5 Drills To Improve Weapon Handling

These five range drills will improve your shooting, moving, weapon manipulation, reloading, and transitioning from one weapon to another. To up the ante, use a stopwatch to time the drill to improve stress inoculation.

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The Shooting Square helps trains you on weapon manipulation and shooting on the move. Illustration: Bob ParkerThe Shooting Square helps trains you on weapon manipulation and shooting on the move. Illustration: Bob Parker

Here are a five range drills for your consideration. They involve shooting, moving, weapon manipulation, reloading, and transitioning from one weapon to another. To up the ante, use a stopwatch to time the drill to improve stress inoculation. None of these requires a great deal of ammunition. Any of your weapons (pistol, rifle, subgun, or shotgun) can be used in these drills.

All can be modified to fit your training needs. Configuration and distances can also be changed to fit your range facilities.

Weak Hand Shooting

Both police and high-speed military operators have reported in a Close quarters combat (CQB) scenario where they were fighting for their lives that they resorted to what they do fastest and best, which was strong side shooting. It's human nature when the enemy is upon you. But shooting with the weak hand is something we also need to consider and teach, as injury may necessitate weak hand/side shooting.

This drill focuses on weapon manipulations and technique. It can be practiced with limited ammunition. Most weak side shooting drills are static—they're limited to the standing position from a designated distance.

Have your officers shoot from the weak side in various shooting positions, including standing, kneeling, or prone. Try various non-traditional positions. Use a four-step barricade to facilitate unorthodox positions.

Instruct officers to use their weak hand to change and load magazines. Work on clearing weapon malfunctions by using dummy rounds. Have officers practice transitioning from rifle to handgun.

Once the shooters have done these tasks from static positions, instruct them to do them while on the move. Don't burn a lot of ammo.

Bounding Over Watch

This drill will reinforce teamwork, while firing and moving. You'll need a fairly wide range of at least 100 yards. This works well with two teams of two shooters with rifles. You can modify this to your situation.

Retain your muzzle discipline during this drill. Keep your fingers off the trigger with safeties on, as shooters on the other team will be down range at times.

Here's how it works. The team on the left will be the cover team; they will be shooting. The team on the right will be moving down range. As they are moving, the left team will provide cover fire on targets directly in front of them.

The team moving will advance 10 yards down range, stop and set up, communicate to the other team that they are "clear," and provide covering fire as the team on the left then bounds past them by 10 yards. Then, they set up and provide cover fire as the others advance. We keep repeating this process until we get within 5 yards of the targets.

To be clear, both the right- and left-side teams have their own targets on their side of the range. There is no firing across the range.

You can repeat this drill and have the teams move backward from the 10 to the 100 yard line. They aren't walking or running backward, but turning and moving rapidly to the rear. The other team is covering their egress.

When the teams turn to move back, they should use an outside peel. You'll turn outward so their muzzle never has an opportunity to laser the other team. Muzzles are down, trigger fingers are indexed, and safeties are on when moving. Don't let the moving team advance more than 10 yards past the shooting team. We keep the angle as close to 180 degrees as possible. In the real world we will work with our environment.

This drill is an effective way to move from cover to cover or over open ground. You'll learn to fight through an ambush and advance rapidly on a structure with an active shooter. It also provides a method to extract yourself and your team from an untenable situation or a rescue operation.

The Shooting Square

A square should be delineated with traffic cones or barricade tape.

The shooter starts with three rifle magazines loaded with seven rounds each and a loaded pistol. The shooter needs 28 rounds to complete the drill. The shooter must use all 21 rifle rounds.

This can be a square or rectangle and can be of whatever dimension you want. Distance will vary according to the shooter's abilities.

The shooter moves forward from the 1-2 corner; there are two targets in that lane. On the instructor's command of "gun," the shooter puts two rounds on each target. There will be two commands of "gun" while moving forward.

At the 2-3 corner, the shooter moves right, firing two rounds at each of the three targets, which should be 10 yards to the front of the square. At the 3-4 corner, the shooter moves backward, firing two rounds at each of the two targets in that lane. The shooter will do this twice on command. At the 4-1 corner, the shooter moves across, firing two rounds at each of the three targets at the front of the box.

The shooter makes the decision when to reload and when to transition. If the shooter's rifle malfunctions during the run, he must transition to the pistol for the remainder of the drill. Along with the weapon manipulation and shooting on the move, the shooter is on the clock (for stress inoculation). You can cut the round count down to 14 rounds by changing the rounds fired at each target to one. For more advanced shooters, this drill can be done in pairs to foster teamwork.

Four-Step Shooting Barricade

The four-step shooting barricade is constructed of plywood with PVC used for supports (2-by-4-inch planks can be substituted). It's light and portable. The four steps are approximately one foot in height, stepping up to four feet. The entire apparatus is 4-by-4 feet.

Two shooting ports are cut into it—one at the bottom and one in the middle. Each port is 10-by-5 inches. On the middle port, you can attach a section of chain-link fencing, which is not as easy to shoot through. Another option is a horizontal 1-by-10-inch shooting slot. From the sides, steps and shooting ports, this barricade gives you at least eight non-primary shooting positions from which the shooter must engage the targets.

You can use one or multiple targets and designate the number of rounds that must be placed on each target from each shooting position.

Sniper Shot (Brain In a Box)

You'll need a small cardboard box approximately the size of a human head. Cut out half of the top from the middle. Insert an inflated balloon that's smaller than the inner dimensions of the box. There should be clearance on the sides, top, and bottom. Tie a string to the balloon and hang your target from the top piece of a target stand.

The shooter is given one round in a short time span to shoot the slightly swinging head and disrupt the central nervous system so that the suspect is unable to detonate his IED. 

What shooters will see if they hit the box but miss the smaller balloon, is that the box will not drop as the balloon remains inflated because its diameter is larger than the hole you cut at the top of the box.  Hit the head and the "brain" inside and the box will drop.

This drill emphasizes the critical nature of shot placement. A peripheral head shot may not immediately stop the suspect from killing.

Even with a dead solid perfect shot, there are no guarantees.

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Lieutenant (Ret.)
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