worthwhile. 


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