As a new shooter, it’s important to practice, and to practice well. Beyond simply becoming familiar with your firearm, training should involve utilizing a variety of skills and honing each of them individually, as well as exposing yourself to a variety of variables (such as weather, environment, objectives, and even the firearm you’re using). Doing so will result in a culmination of prowess and skill that will leave you all the more prepared for facing threats outside of the range. With that in mind, I decided to write about my range days as a sort of ‘field journal’ following my progress as a shooter (which will almost always take place with Greg, my personal instructor who also happens to be the wonderful guy I’m dating). It will entail my journey and include the things I focus on as time passes; that way, others who are wanting to learn (whether they are fresh blood like me, or those more seasoned than I) can follow to see what kind of techniques and drills they might try out to spice up their own time at the range.

Since I’ve shot enough times over the last year or so, I am starting to become pretty familiar with the basics. It took quite a few months for me to get a grip (literally) that was confident and well-placed, a stance that was natural instead of corrected, and a sight picture that didn’t take two decades to perfect. Another thing about me is that I’m a perfectionist; instead of rushing into things before I’m ready, I prefer to take everything slow and try it out enough that I can be as close to perfect as I can before I try to advance any further. That meant that, when I first started shooting, I’d take a good 10 seconds or more between each shot fired because I was petrified of doing something wrong. (Nevermind how much I’d never hear the end of it if I couldn’t even shoot on target – regardless of how new I was to shooting, I felt strongly that it would always be attributed to my gender.) Looking at myself now, I’ve come a long way – but I know that’s just the beginning, and I’ve got quite a ways to go.

Getting comfortable with a gun in my hands was the first step; now that I’ve achieved that, my training can move on to implementing what I’ve learned into a more practical setting. As a result, today’s objective was working on speed while not sacrificing accuracy.

Warm up
3 mags, 5 rounds each
7 yards
Own pace

I started out by practicing my reloads and sight picture, things I’ve been focusing on lately. Even with my relatively big hands, I had been having issues with the mag release and getting the magazine to eject fully; so what I was practicing was not only rotating the gun ever so slightly to the left to assist my thumb in reaching the mag release, but to bring it in so that I can reload even more efficiently when the firearm is in my “workspace” (just a little ways in front of my eyes, so that my peripheral vision is still focused ahead, instead of down).

Travis Haley cadence drill
3 mags, 5 rounds each
7 yards

For those of you who aren’t familiar, this drill involves counting in your head to steady the rhythm of your firing to quell the instinct to wait or hesitate before pulling the trigger. If you are one of the types who still jumps at the sound/feel of a firing gun, this might be your drill (and believe me, I speak from experience, though I’ve worked through it mostly by now). As you fire each round, you count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand…” and so on so that you fire on the number (one, two, three, and so on) between each “thousand.” This helps you smooth out the rhythm between each trigger press. You obviously don’t have to do this drill super speedy, since you are counting in between each round (and no, you don’t have to say it out loud, just count it out mentally), but the ultimate goal is to help yourself become quicker.

I found that this drill really kicks into gear what I already know – that when pressured to shoot in a timely manner, sometimes my accuracy, grip, and sight picture are sacrificed ever so slightly in my haste to get “ready.” After an adjustment to my grip, and a reminder to point my index finger on my firing hand at the target to assist in getting that initial sight picture quickly, I was seeing improvement to my speed.

Once you’ve worked through your “thousands” stage a couple times, you’ll move on to counting “one and two and three and four and five and” – again, with each numeral representing one round being fired. This stage will have you firing just a little faster, simply because it takes less time to say “and” than it does to say “thousand,” meaning you will naturally gain speed ever so slightly than you did when counting thousands. Again, the goal is to not go insanely fast. These drills are meant to build your speed and skill by increments.

When you are comfortable and notice improvement shooting your “ands,” it’s time to hit the final stage. Now, you are simply going to count out “one two three four five,” firing a round with each count. You can see now that this stage is the culmination of your efforts, so you’re pretty much just going nonstop fire after fire at this stage. Enough practice will see your speed and precision increasing by the time you complete this stage.

Feel free to repeat any or all stages of this drill as necessary. If I feel like my progress has gone backwards a little, I like taking a step back and perhaps repeating a prior stage to target whatever issue I’m facing, so I’m not trying to fix the problem AND increase my speed all at once (for me, it’s all about focus). Even after one day with this drill, I noticed a drastic improvement in my speed, and I promise you will too.

If you’ve got time, hearing Travis explain this drill in full (which is also known as the Venti 100 drill, something I affectionately laugh at since I’m also a Starbucks barista) is an excellent step-by-step on why it’s so effective. There’s a wealth of good information here, and using it to your advantage will see your skills increase phenomenally.