I hear it all the time; “I can’t afford to go to the range, so I don’t get any practice.”
Well, I can sympathize, since ammo has gotten so expensive and hard to come by, with only intermittent surplus availability. However, that is no excuse for failing to maintain, or improve your shooting skills.
If you intend to become or remain proficient, you will need to make a concerted effort to master the basics and continually improve.
Several years ago as a competitive shooter I made an effort to improve my skills. At the time I was already putting around 500 rounds a week down range. I realize this is not a lot for some of the top shooters, but for someone on a budget, it gets expensive quickly.
After research and talking to a few top competitors, I discovered ways to improve my shooting skills while saving ammo. Hopefully you can use them yourself, and maybe save a little cash.
Practice Your Shooting Skills
I often talk to people who think quantity equals quality. Putting hundreds if not thousands of rounds down range is going to make you the best thing since sliced bread…well, maybe.
You have probably heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” I had heard it myself and always thought it to be true until I read one book written by Dan Millman.
The one thing I took away from that book is the saying “Perfect practice makes perfect.” If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
If you have bad technique and are making small mistakes in your shooting, you only reinforce those mistakes with every round you put down range. A slower, less round approach, with perfect technique will build muscle memory of the right way to do things. Slow and steady will win the race when it comes to technique.
After you have your reps in, then it is time to up the speed and quantity, if you have the ammo for it.
I know most people want to head to the range and blast away, but what are you really accomplishing?
Clone Your Guns
There are a few guns out there that will allow you to buy a .22 LR and accessorize it just like your main firearm. This will allow you to practice just about everything with this cheaper alternative, and even get a lot of trigger time, all while saving quite a bit of money.
For example, a Ruger 10-22 and mt accessorized to give you the feel of a mini 14. 1911’s can be bought in .22 LR, and Ruger offers a 22 RL with the same grip angle as the 1911. This can be done with an AR platform and to some extent an AK. Even with 22 LR being sometimes scarce, it is still much cheaper than full power ammo.
Some people have 22 LR adapters for their firearms. I don’t have one and have heard mixed results on reliability from those who own them.
A Ruger Super Blackhawk feels remarkably similar to a Blackhawk and even a Single Six. You can practice with the 22 LR Single Six and feel confident in shooting its bigger brothers with only slight adjustments.
I know an extra firearm just for practice is quite an investment, but another great use and valuable training is to use these training arms in small game hunting. This gives you field time that is almost always better than range time.
Related: 15 Best Guns for Preppers
Practice With Little or No Ammo
Back when I was a competitive shooter, I tried to dry fire my 1911 two or 300 times a night as I watched TV. I also practiced drawing, getting a perfect sight picture and dry firing.
Another drill I did was reloading. I would cycle through all my mags, just dropping and reloading with a fresh one. Most of this was done in front of a mirror so I could catch any major problems.
Then it was on to malfunction drills.
Everyone needs to practice malfunction drills. If you don’t believe it, watch the video of the female police officer shooting the knife wielding man who attacked her. She was backing up firing her Glock, (Yes Glocks fail too) when it jammed. With her good training she cleared the jam and continued firing to stop the assailant.
My extensive training experience is on the 1911 platform, but the training can be translated to any handgun or rifle you wish to use.
A few different companies make special dry firing cartridges for firearms, just so you don’t break things internally while dry firing.
When you are using dry firing cartridges, you can practice coming from carry position to perfect sight alignment and your first shot. Perfect practice = good muscle memory.
Some drills you can do to save ammo but actually fire rounds allow you to get some recoil practice, because that is important as well.
- Carry to perfect sight alignment and first shot on target.
- One shot, reload, followup shot on target.
- Double tap on target, reload, repeat.
These practice sessions will save you a lot of ammo vs blasting down range, with the added advantage of them making you having better shooting skills.
These drills are just the tip of the iceberg of what can be accomplished with little or no ammo expenditure. Do some research, pay for some training, then use your savings to buy another gun, or a case of ammo.
What To Buy For Keeping Shooting Skills In Shape
Some will argue that you should practice with what you carry with you in your gun. I will agree to a point. You need to make sure the ammo you carry in your gun cycles without a problem. This will mean shooting several boxes to make sure it runs smoothly without jams.
For handguns, I recommend whatever premium defense round that runs through your gun. Once you have this figured out and sighted your handgun in with it, you can start looking for a cheaper alternative for practice. The important point is that it shoots to the same point of sight as your premium ammo.
You may have to search through a few brands to find one like this. It also may not cycle in your weapon as well as the premium stuff. You can look at this as extra malfunction training, or you can keep looking.
As far as long guns, I recommend buying for your planned usage. Just like the handgun, make sure your weapon likes the ammo you plan to feed it.
How To Store It
Storing your investment can be a little tricky.
I have seen ammo coated in the green goo of corrosion, because moisture got to it.
Some of the best storage I have seen is surplus military ammo cans.
They are airtight (mine vacuum sealed when I moved from high altitude to a lower altitude), waterproof and will contain any accidental explosion (a friend had 50 BMG stay inside the can during a house fire).
With ammo at a premium, any way you can actually improve your shooting skills while saving ammo and money needs to be looked into. I’ve done it this way for years, and my shooting skills are still pretty sharp.