Handgun shooting—as with all shooting—is a perishable skill. If you don’t shoot often enough you lose your edge; simple as that. How frequently should you shoot (train) with your handgun? Only you can answer that question for yourself, but most handgunners don’t shoot nearly enough. And the reason is usually ammunition cost. Ammo is not cheap these days, and most shooters don’t shoot as often as they should based solely on economics. The following is a training tip that will allow you to train more economically. As a result, you may even end up shooting more frequently—and that’s a good thing. It’s a simple two-gun system. Let me explain.
Several years ago, when Smith & Wesson first introduced their popular M&P Shield semi-automatic handgun, I purchased one of the 9mm models for concealed carry. Measuring just 6.1 inches in length and less than an inch in width, the handgun makes an excellent concealed-carry weapon. It’s a fun gun to shoot, and small enough that both men and women can grip it easily and shoot it accurately. But what I soon learned was that even though 9mm ammunition is readily available, it is not inexpensive. For instance, a quick check on the Internet finds 9mm ammo ranging from about 25 cents per cartridge for low-power target loads, to nearly a dollar per trigger pull for high-power self-defense loads! As a result, I sometimes found myself hesitating to shoot my Shield as often as I should.
Smith & Wesson solved my dilemma about a year ago with the introduction of their M&P .22 Compact. In essence, this new handgun nearly mirrors the Shield in looks, feel and operation. Could adding the .22 Compact to my training routine—and shooting my Shield somewhat less—result in the same level of training? In other words, would using two guns instead of just one still keep my skills sharp, but do so for less ammunition cost? I decided to try that approach, and therefore ordered a .22 Compact. I have enjoyed shooting it as much as the 9mm Shield. I have since incorporated both handguns into my training, and have done so for less than it would cost to shoot the Shield exclusively. By the way, .22 ammunition generally costs about 10 cents per round.
I usually begin a training session by shooting the .22 Compact first. Since the recoil and noise level are much lower than the 9mm, I can more easily review and concentrate on the basics of safe, accurate handgun shooting: stance, grip, sight alignment, trigger squeeze and follow-through. The .22 Compact holds 10 rounds per magazine, and after firing a few mags, I’m then ready to pick up the Shield. When I do, the feel and operation of the 9mm—although slightly heavier—is very similar to that of the .22. Every feature on the two guns is in the same location: safety lever, magazine-disconnect button, slide lock, etc. As a result, it’s a smooth transition from one gun to the other. I then end each training session as I started, by once again shooting a magazine or two with the .22.
If you’d rather not purchase a second handgun just for training—and you own a Glock, XD, 1911 or 2011 pistol—Advantage Armsoffers conversion kits that will convert your centerfire pistol to a .22. It’s a simple matter of sliding off the centerfire barrel and replacing it with the Advantage Arms .22 barrel. The kit also comes with a .22 magazine that will fit your centerfire’s magazine slot.
Successful handgun shooting boils down to learning correct training techniques and then continually practicing those techniques until they are ingrained into your muscle memory—in other words, until they become second nature. Don’t let high ammunition costs deter you from putting lead downrange as often as you should.
And a final side benefit: More shooting equals more fun!
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield:
Caliber: 9mm or .40 caliber
Capacity: 8-round and 7-round magazines, both included
Barrel length: 3.1 inches
Front sight: White dot
Rear sight: White two-dot fixed
Overall length: 6.1 inches
Frame width: .95 inches
Overall height: 4.6 inches
Weight: 19 ounces unloaded
Frame material: Polymer
Barrel/slide finish: Black
Trigger pull: 6.5 pounds
Sight radius: 5.3 inches
Smith & Wesson M&P .22 Compact
Caliber: .22 long-rifle
Action: Single-action (internal hammer)
Capacity: 10+1 rounds
Barrel length: 3.56 inches
Front sight: White dot
Rear sight: White two-dot (screw adjustable for windage and elevation)