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Against the Clock

When you go to the range, do you shoot your weapon or do you train with your weapon?  And if you do train, is it quantifiable?  A lot of people go to the range to train and expend a lot of rounds (read money) putting holes in paper.  Are they getting their money’s worth?  I can’t speak for everyone, but I would like to help you get the most out of your time and money.

When I speak of training, I am speaking about using your firearm in a lifesaving/taking manner.  In defense of yourself, your family or your fellow citizen from the wolves.  It isn’t to say that, in the content below, you can’t find something applicable to your next deer hunt, but this is for the winner take all confrontation that we train for and hope never occurs.

At the beginning, I mentioned quantifiable.  What do I mean by this?  Well, is your training quantifiable?  That last draw from the concealed felt really smooth and fast.  Was it fast?  Was it faster than the last time?  Was it your fastest yet?  That drill you just ran engaging multiple targets, did you just shoot it more accurately than the last time?  We want that balance of speed and accuracy.

How do we quantify the results of our training?  One way, and the most inexpensive, is with clean (at least initially) paper targets.  Why do I mention paper targets?  They tell the truth of your bullet impacts.  While steel targets have their place, and we will touch on them later, paper shows you hits.  When I say clean targets, I mean ones that aren’t chewed up.  If you were just testing your patterning of your 12 gauge on that target, it is time to paste up a fresh one before you do any pistol or rifle work.  We want to see hits.

Shot timer 2 targets

There are a lot of great targets out there.  The one produced by Viking Tactics comes immediately to mind.  It is of a skeleton and distinctly shows target zones not based on IDPA or IPSC scoring, but on our anatomy.  Incapacitation coming from shutting down the central nervous system, blood loss – the heart, and immobilization via the pelvic girdle.  They are great targets and reiterate why and where we are targeting.

Do you need to go buy these or any other targets?  No, not at all.  I have spent many days at the range with sheets of printer paper and 3×5 cards stapled to cardboard.  What we are looking for is a clean score-able target.  I want to be able to see where my hits are and I want to have a way of judging what is a good hit and what isn’t.  Did my bullet go where I wanted it to go? Did it still impact an acceptable distance from where I wanted it to go?

To save on targets, bring yourself a roll of masking tape to patch holes.  Or you can bring a pen to put a line through your holes so that you know which are fresh hits.  Conversely, depending on your skill and/or distance you are working from your target, cut out the target zones of your target.  With this method, you are only marking your misses (hopefully none).  This is especially helpful when you are working closer and well within your general level of accuracy, and really pushing the speed envelope.

Speaking of speed…  How do we quantify time in our training?  With a pro-timer.  For those unfamiliar, a pro-timer is something that will give an auditory signal to let the shooter know to begin the drill/firing.  The pro-timer then keeps track of the shots fired and the times of those shots fired in relation to all your shots, as well as the start of the drill.  What this does is allows you to truly gauge the time element of your drills.

pro timer

The pro-timer offers so much for the shooter.  For one, it is no longer a matter of how fast you can draw from the concealed when you decide to draw.  It is how fast can I accomplish this action when it isn’t on my schedule.  Unless you are telepathic, someone will do or say something that you will key off of, which leads you to bring your weapon to bear.  Regardless of how turned on and situationally aware we are, our actions are driven by our surroundings.

Having an audible que that is coming unexpectedly creates stress.  Something we aren’t in control of.  Pro-timers will have a random function.  This allows you to train on your own, but at the same time, not knowing when the que will come.  When you press the button while it is in its random mode, the que will come usually between 2 and 4 seconds later.  Hit the button and then it is out of your hands.  You then have to do your part and beat the clock.

The pro-timer, like the clean target, doesn’t lie.  Are you faster or slower than last time?  There is a definitive answer on its screen.  This allows for you to actually see measurable progress.


But a pro-timer and a fresh paper target are only part of the equation.  What are the other variables?  This you have to decide for yourself.  Are you running drills that have an emphasis on trigger control and multiple targets or are you working on speed from the holster or maybe reloads?

Whatever you are working on, write it down, spell it out, create a log and revisit it from time to time.  For example, I want to see how fast I can draw from the concealed and engage a target with two rounds to the chest.  Ok, let’s flesh that out.  How far am I from the target?  7 yards we’ll say.  What is acceptable accuracy for me shooting at a targets chest?  How about 5” by 5”, this still creates a reasonable target should the threat not be squared up to me.  (Think smaller than bigger, in this world you are responsible for every bullet that leaves your weapon)  What pistol are we using and what holster…?

trent with pro timer

So now we compile all of this information and we have a quantifiable drill.  Our pro timer will show us our speed within the confines of the drill we have set up.  Our paper target will show us our accuracy within this drill.  Now we just work at it.  If we are fast and miss, slow it down.  If you are getting all your hits, speed it up.  When your rounds start to drift, reign it in a bit.  Find that balance.  Log it in, revisit it and improve.  Shooting is a journey and a perishable skill.

Another great use of a pro-timer is prove outs.  Maybe you are working on transitioning from your rifle to your pistol.  With this in mind, prove it out for yourself.  What is faster and at what distance?  For example, if it takes me X seconds to reload my rifle but only Y seconds to transition to my pistol, should I transition to my pistol?  Again, create the drill.  How far is the target and what is acceptable accuracy?  With this in mind, if I am only 5 yards from the target and my rifle goes dry, it is then faster for me to transition to my pistol and engage the threat.  What if my rifle goes dry while my target is 28 yards away?  Am I proficient enough to engage that target with my pistol, knowing I can at least bring it to bear quicker?  Or am I better served reloading my rifle and reengaging?  A pro-timer will answer these questions for you.

What pro-timer should I use?  There are a number of pro-timers out there.  Some offer some cool features and some are fairly simple.  Most are pretty user-friendly once you get acquainted with them.  There are also some Apps you can download for smartphones that act as pro-timers.  I have had limited experience with them, but they do offer an option at a lower price, some are even free.

On a side note, earlier I mentioned steel targets.  Let me say here briefly with regards to safety; use reputable steel targets and shoot them in the manner they were intended to be used.  Soft or pitted steel will ruin your day in a heartbeat.  That being said, steel targets have a wonderful property…  …instant feedback!  It is so gratifying to hear that round impact.  The downside of steel is that you generally don’t see the rounds impacting.  Because of this, they tend to shine more in working on speed than on accuracy, since it is difficult to quantify your hits.  That being said, a work around is to use smaller steel targets, only as big as your acceptable accuracy.

All in all, the next time you head to the range, set yourself up to Train.  Come with a plan, what you want to work, and a drill or two that will help you achieve a greater proficiency.  The older I get the more I find my time to be at a premium, between my family, work, social obligations…  Get the most out of your range time and start logging your progress and improvements.

Stay armed and stay proficient…


About Ivan Loomis

Profile photo of Ivan Loomis
Ivan Loomis is the Founder and President of Ivanco Incorporated. Ivanco Inc specializes in Custom ARs as well as firearms training in North Idaho. Ivan has spent his entire adult life in martial pursuits. With over 8 years in the military, some time with the San Jose Police Department and a number of years doing contract work in the middle east, he has amassed a a collection of experiences and knowledge he is passionate about sharing. Ivan spends his free time at his local Crossfit gym and on adventures with his wife and two young boys.

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