When asked how much ammunition is enough for defensive training and practice, more than one shooter will reply, “All of it!” Regrettably, that answer just isn’t practical.
The correct answer, while not “all,” is still, “a lot.” Becoming a defensive shooter takes three things: handgun-reliability testing, shooting-skill development, and most essential, practice. And all require a lot of rounds. That doesn’t have to be open ended, though; and it’s possible to give reasonable estimates of how many rounds may be involved.
In testing handgun reliability, training experts set 200 rounds of ball ammunition fired without malfunction as a minimum for gauging dependability, followed up by at least 100 rounds of the specific defense load you choose, again without failure. A hang up once or twice on a new pistol can actually indicate it is really in the break-in process, and the problem may be soluble with some minor changes to the gun or its maintenance, or to the ammunition. Chronic ones, though, are reasons for looking for another gun.
Adequate quantities of ammunition for training and practice are more variable. Prior skill level, natural coordination and athleticism, gun fit, and the training model or method used all influence how much ammunition is needed to achieve a level of working skill. Some considerations and estimates are:
- 400-500 Rounds Per Day of Training
With a qualified instructor in a shooting-training program appropriate to the gun owner’s circumstances, 400-500 rounds is not an excessive amount. Training to ingrain new skills takes far more continuous initial repetition than practicing those skills, once learned. That means at least 400 rounds per training day to establish the proper feel of shooting techniques to turn them into reflexive muscle memory.
- Front Load Practice Ammunition
Practice the newest skill you have learned first, allocating more of your ammunition to it. Repeating a skill, when the “touch” of it from training is still fresh, will better reinforce it. There is the saying about grace under pressure, and under pressure a shooter wants to perform intuitively and fluidly without having to think through every step. He needs to establish each skill solidly before moving onto the next. Newest first, but keep refreshing the older ones, too. Frequent disciplined practice sessions over the course of several months, shooting 100 rounds each time, after a training class is key.
- Maintaining Skills
When your fundamental shooting motor skills are established, maintaining them will take less ammunition, but still some. Dedicating a box a month of Winchester® USA White Box, USA Ready, or USA Forged® to defensive drills is not too much.
When you can demonstrate reliable basic proficiency with your handgun, you can think about raising your level of performance with new, practical higher-skill classes. And you can always simply enjoy your time with your pistol and ammunition on the range, a spent round a happy round.
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