Target Tuesday: Practice Drills and Efficient Use of Ammo

Recently, I’ve noticed that a couple of prominent bloggers and instructors have been posting their range sessions for 2018. Although I don’t intend to do that every week, I thought I might share in a similar fashion how a recent range session went, along with a good way to expend a 50 round box of ammunition in an efficient and challenging course of fire.

During the winter, the outdoor range I use is obviously subject to adverse weather conditions along with reduced time available to shoot due to shorter days. Therefore, I rarely fire more that 50-100 rounds per practice session and I usually try to do so relatively quickly before sunset forces a ceasefire. One of my weird quirks is that I like to try to organize and plan range sessions to use ammunition according to what I have on hand. Since I usually start with a full box of 50 rounds, that was a logical goal in my mind. I know that various authors and instructors have suggested a variety of ways to best use a 50 round box of ammunition to its full practice potential, and I thought I might share my own idea.

During my last couple of trips to the range, I’ve been combining three well-known drills to accomplish the goal of practicing a wide variety of skills with only 50 rounds. Caveat emptor, these all require either specific targets or the ability to draw and fire at various distances, as well as a shot timer.

I’ve been starting with Ken Hackathorn’s “Wizard Drill.” Since this drill is fundamentally designed to be a test of ability on demand, I shoot it cold as the first drill of the session. Even though it only requires five rounds, I can learn a lot about what I may need to work on. I suggest you read about it directly from the source at the link above, but I will describe it here as well.

You’ll need an IDPA, IPSC, or other silhouette target. Draw a four inch circle in the head (note that in the photo below, the circle I drew is a bit less than four inches, based on what I had available in my range bag). Set your timer with a 2.5 second par time (Hackathorn allows 2.7 seconds for all strings of fire since that accounts for the typical length of the buzzer). At three yards, draw and fire one round, strong hand only, into the head. At five yards, draw and fire one round into the head freestyle (two hands). Do the same thing one more time at 7 yards. Finally, back up to the ten yard line, and draw and fire two rounds into the body of the target.

I shot this drill with my G19 and also with my RM380. More on the second gun a bit later… With my G19, I made the times easily on all head shots, but dropped one point with one head shot that went low and left, but still in the head box. I made my hits at 10 yards (the hits aren’t in the small circle that I drew, but are in the high thoracic “A” zone, so I’ll take that), but I didn’t make the time. Thus, I failed the test. Obviously, I need to work on my follow-up shots. I shot the drill with my pistol carried AIWB, under a hoodie and a fleece jacket, in approximately 35 degree windy weather, with no gloves.

Next, I shot Tom Givens’ Casino Drill. The drill requires this target available from Law Enforcement Targets. Follow the first link above to watch Givens discuss the drill, but again, I will briefly describe it here.

Start with three magazines, each loaded with seven rounds. At the sound of the buzzer, draw and fire one round into target area one, two into target area two, three into three, etc. Reload as necessary. Par time is 21 seconds. This drill requires a draw, two slide lock reloads, and deliberate concentration to accomplish. I have yet to pass it. This time around, I dropped two rounds on my last target, and I still have yet to break the 30 second mark.

You can mix up this drill by shooting the targets in reverse or with a different version of the target (I believe there are three), or by staging dummy rounds in magazines to simulate malfunctions and by loading a total of 21 rounds in the three magazines with different round counts in each magazine. Personally, I’m going to worry about passing it before I change it up!

To finish off my box of 50, I shot the Guerrilla Approach “Consistency Drill.” I first learned of this drill a few weeks ago when Greg Ellifritz described it in a blog post. You can obtain the printable target for free from the Guerrilla Approach website. You do have to create an account to “purchase” the download. The target features a combination of small and large circles designed to require consistent focus on the fundamentals of grip, sights, and trigger under time pressure. As such, the target is suggested for warm up or cool down during range sessions. Accordingly, I finished my box of 50 with the drill, which requires 24 rounds shot at three yards and has a par time of 25 seconds. Alas, I’m almost embarrassed to share my time. With penalties for misses, the last time I tried it, it took me almost three times the allotted par time to complete. Needless to say, I have significant room for improvement! Granted, I have been focusing on accuracy rather than raw speed, but I’m sure that speeding up would not necessarily benefit my accuracy at this point. I need to focus on more rapid target transitions and I can probably make up some time in my reloads. So far, I’ve only shot it using reduced capacity magazines, necessitating two slide lock reloads as opposed to only one. (Speaking of reduced capacity magazines, this was my first range session with the new MagPul 10 round G19 magazines, and so far, I am impressed.) At any rate, 8.5×11 copy paper is cheap, so this one will be a regular part of my practice routine for the foreseeable future. I would love to try it with my Sig P220, but I don’t have enough magazines to hold 24 rounds!

As I mentioned above, I also took my RM380 to the range and put a box of 50 rounds through it trying out a new holster that I’ll be writing about in the near future. I shot the Wizard Drill again with the little gun. Hackathorn allows for the hand to be on the gun when drawing from a pocket, and he further comments on the difficulty of passing the drill with pocket pistols and small revolvers. Not surprisingly, my times and accuracy both suffered with the little gun drawn from pocket carry. I hit the silhouette, but that’s about all I’m going to say about it.

I decided to dispense with the timer for the rest of my practice session with the RM380, and worked on my draw stroke and accuracy with some pocket pistol drills designed by Ed Head. The drills require 36 rounds total and focus on the draw stroke from pocket carry, solid hits in the vital zone, body and head shots, multiple targets, and offline movement. No par times are specified, but a range of 3-7 yards is suggested depending on one’s skill level. I chose to shoot from the 5 yard line. Overall, I was pleased with how I did with the little gun, not having even taken it out of the safe for the past few months.

Those of you keeping track of the round count will note that I was left with nine rounds of .380 remaining. To finish the box, I simply practiced three failure drills at different distances.

In my mind, what my practice with the RM380 absolutely reinforces is the need for constant practice with the gun you carry, especially if it is a small pocket pistol that is probably more difficult to shoot than a duty sized gun. Small grips, long and heavy double action triggers, poor sights, and compromised carry positions all contribute to pocket pistols being more difficult to shoot effectively. While I’m sure many people carry small pistols out of convenience, I do wonder how many are practiced enough to actually deploy them effectively in a life threatening encounter. As suggested by Ken Hackathorn in his description of the Wizard Drill linked above, probably not many. While I do on rare occasions rely on my RM380, I probably shouldn’t without more dedicated practice. I will have to make a point of bringing the RM380 out to the range more often and recognize that carrying it imposes some severe limitations on how quickly I can draw and how far away I can accurately engage a threat.

As always, thanks for reading and following us here at the blog. We welcome comments and questions and encourage civil discourse. Now, get out on the range!

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