Many shooters get discouraged because they don’t have the time or budget to make it to the range multiple times a month and shoot 200-500 rounds per session, like they see people claiming to do on the internet. The truth is that mindful, quality repetition of shooting skills is more important than just sheer quantity of rounds fired, and it is possible to get quality practice work in with a limited time and budget. Here’s one possible practice routine that can give you quality repetitions and help you improve, or at least maintain, your skills with just one 50 round box of ammo. This routine was developed with the idea that it is practicable at most public ranges, and will help build focus your efforts and increase your comfort and competence with your handgun.
Drill 1: 5/1 Drill
(5 Total Rounds; 3 Yards)
At three yards, perform five dry-fire trigger presses at the 2-inch target, followed by one live round fired at the same target. Repeat this process five times.
This drill combines dry-practice and live-fire and serves as a warm-up, focus and precision exercise, and an opportunity to remind yourself of the fundamentals. At 3 yards, use a target that is 2 inches in diameter, whether a square or circle. If the targets you have available lack 2-inch options, it is easy enough to draw one with a felt-tip marker, or use 2-inch stickers.
Start from your chosen ready position with an empty gun, taking your time to drive the gun towards the target, acquire a perfect sight picture, and press the trigger carefully for a precise shot. After each dry-fire rep, rack the slide to reset the trigger, if necessary, then refocus and repeat the process five times. Load a magazine with at least one round and concentrate on achieving perfect sight alignment, grip, and trigger press for the live shot. After each live shot, clear the gun and repeat the cycle of five dry-fire and one live fire reps for a total of five rounds. The goal is to practice perfect fundamentals with no time pressure and ideally achieve a tight grouping in the center of your target.
Drill 2: Singles from the Ready
(10 Total Rounds; 5 Yards)
From the ready at five yards, fire a single round at a 6- to 8-inch target. Repeat 10 times.
Now that you’re warmed up and dialed-in, this drill is entirely composed of live fire reps. At a distance of 5 yards, use a target that is 6 to 8 inches in diameter, to reflect the vital target zone on a violent human attacker’s high chest area. This drill begins gun in hand and finger straight and off the trigger, at the ready position of your choice, which is usually either the “compressed ready” or the “low ready.”
With a loaded handgun at the ready and finger straight, drive the gun to the target, acquire an adequate sight picture to score a hit within the 6- to 8-inch circle as quickly as you can (under control), and then acquire a second sight picture as if you might need to shoot again. At this point, get your finger off the trigger and straight along the slide, breath and relax a bit, and lower the handgun to the low ready. Repeat this drill 10 times.
Regarding an adequate sight picture, this drill is focused on practical defensive shooting, not bull’s-eye precision shooting. Any hit inside the 6- to 8-inch target is an adequate hit, and spending time getting a perfect sight picture that is perfectly centered within the target area is likely costing time, and time matters in defensive shooting. When you have proper sight alignment and see your sights anywhere within the target area, don’t wait for perfect. Press the trigger.
Drill 3: Draw to First Hit
(10 Total Rounds; 5 Yards)
From the holster at 5 yards, draw and fire one round at a 6- to 8-inch target. Repeat 10 times.
For this drill you will use the same 5-yard distance and 6- to 8-inch target zone as for the previous drill. Draw your handgun, drive your sights to the target and press the trigger once you recognize an adequate sight picture within the target zone. Then straighten your trigger finger, breath, relax, and make a mental shift to focus on safety before you holster your handgun. Once you’ve worked your handgun safely and deliberately back into the holster, repeat this drill a total of 10 times.
Unfortunately, many public ranges do not allow drawing from the holster, even if you can demonstrate the ability to do so safely. If that is the case, then you can practice this drill at home using dry fire. This is a good idea no matter your range, as dry-practice drawing from the holster is a great idea before you even attempt it in live-fire. In your basement, garage or other safe area, you can use a two to three inch circle target as a 1/3 scale substitute for the six to eight inch target, and dry-practice your draws to first hit at five feet rather than five yards. If you cannot do this drill at your local range, then distribute these rounds among the other drills as you think they’ll most benefit you.
The emphasis for this drill is getting a rapid, reliable, repeatable grip on the gun, then executing a smooth, reliable, rapid draw stroke to the target with little wasted motion.
Drill 4: Multiples
(25 Total Rounds; 5 Yards)
From the ready at five yards, shoot two to four shots at a 6- to 8-inch target. Repeat until 25 rounds fired.
At 5 yards with a fully loaded magazine, the shooter will begin at the ready position of their choice. If the range allows, you can mix in draws from the holster if your experience allows, but the emphasis of this drill is recoil management and reacquiring a sight picture between shots, so don’t introduce additional variables unless your certain they won’t detract from the focus of the drill.
From the ready, drive the gun to the target, acquire an adequate sight picture, and press the trigger. Then reacquire another sight picture and fire a second shot. Acquire a third sight picture as if you were going to shoot again. Then stop, straighten your trigger finger, breathe, relax, and reset the drill. Rather than always shooting two shots, mix it up between two and three shots, and perhaps even four. After completing each rep of the drill, whether two, three or four shots, make sure you finish the rep by acquiring a final sight picture as if you might need to shoot again before resetting the drill by returning to the ready or the holster. Continue repeating this drill until you have fired the 20 rounds, which should be the last in your 50 round box.
The emphasis in this drill is maintaining a proper grip to manage recoil. Most shooters do not grip the gun firmly enough, and a lot of the “slapping the trigger” issues would be easily solved simply by gripping the gun harder. Additionally, many shooters begin a string of fire gripping a gun firmly enough but relax as their focus is distracted by other shooting tasks.
The above practice session should take under 30 minutes and only cost you a 50 round box of ammo and any range fees. It still allows you to work on the fundamentals such as safe gun handling, grip, sight picture/sight alignment, trigger press, recoil management, visual processing, precision, etc. Many people go to shoot hundreds of rounds at the range, but without a plan and specific objectives, they’re getting less out of their shooting than someone who is focused on quality reps for a deliberate purpose. Next time you’ve got 30 minutes free and a box of ammo to shoot, try this 50 round practice plan out and see if it helps.