My Range Won’t Let Me: The Theory Behind Your Range Time

Posted on December 7, 2011 by


The following post is an excerpt from My Range Won’t Let Me, an eBook discussing the issues that most of us face in trying to train realistically and effectively in restrictive environments. To read the rest of the article, you can download the book when it becomes available this January.

Mostly, I want this book to be full of practical tools and recommendations for a realistic, comprehensive training regimen. But to do that effectively we need to establish some principles – some ground rules, if you will, for what a good practice session should be. These principles are realism, comfort,  and efficiency.


Realism, sometimes called “integrity”, means that your training corresponds to the real world as much as possible. Beyond this, it also requires that it correspond to your real world. There are plenty of schools out there offering “real-world” skills practiced by elite, high-speed tactical teams. These skills may be helpful if you are storming an embassy to free hostages with a fully-equipped assault team at your back. But they may be worse than useless if you are trying to survive a street mugging or a violent flash mob with that Ruger LCP you keep in your pocket because it’s so convenient.

In order to have realism in your personal training, you need to practice with your gear in as real a configuration as possible. This is the facet of realism known as consistency. For example, one of the first questions I will ask a new shooter in helping them develop a personal training regimen is: how do you plan on carrying a reload?

Even the most expensive gun/ammunition combinations are capable of failing to stop a threat or failing to operate. Carrying a reload gives you a chance of getting back in the fight before your carry gun becomes a very expensive paperweight. What I usually find is that most shooters haven’t given it very much thought. The reason? The only time they’ve ever needed to reload their gun is from the shooting bench.

Reloading from the bench is faster, more convenient, and often less embarrassing than reloading from a pocket or concealment pouch. But practicing this way in no way prepares us for reloading our handgun when our life may depend upon it. Once I’ve explained this to the shooter, they can determine how they want to carry a reload. That method then becomes the way they are going reload their gun in training every single time.

While reloading is just one example, thinking this way about realism and integrity in our training can allow us to establish certain guidelines for effective training:

  • The skillset being trained should be realistic – meaning it’s a skill that I need for the situations I am most likely to be in. That’s not to say that less-likely scenarios don’t have a place in your training. But they should occupy a proportionally lower place in your priorities given that you have a limited amount of range time and a limited amount of money to spend on ammunition.
  • The techniques you develop should be techniques that are useful in real gunfights. It is important to understand that these same techniques may not necessarily increase your accuracy or improve your IDPA scores. More on this later.
  • The gear you train with should be the gear that you will be using. If five days a week you’re carrying a J-Frame and a Speed Strip, then that particular platform/reload combination should get the lion’s share of your practice time. “Fun” guns have a place too, and we’ll talk about that later, but most of our training needs to be done with the gear we are most likely to have with us when the unthinkable happens.
  • Defensive-quality ammunition can be expensive, but as much as possible we should practice with ammunition that simulates the same recoil and muzzle flash as the ammunition that we carry. Later on in this book we’ll talk about some alternatives, such as handloading, that can quite literally get you more bang for your buck.