Making the Most of Your Range Time

By Suzanne Wiley

Why do we go to the Gun Range?

Going to the gun range regularly improves your shooting performance and how well you can operate your firearm.
To become a better marksman, you must go to the range and practice.

A lot of work is required to shoot a firearm well and we go to the gun range to refine and perfect those skills. To stay proficient with your firearm, you must regularly practice with it. Shooting is a learned skill. It is also a skill you can lose. Studies have found that even after one week away from the range, your skills can diminish by 20%.

First Things First

Your first magazine or cylinder should be used for reviewing your fundamentals and getting accustomed to the environment. Even seasoned shooters will flinch at the noise when they first arrive.

What are the fundamentals of shooting?

  • Stance
  • Proper grip
  • Sight alignment and sight picture
  • Breathing
  • Trigger control

This 6- to 12-round refresher is a good warm-up for preparing you for the harder work.

Practice with Purpose

A focused range session will cut costs and prevent ammo waste.
Practice with a purpose and you’ll fix problems and become a better shooter.

If you aren’t planning a day of plinking, then your trip to the range should be deliberate with a plan in place. This could be to test out new gear, focus on a particular problem you’re having, practice a certain skill or simply to review the fundamentals of shooting. Either way, a focused range session will cut costs and prevent ammo waste.

Many use their range time to practice a skill they have yet to master. This is often point and shoot, one-handed shooting, weak-handed shooting and clearing malfunctions. There are plenty of drills designed to help you develop these important skills.

Safety Above Accuracy

It is important to remember that safety comes before accuracy. Once you can safely manipulate your firearm and hit paper during your drills, then you can work on accuracy.

After safety, accuracy is the most important marksmanship skill to practice. If you can’t hit where you aim, what’s the point? And in a self-defense situation, if you are a bad shot, you’re not only putting your life at ris, but possibly a lot of other innocent lives at risk. So, though aiming and shooting quickly is important for self-defense and competition, you’re better off focusing on your accuracy rather than how quickly you can present your gun and dump a mag in the vital areas of your target.

Why is accuracy better than speed?

Unless you’re a professional competitor, focusing on speed instead of proper form breeds bad habits. You don’t want to develop sloppy shooting techniques

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Take your time at the gun range making every shot count. Focus on the fundamentals and shooting for accuracy.
Take your time and focus.

Concentrating on accuracy and getting as tight as groups in the x-ring as you can will slow down your shooting. This helps you develop proper form, as well as save ammo.

One budget-friendly and challenging way you can work on accuracy is the focus drill. Take a paper plate and draw a one-inch circle in the middle. With a slow rate of fire, take your gun from the low ready and shoot at the dot. Try to create only one hole in your target.

Developing Muscle Memory

Muscle memory is a term used to refer to an automatic action or response after the continuous practice of that action, like riding a bike, typing on a keyboard or tying knots. The same goes for operating a firearm.

Self-defense pistol instructors will emphasize the importance of developing the correct muscle memory so that you can smoothly operate your gun during extreme stress. When faced with a threat, our body’s involuntary fight or flight mode does quite a bit to us physically, including loss of fine motor control and create tunnel vision—two essentials items we need to work a gun well. When these senses are impaired, it can be very hard to remember all the steps you need to take to fire your gun.

K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Stupid!)

However, you can overdo it. Keep your muscle memory to a minimum. Focus solely on the basics of self-defense shooting—presenting, flipping the safety, firing, clearing malfunctions and reloading/magazine changes. You can’t possibly train for every scenario. Keeping it simple discourages bad habits and form, as well as allows you to remain thoughtful because you aren’t operating in robot mode.

How Much Ammo Should You Bring to the Range?

When considering how much ammo you should take to the gun range, it is important to remember that it’s not the number of rounds you shoot but how well you shoot them.

Budget and time restrictions largely dictate how much ammo you can shoot while at the range. It also depends on how many firearms you take and how many skills you plan to practice. Though, I don’t advise overloading yourself. Working on too many skills at one time means you won’t get good at any of them. One or two is enough for an average one- to two-hour range session.

The slower you work, the less ammo you’ll use—a concern of those of you who’s gun ranges charge by the hour. Further, the more often you can go to the range, the less ammo you can use. If you go infrequently, you’re more likely to spend more time and shoot more ammo.

If you are sighting in a new firearm, using a boresight saves ammo and time.

For a one- to two-hour practice session at the range, take no less than 50 rounds per handgun. 50 to 150 rounds per gun should be enough.

Of course, you don’t have to shoot all the ammo you take.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Man cleaning an AR-15
A clean and well-lubed firearm is less likely to malfunction.

I’ve had many a range time manipulated by guns that refuse to run smoothly. Not always the guns fault, it’s usually negligence on the operator’s part by not maintaining their firearm. A clean, well-oiled gun is a happy gun. A dirty gun malfunctions. So, make sure your piece is clean and well-lubed before heading out.

Dry Fire

Save on range fees and conserve ammo by supplementing your range time with dry fire practice at home. This requires no cost and you can do it while watching TV. Dry firing is especially good practice for skills gun ranges typically don’t allow you to practice—drawing from a holster, fast target acquisition, shooting from unconventional positions, taking cover, shooting from cover and moving and shooting.

Range time isn’t just about serious marksmanship. Going to the gun range is also supposed to be fun. Always end on a high note. Stop before you become fatigued. And over all, be safe and enjoy yourself.

What range tips do you have for others? Share them in the comment section.