Practice Prevents P*** Poor Performance. That's an old saying, but one to be respected. What it means is really pretty simple; Practicing for an event helps prevent one from performing poorly when the real action needs to be taken. Whether it be playing a guitar, driving a car, or just buttering toast, the more we practice the better we'll perform.
That said... why do so few people who carry a weapon for self defense practice using it like they would have to in a bad situation? I suspect most folks who take advantage of their right to CCW do go shooting occasionally, and some shoot a lot. But... is target shooting at the range the only kind of practice needed? Familiarity with the weapon is important, yes, and so are a dozen other factors of accurate shooting... but what is left out?
Think it through. If the goal is bulls eye target shooting, then practicing stance, trigger control, grip, and sighting counts for much. If the goal is being capable of shooting in a defensive situation, there are other considerations. Things like carry position, drawing the weapon, and firing from awkward positions. In the gravest extreme, being able to overcome these issues will likely be more important than anything except actually hitting the target.
So... Like the saying above goes... figure out what situations might be faced, and practice for them. In the case of defensive shooting, the scenarios are endless, but some factors are common. We can assume the shooter will not know in advance of the danger (otherwise the scene would have been vacated before trouble started). We can assume the shooter could be in any position at all, just like daily life entails. We can assume the weapon is holstered for concealed carry, and there will be a cover garment over it.
Add all these together, and our work is cut out for us!
For many folks, the opportunity does not exist for live fire from a draw, let alone from odd positions. Most monitored public ranges do not allow such shenanigans for fear of injury and lawsuit. On that note, we must be clear. Drawing a loaded weapon from concealment and firing it is dangerous in ways target shooting is not. The chances of shooting oneself by mistake go up by an order of magnitude, if for no other reason than the possibility of covering oneself with the muzzle on the the draw.
Even if the local range does not allow realistic practice, that doesn't totally prevent a shooter from doing so. There are other options that don't require shooting live ammunition. Practice in the home is always available, and valuable too. Safety is paramount though, and the weapon must be assured empy, and no ammunition in the room.
Choose scenarios from everyday life... and 'what if' role play them turning bad. With the weapon empty (snap caps are a great option here) practice getting from the position you would normally be in, to a firing position with the weapon drawn and on target. Target orientation could not be choosen in a defensive situation, and the odds are the attacker will be coming from an unexpected direction. So.... practice drawing the weapon and turning to face an attack from each quadrant in turn. Forward, right, left, and to the rear.
Don't let the practice stop there. Imagine other positions one might be in when the situation turns nasty. Suppose our contestant is relaxing at the local book emporium, enjoying a cup of coffee and the latest novel... and an armed robbery begins to unfold at the register. What would one likely be doing then.... sitting down? Book in hand? Try getting up from a seated position, and smoothly drawing a weapon... but it's suggested there be no witnesses the first dozen times or so. The results can be quite embarrassing.
Work through each scenario, and each position, a dozen times per practice. One session moving from various standing positions, and the next try seated positions. If possible, choose an outside trigger to move from. The sound of someone else shooting at the range, or maybe a commercial coming on the TV at home. Take the time to turn your head and evaluate the 'imaginary' threat. Training yourself to draw before target evaluation could lead to a very bad situation, so check it out! Consider the movements involved, and begin in slow motion the first dozen times. As the actions become learned, speed will increase naturally. Beware of trading away smoothness and deliberation in favor of speed.
As above, having a video camera on a tripod, aimed at you are recording, can be a valuable tool. Not only is it a fine motivation to get back in shape (sigh) but it reveals problems in movement and presentation just as well. In the short video shown above, some issues with foot placement and threat scanning show up at once. Through the course of practice, these can be worked on as well.
Why go to this much trouble? Because it's important. If one is serious enough to carry a weapon for self defense, then one should be prepared to use it properly, accurately, and efficiently. It's a moral obligation that goes with the territory. Only practice and self improvement will meet the goal.
Remember... doing this with live ammunition can be dangerous... so take every precaution and follow the range rules. Be aware of your surroundings, and of those around you. If doing dry fire exercises at home, make certain the weapon is unloaded and no live ammunition is in the area.
There is a reason my club range has first aid kits posted, each with large wound dressings. Consider that.
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