During my last practice session on the range, I was quietly (gunfire excepted) thinking about the spate of Instagram and online articles relative to the Indianapolis Mall Active Shooter who was rapidly interdicted by a man called Eli Dickens. Eli reportedly made 8/10 hits on the shooter from a distance as far as forty yards. Quite the feat!

As I moved through my practice routine of various drills, I thought about something that a few of my mentors have said over the years. First, James Yeager taught me years ago, “You should be able to shoot fist-sized groups, as fast as you can shoot them, at any range.” And Tom Givens who says, “The majority of your practice should take place within ten yards, or the length of a couple cars. You should also work in strong-hand-only, weak-hand only, and distance shots, all with precision. Get your gun out quickly, and get to work.”

This makes sense, and when you really think about it, most civilian defensive gun uses are a simple shooting problem. The Indianapolis incident was a statistical outlier, but still within the realm of possibility. Can engagements lawfully occur from a distance greater than 25 yards? Quite possibly! Is it common? No it isn’t. However, with that said, maintaining proficiency requires work. How much work? Depends on where your starting point is. If you can shoot at 100/10X at 25 yards with time pressure, then you are probably going to do just fine at 40 yards. Do you have 40 yards to work with at the range? Some people might not! So use a smaller target, like a target paster or a post-it note, and set it to the extreme end of your range. If that’s only ten yards (a range I use frequently only has 10 yards) then that will have to suffice. The trick, with any engagement range is to program that response beforehand. Pre-engagement planning has been shown to be a decisive way to give the defender the upper hand in armed conflict.

You can’t expect to realistically step up and perform with an iron-sighted concealment sized pistol, if you only practice on the range with a full-sized, 20 shot 9mm with an optic that weighs 3 pounds loaded. If you are blessed with the lifestyle that allows for full-sized carry guns during 99% of your waking life, have at it man, but the rest of us who live where concealment is the first priority, would be better off training with what we actually carry. And yes…smaller guns are harder to shoot. They’re lighter so they recoil more. You can have hands of steel and wire and the smaller sized guns (smaller than a G19) will still generally beat the crap out of you and be more fatiguing than their larger counterparts. But if you CAN practice regularly, and maintain proficiency with smaller guns, when you put a full-sized pistol in your hand, the ease of use is immediate and profound. Revolver guys have known this for decades…if you can make a J frame work, a K, L or N frame is like a vacation. Same logic applies for self-loaders.

So get out there, and don’t be a part-time PRACTICIONER. Sharpen all the knives, at least regularly. You never know what kinds of problems the world will present for you to solve. Don’t get ready…stay ready.

Thanks for reading! Sorry for the hiatus…but uh, uh, life, uh, finds a way. Stay tuned for more. House, from Nashville HQ, OUT.