Whether you’re preparing for the hunt of a lifetime or priming for competition, practice is paramount to improving your shooting skills. For most of us, that means spending as much quality time as possible at the local shooting range. However, with time limited for most shooters, making the most of range time is also critical.
Shooting champion Julie Golob knows how to move the needle. A decorated U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit veteran and one of the world’s most successful competitive shooters with more than 120 major victories under her belt, she knows plenty about practice. But her busy life as a professional shooter, popular author, media personality and mother of two has also taught her much about making every second count.
Make A List
“As a mom, I rely on lists to make sure I don’t forget anything I need, whether I’m shopping for groceries or polishing my shooting skills,” she says. “Create a checklist for everything you’ll need for a trip to the range. Include things like eye and ear protection, your range bag, firearm with case, ammunition and any other items that are mission critical to successful practice.”
Prep Your Gear
Properly maintained, fully functional gear engenders quality practice. On the flip side, equipment problems can quickly turn an otherwise productive day into a misfire. To avoid such frustrations, Golob encourages giving your gear the TLC it deserves long before heading for the range.
“Making sure your firearm and other shooting gear are clean and serviceable should be a top priority,” she says.
Since even the best ranges sometimes run low on targets, target stands, paint, staples and other essentials, Golob arms herself with ample shooting supplies—just in case.
“Having your own targets and such with you will help make sure you have a productive shooting experience, regardless of how well-stocked the range happens to be when you arrive,” she explains.
Check Your Timing
If you’ve ever arrived at the range ready to shoot, only to discover the facility is closed or off limits due to a special event, you’ll appreciate the importance of double-checking the calendar when planning your practice.
“Always verify range time and make sure you’ll have access,” Golob advises. “Getting to the range and discovering you can’t shoot is no fun!”
Randomly transforming targets into Swiss cheese might be a blast, but only focused practice fully hones a shooter’s form. To put your accuracy enhancement efforts on the fast track, Golob recommends identifying your weaknesses and crafting a plan to address them.
“Have an idea of the skills you want to work on in advance,” she says. “This will make set-up easier, help you focus on the areas you want to improve, and help truly maximize your shooting time.”
A host of potential distractions ranging from hunger or thirst to a cell phone buzzing under the barrage of rapid-fire text messages can derail quality practice.
“Minimize diversions by arriving at the range well fed, with plenty of water to keep hydrated, and stay focused on the job at hand,” says Golob, noting that discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to communication. “Though you’ll likely want to keep your phone handy, use it only for emergencies.”
Ending your trip to the range on a high note provides positive reinforcement, plus powerful motivation for future practice.
“I always like to end a training session with something good,” says Golob. “Even if I my practice didn’t go as well as I had hoped, finishing up with a great group or fast reload helps me feel accomplished and looking forward to my next session.”