The gun ban is in full effect here in the Philippines, and countless numbers of us firearms lovers are stuck doing
other things to stay distracted. People I know have resorted to golf, tennis, running and cycling all in lieu of range
time, and while there are all very relevant distractions that are great for your health and sanity, these don’t carry the
same weight as staying sharp with your firearm. Remember, shooting well takes considerable effort, and as with
many things that take much effort to learn, it is a perishable skill. A lot of your skills can evaporate in a short amount
of time, and the six month gun ban is by no stretch of the imagination a short time.
Taking the time to travel to a range for training is one of the best ways to develop and retain skills, but since this is not an option, the shooter, particularly the one who carries or intends to carry, must find alternatives. There are quite a few options available, and a few of these training methods done together will go a long way in slowing the depreciation of shooting skills. These drills are primarily aimed at pistol shooters, though there is little reason not to use the same or similar drills with a rifle.
First off, though, there is the very important matter of safety. The point behind these exercises is to avoid having to take the firearm outside of the house, since it is, for the duration of the ban, illegal. This means that the drills in question will have to be done at home. While no place is nice to have an accidental discharge, the home is probably one of the places we would most like to avoid an AD. Be smart. The four firearms safety rules are always in play, and Fort Living Room is no exception. Once the firearm is checked and made safe, lock your ammo up in a safe container and a different room entirely. Rounds have a funny way of finding themselves back in a weapon, and we will be pulling the trigger a lot. You have been warned. Also, make
sure the people at home know what is going on. While you know your firearm is safe, it may be likely others in your household don’t. It can be pretty freaky to walk into a room and see a drawn weapon, so be considerate. Once you have the ammo secured and in another location, check the weapon again. There is never a time to be careless; at home, with a firearm least of all. Once you’re all safe, pick your favorite drill, and get to it. For the purposes of this article (and due to the gun ban) we decided to use an airsoft pistol that was checked, and ensured clear. There should be no practical difference between this and a real steel pistol.
One crucial thing upon which accurate, fast shots hinge is the draw. With your usual carry gear, practice your draw as smoothly as possible. Focus on
smoothness first. once you have the motion down pat, speed will follow naturally. You all know the drill: move the support hand to the center of your
body (or use it to move clothing out of the way) while establishing a positive high-tang grip on the firearm. If it doesn’t feel right, reset and do it again. You might even want to include a bit of a startle response to emulate a time-is-life situation. Disable any active retention devices present, pull the weapon sharply clear of the holster, disengage the safety as you are punching out, establish a good support hand grip, get your sight alignment and sight picture right, using a target or something on a far wall, and if you want, break the shot. Lather, rinse, repeat until you start getting sloppy, then fix your errors.
Another excellent form of practice one can do at home is dry-firing. Now, I know there is a lot of debate out there as to whether or not dry-firing is bad for a pistol (it really isn’t, at least for centerfire handguns), so if it makes you feel better, you can use snap caps. Some people use fired shells for the same purpose, but (this is just me) there is that off chance that the piece of brass you saw in the pipe and thought was inert was actually a live round. Why take the risk? Snapcaps or an empty chamber is probably a better idea. Go straight to establishing a proper firing grip as before, with the proper sight picture and sight alignment, and break the shot. Depending on your range, you can do either a hard or soft focus on the front sight, it’s good to train for both eventualities; there is a place for each. Pay particular attention to finger placement on the trigger, breathing, and breaking the shot clean, without flinching. Reset, and repeat.
Next up is a skill that takes a lot of dexterity, is usually not practiced enough with the necessary urgency, and is hopefully something you won’t get to in an actual firefight: speed reloads. This is, admittedly, not one of the most fun things to do with a handgun, but if it comes to this in a firefight, you’d better be able to do it quickly, without fumbling. Snapcaps are going to be very helpful here, as reloaddrills without them will just leave you at slide lock. You will also need at least two magazines and a soft surface, maybe a thick carpet or pillow, so you don’t ruin your mags or floor. Insert your empty magazine, rack the slide and keep it locked back. Re-establish your proper firing grip, and in imagination land, visualize that you have just run out of ammo. You should know what to do from here.
Break your grip, move your support hand to your body, then to a fresh source of ammo while dumping the empty magazine and canting the pistol slightly. Gas up the pistol with the second, snapcap-loaded magazine, slowing down just a bit and keeping your eyes on the magwell when you get close, power stroke the slide, re-establish your grip, sight alignment and sight picture, breathe, and break the shot. Again, focus on getting that done as smoothly and fluidly as possible. You’ll just naturally get faster, I promise. Make sure you keep all the action in front of you so you can keep your eyes downrange. Repeat.
Tactical reloads are also a great thing to practice. From a proper presentation of the pistol, decide to do a tac reload, break your grip and bring the gun into your workspace, and grab a new magazine from the last magazine pouch on your person. Pinch the fresh mag with your forefinger, thumb, and the meat of your hand, and release the partially spent one into the remaining space of your palm, kept in place with the rest of your fingers. Insert the fresh mag, seating it firmly.
Return the partial mag into the last magazine pouch, and re-establish your grip. Don’t forget get into the habit of looking around you afterwards and during the process. It takes some practice to get this process down, and if you are having trouble, you can isolate the releasing the partially spent mag, and seating the fresh one until you can do it flawlessly, then re-incorporate the rest of the drill after.
One last thing. This period is one where a lot of guns get thrown into a safe and forgotten. Take the time to maintain your weapon. Clean it, take it apart, lube it and store it properly. This process will not only make sure your weapon will function properly once the gun ban lapses, it will also leave you more familiar with the weapon, and more comfortable with handling it.
These are just a few of the drills available to the grounded firearms owner. This set should hopefully be enough to keep you from getting too rusty as the gun ban months roll by, and let you be in, or close to, fighting form when you head back to the range. Remember, safety is always the first concern. If you feel something is off, stop, recheck, and resets. Stay safe and stay sharp. We’ll see you again in a month.
First published in Gadgets Magazine, April 2013
Words by Ren Alcantara
Photos by Benedict Asal