Stop Wasting Time at the Range: Maximizing Your Shooting Sessions

For many gun owners, the shooting range is a sanctuary, a place to hone their skills, test new equipment, and escape the stresses of everyday life. However, all too often, range sessions can quickly devolve into little more than aimless plinking, leaving shooters feeling unfulfilled and their skills stagnant. To truly make the most of your time at the range, it’s essential to approach your practice with intentionality and structure.

When I teach pistol classes, I often explain this from a similar but different perspective: a golfer at the driving range. As a golfer myself, I understand the frustration of plunking my clubs down, rolling a few golf balls out of the bucket, and shooting at random flags set at various distances. There’s no rhyme or reason. I’m just hitting golf balls with every club in my bag, so I feel I had a good session. Did I? No. In fact, I probably just wasted an hour that I can’t get back. And my golf game didn’t get any better.

Gun owners often act the same way at the shooting range. I know I definitely have, and I’m not proud of it. Sure, sometimes it’s fun to poke holes in paper or ring the steel, but is that really “practice,” which is supposed to make perfect? Or are we just venting frustrations with a semi-expensive hobby? (Again, golf.)

Just like you upgrade your guns with the latest gadget (which, by the way, probably won’t help you shoot any better), here are some tips to help you maximize the impact of your shooting range sessions, where you actually can improve your shooting.

Run Purposeful Drills

The adage “perfect practice makes perfect” rings especially true when it comes to firearms training. Rather than engaging in random, haphazard shooting, structure your range time around specific drills and exercises designed to reinforce and refine key shooting skills.

One effective drill is the “El Presidente” – a classic test of a shooter’s speed, accuracy, and reloading prowess. To execute this drill, set up three targets spaced about 10 yards apart. Begin with your hands at shoulder height, facing away from the targets. On the buzzer, turn, draw your firearm, engage each target with two accurate shots, perform a tactical reload, and then re-engage the targets. Time yourself and strive to shave seconds off your runs through focused practice.

Another valuable drill is the “Mozambique,” which challenges shooters to rapidly transition between targets and accurately place both body shots and headshots. Set up two targets at varying distances, and on the signal, engage the first target with two body shots, then transition to the second target and deliver one shot to the head.

These types of drills not only help build fundamental shooting skills but also foster the muscle memory essential for real-world self-defense situations.

Work on Your Draw

For many shooters, the draw – the process of bringing a concealed or holstered firearm into a firing position – is a critical skill that often requires dedicated practice. While drawing from a holster may not be permitted at all ranges, you can still work on your draw technique from a low-ready position or by practicing your presentation from a ready stance.

Focus on developing a smooth, efficient draw stroke that minimizes unnecessary movement and maximizes speed and consistency. Pay close attention to your grip, elbow positioning, and the timing of your trigger finger as you draw and acquire your target. Dry-fire practice at home can also be a valuable supplement to your range sessions, allowing you to refine your draw stroke without the distraction of live ammunition.

Concentrate on Specific Skills

Rather than simply blasting away at targets, use your range time to focus on honing particular skills or addressing specific areas of weakness. This might mean dedicating a portion of your session to working on your accuracy at longer ranges, practicing rapid-fire strings, or fine-tuning your reloading technique.

If you struggle with consistent trigger control, for example, set up a series of targets at varying distances and work on your ability to make precise, well-timed shots. Alternatively, if you aim to improve your speed, incorporate timed drills that challenge you to engage multiple targets as quickly as possible without sacrificing accuracy.

The key is approaching each range session with a clear objective, whether improving your draw, mastering a specific technique, or addressing a specific weakness. By staying focused and deliberate in your practice, you’ll see tangible improvements in your shooting skills over time.

Pre-Stuff Your Magazines

One often-overlooked aspect of maximizing your range time is pre-stuffing your magazines before you arrive at the range. This seemingly minor task can pay huge dividends in terms of the efficiency and productivity of your practice session. Don’t waste time doing what you could have done at home.

By loading your magazines at home, you can minimize the amount of time spent reloading during your range session, allowing you to maintain a steady rhythm and flow. This is especially important if you’re working on drills that require multiple reloads, as it allows you to focus on the technical aspects of the exercise rather than the logistical challenge of constantly replenishing your ammunition.

Pre-stuffing your magazines can also help you better evaluate your performance and identify areas for improvement. When you’re not constantly fiddling with loading magazines, you can devote more of your attention to the mechanics of your shooting, the timing of your reloads, and the consistency of your hits.

Back to the (Golf) Range

The shooting range and the golf driving range share some striking similarities when it comes to the importance of deliberate, structured practice. Just as golfers at the driving range meticulously work on their swing mechanics, grip, and ball striking, shooters at the range can benefit immensely from a similarly focused and disciplined approach.

Like golfers, shooters must develop a deep understanding of the fundamental mechanics of their chosen discipline and then relentlessly drill those skills until they become second nature. And just as golfers use the driving range to experiment with new equipment, test different shot shapes, and monitor their progress, shooters can leverage the range to explore new techniques, fine-tune their gear, and track their improvement over time.

Parting Shot

Ultimately, the key to maximizing the golf driving range and the shooting range is to approach each session with a clear purpose and a commitment to purposeful, deliberate practice. By running targeted drills, focusing on specific skills, and optimizing the logistics of your range time, you can transform your shooting range sessions from aimless plinking into a powerful tool for honing your skills and achieving your firearms training goals.

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David Workman is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. As an NRA-certified instructor, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as possible. “Real-life shootouts don’t happen at a box range.”



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