At a recent class working with a group of professionals we discussed the difficulty of finding the time to sustain skills. This is a problem I see often, and I find myself fielding questions from folks about how to deal with the problem when not at the range on a regular basis.

Finding The Blanks

First off, what is your goal? Do you want to maintain your skills gained from a recent class? Are you getting ready for a qualification? Just trying to scrape the rust off? Everyone’s situation is different, and we all live busy lives with other demands competing for our time. Ask yourself how much time you reasonably need to maintain proficiency. This is the hardest part, because it forces you to take stock of all your responsibilities. If you were to sit down and outline your current schedule, you might find you have more time than you think. It may not show up as a big blank spot in your schedule, but how much time can you really spend watching TV or surfing the web? Once you have a better feel for the time you have available you can better outline a program.

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Narrow The Focus

Next, what is it that you want to practice? Probably a good place to start is live fire versus dry fire, but that’s not all. There are lots of other things you can do. How is your grip strength? Or maybe you need work on shoulder placement/alignment. Getting better doesn’t only entail “shooting”. Don’t get me wrong, getting to the range is incredibly valuable, but let’s be honest—realistically, range time for some of us may be spread out over longer periods. Taking an all-encompassing approach to your goal means you’re also working on building your proficiency without pulling the trigger.

The Commitment

Once you have a new outlook, and a better understanding of the big picture, you can sit down and commit your time and resources more accurately. The hope is that whatever you come up with you can stick with, come hell or high water. This is the hard part, but in the end, if whatever you come up with is realistic, you will have a better chance of sticking with it.

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Down and dirty

Here are some examples of twice a week practice with a visit to the range once a month. Remember the range plan is totally different and probably the subject of a different piece. I’ve determined that Tuesdays mid-morning I can spend 10 minutes and Friday late afternoon I’ve got 15 minutes. I’m going to commit to those 25 minutes a week for a month. That’s 100 minutes of dedicated practice a month, which over a year amounts to 1,200 minutes—or 20 hours—all without trips to the range. So, what do with my 10-minute Tuesday slot? I concentrate on sight acquisition. It doesn’t matter if it’s from the ready position or drawing from a holster, I just work on extending the weapon and focusing on the sights. Doesn’t even matter if I squeeze the trigger. All that matters is I spend that time refining my focus on the front sight.

I’m going to dedicate my Friday practice to working on things I know I’m weak on—maybe strong-hand only, or reloads, or drawing from concealment. My goal is to pick a task and stick with it for a month, resulting in a full 60 minutes dedicated to strengthening a weak area. Spread this out over a year and you’ll find that all of a sudden things are getting better . . . your range time becomes much more effective simply because you have gained momentum on the basics.

It almost goes without saying, but be sure to follow all safe practice procedures, which will redundancy and “muscle memory.” None of this is as hard as one might think . . . it just takes the effort.

Things like sight acquisition and strong- or weak-hand reloads can be practiced in the comfort of your home, without the need to even pull the trigger. Allocating small time slots during the week for practice can pay big dividends when it comes time for live-fire practice at the range.