Whether you are a skirmisher or a competitive shooter in another organization, anyone who wants to shoot well must practice. Ideally, we would practice every day, but most of us have those pesky “job” and “life” things that interfere with the training schedule! Nevertheless, there are several things you can do to help make whatever amount of practice time you have more effective:
1. Practice often. Frequency burns good technique in. A Skirmisher who shoots 20 rounds per week will often out shoot someone who blazes off 100 rounds in a single session every month. More frequent practice sessions help reinforce lessons learned from one time to another. It's also easier to get past a bad practice session when the next one is only a few days away.
2. Dry fire. At least 50% of the shots you take should be dry fire. Especially since you don’t need to go to the range to dry fire. Personally, I've found that the foundation of my pistol shooting (159 DSCA points worth, as of the May 2016 Nationals) was laid when I was 14-15…and dry-firing 30 rounds per day with a half-pound of lead taped under the muzzle of the revolver. The point here is to boost repetitions and build confidence that your trigger pull, breathing, and balance are all in sync.
3. Focus on technique. A shot is either a 10, or you did something wrong! Figure out what it is and correct it. Dry fire is essential for this – if you release a shot and the sights moved, that shot would have gone wild. Focus on a good, clean release and the 10's will follow.
4. Air guns are Your Friend. A decent air rifle or pistol will let you hone your skills indoors, which comes in handy in the middle of the winter. And there are competitions for air rifle and pistol. I shoot in a monthly match in Annapolis, MD (and get my backside kicked!). Which is good, it keeps me motivated and humble. I do recommend shooting competitively if possible and investing in a good quality air gun. The $100 plinkers don’t have the quality to train effectively with. Expect to spend $500 for a decent mid-grade trainer.
5. Train at the longest range. If you shoot pistol, most of your practice should be at 50 yards, not 25. For musket and carbine, 100 yards should be your main training distance. Certainly for revolver, the difference between the 1st and 10th place scores at 25 yards is 3-4 points, while at 50 yards, that difference is 10-12 points. Win at 50 yards, and you probably stand a good chance at taking the aggregate pretty well sewn up. And the same principle holds for musket and carbine. There’s also an intimidation factor – a shooter accustomed to shooting at the longer range isn’t worried by it, and will outperform the occasional shooter who does most of his practicing at the short distance.
As a skirmisher or competitive shooter, practice is often the difference between getting a 10 or not. Following these tips can help you make the most out of your practice time.
Mike McDaniel has been a member of the N-SSA since 1978 and is currently a member of McGregor’s 2nd Battery, CSA. He is a second generation skirmisher and grew up at Fort Shenandoah. While he shoots musket and carbine his greatest passion is the revolver where he has won six national N-SSA championships and over 150 revolver DSCA points. He also has the honor to be Deputy Team Captain for the United States International Muzzle-Loading Team (USIMLT).