Up Close and Personal

Practice is always important, but for those of us who carry a firearm for personal protection, the right kind of practice is vital. Self-defense shootings are not like most target shooting. They typically occur at very close — even “point-blank” — range. Our practice protocols should reflect this reality.

A Normal Day at the Range

Case in point: I was at my members-only outdoor range recently, practicing on what are called the “action bays” — eight three-sided ranges approximately 20 by 30 yards. The club supplies movable target stands that allow flexible configurations, such as multiple targets, varying distances, etc.

Such a setup is ideal for self-defense training and practice since it provides a much more realistic experience than ranges which only allow firing at single targets from a fixed station. Additionally, shooters on the “action bays” are allowed to draw and fire from concealment, subject to strict safety rules.

After a hundred rounds or so, I decided to take a break. As I often do, I strolled down the observation path that runs at the extreme rear of the bays just to see what others were doing. It was, as usual, illuminating.

An “A” in Training

At the next bay over from mine, a young man and woman were taking turns drawing from hip holsters and firing two- and three-shot strings at their respective targets, mostly at a distance of 15 feet or so, sometimes even closer. Both of them were smooth and sure in their draws and presentations.

I also noted that they both fired relatively rapidly but never seemed “hurried,” which probably accounted for the fact that their hits were consistent and nicely grouped. All in all, I silently gave them an “A” for their overall performance, including their careful re-holstering after each string.

An Enlightening Encounter

The next bay was a bit different. Three men, maybe in their 40s, had set up their stands at the extreme back of the bay, just as the young couple had. But in this case, the shooters were all firing from a distance of about 25 yards. They did not draw from concealment.

They took turns firing aimed single shots at what I estimated to be 10- or 12-second intervals (until their guns were empty). Their accuracy was reasonably good, as you would expect with carefully aimed fire. But how would such practice translate into a real-life self-defense scenario?

I waited until the men decided to take a break and retreat to the picnic tables at the rear of the bays, where they had a cooler of pop and water. As usual, I was wearing an “Instructor” shirt, and when I introduced myself, they were friendly and talkative. To make a long story short, I did find out that they were primarily training for self-defense and they all had Florida carry licenses.

Now, I never offer advice unless asked — unless I see downright dangerous behavior. But I think some of my leading questions caused the men to consider more critically how they were training. Interestingly, as they got ready to return to their firing positions, one of the thee hung back. He leaned in close to me and quietly asked, “Say, do you have a card?” I happily complied.

How you practice is certainly your decision. Just make sure it matches your goals.

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