Firearms Training/Exercise #1, by Sparky

I have been a “gun nut” for some time now and I think that everyone should own a firearm of some sort whether it for personal carry or just home protection.  With everything that has been going on in today’s world, I can see no better time to own a firearm. There comes a big responsibility with owning a weapon of any kind and you must make sure that you are up to taking on that task.

I believe that good shooting skills are going to be needed very soon to come.  We are set in the front seat to possibly see a major change in life, as we know it.  When the less fortunate have nowhere to go they are going to come for you. Buy a firearm and learn to use it.  You can already see this happening every day, from people with handguns robbing convenience stores to home invasions. Buy a firearm and learn to use it.    There are approximately 14 million people (at least that is the number that the Government is putting out) out work in the US.  Desperate people will do desperate things in times of need especially when there is a family involved, Buy a firearm and learn to use it.  I think I said that earlier somewhere?  Here is where I step in and hopefully help you learn for use it.

I would like to start something here at SurvivalBlog that I hope everyone will find helpful in their firearms training.  I would like to pass on my training and experience to everyone in this community.  I would like to start making a post at the first of every month with firearms training exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced shooters. I know that I will/should be under scrutiny from Mr. Cascio, since he teaches firearms training.  I would expect nothing but the best for the people here!  It will start off slow because I don’t know any of the ability levels of any of the readers here.  I DO NOT want anyone getting hurt trying to push too hard to fast.  Hang in there.  By posting every two weeks, it will give people ample time to work on the exercises with whatever time they have set aside for weapons training (hoping that everyone has this time set aside on a regular basis.)

Of course, I cannot tailor the training exercises to everyone’s specific weapon but the core fundamentals are still the same – proper breathing, trigger squeeze, trigger control, barrel action, sights (fixed/iron or optics), etc.  Most of the exercises that I will post will be more focused around iron sights.  Optics makes things easier but what if there was an EMP or your batteries die and your EO-Tech won’t turn on?  Do you have the same confidence to make that shot with iron sights?

I could think of no better time to begin than right now to start! 

Here are some basic fundamentals to remember when shooting:

Take your time and work the fundamentals so that you do not start making bad habits that are going to be hard to break later on.  Repetition is your best friend when shooting and can be your worst enemy.  This is why it is key to work on the proper ways to do things.  I recommend dry firing your firearm on a daily basis (check with your manufacturer to see if it will harm your firearm first.) For the most part, centerfire weapons are okay to dry fire.  The most affected by dry firing are .22 rimfire guns.  The reason or that is the firing pin will actually hit the back of the chamber, which will flatten the tip of the firing pin or in some cases, even break it. [JWR Adds: See the many safety warnings about the clearing procedures, ammunition separation discipline, and use of a safe backstop for dry practice! Limited dry practice with a rimfire can be accomplished without damaging the gun if you insert a piece of fired brass in the chamber. But generally, you should do your dry practice only with centerfire guns.]

