Effective Concealed Carry Practice
Mere target practice alone does not constitute concealed carry practice or training. While accuracy, precision and overall good marksmanship is definitely a good skill to have, it isn't enough. There are more skills that are needed when it comes to concealed carry.
How do you get started with a concealed carry practice regimen? And how do you get the most out of it to keep skills sharp? We'll go over what a basic concealed carry practice regimen should include, how to get started and how to keep up that routine for years.
Concealed Carry Practice Should Work Fundamentals Above All
Concealed carry practice, which should be done at the range and in the home (more on that in a minute) should focus on the fundamentals of defensive use of a handgun above all other things. Feats of skill certainly have value, but the reality is that you probably won't be getting in a running gunfight with multiple opponents.
You should probably get some instruction from a qualified instructor, as a bit of concealed carry training can give you a good idea of what you need to work on.
Browse some news reports of defensive shootings. What you'll find is that most involve the concealed carrier drawing from concealment and - if they fire at all - only firing a few times. Therefore, it is the basic skills involved in doing so that should be exercised in concealed carry practice.
The component parts break down into drawing from cover, acquiring a sight picture and firing. Therefore, the bulk of your concealed carry practice should involve these skills. More advanced techniques can be incorporated once proficiency has been gained in these areas. Once some proficiency has been gained, concealed carry practice should still include these actions to keep up the skills.
Ask fitness experts in multiple disciplines about beneficial exercises and you'll likely hear the classic compound lifts mentioned again and again. Bench and incline presses, cleans, deadlifts, pull-ups and crunches are beneficial for athletes in multiple disciplines as well for general fitness and health. Likewise, shooters of any sort - hunters, competitive shooters and concealed carriers - benefit from drilling the basics over and over again.
Practice The Draw
Regular concealed carry practice should include drawing the pistol, going from concealment to presentation. While it isn't necessary to become a quick draw artist (though it wouldn't hurt!) the goal is instead to become efficient.
You should be able to get the gun out of the holster and onto the target in a smooth, fluid motion and ideally in less than 1.5 seconds.
Gaining real speed in drawing the pistol requires practice. The good news is that you don't need to be at the range to practice the draw; it can be done in the home with an unloaded pistol. (After all, you want to practice good gun safety.) Some people practice the draw in the mirror, or by picking a spot on the wall or something along those lines.
Start slow and smooth and build up to speed. Remember - slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
Begin by clearing the garment. Get a good purchase on the grip, and bring the pistol straight up out of the holster.
There are two methods for presentation once you've cleared leather, so to speak. First is the underhand method, similar to bowling or throwing a knife underhanded. You whip the hand from the low position up to eye level, bringing the gun up to the ready position and acquiring the sight picture.
The other method is to rock the gun forward. The motion is similar to a locomotive; you rotate slightly back, then forward, rotating the pistol up as your arm extends forward. When your arm reaches extension, you get a sight picture.
During each motion, you bring your support hand to the pistol, cupping the gun as you reach the end of the motion. This gets the gun into firing position just as you get the sights on target.
The draw is an oft-neglected but vitally important part of defensive use of the pistol. Seconds can count, so you want to shave as many as possible between concealment and getting the gun into the fight.
Some famous lawmen of past eras, such as Delf "Jelly" Bryce, were known to practice their draw every day.
Dry Firing And Trigger Control
Believe it or not, your trigger technique has almost as much - if not more - impact on where your shots land as your aiming technique. This is why dry firing is so important.
Dry fire practice, when done regularly and correctly, keeps your trigger control skills sharp and the sights on target when the trigger is pulled.
Make sure your gun is cleared first. A best practice is to completely clear the pistol and keep magazine out of your gun when dry firing. Insert a snap cap if so desired, though it isn't strictly necessary.
You find a spot on the wall, or on the television or something like that, and get your front sight onto the target. Pull the trigger while focusing on the front sight and keeping aligned with the target. When the trigger is pulled, the sights shouldn't move.
Dry firing is one of the best forms of shooting practice that a person can do. Start naming authorities on guns and shooting, and nearly every one of them recommends dry firing as part of a regular practice and training regimen.
Sight Picture Acquisition
Next is sight picture acquisition. You need to be able to get your sights on target quickly in order to score fast, accurate hits. Combat shooting, of course, is a bit different than target shooting.
Generally, the accepted standard of combat handgun shooting is using the front sight to get a "flash sight picture" or a quick sight picture that's easy to get good hits with. You get the front sight on the target, focusing on the front sight rather than the target. The ideal sight picture will be of the front sight, with the target slightly out of focus in front of it and the rear sights slightly out of focus behind it.
You get the front sight onto the target, and once all three appear to be in alignment, you fire. The flash sight picture technique has a track record of fast, accurate fire, so it is the default for good reason.
Other sighting techniques have their place as well, including traditional aimed fire (best for long distance shots and bullseye shooting) and point shooting, which is also good to practice for the closest of encounters.
With that said, practicing front sight shooting is the best practice, as it is the most proven combat shooting method. A good method to practice without actually firing is to practice acquiring a front sight picture around the home. Again, you need to do this when your concealed carry gun is unloaded.
If you want to get the absolute most out of unloaded practice, combine all three skills in one. Pick a spot to target and holster your unloaded pistol. Draw, present, get a sight picture and dry fire. Again, start slow and smooth, but if you practice all components correctly, you will eventually start to gain proficiency and speed, without having to buy a single round of ammunition.
Concealed Carry Practice Drills For The Range
There are a few concealed carry practice drills that you'll want to take to the range. These exercises will use the skills that your unloaded practice in the home builds on, with actual shooting added into the mix.
Easily the best drill to do is what's called the First Shot Drill. Just like bringing the draw, sighting and dry fire together in the home, you draw, aim and fire one shot. The goal isn't to hit a bullseye; the goal is to draw, fire and hit as accurately as possible in as little time as possible.
Start slow. Take your time and develop efficiency in the motion, as well as doing the drill safely. shooting safety is paramount. The more you do it, the faster you'll get.
Again, you want to develop efficiency and accuracy. Bill Jordan, the legendary Border Patrolman, US Marine, gun writer and exhibition shooter extraordinaire, recommended that the "First Shot Drill" be 90 percent of a person's pistol practice. If there was anyone that would know, he would. During Jordan's stint patrolling the Texas-Mexico border, a gunfight every week or two was par for the course.
Another good drill is the "Mozambique Drill," also called the "Failure Drill." It's a combat drill, consisting of a double-tap to the body, quickly followed by a carefully aimed shot to the head.
Fire the first shot, and as soon as the front sight returns to the target, fire again. Taking time but not dawdling, aim for the head and fire again. As with any other shooting drill, you want to start slow, gaining efficiency over time. Speed will eventually come. To make the Failure Drill more interesting, start with your gun holstered.
As Jordan and others were fond of saying, "speed's fine...but accuracy is final!" Build both at the same time with diligent practice.
Advanced Concealed Carry Practice
The aforementioned techniques aren't easily mastered; they take a good amount of time and repetition before a person becomes truly proficient in those concealed carry practice exercises. However, a person will want to add additional techniques as well.
For instance, start a course of fire such as a Failure Drill using only the dominant hand. Then, do it again with the non-dominant hand.
You may also want to practice reloading. Shoot a controlled pair, eject the magazine, retrive a fresh magazine from a magazine holster and fire a second controlled pair.
If you feel you have advanced beyond basic concealed carry practice shooting drills, you may want to seek professional instruction to further hone and expand your skill set. Many more exercises are out there. However, these basic drills will work on the fundamental skills you need to effectively use a handgun in defense of yourself or others.