Despite the proliferation of responsible newly-armed citizens and the advances and emphasis placed on personal defense training in recent years, there are still a number of ranges throughout the country that have extremely restrictive rules on conduct at their ranges. These rules run the gamut from no movement (turning, advancing, etc.), to no drawing, and of course my favorite, the ever-nebulous “No Rapid Fire.” Ranges’ rationale for these rules vary, but usually involve some combination of insurance issues, bad experiences with idiots, curmudgeonly owners, and occasionally a fundamental misunderstanding of what realistic defensive firearms training actually involves (because they shot bulls-eye pistol all their life and they know how you should train for defense).
So what should you do if your range falls into this category? Well, I’ll fight my initial response of: “Find a new range.” I realize that switching ranges isn’t always possible, because good ones are getting harder to find, and new ones aren’t exactly springing up on a regular basis in most parts of the country, so you’ll have to find a work-around. You’ll end up having to work the skills you can’t do live, dry. For example, if you can’t work movement, work everything up to movement. Work your holster, work your reloads, work your rhythm. Then work your turning dry at your home.
Shooting skills build – from the fundamentals of marksmanship to shooting and moving in buddy teams or in a house, you have to master the level below before you can move on. And while practicing the skills live is the goal of every shooter, don’t underestimate the value of dry fire. If you can master the skills of drawing, sight acquisition, trigger manipulation, and recoil management and practice those live, adding a turn prior to drawing isn’t really the leap it sounds like and doesn’t require the ability to live fire to practice (although it’s a huge plus, and I’d seek it out).
Restrictions on drawing aren’t the end of the world either, although they hamper training more than movement restrictions. If your range prohibits drawing, work your presentation. In your draw stroke, I would argue that the distance between your compressed ready and the shot breaking is the most important element. That distance is where you pick up your sights, acquire your sight picture, and manipulate the trigger to get an accurate first shot on target. The movements from ready to grip/pull and grip/pull to center/compressed ready can be easily practiced dry. Start from the compressed ready and extend, with the goal of a shot breaking right as you reach full extension. Once you have that smooth, extend, and fire multiple shots to work recoil management and multiple target engagement.
If your range doesn’t allow rapid fire, work your fundamentals to get good shots as fast as possible within their time limit. Also, built a rapport with the owner and range master/RSO. If they see you there a lot and they see you acting responsibly, they may give you a little more leeway. It’s amazing the walls a little demonstrated competence can break down.
Work within your restrictions, but seek out other opportunities to practice, whether open range days, matches, or visiting instructors. Never underestimate the value of dry fire. Above all, know your restrictions and develop a plan before you head to the range. Turning money into noise is fun, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a better shooter. Having a realistic plan will help keep you focused on your goals and make the most of your time in spite of restrictive rules.
About the author
Joel is an 11 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.