Monday, April 18, 2011

Keeping the Skills Sharp

Many students have asked how to go about staying sharp on the skills they learn in our classes. Fist and foremost dry practice is highly recommended. It's cheap, it utilizes gear that you all ready have and will will also help increase gun handling & familiarity. All you need are some spent casings or snap caps and you're ready to go. There are a couple different ways to go about dry fire practice, I tend to just hang a target on the wall of my basement. Dry practice is not for firing only, work your reload skills as well. I have some pads that I stand on to help preserve my mags as the basement floor is concrete, but it pays off. The thing to remember with dry practice is that there is to be NO AMMUNITION anywhere near where you are practicing, and once practice is over, stop handling the gun. The internet is full of stories regarding shot TVs and bedroom walls.

Next up is general range practice, pending on what's available you may be limited on what you can do at the range. Fixed firing points, rules prohibiting working from the holster etc. can put a damper on your improvement, but it's better than nothing. if you have a friend to go with you you should shoot in pairs as one can watch what you're doing and provide feedback.

My favorite means of skill maintenance is currently competing at the local level in IDPA and every once in a great while USPSA, I want to attend more of the USPSA shoots and get a better feel for it, but between being a home owner, husband, father, full time radio technician, part time instructor, etc I can't shoot nearly as much as I want to. I try to make one match a month, thankfully in central Iowa I'm close to plenty of clubs that cater to IDPA and USPSA.

I am loosely affiliated with Wolf Creek IDPA as webmaster and occasional match director, and SO. We shoot in Traer, IA. Our matches are usually the 4th Sunday of the month, but this year we are including several Saturday matches.

There is also the Central Iowa IDPA group that shoots IDPA in Ames and USPSA in Boone County, they operate from a Yahoo Group where announcements go out via email / on the group page.

There is Linn County IDPA who shoots on the first Sunday of the month.

The Blackhawk Pistol Club shoots USPSA matches on the third Sunday of the month and generally has practice matches on the Saturday prior to match day. Their match info can be found on the Illinois/Iowa Practical Shooters Forum, on this forum you can find most match info for anything going on in the state.

There are several other clubs in the state, Cedar Rapids has a USPSA club as well does western Iowa but I am not fully aware of their details. A new club is forming in the Decorah, IA area as well.

The advantage of matches is that they can provide multiple opportunities to shoot, are a good source of networking to find more experienced shooters to help out, and the competitions themselves will provide you with some experience in doing things generally not able to be done on your basic range. In IDPA you can expect to shoot from retention, and all manner of improvised positions, mostly from concealment. USPSA is more of a shooting gallery environment, but it will help build shooting skill just as well. Both IDPA and USPSA are games and should not be put in the same league as professional training.

That leads us to the last option in building and maintaining skills, attending more in depth & more demanding training classes. There is a great number or training providers out there. We highly recommend attending at least one honest to goodness professional training course, ideally I'd like to take one a year but it can be costly. The class tuition  for a high quality training class which usually lasts two days can be anywhere from $350 to $1k. However the things learned at these classes can be invaluable.

If you are looking to take professional training, be advised that there are many different classes available. Some classes you might be interested in are:

Point shooting
Force on force training
Rifle or shotgun training
Various levels of "tactical" training
Edged weapons training
Impact weapons training

Whatever level you want to pursue, it will pay off. Not all of these options may be viable, but at least one you can do with no additional equipment.

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