There’s probably no greater responsibility or greater reward than taking your loved ones, especially your kids, to the shooting range. Teaching the people you love about safe, responsible gun ownership is part of our heritage, our education and our lives. It is an amazingly gratifying way to spend quality time together and to share knowledge, experience and confidence along with a healthy respect for firearms and the Second Amendment. So I always encourage people to be on the lookout for youth programs, family classes, date nights, shooting competitions and other opportunities to get friends and family out to the range.

Of course, getting folks to the shooting range is not always easy for every person or in every circumstance. Some people may not be able to go to the range for medical reasons. Some children may be too young or too little to handle firearms. In addition, some of the people you care about the most might not have any interest in training. They may not like guns, or they may not even support the right to keep and bear arms. Even so, you should still take them to the shooting range. And I don’t mean literally. I mean figuratively.

What I’m talking about is the importance and power of visualization. When you are at the range, do you just shoot at paper targets? Are those just random bullet holes, or are they chances to stop the threat? This is where the defensive mindset comes into play. While it is fun to shoot matches or try your hand (pun intended) at a poker-themed target, we cannot overlook the importance of defensive training methods. Isn’t that why many of us have guns and train in the first place: to be able to defend and protect lives?

We know that mindset and visualization have been used successful for sports, martial arts and even musical performance for many years. A study called “Positive Effects of Imagery on Police Officers’ Shooting Performance under Threat” was conducted by researchers in the Netherlands. It showed that these same mental imagery tactics can help during high-threat encounters.

Retired Navy SEAL chief and author Chris Sajnog reports that the Dutch researchers conducted before-and-after performance tests with 66 law enforcement officers and saw pretty dramatic results. He said, “After everyone shot a basic course to get their baseline, they were split into groups where some listened to an audio tape guiding them through mental imagery of a gunfight in which they performed flawlessly, and others listened to meaningless audio.

“After the audio session, both groups were then presented with a more dynamic scenario where the threat was now shooting back at them with Simunitions (small marking rounds). The group that listened to the guided imagery with a positive outcome consistently outperformed the group who listened to the unrelated audio.”

This research may have been done with professionals who train in these kinds of scenarios all the time, but it does not mean that it is something unheard of or too difficult for us regular folks to consider and to employ. If you think about it, these law enforcement officers were encouraged to focus on flawless performances and successful outcomes in which the bad guys were thwarted. Imagine how much more powerful it could be if you included the visualization of saving your life or the lives of your own children.

It’s all about perspective, really. Is training important to you? Are your family and your friends important to you? Then keeping your true training purposes in mind and imagining that everything you do is part of defending your loved ones can be a powerful training tool.

Always remember to take your loved ones to the shooting range. That mindset is what is going to make a difference in our training — and quite possibly in our lives.