Organizing a Proper Practice Session

Structuring an efficient practice session is important, but it is also a challenge. On most days I make it to the range, I feel pressed for time and rarely accomplish everything I set out to do. Some of this is my fault for spending too much time tinkering with equipment and reconfirming zeroes; some of it is perhaps a bit too much optimism with what can be accomplished in the hour and a half to two hours I give myself; and some of it is straight up distractions from other shooters at the range to want to socialize or ask questions about equipment.

My typical range session looks something like this:

* Arrive and unpack gear from vehicle (10 minutes)
* Set up target and confirm zero (10-20 minutes)
* Pick a position to practice from, shoot some groups, repeat (60 minutes)
* Try something new/different that I’m not good at, get frustrated (20-30 minutes)
* Finish with AQT or Red Coat target (20 minutes)
* Retrieve brass, pack up and start heading home (10-15 minutes)

At best, assuming no distractions or waiting for other shooters, that schedule alone takes over two hours. If I wanted to get some pistol shooting in for the day, it either doesn’t happen or cuts into rifle practice. There has to be a better way.

I recently came across an article by Olympic shooter and coach, Dan Durban. I will not repost the entire thing here, so you should check it out. To summarize, though, he breaks down effective shooting sessions into the following phases, with emphasis on the preparation and analysis phases rather than shooting:

* Physical Preparation by stretching and muscle warmups
* Equipment Preparation by setting up rifle and support equipment (tools/bags/mags/sights)
* Mental preparation by reviewing previous notes and setting goals for the session, relax the mind
* Position Preparation, follow a previously developed checklist for the position
* Shot Preparation, mentally rehearse shots, dry fire, and then take actual shots
* Record Shots
* Written Analysis; take copious notes immediately after session is complete and set future plans

These elements are actually very similar to things I’ve posted before from Pete Lessler and other shooters. In reading this, and looking at my typical practice day, I think I am trying to cram too much stuff into a single session. If I’m honest about my posted schedule, I should really be spending my time focusing on the things I’m not good at and get frustrated by rather than doing the things I already have a good grasp on. It’s easy to say that now, but my range sessions feel more fun when I’m doing things well; which means doing things I’m already good at. 

Some elements of my sessions, such as set up and tear down, cannot be fixed. That doesn’t mean I can’t be smarter about it in other ways. For the future, I will work my practice sessions to appear this way:

* Arrive/Unpack (10 minutes)
* Warm up by jogging to set up targets and stretching (10-15 minutes)
* Set up equipment (5-10 minutes)
* Review notes and goals, follow previously established plan for day (5 minutes)
* Practice specific position by following established checklist (40-60 minutes)
* Record/Analyze session, plan for future (10 minutes)
* Finish with Red Coat or other “fun” target (5 minutes)
* Police brass, pack up, depart range (10-15 minutes)

This schedule, assuming minimum times, saves about 20% of my time over the previous system, and will be much more focused. Also, since it involves so much more prep and analysis, it should also work quite well for a dry fire session at my house (now that I have a real back yard). That means my dry fire practice sessions will mirror my live fire practice sessions; that is a much more ideal scenario over the unorganized way I was doing it before.


2 thoughts on “Organizing a Proper Practice Session”

  1. Having a plan with a specific goal for each session makes all the difference.
    Also, I find it impossible to practice both rifle and handgun in the same session. It’s either one or the other.


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