Liven up your shooting sessions.
Practice makes perfect. We’ve all heard it. We know it’s true. To truly master a task, be it playing the piano, putting a ball through a hoop or hitting a bull’s-eye, you have to put in the time to build the skills and muscle memory required to be proficient.
Be it an everyday carry pistol for personal protection, a favorite hunting long gun or a variety of firearms from your personal collection, repetitive shooting practice builds familiarity that can make the difference in a high-pressure shooting situation. But let’s face it. Practicing something the same way, time after time, sucks. Even something as much fun as the shooting range gets stale if all you ever do is punch paper targets. This can be particularly true for young and new shooters, the very people who can benefit most from extra practice time.
The answer? Make range time fun again. Here are a few ways to make that happen:
Punching paper is fine, but stopping after each shot to reel it in, walk to the target or peer through a spotting scope to check your impact point takes a lot of time and isn’t that much fun.
Using targets such as inflated balloons of various sizes to accommodate various skill levels, different sizes of clay shotgun targets, or even ice cubes of varying dimensions let you know in an instant whether your aim was true.
Don’t want the hassle of blowing up balloons or cleaning up clay pigeon shards? Look into any of the steel reactive targets on the market today. Designs run the gamut from dueling tree models that flip targets to either side of a central post when hit to simple plate targets that flip backward with a bullseye. Many of these can be reset by shooting a trip target or by pulling a rope attached to a reset lever, saving the shooter a trip downrange. Steel gongs that emit a satisfying twang with each hit let you know instantly if your aim was true and are a good choice for long-range practice when you don’t want to travel downrange after each shot to check your target.
A little friendly competition makes everything more interesting. Set up a match with a buddy or a family member to see who can be the first to clear a row of targets.
Here are a few target games my family enjoys shooting:
Matching skills with a shooting buddy brings out the competitive juices. That can be a fine thing in any sport, but this isn’t about a ball and a bat. This is about firearms. Always practice range safety no matter how heated the contest.
No one likes showing up at the range to find it littered with trash. That includes empty ammo boxes left behind on indoor ranges and expended brass that hasn’t been swept forward of the firing line. Outdoors, always pick up your targets, including tiny bits of balloons, clay targets, tin cans and other refuse once your shooting session is over. You should also pick up your empty brass and take it with you when you leave.
By introducing some of these shooting games to your practice schedule, you’ll shoot more often, stay at the range longer, and you’ll have far more fun than you will repeating the same boring drills over and over on the same boring target. Over time, that extra practice—practice that shakes things up a bit, makes you study the target and your sight alignment more and has you perfecting your trigger squeeze—will pay off in improved shooting skills for the long run, and next to the fun, that’s the biggest benefit of all.