By June 17, 2013

Ammunition Availability and the Impact on Training

“On my command, you may begin the one hundred round drill.

FIGHT!

Seven students begin firing their rifles at 100 yards. Fire two rounds, bring the rifle to a safe position, move, fire two more rounds, repeat. Reload when necessary. Fire until 100 rounds have been expended, or your rifle malfunctions to the point where you cannot continue.

The next line of students will step up, and the 100 round drill begins again.

The 100 round drill, and others like it, are important for several reasons: the repetition involved helps students develop good habits for sight picture, trigger control, gun handling, and moving safely around other folks. It also helps expose problems with a firearm that may not appear in your typical “shoot a box at the static range” trips most gun owners make.

In April I did a half day of training. We don’t get to shoot outdoors during the winter here, so it was a chance to dust off some of my skills before the training season started in earnest. Think of it as a pre-season warm-up.

I fired almost 500 rounds between my various rifles and pistols, and I felt like I just scratched the surface.

The problem? It’s hard to buy 50 rounds in today’s political climate, let alone 500. It’s going to be harder for people to buy the ammunition they need in order to get appropriate training. There are a lot of first time gun owners who are looking for training, and the ammo shortage is at a time when people need training the most.

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This is the problem facing many new or experience students alike.

I attend several beginner courses a year. Getting the fundamentals right is key to safe and effective gun handling. It’s more exciting to fight off of your back into a standing position, or lie on the ground in weird positions behind cover, but drawing a pistol, moving a bit, and firing accurately and quickly is more important. Nailing the basics makes the intermediate stuff easier. And safer.

So anyway, I get to see a wide range of experience at the beginner classes. There are some law enforcement and/or military, some target shooters, and some complete novices. One thing is always the same though: there are students who show up with gear, ideas, or habits that are absolutely ineffective for gunfighting.

The only way to overcome these bad behaviors is to practice. Some things can be address with “dry fire” practice, meaning, doing drills at home with an unloaded firearm. Some of us are lucky enough to have airsoft clones of our weapons, and can practice that way. However, the greatest training value comes at the range, doing stuff that requires a lot of trigger time. And that means a lot of ammunition.

One of my friends and training partners recently purchased his first civilian defense rifle. It was a used AR-15, and he bought it at pre-panic pricing. The problem was he couldn’t find any ammunition for it. .223 was hard to come by, and ammunition that used to sell for $0.25 – $0.30 a round was now selling for $0.80 and up — if you could find it at all.

He was not alone in his experience, and in May I wrote about techniques on acquiring ammunition, especially training ammunition.

However, it is still too hard for students to find enough ammunition to properly train. This is particular hard for couples — a friend of mine wants to train more with his wife, but they only have enough ammunition for one of them to attend class at a time.

My head instructor remarked several times that attendance is down this year because people can’t find enough ammunition. Instructors at several schools have offered to sell ammunition from their personal reserves as long as the students shoot the ammunition during class. This is to keep hoarding down and make sure ammo gets used for training purposes.

The indoor range closest to us is completely sold out of ammunition. Purchases are limited to one box of each caliber per customer per day when they have ammo in stock. Sedagive? and I were there last month, and two pairs of people turned around and left because they didn’t have any ammunition to practice with.

The other downside to the ammo shortage is rationing during training. Some are reluctant to shoot what they have, in case they can’t replenish their supply. Prices have also gone way up in the last six months. For example, the 9mm handgun ammunition we train with has gone up between $3 and $5 per box of 50, which is anywhere from 33% – 50%. That means an extra $30 to $50 per person per class.

These factors contribute to people either not practicing at all, or just taking a box or two to the local range and shooting in a shoebox-like environment.

The training people need the most is fight-focused. This type of training is usually done outside, has dynamic movement and realistic situations, and has a high round count. It is not uncommon to fire 300 rounds in a beginner class, 400 – 500 rounds in an intermediate class, and 200 – 800 rounds in an advanced class, especially if the advanced class spans multiple days.

Worse yet, the ammunition shortage contributes to the cultural divide between those who arm themselves and those who are anti-gun. The people against private firearms ownership often state that gun owners are under trained and don’t know what they’re doing. This is unfortunately true in many cases. However, it is difficult for people to become more competent unless they get more trigger time. Without inexpensive and readily available ammunition training doesn’t happen.

Future articles will offer training alternatives, but let’s all hope the ammunition shortage ends soon.

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Posted in: guns, preparedness

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