After a while, we all tend to get a little bored shooting holes in the same old silhouette targets. There are some fun little variations you can try to kind of liven up the game.
Now first off, pay attention to the flyers and posters at your favorite range. I work out of J&J One Stop Gun Shop, and they have specialty shoots from time to time. Among them are bowling pin shoots. These things are so much fun, and they’re great for shining up your pistol skills. You can compete for points by shooting and knocking the pins over and off the table. You see all levels of skill, so it’s fun for everyone (and it’s not as hard as you might think).
If you’re more the do-it-yourself type, get a deck of playing cards and staple or tape some to a piece of cardboard. You can play five-card stud with your shooting partner and see who gets to buy lunch! Photos of terrorists clipped from magazines or the newspaper make nice targets also.
One that we used to play with when I worked at the Webb was a riot, but most ranges won’t allow it. We would take white shirts with pockets and stuff them with ketchup packets from our favorite fast food joint, and they would explode when hit. It quickly got out of control, and soon we had ladies’ undergarments making an appearance. The girls, not to be outdone, had their exes’ athletic supporters, with magic markers comments about various shortcomings. We had to put an end to those games.
Another fun one with shirts is to shoot the buttons off. Then we had watermelons and other assorted fruit, but we of course had to clean up the mess. Finally it came down to chief RSO-approved targets only. But a lot of you have (or have friends who have) property out in rural areas where you can still shoot in your own backyard, so you folks can have at it.
Getting back to what most ranges will allow, you can take four small Shoot-N-C targets and set them up on a piece of cardboard. Have your partner call the shots for you. Start with your gun in low ready position — gripped and ready to shoot, but aimed at the ground about 5 feet ahead of you. Keep your eyes on the gun, not the target.
Your partner can then give you a string of commands: “Shooter ready. Upper right target, two shots in a controlled pair, then back to low ready. Go!” This kind of target shooting is fun, but it also takes you out of your comfort zone and sharpens your target acquisition skills. It works equally well with a handgun or a semi-auto rifle.
For an added challenge, have your buddy load your magazines and slip a couple of dummy rounds (snap caps) in there. You’re gonna have a stoppage or two, but you don’t know when. You must deal with it quickly and safely. Instructors used to call it “ball and dummy drill” or “pistol roulette.” It’s a real confidence-builder. If you don’t have snap caps or even know what they are, you shouldn’t be holding that gun or any other one in your hand. If you don’t know how to cure a stoppage, call me and we’ll have a little talk.
Here is an easy one you can do at home to improve your handgun trigger control or to avoid pushing the gun when you pull the trigger. First, be sure the gun is empty. There should be no ammo in it or even in the same room. Acquire your correct grip to fire the pistol, then carefully stand an empty cartridge case on the top of the gun right behind the front sight. Now pull the trigger as if you were actually firing the gun.
Did the casing stay on the gun or did it fall off? This will tell you very quickly how good your trigger control is. It’s a great cure for snatching on the trigger or “pushing” the gun when you fire it — and you don’t even have to use live fire to do it. Be sure you clear your weapon before you do any of this kind of training at home.
Another variation I hardly ever see folks practice is shooting with your weak hand or your non-dominant eye. This is less fun and feels uncomfortable, but it’s a skill you can learn and it may save your life. When using your weak side hand, you need to go slow and take your time at first. Think carefully before you even begin. Remember, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
Get your stance and grip as perfect as you can. You can still use your dominant eye even though you’re using your weak side hand; you just have to make sure that the sights are in front of that dominant eye. However, it’s a good idea to work with your non dominant eye at least some of the time when shooting with your weak side hand.
Always remember to follow the basic safety rules of muzzle discipline. The gun stays pointed at the target or downrange. Your trigger finger stays on the side of the gun, not in the trigger well, until you are on target and in a position to make a safe shot.
Uncase and load your gun at the firing position, not at the table behind you (that’s there to stow your gear). When you’re ready to leave, go back and get your case and take it to the firing position. Clear and double-check your weapon to make sure its unloaded, then case it up for departure. If shooting with a friend the old “make safe, show safe” is even better.
For some shooters, target shooting is just good fun. For others, it’s a way to acquire and hone new abilities. Set your goals accordingly. Training never ends if you want to reach the level of skill you desire. How bad do you want it?
Billy Carl is an NRA-certified firearms instructor and is available for individual instruction in firearms safety and concealed carry classes. Contact him at 941-769-0767 or through J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.