When I'm teaching friends about shooting, I strongly recommend that they keep a journal to document the journey. Sure, journaling can be tedious and sometimes it's hard to see why it might be helpful. But a journal is not only to keep a history of the past but to plan for the future. Have you ever gotten to the range and just gone completely blank on what you needed to practice? So you end up just kind of shooting at a target without feeling like you have accomplished anything. A journal can help with that. A good shooting journal will assist with keeping track of goals and drills, as well as providing a look back at just how far you've come as a shooter.
Goals - I read a quote recently that if you don’t track progress, there will be none. This is as true for shooting as for any type of goal in life. Even if you just set some short term goals, as long as you can measure them, you’ll find yourself making progress if you work towards those goals. Without getting into the meat and potatoes of setting goals, they should be measureable. “I want to shoot better,” is not a good goal. “I want to hit 90% of my shots in an 8” circle,” is better. Use your journal to write down your shooting goals, which will in turn, help you organize your range time.
Drills – A Google search of “handgun drills” will uncover many for you to choose from. Jot down some of your favorites to avoid that range time mental block we all seem to experience from time to time. The drills will be right there in your journal. Just select a few and get to work (or fun!).
Round Count – Firearms have parts that will wear over time, just like your vehicle. But, your vehicle has an odometer and maintenance is performed in accordance with mileage. Your firearm doesn’t have an odometer or any way to tell you just how much you’ve used it. With each of my firearms, I keep track of how many rounds I have shot. That way, I have a visual of just when it might getting to be time to replace some parts before I start to experience malfunctions. It’s also pretty surprising how many rounds you actually shoot.
Equipment Maintenance/Replacements – Make a note of when you change your sights, or your springs or your barrel. These changes may make a subtle difference in your shooting and will help you troubleshoot if issues begin. You can either track the issues to the equipment change or be able to rule that out as the cause. A good idea is to note when you cleaned your firearm. The recommended cleaning schedule is every 200 rounds. It’s amazing how fast you can get to 200 rounds. Sometimes that’s a single range trip.
Mental Game – Much of shooting, like golf or other sports, is mental. So you should track your mental game. Is your practice feeling a bit off? Make some notes about that. Are you distracted by a busy life and it’s affecting your shooting? Jot that down. Was the practice great and you were feeling awesome? Especially note that! Take note of what’s right about your mental game and what needs improving.
Practice Summary – If you outline your practice in line with your goals, then journal about the practice, over time you’ll have a tidy practice summary. You can look back and see how long it’s been since you’ve practiced shooting with only your non-dominant hand.
Types of Journals
So what type of journal do you need? The answer is easy. Use the journal that works for you. Overall, I’d recommend having a journal that fits in your range bag. I like to journal about my shooting while still at the range. It’s amazing how much time affects perception if too much passes between shooting and journaling. A journal can be a small notebook such as this with just some quick notes in it. It’s cheap and convenient but no less valuable.
Some shooters like to include graphs, types of ammunition, weather or just everything to include doodles. Those shooters will need a journal that can accomodate that. Some journals more resemble scrapbooks with mementos and pictures included. One friend that I work with regularly uses Evernote to keep her journal electronically. While we’re at the range, she takes pictures of her target on her phone, notes the drills used and then adds to it when she’s done. It’s so convenient and takes up no extra room in her shooting bag. There are also some apps, such as Shooters Diary, that allow you to keep an electronic journal. Another positive of the electronic version is that you always have it with you, even if you're not at the range. So, in short, if you’re a person focused on convenience, choose a journal that aligns with that. If you would like something more elaborate, choose that. Choose what you will use and enjoy!
Sometimes the hardest part of trying something new is taking the first step. Journaling about your shooting journey doesn’t have to be complex. But months and years down the road, you’ll be glad you made the decision to start a shooting journal. You can look back and see your progress and see just how much you have improved over time. Or you can use it to keep track of your shooting goals and see where you need to set new ones. Journaling is never a waste of time and can often save you time by helping your organize your range time.
Bonus: To get you started, I’ve put together ten drills FREE that you can use in your journal. These are formatted to fit on Avery Label 5163, so you can print them, peel them off and then stick them in your journal, so they’re handy. Or just print the whole sheet and use it that way!
Download your BASIC TEN DRILLS HERE!
n my experience as a facilitator for A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League, I’ve seen my share of women shooters who come to the range with some form of sub-compact firearm. Of course, it was likely purchased because it’s small frame is less intimidating and it fits easily in a purse or the console of a vehicle for concealed carry. But ladies (and the men who love them), I am here to tell you that size matters!
