One of the best investments I've made in handgun shooting is my shot timer. Because I used to be limited to a public indoor range where a shot timer was useless I waited about 4 years to get the timer. Until then my success when conducting range drills was measured by accuracy alone. Whether you're stuck at an indoor range, you're a new shooter who needs to build your marksmanship skills before investing in a timer, or you just don't have the cash to pick up a timer (+/- $150) right now, these rewarding live-fire drills will add purpose to your range session without breaking the bank.
Dummy and Ball
This drill combines dry-fire with live-fire to help you overcome issues such as flinching, anticipation, and their symptoms. You will need live ammunition as well as 5 or more dummy rounds or snap caps. Have your range buddy, significant other, etc. load a magazine with dummy rounds and hide a live round in the mix. When conducting this drill you will be focused on getting a perfect trigger press while dry-firing the dummy rounds and should attain a perfect shot when you unknowingly fire the live round.
|9mm Snap Caps|
Ball and Dummy
This drill is the same as Dummy and Ball, except your magazine will be loaded with live rounds and a dummy round hidden in the mix. This is a good drill if you need to diagnose an issue. The shooter will become comfortable making his/her live-fire mistake, but once he/she gets to the dummy round the issue will be much more apparent with no distracting bang, muzzle flash, or slide cycling. The video below from Crimson Trace explains further.
You need 50 live rounds, a holster, a spare magazine carrier, 2 magazines, and a target printed from pistol-training.com for this drill. The target has 10 2" dots and instructions for the 7 "sub-drills" you will conduct within the dots. Start at 3 yards. Once you regularly score a perfect 50/50, move your target to the 4 or 5 yard line. Three yards doesn't sound like much, but this drill is much more challenging than it seems. Dot Torture covers skills such as basic marksmanship, draw-stroke, single-hand shooting, and slidelock reloads, but accuracy is king. It took me about 4 years to regularly clean it at 3 yards. I'm now at 5 yards and can clean it on a good day, but not regularly. I sometimes perform the Dot Torture drill on a standard-sized silhouette target where I can move at full-speed, too. View the demo below with Chris from Defensive Concepts NC.
This drill is supposed to be performed with a 2 second par time, but I did it with no timer for several years and still felt that it was worthwhile.You need a magazine loaded with 6 live rounds and your carry, duty, or competition holster for this one. It is usually performed on the 6x11" rectangular A zone of a USPSA target or the 8" circular -0 zone of an IDPA target. You can purchase these targets many places online or you can fashion a USPSA A zone out of an 8 1/2x11" sheet of paper and substitute an 8" paper plate for an IDPA -0 zone.
|On an IDPA Target the 8" circle in the center is the "-0 zone".|
|On a USPSA Target the 6x11" rectangle in the center is the "A zone".|
Statistically, your chances of emptying a magazine and going to slidelock during a self-defense incident are very low. However, if you're looking to compete, attend training classes, or hit the shooting range regularly you should be able to fire your gun to slidelock, replace the empty magazine, and get it back into play quickly and consistently. For this drill you will need an empty magazine in your gun, a live round in the chamber, a spare magazine loaded with at least 1 round, and a spare magazine carrier. Fire the chambered round and the gun should go to slidelock on the empty magazine. Press the magazine release to drop the empty magazine, while simultaneously bringing the gun back towards your body and reaching for your spare magazine with your weak hand. Insert the spare magazine into the magazine well and send the slide home by thumbing the slide stop/release with your strong or weak hand thumb or by grasping the slide serrations. Fire the newly chambered round. You may eventually want to do this drill with a timer, but beginning without a timer will still be beneficial for building muscle-memory. Below is a video of a slidelock reload from the William Brown Handgunnery YouTube page.
There are countless drills that you can perform with or without a timer. The drills I outlined above are live-fire drills from which I personally benefited before purchasing a shot timer. You can also modify these or any other drill to meet your needs. The options are really endless. The important thing is to give your range sessions purpose by shooting to some sort of standard.