When I began shooting I learned much of my target skills from using BB guns in a range my parents built in the basement. This gave me a great foundation for my target shooting abilities. Gradually, I began using larger caliber firearms and learning more about managing recoil. This led me to begin defensive shooting and, eventually, teaching defensive training classes. Unfortunately, many people do not have the luxury of growing up around firearms and having this slow progression.Utilizing airsoft or laser devices can still be useful to the new student, if utilized properly. Many defensive firearms have affordable replicas that, when used the right ways, can assist with learning defensive shooting skills.
First you must realize what you can and cannot train with these types of weapons. Airsoft, laser devices, or even rimfire ammunition, cannot possibly train you to manage recoil effectively. This makes their value for firing multiple shot strings nearly zero. These multiple shot strings (anywhere from 2-5 shots, normally) are utilized in defensive shooting, and one of the primary techniques for which we train. This makes it necessary to back up what we do utilize these to train with actual live fire from our personal defense firearm. By backing up this training with live fire, we can gain full advantage of the techniques we can learn.
Intuitive Sighted Fire
In defensive shooting, I teach Intuitive Sighted Fire. To simplify this term, it is basically the idea that you use your sights when needed and do not use them when not needed. The very vast majority of defensive shootings involve the unsighted portion of this. Even shooters such as law enforcement who practice with using sights 100% of the time have stated after a shooting that they did not use their sights. An example of this is a law enforcement officer who teaches the laws portions of my Intro to Defensive Handgun Courses. Recently, in a class, he was talking about using simunitions during reality-based training and that he “never even saw the sights” during most of the simulated shootings.
This unsighted fire can be practiced very well and inexpensively with airsoft, rimfire, or laser devices by getting into a proper shooting position and simply placing the gun in and parallel to your line of sight. By letting your eyes focus on your target and placing the gun in and parallel to this line of sight you are creating a line to the target that the projectile will follow.
Disclaimer: Remember prior to completing these exercises that safety is our top priority. Remember to exercise the 2 primary safety rules of firearms!
1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
A simple exercise for this would be to set up a row of 3-5 paper plates or other similar sized object somewhere between 10 and 15 feet from where you will be shooting from. Start from your preferred ready position and extend the gun out toward the target. Your finger should remain off the trigger at this point. Place your finger on the trigger and, without using your sights, fire a round/airsoft BB/laser. If done properly you should get a hit. Remove your finger from the trigger and return to ready position between each plate and repeat the steps. After completing this drill multiple times, it will become easier to get consistent hits without the need for your sights.
Once you are getting consistent hits, it is time to reinforce this skill with live fire from your defensive handgun. If possible, set up a similar multiple plate system at the range—but if not you can utilize a single plate. Again, start from ready position and extend the gun out parallel to your line of sight. Fire a single round, landing a hit, then return to ready position. Now that you can get single hits, start firing strings of 2 or 3 rounds from ready position. Remember that prior to each string of shots you should return to this ready position.
Presentation from Holster
Another great skill that you can utilize airsoft for is presentation from holster. Beginning to present from holster can be intimidating and safety is key. Utilizing airsoft to build confidence from holster can be very valuable. Again, many modern defensive pistols have airsoft clones that will fit in your holster and allow you to practice this drill.
We will assume you are utilizing a standard strong side hip carry position and, to begin, no concealment garment. Start with your firearm in the holster and your hands in a relaxed position. With your strong hand, grab the grip of the firearm securely in a proper shooting grip. It is important to start your proper grip at this point so you do not need to adjust it after you draw. Clear the holster by bringing the pistol straight up. Many people new to defensive shooting do not completely clear the holster so this motion should be exaggerated to be sure the airsoft pistol is completely clear of the holster. If you utilize a compressed chest ready position, you can now simply orient the gun towards your target and extend and fire the same as the previous drill.
Your support hand can meet the gun at any time (or no time) between ready and firing. It is important to not have a special time they must meet because there are times when that may not happen in a realistic scenario, such as using your support hand to protect a loved one.
This drill should be practiced many times then reinforced with live fire of your defensive pistol. Someone once told me that to get “good” at drawing and firing takes 500 repetitions. Similar to the previous drill, begin with single shots and work towards multiple shot strings. Vary the amount of shots fired between 2 and 5 shots each time.
These drills are drills I practice from time to time to continue to refine the basics of defensive shooting. By utilizing airsoft, or a laser device, you will be able to practice them anywhere and with little-to-no expense. You must remember, though, to reinforce them with live fire from your defensive firearm to gain the most advantage possible.