Many of the micro-guns have low profile type sights. This is important to a carry situation as they are less likely to snag clothing or get hung up some place inconvenient. But when it comes to learning and practicing fundamentals such as sight alignment/sight picture, the low-profile sights are hard to see and hard to line up. Learning what a good sight picture looks like is much easier with a bigger firearm with bigger sights.
Fun to Shoot
A big firearm might seem a little intimidating and it’s easy to get caught up in “the bigger the firearm, the bigger the boom” type thinking. In reality a larger firearm has less felt recoil. Often I hear people describing a micro-gun leaving them with the feeling that they had been “beaten up” because of the size and recoil. Shooting a large firearm versus shooting a small one of the same caliber will likely be more comfortable. This is especially true if you are taking classes where you will have a significant round count.
When asked why smaller handguns are limited to special classes at the annual National Conference of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League, Executive Director, Robyn Sandoval had this to say, “Subcompact pistols are preferred by some for carry since their size is easy to conceal; however, they can also be more difficult to shoot if there is a long trigger pull or small grip. Some of our Conference classes specifically address these issues, e.g., Karl Rehn's BUG class, but compacts or full-sized pistols are usually better for lengthy training sessions. Having a full grip develops good habits and muscle memory for drawing and shooting a pistol, and a shooter's hands are generally less fatigued because the larger gun has less impact with recoil. Also, holsters and competition gear (more conducive to professional training courses) is more widely available for the compact or full-sized pistols, whereas the subcompact holsters tend to be IWB or alternate carry, such as corset, belly band, or bra holsters.”
The bottom line is don’t be intimidated by larger handguns. Handguns are like shoes, there’s not a single handgun that fits every need. Large handguns are an excellent choice for learning to shoot, taking professional training, entering competitions and practicing fundamentals. Smaller handguns are the excellent choice for concealment or when you want to carry more than one at a time. The best handgun depends on the situation. So size does matter!
Over the next few months, my carry gun sat mostly untouched while I practiced, took classes and shot matches with my full sized handgun. I was neglecting the very handgun taht I might call up for defense of my life.
If you're doing that very thing, it's time to make a date with your carry gun! So here are some thoughts for your carry gun date night:
Schedule the date on your calendar!
A calendar is the place for your important dates and this one is important. Make it a priority and don't let anything get in the way of your time with the gun you carry.
Get your "date" all dressed up
This is a great time to get your carry gun looking and performing its best. Give it a good cleaning before you head to the range. You might think because you haven't shot, it doesn't really need cleaning. But that handgun is exposed to more than you realize such as dust and sweat, depending on how you carry.
Pay attention to your date!!
This is not the time for a big party. Leave all your other firearms at home and focus only on your date. This is the tool that may save your life. Spend time getting to know it better.
Do something adventurous.
Practice with your target ammo for sure, but take some time to shoot some selfe-defense rounds as well. They may feel a bit different when you shoot them so become familiar with that different. Also, some guns just don't care for some ammo. Shoot what you're going to actually use day-to-day to make sure there are no problems.
Have some real fun!
Many of the shooting sports now have a BUG division. BUG stands for Back Up Gun. This division is for shooters who want to use their carry gun when they participate in action shooting. Go out and shoot a match with your date. This is your opportunity to practice drawing, reloading and shooting on the move with your carry gun.
So if you have been neglecting the gun that you carry, now is the time to show it some attention. Make a date (and keep it!) One day these date nights might make a big difference in your relationship!
Sometimes it’s hard to carve out range time when you have a lot going on. Shooting is a perishable skill meaning that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. But, there are ways to stay fresh even if you can’t get to the range.
Dry firing is a great practice tool that you can use at home to keep your skills fresh. Dry firing is working on your shooting, pulling the trigger on an UNLOADED firearm. Dry firing safely should not be taken lightly and there are some precautions you should take before you embark on this type of practice session. First of all, read your manual to make sure that dry firing will not damage your firearm. When you are ready to begin dry firing, do not even have ammunition in the same room with you. Kathy Jackson, The Cornered Cat, has some terrific additional information about Dry Fire Safety. Please take a look at her article with crucial information before starting to dry fire.
I have found it helpful to look at some drills from handgun training websites. For example, Pistol-Training.com has over 40 drills on their website available to download. Close your eyes and do some visualization of those drills and how YOU would look actually shooting them at the range. You can even incorporate them into your dry firing practice.