  • Holding a pistol is like shaking someone’s hand.  If you squeeze too hard then you will harm what you are trying to accomplish.  The hand that you are holding the grip with (considered your strong hand) should be light and your supporting hand should do most of the squeezing (strong hand ~30/40% and your supporting hand ~60/70%).  Be sure not to over squeeze because you will hurt your result. See: Travis Haley on Proper Grip Technique.
  • Trigger control or Resetting the trigger is key to being able to place multiple rounds on target with better speed.  What is resetting the trigger? When you fire a round keep the trigger back.  Slowly let up on the trigger (after the slide has cycled) until you hear it “click”.  At this point your trigger is reset and ready to fire again. (If you are dry firing you will have to rack the slide for the trigger to reset).  If you are firing rounds downrange, concentrate on your front sight and keep it on target while you are resetting the trigger.  Your next squeeze will be shorter than the first one.  For dry firing, rack the slide and put you sight back on target and start resetting your trigger.  Every shot should be made in this way! See: Resetting The Trigger.
  • You have to have a good strong base to manage the recoil and get back on target for multiple shots.  A good stance will also help your steadiness when aiming.  Your feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart, with the right foot (lets assume everyone is right handed) slightly back.  The ball of your right foot should be should be lined up somewhere in between the arch and the back of your left heel.  Your right foot should be pointed slight out. (Lefties: your stance will be the exact opposite).  You should have a slight bend in the knees and slightly at the waist. You want to have your weight over the balls of your feet.  This will give you the ability to move in all directions quickly and be able to maintain sight picture.  Your chest should be squared up to the target so that you maintain a “modified” triangle with your arms and the point being the pistol.  Your elbows should be slightly bent outwards, not downward and your shoulders rolled forward.   When you shoot the weapon will be pushed more straight back than up.
  • When you present your pistol to the target make sure that you are pushing it straight out and you are not raising it up with your arms locked out.  When you draw your pistol from its holster make sure that you keep it tight to your body keeping your wrist and forearm inline until you get to your chest and then you pick up your supporting hand and press straight out.  While you are pressing out slowly take out the trigger slack so that when you are at full presentation your next squeeze goes bang! See: Draw from holster and present Pistol
  • Breathing is another key to accurate shooting.  You have to control your breathing if you want to make accurate shots on target.  It doesn’t matter what position you are in, if you are winded then your sight is moving up and down as you inhale and exhale.  The best time to make an accurate shot is at the bottom of your exhale.  There have been people that have argued with me on this point saying that they shot better at the top of their inhale.  Try it out for yourself.  I have been taught to shoot at the bottom of your exhale and here is what I was told:  When you inhale your body naturally tightens up, your chest moves and can slightly raise your arms up pushing your weapon up or push against your butt stock, all causing you sights to move.  When you exhale, there is a natural pause before you inhale.  At that very point your body is at its most relaxed position where there is no movement. 

There are a couple of things that, in my opinion, everyone should have to help assist in his or her shooting with any weapon:

  • A good sling.  If you are going to have a sling on your weapon then why not make it a multi purpose tool?  I currently have Viking Tactics slings on all if my rifles.  Knights Armament makes small blocks that mount on a Picatinny rail system that has a swivel and a push button quick release loop to detach the sling (Push-Button Swivel & MWS Forend Rail Mount). See: V-TAC Sling Instruction & Part 2
  • Good Optics.  There is a plethora of different optics to choose from.  You should find one that is comfortable and you shoot well with it.  Most are expensive but if your life depended on it would yours to fog up or not work?  For my battle rifles I have went with EO-Tech since they are AR-15s.  An M4/AR-15 is really only a 200 meter gun (I will cover later because I know that this comment kicks a hornets nest).  An EO-Tech is made so that if it is mounted (without a detachable mount) directly to a flat top and the center of the sight window will be inline with your Iron sights.  So if your batteries die, you can still have a clear line of sight to use your iron sights.  I can use my EO-Tech just fine at 200 meters but not as effectively at 300 meters.
  • Setting your sights.  For pistols I like to zero them at 25 yards.  Depending on what you are shooting you might hit slightly higher at 5 yards but it is not even enough to worry about.  For an battle rifle (lets look at the M4/AR-15) I like to set my zero for the event that might occur.  I bounce between a 50m and 100m zero.  I always use a 62gr. round with a penetrating core, so I know how may clicks to move my sights to get to each setting.

Side Note: With an M4/AR-15 if you set your zero at 25m your POA (Point of Aim) and POI are the same (minus wind of course) as 300m.  Zero at 50m and your POA and POI is again the same at 200m (with a 5.56mm 62gr. Bullet).  In a combat situation would I take a 200 to 300m shot with an M4 if there were no sniper around. YES, only if the situation called for the shot(s) to be taken.  In a collapse/grid down of the US would I take that same shot? NO!  Why is there a difference you might ask?  In a collapse/grid down situation, I would want to remain as hidden as possible even if I had my sniper rifle.  I would want to stay as hidden as possible not to bring attention my way unless I could not help it.

