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Episode 156 S4-32

Improving Your Pistol Skills


Special Guest:

Battle for the South Ch 32

Ben Branam

The team begins training for their mission into Las Vegas in the Battle for the South adventure. Pistol skills are something that need constant sharpening. Here to teach us some basic techniques to improve our pistol shooting skills is Ben Branam, host of the Modern Self Protection Podcast.

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The first thing you have to do when improving your pistol skills is make sure you know Jeff Cooper's Four Rules of Safety. Number one: All guns are always loaded (even if they are not they should be treated as if they are, at all times, no exceptions). Number two: Never let the muzzle cover anything, you are not willing to destroy. Number three: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are set on the target. Number four: Be sure of your target.

Make sure you adhere to dry fire safety rules as well! No ammunition should be present in the room at all and triple check everything to be sure it is void of ammunition. On the first shot, dry fire the gun at something that could withstand a bullet if there was one in the gun but there shouldn't be because you triple checked everything and took all the ammo out of the gun, right?

The first drill you should practice during dry-fire training works on trigger control: The Penny or Quarter drill (some people use a bullet casing). What you put on the barrel depends on the size of your barrel. It should be a challenge to keep the item balanced. Put the penny or quarter on the barrel of the gun and see if you can make it go click without the item you put on the gun moving. This drill was developed with a revolver in mind so the slide working back and forth can make this tricky. Practice with a partner and have them grab the item and reset it after you reset the slide. Switch off every five minutes to keep the shooter fresh and the placer awake.

Dry practicing is very important! 90% of your pistol shooting skills can improve with dryfire practice. The penny drill is designed to improve trigger pull. Traditionally people were taught to shoot off the pad of the finger. That was great for a 1911 but then modern guns came into play. When shooting a Glock or modern weapon it is best to shoot from the crease of the finger or "power crease". 

Another drill to improve your trigger pull (yes, it's that important!) is called the wall drill. Following the dry fire safety rules point your pistol at a white wall. Extend your arms and align your sight at one foot or closer from the wall. When you pull the trigger did the front site move? If it did, you better keep practicing. Your focus should stay on the one spot on the wall and the front site. This exercise isolates the grip and trigger press away form all of your other skills. You can also use a lazer on the barrel and see if it moves. This exercise will help you achieve longer, accurate shots.

Master dry fire skills and you'll be able to master the pistol. A pistol is much more of a challenge to be accurate with than a rifle. Some folks say that the only reason to use a pistol is in a last ditch effort to get back to your rifle.

The next drills you should practice are up-drills and presentation exercises. In this up-drill, start in the ready position. There are a few ready positions. Start with both hands on the gun and your arms extended at a forty five degree angle. Alternatively you can start at a compressed ready, which is when you collapse your elbows, pull them straight into yourself and bring the gun butt back towards yourself. This ready always keep the gun pointed at your target. You could also use a high compressed ready, where your elbows are out so that the gun stays higher and you are looking down the slide. The ready position you choose should be comfortable so you can stay in it for long periods of time.

From the ready you want to raise the pistol up at the target. As the gun is coming up press the trigger as soon as the sight aligns with the target. This should be one fluid motion with no pauses. Go very slow at first. If you go to fast, the pistol will bounce. Do not worry about pulling it from a holster at this point; work on alignment only. Once you master the alignment process, then try different angles: to the left and right. Make your body go slow and learn the muscle memory. The technique will get faster as you master it. If you go fast to the point of reckless you will never get better. Smooth is fast/fast is smooth.

The next drill is to practice getting a grip on the gun in the holster or wherever you put your pistol when you do not need it. This is situational, it could be a holster, a purse, etc. Where ever you carry your pistol on a daily basis is where you need to start. Start at a compressed ready, figure out your drawstroke and go with it. Think about economy of motion and straight lines. If you can get the muzzle on the bad guy as soon as possible and make the muzzle go straight at the bad guy, you are doing good. Get a good grip on your pistol and into firing position as soon as you can. You don't want to drop your pistol or shoot yourself!

Some folks advise to start firing as you are bringing your gun up to the line of sight. Ben says it depends on the situation. As a concealed carrier, you need to be very accurate to avoid accidental injuries. Any time you can get the gun up to your face in a two hand hold, see the sight, and pull the trigger, that is best. You can practice from your hip but you want good shots and you can't guarantee them from there. The first thing you want to do is survive the incident by any means necessary. However, the second  consideration is you will need to live with what you did. How would you feel if you shot someone's kid on accident? With practicing the basics, your shot should take under a second to make. Practice a lot so you can be accurate if the situation ever calls for you to pull your weapon.

Once you can get your gun up, you need to start learning to control recoil and fire multiple shots accurately. If the target is a car length away or closer just grip it and rip it. The opponent is too close for comfort and you need to get as many shots down range as fast as possible. If the target is a car length or further away, slow your firing to be more accurate. This is called controlling your splits. Practice both quickly and with pace: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4. You should have about a half a second per round. Slowing yourself down and running the gun at this pace will conserve your ammo and rapidly increase your accuracy. Don't ever pull the trigger as fast as the gun will run the bullets, unless the situation absolutely calls for it.


Practice your basics to master the pistol! 

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Battle for the South Ch 32

Ben Branam

"I’ve loved shooting since the first time I pulled a trigger at age 8. During high school I volunteered at my local PD where I learned more about handguns. I joined the Marine Corps Infantry after high school. I was a reserve for 10 years with 2 years of active duty and 1 tour in Iraq in 2003. I worked for an armored car company for almost 7 years mostly in the LA area of California. During all that I also got a degree in law enforcement and went through two different police academies. Being a cop never worked out, but through it all I’ve always been training people to fight. I spent all of 2008 in Iraq again as a private contractor defending a base. There I got to teach and train with the US Army and others. Now I want to bring that experience and my joy of teaching to others. I love teaching firearms and want the good people of the world to be able to defend themselves. It’s now my mission and purpose in life.." -Ben Branam

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