2020 Continues to see one of the biggest influxes of new shooters in history. Unfortunately, this comes with one of the largest ammunition shortages to date. This means that legions of new gun owners are unable to learn and practice with their firearms. Instructors are finally reducing round counts for classes, but the average person is still hard hit. How can we get some much needed practice in on a constricted financial and ammunition budget?
For starters, we must have a plan for our range session. Gone are the days of lackadaisically blasting through magazines like no tomorrow. Locking down our fundamentals should be first and foremost. High standards for accuracy and automaticity, making every shot count. Ensuring that we get some reps in on high difficulty shots is also important.
Even before COVID and election panic set in, I used the following course of fire with new shooters. Many are unwilling or unable to buy boxes upon boxes of ammunition, so a quick and concise plan is necessary. Something that is easily scalable for varying levels of skill, time, and ammunition.
Setting up the drill
By default, this is a 50 round course of fire. Shooters can adjust round counts as needed, with 25 and 100 rounds being my most common after 50. A five round magazine will be required, as all strings are limited to five rounds. The final string of fire requires a shot timer to set a par time. No holsters are required, everything is fired from low ready.
I score this course of fire using an IDPA torso. Lacking that, anything with an eight inch chest vital zone will suffice. Other good options are the IALEFI-Q, and the US Marshals qualification target. Even pasting a B-8 to the chest of a B-27 torso can work.
Distances can be adjusted to more appropriately line up with the shooter's skill. For brand new shooters, I start extremely close, focusing on familiarization with recoil and the operation of the pistol. Once appropriate fundamentals are in place, distance can increase.
For a 50 rounds course of fire:
10 Rounds freestyle, distance of 3 yards
Two strings, 5 rounds each
5 Rounds strong hand only, distance of 3 yards
5 Rounds weak hand only, distance of 3 yards
10 Rounds freestyle, distance of 7 yards
Two strings, 5 rounds each
10 Rounds freestyle, distance of 10 yards
Two strings, 5 rounds each
10 Rounds freestyle, distance of 5 yards
Two strings of timed fire, 5 rounds each. Par time of 7.5 seconds per string
For those unfamiliar with the term, "freestyle" means a normal, two hand, firing grip.
Scoring the drill
When firing 50 rounds, the maximum possible score is 100 points, with each shot being worth two points. A hit in the "-0" of the IDPA torso is worth the full value of two points. Rounds landing in the "-1" zone are worth a single point each. The "-3" of the IDPA torso, or completely off the target, are considered a complete miss; any rounds landing here will subtract two points each. There are no headshots in the course of fire; I use those zones for demonstration purposes.
Breaking the time limit on the final strings of fire incur no penalty. Shooters should maximize the time limit, shooting only as fast as they can get a proper sight picture. The generous par time is simply there to induce stress to the shooter, to see how they react. This sometimes results in higher accuracy, as the shooter is more focused. For others, the stress can result in worse scores, as they panic under pressure. Nearly everyone misjudges how long they have to shoot.
If the shooter is having difficulty achieving the accuracy standard, simply remove rounds from the timed segment, or further distance strings. Address issues with fundamentals of grip, stance, trigger control, and sight picture/alignment. Often times something has fallen off the tracks and is easily remedied.
I fired this drill using a Beretta 21A Bobcat chambered in .22LR. With this pistol I was able to clean the drill at the prescribed distances. For the timed strings of fire, my times were 5.18 and 5.45 seconds. The Beretta 21A is somewhat representative of conceal carry pistols I've had students bring to the firing line. The miniscule sights offer very little in terms of a sight picture. The small frame of the pistol makes it challenging to acquire a positive grip. Luckily the low recoil of the .22LR reduces the difficulty in shooting.
Ideally I would've shot this using a Ruger LCP in .380ACP for an even better example of a common carry pistol. The ammo shortage being what it is, I'm not able to get my hands on enough ammunition in that caliber to do so.
Why Shoot This Confidence Course?
Most shooters I know go their entire lives without ever trying dedicated strong and weak and shooting. Many folks will tell you to train this in case you get shot in the hand or arm during a gun fight. A more realistic thought is if you break a bone or something similar during everyday life. Your skills won't matter much if your arm is in a sling or a cast. At least basic familiarity is leaps and bounds better than learning on the fly.
The same can be said about increasing target distances out past 7 yards, or having acceptable hit zones smaller than an entire B-27 target. How often do you see pistol shooting that resembles a shotgun blast at the range? Many people consider that to be sufficient, but a jury of your peers likely will not. Higher standards during your practice will help you perform at a higher level in the real world. If you get into a defensive encounter, will you feel better knowing that you are only capable of "minute of bad guy" group at seven yards? Or that you can keep rounds in an eight inch circle at ten yards? I think we all know the answer there.
Final Thoughts on the New Shooter 50 Round Confidence Course
Shooting this once won't produce somebody who is ready to pass the FBI qualification course. This will get their toes wet across a spectrum of shooting skills. Most people I put through this course have never fired a handgun before, or have less than 50 rounds through one casually. Results are always positive, with shooters thinking that they would never have been able to get those hits one handed or out to 7 and 10 yards. Especially after only a few dozen rounds. Use this to brush up on your skills, and to develop as a well rounded shooter. Once you can shoot this clean at prescribed distances, increase your distance and shorten the par times. From there, move onto our other skills and drills to continue your journey as a shooter!