Training again and it sucks

After taking (now) 8 months off from any sort of shooting sports training, over the holiday weekend I finally sacked up, loaded up some guns and ammo and went to the new Badlands Gun Range here in Sioux Falls. A quick note on the range itself, which I’m going to talk about later on, it is by far one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever had the pleasure to shoot at. Right up there with the NRA HQ range or West Coast Armory in Bellevue. But anyway, back to training.

Smith & Wesson M&P9 in PHLster Skeleton

I took two guns, my M&P9 with RMR that I’ve been using as an EDC, and an M&P9L Pro. I had a couple of specific training goals: check the zero on my RMR, and then use the Pro to work on draws to a low percentage target and reloads. Zero on the RMR gun is fine, and it functioned well with a magazine of carry ammo, so it basically got loaded up and sent back into its holster for the duration of the session. The reason I had the Pro out is because it’s the only gun I currently own that’s legal for IDPA SSP and ESP both; and we also have a CORE version of it if I wanted to get silly and play Production Optics (I want to get silly and play Production optics).

So let’s look at the actual training. 8 months off is a long time, so I needed to set some baselines first to see where I was at. First drill was straightforward, shoot Dot Torture at 5 yards. 49/50, and the only reason I dropped a point was because the first shot out of the holster I wasn’t quite aware of the gun’s POA/POI, so the first round went low. Everything after that was where I wanted it to be. Not bad.

Smith & Wesson M&P9L Pro

Up next was 2 shots to a 3×5 card at 7 yards. I set the par time to a generous 3.00 seconds to start with, which I was able to beat pretty easily. I’ve always like the way the 9mm M&P Pros return in recoil, which makes running this drill a bit simpler. I dropped the par to 2.5, then 2.25, and finally 2.00, all working from an open top holster without concealment. I struggled a bit around 2.00, which isn’t too surprising, given how much time I’ve taken off. But honestly, I was feeling pretty good. I was getting my hits, my draw was nice and smooth, everything felt awesome.

Then I started working on reloads. Oh my dear giddy aunt, I suck so bad. Sure, I can reload the gun smoothly…but quickly? Nope. My shot to shot reloads were all over 2.00 seconds, and try as I might I couldn’t get there. I was actually starting to get really frustrated with myself, because my reloads sucked pretty hard. I know how to fix it though…lots and lots of dry fire. In fact, dry fire is the best place to fix reloads, because you can remove a lot of the distractions and focus entirely on the fundamentals.

My first training session coming back from months off definitely showed me a lot. My accuracy, the fundamental of my marksmanship hasn’t degraded. I can still shoot itty-bitty groups really slow, which is nice I guess. I can still run the gun itself pretty quick, I turned in a 1.88 bill drill as my last exercise of the day. But I can’t reload the gun worth two bags of dog crap, and that’s a big problem. If you’re shooting Production or IDPA, reloads are important. You’ve only got 10 rounds in the gun, which means almost every IDPA stage will involve a reload, and most USPSA stages will have an average of 3 per stage.

Guess that means I’ll be doing some dry fire today. The point of the story? Downtime was good for me, it really was. I needed it, but if I want to get back to where I was and even get better, I’m going to need to hit the dry fire pretty hard.


  1. Noob here. . . I always thought the one thing you couldn’t drill well with dry fire was reloads–how do you accomplish the slide locking back? Or the trigger re-setting, if you’re timing shot-to-shot so you actually need two trigger pulls? I bought a gas-blowback airsoft replica of my USP precisely for this reason, to get “dry-fire” reload practice. Please explain to us idiots out there, thanks

    1. Depends, on dry fire reloads I can practice in-battery (USPSA style) speed reloads, or I can just manually lock the slide to the rear and start the reload from there. When I practice reloads in dry fire my “goal” is a clean sight picture and trigger press at the end of the reload.

      1. Ah, thank you. My focus is usually on getting my new mag from concealed and getting it into the magwell cleanly, that seems to be where I have the most room for improvement (especially when I’m “surprising” myself with the reload–I have varied number of airsoft rounds in the mags so I don’t know which shot is going to go to slide lock). Now I want to put more attention to that final sight picture-trigger press phase.

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