Compete. Find the action-shooting sports that are available within a reasonable drive of your home. This may take the form of IDPA, USPSA, 3-Gun, Precision Rifle, Steel Challenge, or a variety of hybrid events that incorporate moving and shooting. Almost all of these matches take place at private ranges that the general public may only access for the purpose of competing. Additionally, these matches force you to shoot with other people, some of whom are going to be darn good. There is a lot to be learned by watching and listening to those who know their craft well. It’s also a good way to form opinions on what gear you may wish to take to your Run and Gun. Don’t know where to begin? Again, the web is your friend. Go to www.wheretoshoot.org, a product of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The site will allow you to search by radius from your location or zip code, and it will provide you a list of almost all the shooting venues, public and private, in existence. Drilling down into each range/venue, you can find out what events take place there, if any organized competition exists. Incidentally, there is a corresponding mobile app by the same name downloadable to your smart phone, so you are never using the excuse of range availability even when you travel. Good stuff. Download it. Find a range, find a match. Go compete.
Perhaps you do have access to a private range or you have access to land where you can pop caps to your heart’s content. That’s great! Now let’s get down to important lists of things to do when you do get
range time. The idea is to make best use of your range resource, and refrain as much as possible from simply turning money into noise.
Number one, get off the bench. The bench is only useful to us for zeroing a rifle or testing ammo. One does not learn or practice marksmanship from a bench.
Next, establish some training Standards and Drills.
Standards are going to be the shooting you do to work on a specific skill or a limited set of skills. There are some specific Standards that I recommend you get good at, and exercise often. For instance, you need to be able to shoot a rifle well in the unsupported standing, kneeling, sitting, and prone positions. From standing and kneeling, you should strive for groups of 8 MOA or better; for sitting, 6 MOA is a good standard; and for prone you should be able to consistently shoot 4 MOA. Remember, this is unsupported shooting – just you, your rifle, and perhaps a sling. No bipods, no sandbags. Exercising your Standards can be done at a leisurely pace with your RnG rifle, or you can do it with a .22 rimfire or a good air rifle. The point here is to develop yourself as a rifleman and become a better, more consistent shot. We do this through practicing the steady hold factors, executing the six stages of firing the shot, and developing an enhanced sense of our NPOA. (Remember your Appleseed training? Ah ha! See what I did there?)
Notice, the accuracy expectation above is expressed in Minutes of Angle, or MOA. The distance to the target is mostly irrelevant when we are practicing the Standards.
Drills are where it gets to be more fun, but take caution – this is where we risk introducing bad habits, particularly with respect to our trigger control.
Training with a partner can help with this, especially if your partner is an accomplished shooter who can observe you and give real-time feedback on your drill execution. Even video can help, to allow you to evaluate your moves and what worked or didn’t work.
What kind of drills are we going to do?
Great question. The list is as endless as your imagination. Some simple drills will be setting up target scenarios that mimic stages, or portions of stages, at Run and Guns or 3-Gun events. If you have a vacuum of ideas, look up the websites for some recent events and try to imagine the stage descriptions – then build yourself a stage to run drills. Common drills will involve shooting from barricades, shooting under an obstruction, shooting from your weak side, learning how to shoot from rollover prone (both sides), and engaging multiple targets at varying distance. Literally, your imagination is the only limiting factor for these kinds of drills. However, I would limit your drill scenarios to perhaps two or three per training session. The idea is to run these drills over and over until you get comfortable doing the uncomfortable; to become familiar with how your equipment performs when shooting in awkward positions; to understand what your sight picture looks like as you recover from recoil for the second and subsequent shots when engaging a steel plate 300 yards away.
On to the pistol. The same training methodology applies to the pistol as it does to the rifle. Standards and Drills.
For pistol Standards, there are a lot of different ideas advanced by folks with all range of authority. Suffice to say, use the same approach as you do training with the rifle. You need to be able to stand and deliver – to make accurate shots under mostly ideal conditions. I suggest that being able to hit an 8” circle at 25 yards, using both hands “freestyle”, is a good place to start. You should also practice shooting one-handed, both with your strong hand and your weak hand.
Pistol Drills are another matter altogether. I find a terrific resource is at http://pistol-training.com/drills. If you can run yourself through “Dot Torture” every few range sessions and pick a small handful of other drills to master, your RnG pistol stages are going to go pretty darn well.
Additionally, I have a few thoughts for the aspiring pistolero to chew on. Conventional pistol training is good, some of it even great, and going out to compete in IDPA or USPSA (you need to do this) is a fantastic way to develop your handgun skills. However, the majority of pistol shooting you do during this training is going to be with arms fully extended, while standing on your back two feet. What about when the stage requires you to go prone? Or if the stage puts you in a position where you cannot extend your arms, and you now have to focus on a front sight that’s only 12” in front of your eye? Can you do it? Can you make a 100-yard pistol shot on a standard IPSC torso? Can you make a one-hand shot while the other hand is holding your body-weight by a rope? Consider these things when developing your drills. Think outside the box of convention.
Putting it all Together
Ok, so we have chiseled our bodies into sleek, strong, flexible running machines and we can zap a gnat at 100 paces weak-hand-only with our trusty pea-shooter. Now what? Simple. We have to train like we fight – and our fight is on the field of Run and Gun. “Putting it all together” means setting up opportunities to do “practice” Run and Guns, or otherwise test ourselves and our gear in ways that has not been thus far discussed.
