March 25, 2013

Practice During Droughts

As you may have noticed, there's an ammo shortage going on. I've heard reports of 550 round boxes of .22LR going for $100, and at the local Wal Mart the ammo shelves are barer than a cheerleader's midriff at a Spring Break kegger. Hell I've had more ammo in my car than I've seen on some dealers shelves, and I could probably carry more on my bike than most stores have in stock right now.

That makes practice an expensive proposition. But there are alternatives:

As Mr. Huffman once noted, having your guns hidden doesn't do much good since you can't practice with them. I disagree that a whole lot of practice is needed; once you establish the basics of firearm handling and shooting that'll get you by for 98% of any situations where you might reach for your guns. Indeed, the benefit of firearms over say bows or spears or swords is that you don't have to spend hours a day practicing to become proficient or at least effective.

That's not saying practice is a bad thing (unless you're practicing bad habits), just that once you do establish some proficiency with the basics it'll cover 98% of your problems that can be solved with a firearm. (Course the remaining 2% are a real drag, and would merit a lot of practice).

But in general the more you practice (correctly) the better. With ammo being quite spendy and in some cases unobtainable, there are some alternatives to hitting a range and converting dollars into smoke and noise.

Dry Fire. All the caveats apply (be triply sure the firearm is unloaded, that snap caps are used when necessary, and the firearm is pointed in a direction where a hole wouldn't be catastrophic) but it's a good way to help with the fundamentals of sight picture as well as trigger control. It's not a substitute for actual fire (though nothing is) but it's better than nothing.

Air Soft/BB/Pellet guns. Not quite the same as a cartridge based arm but ammo is available, and you can usually set up to practice safely in your own home.

Area 51. It's an arcade game (but also available for other platforms) and certainly no substitute for a real firearm in terms of recoil or trigger control, but it does help establish sight picture, as well as a bit of hand-eye coordination since all the targets are moving. For a couple of quarters it'll help a bit when you can't make it to the range, or can't afford to go to the range.

NRA High Power Competition. It's more a simulator than a video game per se, and it centers around High Power matches, but it's not bad for what it is. See for yourself:

There are numerous first person shooter and third person shooter video games, such as Call of Duty and Halo (I was always partial to Medal of Honor myself) which do nothing for actual gun handling as they're all mouse and keyboard or joystick controlled, but do aid to some degree with sight alignment and the hand-eye coordination necessary for hitting moving targets. (though it'll aggravate you that the game mechanics usually prevent an accurate usage of weapons - i.e. a Garand having less range than a K98 Mauser, or a Garand having less knock down power at close range than a .45, etc.)

Distance estimation. Especially for rifelry this is a very important thing to have a grasp of. But you can increase your skill in this virtually anyplace where you can check the distance to an object after you estimate it. If you have a laser range finder keep it with you the next time you go for a hike, or are just walking around. Spot an object, estimate the distance then verify to see how close you were. Over time this will help your estimations become more precise, and that will pay off when you're firing beyond point blank range at a target of unknown distance.

Bug-A-Salt. It ain't quite like a round of Sporting Clays, but it should help with the hand-eye coordination as well as leading a target. Not to mention ridding your house of flying insects.

None are great on their own, but hell; when you have to slap down a Benjamin to get a big box of .22's even Duck Hunt begins to have some training value.

This isn't all inclusive and as I keep stating none of these are an actual substitute for correctly practicing with a real firearm (or even an AR!) but if the budget is looking a bit tight and the ammo shelves are getting a bit roomy then some or all of these may help a little. And some may even be fun.

Posted by Publicola at March 25, 2013 02:12 AM | TrackBack

I'd like to also suggest: black powder.

If you've got a decent black powder gun or two, lead ball and real BP usually isn't the first thing to be sold out.

Posted by: Nate at March 25, 2013 03:45 PM
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