I've been told that I'm the fun police. This is something that I can seem like, as I tend to err on the side of practicality in most instances. As a forewarning, this article is going to seem very fun police-y. I've seen a ton of people who practice with gear that they don't actually carry, or in clothing that they don't wear in reality. I'm going to discuss why it's important to practice with the gear you actually carry.
Now, I'm not gonna tell you to never shoot "fun guns", or that you only shoot in the clothing you wear in public. I have my fun guns (HK VP70 & Colt 1911), and I certainly enjoy shooting them. However, there is certainly a time and place for the fun stuff, but we need to be able to separate the impractical from the practical. Now, we can still enjoy using our practical gear, it doesn't just have to be "nose to the grindstone" stuff.
Here, we'll be covering your clothing, and the carry gear. This may seem strange to talk about apparel, but it's an important aspect to practice. Oh, and if you feel called out in the sections to follow, you're welcome.
All too often, I see people who practice in clothing that is not what they actually wear. I've seen so many people who show up to practice in tactical BDUs, giant cargo pants, or with no cover garments at all. While your clothing doesn't impact your ability to shoot once the gun is out, it certainly effects the act of deployment a firearm. What if you wear a suit for work, but you never actually practice drawing and shooting from your concealment rig?
Obviously, you should be dryfiring in the clothing you actually wear. It costs you nothing, but will get the reps in on deploying the handgun. Now, going out and getting some live fire repetitions in is a good idea too. We can accomplish a lot with dryfire, but putting things to the live fire test will really show what works, and what doesn't. I've made it a point to go out and shoot in my normal street clothes, and the gym clothing that I wear fairly often. My carry method is different between the two "outfits" I wear, so I make it a point to practice in both. If you have different outfits for your life, it wouldn't hurt to practice in them every so often.
I spend 99% of my time shooting with my normal clothes on, either the khakis pants I wear, or the gym clothing I sport. I will hop in the LARP gear once in a blue moon, but I keep it practical for the clothing most of the time.
The gear. This is an area that a lot of people compensate with. People will show up to practice with guns that are much easier to use than the ones they carry. It may be much larger than their typical carry gun, or maybe lighter. Sometimes they'll bring extremely overt carry gear, gear that they only wear at the range or at a class. Now, building skill is the goal, but if we use unrealistic gear as a crutch, it's going to hurt us in the long run.
There are certainly gear exceptions here. Guns like full size steel DA revolvers and large 22lr pistols are great training aids, but we (likely) aren't carrying them. There's also nothing wrong with shooting easier to shoot guns than the ones we carry, however, we need to make sure we get the reps in with the guns we actually rely on.
If you carry a gun, you should be practicing with that gun as much as you can afford to, with the carry system you have for it. The gun, holster, belt, carry location, and other accoutrement are what I factor as "gear". If we carry a Glock 48 appendix, we should be practicing with appendix draws with that gun when we shoot. If you pocket carry a snubby, we should be working on deploying the gun from the pocket. Don't show up and blast with a 2011 from a big drop leg holster, but then never shoot the appendix SIG 365 that you actually carry.
It goes without saying, but we should be combining the two aforementioned sections. Shooting in the clothing we actually wear, with the guns and gear that we actually carry. I do it fairly often, and depending on your attire, I'd recommend that you do it too. When we start to add in factors, we can sooner see our failure points. Maybe you can draw and shoot your carry pistol, but once you do it in your gym clothes or other daily attire, you may realize that it is a lot different. Maybe your holster or gun isn't really working as well as you thought.
Now, I'm someone who puts their money where their mouth is, so I go out and practice with my realistic clothes and gear all of the time. Since it has been a bit more pleasant, I've been shooting from my gym concealment setup quite often.
I've personally found that I really need to yank my cover garments up, so that I can deploy the gun in a safe and clean manner. On top of that, I've found that with my Covert Belt, forming my grip on the pistol is a little harder than from a traditional belt setup. However, these are important issues to work through, and I'm glad to practice with them in mind. A full playlist of my "gym clothes" shooting drills is available here.
You may find issues relating between clothing and gear choices, or that everything runs smoothly. I've found drills the like Rangemaster Baseline Assessment to be great when trying to test out the gear & clothing combinations.
Getting Good With What You've Got On You
It is important to practice, regardless of clothing or gear choice. However, practice with practical clothing and gear is better. If you can bake in some shooting trips while using the gear you actually use, it'll be for the best. When you make your practice sessions more practical, you'll learn to love it.
For further reading, check out my other articles in the "Importance Of" series: