The last two posts dealt with the need for firearms training and gun maintenance. My wife, Sheila, has a healthy respect for handguns – firearms of any kind – but has never wanted primary responsibility for taking care of our own equipment.
After all, I’m here, so why would she need to?
That’s a common mistake that many firearms owners make. If there are firearms in the house, whether they are intended for self-defense or recreational use, all the people who will be using them should trade off on taking care of them. It stands to reason that the more familiar people are with the guns in their possession, the better prepared they will be when the firearms are used. That refers to not only cleaning the firearms, but also staying proficient with them. Remember what I said about not leaving the handguns in the drawer?
One of the bits of research that convinced Sheila to get back to the firing range was something I told her about the Tueller Drill. There’s a police officer in Utah who discovered that it only takes 1.5 seconds for an attacker to reach you from 20 feet away. Measure it out in your house. 20 feet is about the width of a small house, or the width of somebody’s living room in an average home.
The stat came up when we were chatting about lethal force and when it was okay to use it, but the discussion got serious when she realized that in the Tueller scenario, the attacker was running. During the time it took someone (who was a deadly threat) to run the 20 feet toward Sheila, she would need to get her gun (if she was home), take aim, and shoot accurately. The average person takes about 1.5 seconds to get off a shot, but all she has to do is beat the runner…
Sounds easy enough, right? Nope.
If the gun is not with her (it’s in a drawer or in her pocketbook) she has to throw things in the way to slow the attacker down as she runs to get it. If the attacker is faster than she is, Sheila loses.
If the gun gets snagged in a drawer, Sheila loses.
If the gun misfires, Sheila loses.
If the gun is too heavy and she has trouble lifting it before firing, Sheila loses.
If her aim is bad, Sheila loses.
In any of those possibilities, that 1.5 seconds will have evaporated and the firearm will be useless, perhaps even become a weapon that can be used against her.
So, Sheila and I went to the firing range so she could get some time in with my backup Glock.
Sheila did some dry firing – getting into a stable position, drawing the gun, aligning the sights and then pulling the trigger – all without the gun being loaded. Getting the muscle memory down can be as important as actually firing live rounds.
Here are some marksmanship fundamentals to check each and every time practicing shooting until they become second nature and are done automatically:
1. Grip – one or two-handed
2. Stance – feet shoulder width apart (isosceles) or one slightly in front of the other (weaver)
3. Sight alignment
4. Trigger control
5. Checking success of the shot
5. Breath control
Sheila worked on stance, on timing, on a smooth draw, on focus, on breathing. She worked on getting the front and back sights in perfect alignment. She worked on keeping her grip strong and firm. She used a two-handed grip and muscle tension to control the recoil. She worked on keeping her weight on the balls of her feet.
After she was comfortable again with the weight and physical handling of the Glock, she fired a few rounds at a paper target, about the size of an average man.
When our time at the range was up, we hung around to watch a proficiency training class. The shooters were reminded of the safety rules:
Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
Keep the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
Keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.
The instructors helped the attendees with details of handling the firearms.
Before each section of firing, the head instructor would command the shooters to:
“Load and make ready!
in order to maintain the safety of the area.
If the shooters aimed too high or too far in any direction, the instructor advised them about body position and arm extension, among other tips.
Proficiency tests are conducted during some of the classes. We watched one that required the shooters to hit the target 21 out of 30 times at various distances, within a limited amount of time. The shooters only had 30 rounds (bullets) available, so being comfortable with the firearm was essential.
They were given 10 rounds at the three yard line,
10 rounds at the five yard line,
10 rounds at the seven yard line.
It seemed as if less than two minutes was given to shoot the ten rounds at each distance, so nerves couldn’t come into play.
My advice: If you buy a handgun, don’t leave it in the drawer.
Take a training class if you don’t know how to shoot or if you don’t know how to handle it safely.
Stay proficient by practicing at a licensed firing range.
And, please don’t believe what you see on the TV shows and in the movies about people being expert shots the first time they pick up a firearm. Not gonna happen. Ever.
*Photos taken at Freedom Firearms Training in Carthage, NC.
Many thanks to Steve Jones and his staff for allowing me to visit during one of his concealed/carry permit classes.
Steve Jones is an experienced NRA firearms instructor and is the owner/operator of Freedom Firearms Training.