Skills Check: 'Spring-Cleaning' Firearm Drills

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posted on March 19, 2018
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Spring has sprung, so it’s time to dust off the shooting irons and head to the range for a bit of practice. If you’re like me, you probably haven’t been able to devote as much time as you would like to shooting your personal-defense firearms (or perhaps you’ve been unable to get to the range) due to winter weather. Do you keep a shotgun for home defense? How about a rifle or carbine? Do you carry a concealed pistol? Now would be a good time to re-familiarize yourself with each of these, shoot up and replace the defensive ammunition and do a little cleaning and preventive maintenance.

Let’s start with the shotgun. Take a look around your house and measure the longest distance where you might take a shot. Let’s say it’s 45 feet, so back off to the 15-yard line on the range and fire a round of your defensive ammunition onto a silhouette target to check the size of the shot pattern. Now move up to 10, 7 and 3 yards and fire a round at each distance. This should give you a good idea of the patterning at distances you might encounter inside the home. Especially at the closer ranges, you’ll find the pattern is pretty small and this should be a reminder that shotguns need to be aimed and aren’t the “alley cleaners” of urban legend.

Taking up the rifle or carbine, move back to 15 yards and verify that your point-of-aim coincides with your point-of-impact. If there’s an optic on your carbine, for example, you can verify the offset needed to get center hits due to your sight sitting around 3 inches above your barrel. This offset will increase as you move closer to the target so, like the shotgun, move up to 10, 7 and 3 yards and check your point-of-aim at each distance.

Breaking out the carry pistol, once again start at 15 yards and make sure you can get precise hits. As you move in closer to the target, try shooting pairs at each distance—perhaps finishing with a failure drill (two shots to the center of mass followed by a precise shot to the center of the head of your silhouette). Keep at it until you’re satisfied you can make these hits quickly and accurately (perhaps going through 50 rounds or so).

Having done a little practice and fired up your defensive loads, now’s the time to clean and inspect each of your weapons and replace the carry ammunition with fresh ammo. By the way, if switching to a different load or brand, make sure to shoot some of it before you leave the range to verify that it functions in your gun and you know where it hits or how it patterns. Now would also be a good time to replace the batteries on any lights, sights or lasers to ensure they’re fresh and not going to die on you when you need them most.

Spring cleaning means clearing out the cobwebs and getting back into a practice routine. Dusting off your defensive firearms is good practice and will leave you with the satisfaction of knowing you and your gear are good to go.

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