New Years has come around so let’s take an opportunity to assess where you are with your goals. Did you make any goals since you started practicing with your pistol? Have you measured those goals using a timer, cell phone video or instructor watching how you use the pistol?
It is not a surprise to find people who tell an instructor they have a fast draw only to find out that it takes them over two seconds to draw and shoot a man-sized 18×24 inch target from seven yards. You can’t meet your goals if you are not measuring them with some type of test. The best goals for a newer shooter are improving time and accuracy for your selected skills.
Using a timer during home practice is effective by setting a delayed start buzzer and a second par time buzzer. Start the skill on the first buzzer and see if you can finish before the second. If you can, decrease the time for your next practice. You can practice your draw, reloads and malfunction clearances this way at home and on the range. (On the range with other shooters the read out will capture their shots making it difficult to accurately measure your skills.)
A friend or family member video taping your draw from the side is a great way for a newer student to check the draw. Is the draw going in a straight line to the target or is it bowing up or down in a curve? Are you not lifting the concealment garment high enough? The video will show this without having to pay an instructor to tell you what can clearly be seen on the video.
Another typical problem is new students get a quick draw or reload in home practice but can’t get the same accuracy on the range. Again, having someone video you from the side and slight behind can see if there are any obvious problems.
At some point your times will plateau at home and on the range or you will not understand how to do a skill properly. At this point you need to call the instructor that you hopefully have interviewed previous to this. I prefer to use a local instructor who can look at my fundamentals as I chose to learn them and train me on how to do them. What I mean is if you decide to learn a thumbs forward grip it is not a plus to have an instructor try to teach you a different grip. That is like changing guns before you master the fundamentals.
It is a good idea to remember that the act of shooting is not the end all and be all of self-defense. Have you studied your state laws? Have you read up on how the courts apply that law in your state? Most gun stores and libraries have paperback books that list the applicable laws and give you examples on their application in real life.
If you are doing all of this then the next step could be to put it all together. One of the best ways to practice shoot/don’t shoot scenarios is to join a self-defense related shooting sport such as IDPA or similar. This is a basic way to see a weapon, change your focus to center mass of the target and fire. It is also a good way to practice shooting and moving (if the sport allows it).
Don’t use your ammo budget on a sport at the expense of not learning the fundamentals. If you can’t hit the side of a barn why delay improving that skill by using your budget for a sport. If money is an issue make sure you have the correct budget priorities.