By Kip Staton
For most people, myself included, handguns are difficult to shoot. Check out my Generation 4 Glock 19 Review that I did a couple years ago. I sort of glossed over actual group sizes in that review, because they were embarrassing (that was wrong of me, by the way).
I was terrible when I wrote that review. Like, really terrible. I even admitted that I wasn’t that great, as if that somehow made it ok. I had a hard time hitting an IDPA target at 25 yards with every round from a full magazine. That’s how bad I was.
Well, I got tired of being terrible. I carried that pistol every day, and I couldn’t reliably hit with it past spitting distances? Horrible. So I did something about it. And I got better.
How did I get better? I designed a system to improve, and a system to continue improving my pistol marksmanship. I wake up at 5:45am. I’m out the door by 7:00, and at the range at 7:15 with a box of 50 rounds and a set of specific drills. Every day, except for weekends.
I carry a handgun as a function of being responsible for the safety of myself and my family. Being a terrible pistol shot really isn’t an option. That’s why I work on it every day. Focused daily drills and practice have made me a better shooter.
Wait: What about Rifle Shooting?
Quick note: I love shooting rifles, and I especially love shooting long range rifles. But, quite frankly, that particular skill set isn’t applicable to my daily life.
I don’t carry a rifle every day. I do carry a handgun every day. If I’m ever out and about and need a gun for anything, there’s a 98% chance my handgun is going to be the go-to.
Like many of us, I have limited cash resources to spend on all of this. I would love to include rifle drills every day, but focusing on long gun stuff just doesn’t make a lot of sense. I would argue that most of us should place handgun skills over rifle skills in terms of our priority, if we’re honest.
I’m not saying rifle marksmanship isn’t important. But I choose to place the priority for marksmanship practice where it’s needed in my daily life. And right now, that priority is with a handgun.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of my daily system.
Systems vs. Goals: Shooting Every Day
I’m still not the greatest pistol shooter, and I have to concentrate insanely hard to do well. But I’m better than I was. I have a system for doing the things necessary on a daily basis to get where I want to go.
All I want to do is strive to improve by 1% every day, via small, compounding, continuous improvements in accuracy and speed. These improvements are measured by specific drills and standards. That’s my system: 1% improvement, every day.
Success on the target is directly tied to the process at the pistol. And improving that process is tied to my system, 1% at a time. When 1% compounds every day, it doubles every 72 days… not every 100 days. And perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve seen major breakthroughs just about every two months.
The beauty of focusing on this system (rather than the larger goal of “becoming awesome at handgunning”) is that the goal gets done without much conscious effort. I don’t have to force myself to get to the range, because it’s built into my daily routine via another system.
I’m certainly better than I was nine months ago. My scores currently average somewhere in the high 80s/low 90s for 10 shots on a 25 yard NRA B-8 repair center, with a two hand hold on my Glock 19.
My goal is to keep 10 shots in the 9 ring (or better), in under 30 seconds, from concealment.
I know I’m going to meet that standard eventually, because I am doing the things required to achieve that goal. Success is inevitable.
50 rounds per day, fired within the context of an intentional set of drills and standards, is at least 12,000 rounds every year that many people would probably waste (for the most part). At least, I don’t know of anybody else doing this.
I know I won’t realize my goal in a day, or even a month. But I’m content to just shoot “today’s” drills, and improve 1% at a time.
Part of getting better involves implementing a structured practice system that provides a measurable standard of improvement over time.
These standards have to be timed and scored in order to understand the improvement process, and to see where you are getting better or falling back.
With my daily practice schedule, I wanted a set of drills that would stress accuracy and speed both individually and together. This is what my current drills work on (get the details here):
- Pure marksmanship
- Speed (with a secondary accuracy standard, but primarily to become accustomed to what going fast feels like)
- Drawing from concealment with accuracy to a small target
- Reloading from concealment, with follow-up shots
- Strong hand only shooting
- Weak hand only shooting
All from a single box of 50 rounds, cold, with no warm up. I can also work on improving specific things with focused dry fire in the evenings, and then check them in live fire the next day.
My dry fire program is still evolving. It’s part of this system that hasn’t quite fallen into place yet. But I’m working on it.
There are certainly other drills I want to shoot on a regular basis, like the famous Dot Torture. But my current drills are fine for now. There’s not much to lose. If I haven’t improved in another six months, I’ll adjust my track and keep going.
So that’s the reasoning behind this system, the “why.” What about the how?
Logistics of Shooting Every Day
Obviously, if you want to shoot every day (or at least more than a couple times a month), you need a range that’s close to home and affordable.
I’m fortunate. My club is right on the way to my day job (where I can also shoot, if I want), and it doesn’t have any daily fees. Annual dues are just $100.
There are multiple bays for pistol shooting and rifle berms out to 200 yards. There are no range officers, and no rules against drawing or movement. Heck, you can set up an entire IDPA stage for yourself if there’s a bay available.
This combination of convenience, economy and time accessibility make it possible for me to do some drills every single morning. I’m there for a total of about 30 minutes, from when I open the front gate to when I lock it behind me.
