This series is written for folks who wish to know what they need to practice in order to hone themselves into better shooters:

Getting started | Dry-fire practice | Targets and timing

If you've been dry-fire practicing since the first article, you’re probably ready for some other drills to work on to see your progress and minimize the tendency to get bored. You can refer back to the other two articles above if you need to, but I will write this one (and all subsequent articles) assuming that you've already gotten what you need to get started.

I now recommend that you either make your own downsized targets or buy some, but you need a series of targets that will simulate what you may encounter at a match, including small metric, classic and steel targets.

Get as detailed as you would like because the more realistic the targets, the more comfortable you will be when you see one just like that at a match. Hard-cover targets, movers, all of that is good if you can put it together.

Arrange these targets to look like they would at a particular match along the wall of your dry-fire area. If you have the luxury, mark your flooring with boxes or tape if you wish to have foot faults, etc. Then put your gear on, set up your video camera and put your shot timer within reach.

Please load your magazines to normal capacity using weighted dummy rounds. Do not use real ammo, and you shouldn't even allow live ammo into your dry-fire area. An essential element of dry-firing is that that gun is not loaded — or the exercise then becomes a live-fire drill, and that is not a good thing.

The reason for loading the magazines to capacity with weighted rounds is simply because practicing a magazine change with an empty magazine makes you really good at changing empty magazines. But when you use loaded magazines at the match, the weight is completely different, and you are as lost as last year's Easter eggs when the mag changes don't go smoothly.

Now, in your mind, set up a course description and make yourself follow that course description to the letter. Remember, if you cheat yourself while dry-firing it will show at the match.

An example could be setting up your targets to mimic a classifier stage. I'll use "Can you Count" as an example here. Four targets total, set up with two each, left and right.

For your first run, stand in the box and visualize/pantomime actually shooting the stage without touching your gear. Then go through the entire stage dry-firing just as if you were actually shooting it — but go so slow that you know without a doubt that all of your shots are A's and your mag changes were smooth.

Reset your gear and again go through the entire stage dry-firing — but this time push your speed just a little more; on the draw, on the mag changes and for sight picture. Accept some C's instead of all A's.

Then reset your gear one more time, and this time go through the stage dry-firing and pour the coals to it. Go as hard and as fast as you can with draw, mag changes and any hit being acceptable.

Now, using your shot timer to get an idea about time, go back and review your videos with a critical eye. What you will most likely find is that while there isn't a whole lot of time difference between those three runs, there are a lot of areas that you changed your normal way of doing the things that are essential to shooting the stage well.

For example, look at the difference in your posture between the first and last run. Look at the angle of your pistol while reloading between the runs. After doing this a few times, you will begin to realize that while you may feel as if you're blazingly fast on the last run, and are saving all kinds of time, there really isn't that much time difference between the first run and the third run. But the smoother first run always feels better.

Eventually the time difference between the three runs will be almost nonexistent, but you will learn to see what you need to see for every draw, mag change and sight picture. Stay safe, and I'll see you next time.