This is a good place to circle back to gear. Not the fun stuff (guns) but the necessary stuff. Do you know if the shoes/boots you plan to wear for RnG will work? Are they the same ones you’ve been covering ground in? Or are they going to give you ridiculous blisters before you get to the first shooting stage? And if they do, are you prepared to deal with blisters or other foot problems? How about your underwear? Does it chafe when you sweat? Does your gun belt chafe? Can you even run in your gun belt for more distance than the 20 yards offered at the local 3-Gun club matches? Do your pistol and mags stay secure? How does your hydration pack ride? What kind of traction do you get from your shoes/boots when running on wet rock? Or when the tread is loaded with mud? Does your rifle sling keep your gun tight when running? If using a backpack for extra gear, how quickly can you get into it and access what you need? Does it bounce around excessively when you are covering ground? What about ear protection? Can you quickly access and insert your plugs? Or do your muffs ride comfortably when not in use? How will you carry them? Do you know how to use the stopwatch function on your watch, or phone, or whatever you will use to record wait times? How does everything perform when it is soaking wet?
This is the time we need to look at the totality of our gear and make sure we can comfortably use it for Run and Gun. Again, not just the guns, but everything else.
If you are lucky, you can find a place where you can kit up and run. If you are like most of us poor souls, the neighborhood HOA might frown upon us prancing about the neighborhood with 5.11 pants and a loaded chest rig. But you need to do it. You will need to find a place to do it. The good news is, if you have been competing like you should be, you probably already know some places to go. If not, you can probably drive out to some lonely country road and give it a go. I suggest you do this with a partner or two, who are not kitted up. Have fun.
But putting it all together is more than just running in our kit. We need to develop an idea of how our marksmanship will suffer when we are exhausted. We can do this at home in conjunction with Dry Fire training or at the range by running laps between Live Fire Drills. One thing I’ll do when I can’t get to the range is run a lap around the neighborhood, lift some dumbbells, shoot an air pistol in the garage, and repeat. Over and over and over.
Practice topping off magazines while on the move. Rather than having six rifle mags with random fillings between zero and 12 rounds in each, peel off the rounds from those partial mags, consolidate, and hit the next stage with two full mags. Practice this while speed-walking or running. Same with pistol mags. You can do this in your neighborhood or on the treadmill at home. Get good at it, this is a skill you’ll use.
Practice gun handling skills that the local IDPA match doesn’t test. For example, how is your low crawl? Do you know how to do it while keeping sand out of your rifle’s mag well? Can you pull fresh mags from your kit while lying on your belly? Do you know how to top off your rifle with a fresh mag, bolt closed on a loaded chamber, without dropping the fresh magazine at your feet? (hint: most folks don’t, you need to practice this.)
“Putting it together” is a catch-all phrase that encompasses all the little things that will make your RnG go smoother. It is best done with friends, if you can manage it. You can encourage each other, challenge each other, and critique each other. Use your imagination, and make it fun.
Run and Gun is one of the most fun, challenging sports you may have the opportunity to enjoy. You may certainly have a solid experience by just paying your entry fee, showing up, and doing your best. For many competitors, that is the totality of their plan, and that is completely ok. Some athletes want to get better from event to event and test themselves and their gear. Still others want to perform to the peak of their capacity and see how well they perform against their peers in competition. Whichever RnG participant you are, a thoughtful approach to your training, dare I say a training plan, could be just the thing you need to maximize your Run N Gun potential.
In finishing, let me offer a sample 8-week training plan. This plan layout is nothing special, and you should consider ways to improve upon it for yourself. It is pretty close to the actual plan I attempt to follow.
Good luck! Look forward to seeing you at the range!
Written by: Tom Thornton
Pictured: Sarah and Tom Thornton
About the Author
Tom Thornton grew up in Orofino, Idaho, and has been a competitive shooter for over 30 years. In high school, Tom competed in Trap and in a local Hunting Rifle steel target league. He was a member of the US Naval Academy Smallbore Rifle Team and Highpower Rifle Team from 1988 to 1990; he was also a member of the USNA Trap, Skeet, and Sporting Clays Team from 1989-1992. From 1994-98 he dabbled in Smallbore Metallic Silhouette in South Texas. In 1997, Tom earned a spot on the US Navy’s East Coast Highpower Rifle Team. Tom holds a Master-class rating as a Service Rifle shooter and also a Master in NRA Long Range. He was the 1999 Michigan Service Rifle State Champion and earned the CMP’s Distinguished Rifleman Badge in 2002.
From 2002 through 2014, Tom was an endurance athlete completing 30 marathons, 46 ultramarathons, and numerous triathlons including one Ironman. He spent almost ten years as a volunteer “pacer” at marathons in several states. Injuries accumulated from these activities have limited his ability to continue in those sports.
Tom currently competes in IDPA and Outlaw 3-Gun matches at his home range, The Impactzone in Monaville, Texas. Tom is a current Instructor for Project Appleseed and is an enthusiastic Run n Gun Biathlon participant.
Tom’s teenage daughter, Sarah, is his best shooting buddy and frequent partner at the range. She can often be found on the podium at Texas Run n Guns.