Another useful resource for visualizations is YouTube videos. Stick to reputable organizations or instructors and you will be able to find useful information. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has a channel that includes videos from competitive shooters like Doug Koenig or instructors from the Sig Sauer Academy.
Journaling can be challenging to do if you’re just staring at a blank piece of paper and wondering what you need to write down. Fortunately, shooting journals with “prompts” or questions to get you started are becoming a thing. If you are a member of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League, you have access to a journal for download that is full of information, thoughts, and prompts, as well as live fire drills and dry fire drills. The journal is formatted beautifully and contains an entire year of activities. If you’re not a member of A Girl and A Gun, the journal alone is worth the price of membership.
Annette Evans, Beauty Behind the Blast, has also created a shooting journal. Annette’s version, which can be purchased and downloaded as a pdf, covers five years with daily “prompts” to get you going. You can purchase by the month, the quarter or the entire journal. The January portion of the journal is available as a freebie right now so you can get a taste of what the entire journal is like.
There are some fabulous books available to keep your mental game alive and keep your mindset right. Books such as The Cornered Cat by Kathy Jackson, or Shoot: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition by Julie Golob are two books to get you started. I always pick up information from reading these types of books that I may not have thought about before.
So even if you can’t get to the range, these are some things you can do in the comfort of your own home to keep your shooting skills fresh. But do try to make time for some Trigger Therapy!
As we are about to tumble headlong into 2017, I know many of us are thinking about our plans for the New Year. We are women and we lead busy lives! We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but we have very different things competing for that time depending on our current life season. It could be work, kids, grandkids, significant others, school or extended families. One thing we all have in common is that when we get a little time to ourselves, we want to spend it wisely. So I thought I’d help you choose by listing the benefits of a little range time. Let me show you seven ways that if you’re forced to choose between A Girl and A Gun Girls Night Out (GNO) or a pedicure, choose GNO.
#1 No risk of infection at GNO.
How many times have you heard of ladies suffering from infections received at a nail salon that was obviously less than clean? It happens quite often. At GNO, there’s no chance that you’ll end up in the hospital with a fungal infection in your toe!
#2 Shooting is a stress reliever.
We don’t call it Trigger Therapy for nothing. Whether it’s the ebb and flow of adrenaline or the fact that shooting forces you to focus, most people agree that a little range time helps to relieve a whole lot of stress.
#3 You get a night out with the gals.
Oh sure, you can pack up 20 of your friends and head to the nail salon if you’d like. But admiring each other’s nail art just doesn’t compare to shooting each other’s guns. Where else do you have the opportunity to try out different guns without having to buy them first?
#4 Girls Night Out is actually cheaper.
With your AG & AG membership, the range fee for GNO is $7.50. Ammunition is about $11.00 for a box of 50 depending on what you get so you’re total cost can be as little as $18.50 and no tipping is required. Don’t have a gun, no problem, rentals are free at The Arms Room on our GNO night. The cost for a good pedicure these days is about $25.00. Enough said.
#5 Builds upper body strength
Spending some time at the range will help build muscles in our arms and upper body. Come to the range once a month and skip one gym visit. You just can’t say the same for a pedicure.
#6 Builds confidence
Learning to shoot and knowing what you’re doing on the range is a great confidence builder in all areas of your life. Admiring your well shot target, celebrating your first bullseye, earning your marksmanship ranks all add a brick to your foundation of confidence. I’ll bet you can’t say the same for pink toenails.
#7 A pedicure won’t save your life
The skills you acquire with consistent practice may come in handy one day to save your life or the life of a loved one. And that right there, makes GNO the better choice.
Ideally, we want to set our priorities so we don't have to make this difficult decision. But, if you are ever faced with the choice between a pedicure and coming to A Girl and A Gun Girls Night Out, let these benefits be your guide and we’ll see you at the range.
Note: Some of the information here is specific to the League City Chapter. Check out your local chapter of A Girl and A Gun Women's Shooting League for more information.
The League City Texas Chapter of A Girl and A Gun meets on the second Thursday of each month for GNO. Our next GNO is January 12th at 6:30 pm at The Arms Room in League City. There are also opportunities for ladies only range time at Breakfast & Bullets on the third Friday of each month at 8:00 AM at The Arms Room and the PSC Women's Program on the second Saturday of each month at 8:30 AM at PSC Shooting Club in Friendswood, Texas