Wednesday, January 3, 2018

When The Match Is The Practice

Very often I hear it stated that "Matches are not practice." In fact, I'm currently listening to the 2017 Shooters Summit recordings and that is a common theme among the guests. Yet for some of us, it ends up that way. Even though I can visit a range often and easily, getting in proper "action pistol" practice is nigh on impossible. Sadly, it isn't a lack of a range nearby that presents an issue, it's restrictive and often nonsensical rules put in place that are the problem.

One would expect an outdoor range to offer the best opportunity for practicing shooting skills, either self defense or competitive. The range at the nearby "conservation club" has gotten increasingly restrictive over the years. When we first joined, there were few restrictions other than the ability to set up targets at different distances. As all targets had to be at the base of the berm we worked around it by combining reduced targets with full size targets. For a time, we could even use steel targets. 

First steel went away. Then came a prohibition on "rapid fire," although rapid fire was never defined and left to the mood of the range officer on duty. Using multiple targets became controversial as well; transition drills using two targets set up was allowed, but set up three targets and you were deemed "out of control."

Soon, the allowed number of shots in a string was placed under limits; two shots only, either on a single target (defined as "double tap,") or one shot on each of two targets (defined as a "controlled pair.") That rule also came with a new prohibition on movement. An additional rule warned against having your shot go off at the same time as someone on the same firing line. If an inadvertent simultaneous shot happens you are required to stop and discuss a solution for avoiding a repeat. The rule specifically forbids you from even coming to the range with another person if you plan to shoot on the line together. The irony is that the rules also remind shooters that bays are to be shared. Using a barricade to practice shooting from cover is considered "tactical training" and is also forbidden.

So what about an indoor range? Naturally, no movement or multiple target setups are possible with typical indoor shooting range design. The local indoor range does allow rapid fire, but does not permit drawing from a holster. Practicing with one's carry weapon is complicated as the gun range is, for all intents and purposes, posted as a gun free zone. Armed citizens must handle their weapons at their cars to unload and case them before entering. Once actually in a lane, the gun can be uncased. Upon leaving, the fondling process is repeated in the parking lot.

One can practice holster draws, target transitions, reloading, and movement in dry fire. However, the confirmation of technique really comes during live fire. As Ben Stoeger writes in Dryfire Reloaded, "This dry fire stuff doesn't just exist in a vacuum. You need to be actually shooting the gun..."

Not willing to give in, I continue to shoot matches whenever I can. Sometimes my motivation is more for "trigger time" than competition. Hardly a match goes by where I don't wish I could reshoot as stage. The desire is not to change a recorded score, but for some more practice. When it comes to perfecting a skill, repetition is key.

I even have a garage full of target stands, steel targets and various props, but alas, no earth on which to set them...

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