I recognize this is a unique situation. I know something will probably change (new job, eventually moving to a new town, etc.), but I’m going to take full advantage of it while I can. When something changes, I’ll just adapt the system to fold regular practice back into my lifestyle. Even if it’s not as frequent.
Shooting 50 rounds a day, every weekday, comes out to right around 1,000 rounds per month. That’s not an insignificant amount of cash, but it’s not the end of the world either. Again, having another system in place (for me, it’s a side gig involving a few minutes of writing every evening) makes it a non-issue.
Someday, the system may allow more than 50 rounds. When I first started, it was only 10-20 a day.
If you can find workable solutions to the issues of location, time and money, you’ll be well on your way to developing a system that leads to more regular practice.
Did I mention it’s also just really great to have a morning routine that includes shooting?
How: Efficiency in Practice
Getting to the range early in the morning on the way to work pretty much guarantees there will always be a pistol bay free. But once I get there, efficiency is everything. Just being “at the range” doesn’t count.
Doing things like loading mags and pasting targets don’t make you a better shooter. Sure, you have to do those tasks. But when I’m at the range, I want to shoot. If I can prep something at home, I’ll do it at home.
Having magazines pre-loaded for each drill minimizes down time spent loading mags. Setting up targets on pre-cut pieces of cardboard, ready to be stapled to the range’s target frames, saves time as well. Mags and targets are all staged the night before, which takes about 5-10 minutes of prep work.
All of my notes and scores are logged and kept in Google Keep, which automatically syncs with my PC at work. This makes it easy to record the day’s drills in a pre-formatted blog post format during my lunch break.
It’s a well-oiled system at this point, and it removes a lot of the excuses for not practicing every day.
Everything for the week’s drills fits in a medium size plastic shooting case, with an internal removable tray. Nothing more, nothing less. Yes, there’s a system to this as well. One case, two target boards and I’ve got the car loaded and ready to go.
I had to change my daily carry gear after I realized how much time it was costing me at the range. I’ve carried my G19 with a Raven Vanguard II for several years. It’s a great little device, but it’s not safe to reholster without removing it from your belt, placing the gun back in it, and then attaching everything inside your waistband again. That takes a lot of time.
Swapping to a Raven Concealment Eidolon allows me to reholster much faster and more efficiently. I also added a Striker Control Device as well (Striker Control Device Review), to increase the margin of safety while holstering a live firearm in the appendix position multiple times a day, hundreds of days per year.
As far as ammo goes, I’ve been shooting a lot of Speer Lawman lately. (Speer Lawman 147 Grain Review). It’s not the cheapest ammo available, but the level of quality keeps time-wasting snags to a minimum.
I’ve been accused of being obsessed with this pistol shooting. That may be true on the surface, but I’m finding myself caring less and less about the guns and gear as the years go on. It’s about making the shot when needed. Gear is largely just a function of that. Until something major changes, I don’t see switching from a Glock any time soon.
Like I mentioned earlier, I choose to log my daily results on my personal blog. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, it helps me track my progress and journal my thoughts on the day’s shooting. This is incredibly helpful in processing what needs to change for improvement to happen.
Second, I do it for accountability. Social media (especially Instagram) is on fire right now with guys who have my same background (non-LEO, non-military) who can whip out half-second draws from concealment and perform other incredible feats.
They’ve mastered the presentation platform and have thousands of followers. Many will also readily admit to not showing the bad runs. That’s fine, they can do whatever they want.
Blogging about my findings puts me in that same social media spotlight, to an extent. But with my system, you get to see everything. All of the good days, and all of the bad days.
That transparency is really important to me. And I have nothing to hide! I’m just a guy that wants to get better at shooting.
Nothing against the cool guys on the ‘gram with cool party tricks, “sponsorships” and thousands of followers. But that’s just not my thing.
I definitely don’t want you to take this as a “brag post” about how often I shoot. It’s not meant in that way, at all. I’m not better than you, or anybody. I’m just a regular non-cop, non-military guy that responsibly carries a gun and thinks he ought to be good with it.
Do you want to improve too? Design a system that works with your lifestyle. Even if you live in a big city with an expensive indoor range, you can make it happen! Regular practice twice a month for two years beats not doing anything at all.
Go Shoot with a System
Do some research, figure out what you want to work on and what you need to work on. Look for drills that test those things, and build out a dry fire routine that supports them.
And please don’t read this and come away thinking I’m some sort of OCD freak. I have other things going on in my life, and these systems help accomplish my goals without having to think about the nitty-gritty details all the time.
It’s one thing to get all your gear together for a weekend range trip. It’s another to do it every single morning. Systems solve the details. I don’t have them because I need to obsess over every little detail. I have systems so I don’t have to.
I’ve been working on daily drills for nearly a year now. My practice schedule wasn’t perfect when I started. I was only shooting 10 rounds daily at the beginning. I wasn’t getting to the range every day, or meeting goals, until I had a system in place.
I have a much more refined set of drills now. And when I compare my marksmanship skills between now and when I began, there is a world of difference. My systems worked, and are still working.
The next year is going to go by whether you get better or not. Why not get better?