Let’s say you have a firearm, have successfully received both safety and handgun operations training, learned the fundamentals of marksmanship, accessed a handgun range, acquired quality safety equipment, and now are alone on the range for the first time. What do you do?

A handgun shooting career is either a deliberately built pyramid of skill built on the knowledge derived from disciplined experience or it is a hodgepodge collection of unrelated events which will prevent the shooter from ever improving. To benefit from your time on the range you first must recognize that range time is self-education. It can be great fun but it can’t pointless. Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Record every shot to spot your errors. Keep a simple log of where rounds strike and any reason you have to account for the error: 3″ low left–overgripped.
  2. Limit the amount of rounds fired to those which you can shoot perfectly. We learn by the experience of applied knowledge. If you’re throwing boxes of ammo downrange, you’re probably unable to extract any knowledge from the experience. Ten or 20 recorded and controlled rounds beat 100 wild shots every time.
  3. Fire at an aiming point which appears no larger than your front sight tip. If during sighting, your front sight tip floats around on a black bullseye, how will you know exactly where you aimed and then accurately judge your results? Use a black marker and draw crosses on the blank side of a target. (Saves money too.)
  4. Begin at 3-5 yards. This eliminate the psychological problems associated with distance, as well as light and wind influences. The only problem occurs when shooters begin to drift focus onto the target before the round is fired but that can easily be defeated by camouflaging the background as described in my book. Shooting is not throwing a football, you don’t shoot “harder” for longer distances. However you shoot at 3 yards is the same way you shoot at 300 yards; only the aiming point changes.
  5. Stop before you are fatigued. Your range session should take no more than an hour including breaks between strings of fire, set-up and clean-up.
  6. Know what you ought to do before you arrive and do not be dragged into foolishness by the local gun nut. Do your training, whatever clean up the range requires, and flee.
  7. Review your range log, dry-fire at home and check your firing posture in a mirror.

The above is more fully explained in my fundamentals of marksmanship book, The Perfect Pistol Shot.