  • A timer of some sort.  I recommend a digital one from Competition Electronics.  They are pricey at $129.95 USD but they are well worth it to improve your shooting.  The way they work is when you push the start button there is a buzzer that sounds at random intervals so you don’t know when it will go off.  Once the buzzer is sounded, the timer will record the times of your shots.  That way you can see how long it takes you from shot to shot.  You can learn so much from these timers.  I know that many people will/can not buy one of these timers so as long as you can use a stop watch or something to time your draw to last shot.

Lets keep it simple to start off.
Exercise #1

  • Beginners
    • Pistol: Dry fire for at least one hour every day and work on the fundamentals of breathing, front sight post on target, your grip and trigger control.  When your setting there on your porch aim at something 5 yards away or why your watching television or whatever, aim at a stationary spot and practice good habits.  It doesn’t matter whether you are sitting and standing.  If you can practice more then that is better.
    • Pistol and Battle Rifle: At the range, work only from the 5 yard line.  Work on the same fundamentals as dry firing but with live rounds.  TAKE YOUR TIME!  Make accurate shots!  Run your gun dry.  Learn to know what it feels and sounds like when your firearm is empty (more for the battle rifle because you can’t immediately see if the bolt locks back).  Practice your reload without taking your eyes off of your target or be looking at your next. Watch as Travis Haley demonstrates just what I am talking about.
    • Work on getting tight groups.  Don’t worry about speed–it will come.  Stick with the fundamentals.  Muscle memory is what you are working on right now.
  • Intermediate
    • Pistol: Dry fire at least one hour every day.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly two feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, draw your weapon and fire 3 rounds at each target.  Complete within 6 seconds with all rounds inside the 8-ring.
      • If you do not have silhouette targets just used bullseye targets.  Place 4 targets (2 targets one on top of the other and same for the other 2.  Preferably 2 different sizes with the lower one the bigger) two feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, Failure Drill: 2 rounds to the chest (bottom target) and 1 to the head (top target).  Complete within 7 seconds with all rounds in the 7-ring.
      • Run each drill each drill at least 5 times so that you have to at least reload during shooting.
    • Battle Rifle
      • With your current zero, shoot from 5, 15, and 25 yards to get a point of aim (POA) and point of impact (POI).  Write it down for later review.  Write down all of your POA and POI for future review to be put in the memory bank.
      • Same as above drills at 5 yards and then from 15 yards.  Using iron sights, account for the POA and POI and place all rounds inside the 8-ring.  Complete within 5 seconds from 5 yards and 8 seconds from 15 yards.
      • If you do not have silhouette targets just used bullseye targets.  Place 4 targets (2 targets one on top of the other and same for the other 2.  Preferably 2 different sizes with the lower one the bigger) three to four feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, “Z” Drill: 3 rounds center mass/lower target, right to left and then place a single round in the head/top target of each target starting with the right.  Keep all rounds in the 8-ring for time.
      • Run each drill each drill at least 5 times so that you have to at least reload during shooting.
  • Advanced
    • Pistol: Dry fire at least 30 minutes everyday.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly two feet apart.  At 5 yards with your back to the target, turn and draw your weapon and fire 3 rounds at each target.  Complete within 6 seconds with all rounds inside the 8-ring.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly three feet apart.  Load 8 rounds in 2 magazines.  At 15 yards, start walking to the targets.  Fire 5 rounds at one target, take a knee, reload and fire 5 rounds at the other target.  Shoot for time.
    • Battle Rifle
      • Same as above pistol drills.
      • Set up 5 bullseye targets roughly 3 feet apart.  At 15 yards from the ready, fire 3 rounds per target while moving laterally from both, right to left and left to right.  Keep all rounds in the 8-ring for time.

Happy shooting, everyone!