Shooting Sports USA | Competitive Coaching: Air Rifles and Real Guns

Depending on where you get your information, between five and eight million people became new gun owners by the end of 2020, and many more have joined since. Some have decided that being able to defend themselves makes sense, others have taken up shooting as a hobby, and still others are interested in competitive shooting as a sport.

The holster fits perfectly in my Discrete Inside Carry holster. The dimensions of the SIG Sauer P365 BB pistol are practically identical to the real P365. The P365 BB pistol is slightly lighter at 13 ounces compared to 18 ounces for the real gun.

All need the ability to develop their skills and as a result, membership in rifle clubs and commercial shooting ranges has increased at an unprecedented rate. Unfortunately, the result of all these new shooters, combined with political unrest, has led to a serious shortage of ammo, and ammo consumption is the main source of skills.

As with any other skill-based endeavor, learning the right fundamentals—combined with repetition—is the path to skill. While reasonable accuracy can be learned in a short amount of time, true shooting skill requires the shooter to master the basics without repeating a mental checklist in order to get an accurate shot. Repetition develops conditioned responses that transform a mental checklist of grip, sight image, and trigger management into a fluid mental action of firing the shot. This process is complicated by the need to develop safe gun handling habits and the development of a proper platoon.

When asked how many rounds it takes to develop reasonable skill, my experience has shown that it takes at least 1,000 correctly executed shots. Of course, some people learn faster, but repetition is the only way to develop the ability to photograph how we drive our cars.

P365 tritium sight

SIG Sauer P365s have tritium sights. The SIG BB P365 has a front sight painted, but the sight picture in daylight is identical except for the color of the front dot.

When we drive a car, we do several tasks without thinking about it. We find the key in our pocket or purse as we approach the car. We put on the seat belt without conscious thought. The key finds the ignition and the engine starts. We step on the brakes to be able to switch to driving mode. As we drive, we constantly observe the environment around us and react without conscious thought when we have to avoid an obstacle. All of this is possible through repetition. Do you remember your first day of driver training? You had to think of everything and it was overwhelming. The same applies to the new shooter.

As a coach, I deal with more new shooters than established shooters. I see the lack of ammo as a serious problem for those new gun owners looking to sharpen their skills. It’s also a theme for experienced shooters who want to maintain or improve their skills. Assuming you can find them, ammo sells for more than double the normal price across the board.

I learned a valuable lesson about firearms training when I first shot the Bianchi Cup. On the first day I was impressed by the number of international shooters and it was the Japanese that fascinated me the most. I was shocked that almost all Japanese shooters passed me. I knew that individual firearm ownership in Japan was extremely limited and handguns are banned. Only one or two of the group spoke English and I approached one of them. He explained that while they are not allowed to own handguns, airsoft shooting is popular in Japan and they train and shoot with airsoft. He further explained that they come to the US about two weeks before the Bianchi Cup and train with real guns and their airsoft skills will transfer seamlessly.

I recently had the opportunity to test one Walther PPS Airsoft Pistol ($84.99, umarexusa.com) and found it a wonderful tool for introducing new shooters. It has the same three dot sights as the real PPS, the weight is similar and the trigger is a reasonable replica of a firing pin pistol. I found it to be a wonderful exercise tool.

Magazine Walther

The Walther magazine is much less realistic than the SIG. The detachable back strap has a hex wrench to allow tightening of the CO2 cartridge.

I carry a SIG Sauer P365 so I bought one SIG P365 BB Pistol ($119.99, sigsauer.com). Both guns use CO2 cartridges and both are viable training tools. Both guns are capable of hitting 1″ groups at three yards, and that’s where I start new shooters.

Airgun and real gun

Fired at three yards, both guns produced sub two-inch magazine rounds. The replacement magazine for the P365 is identical in size and weight to the original.

I’ve used .22 rimfire guns for training for years and still do, but I realized that airguns make for affordable training just about anywhere and all the basics apply. Safe gun handling skills are developed, the basics of grip, sight image and trigger management are no different and airguns can be used almost anywhere. It is true that airguns or rimfire cannot teach recoil management, but all other subjects are just as important. They are extremely economical in shooting and allow an almost limitless development of motor skills in connection with safe, precise and quick handling of the weapon.

As previously mentioned, my daily carry weapon is a SIG P365 carried in an attachment holster of my own design. The SIG P365 BB pistol allows me to use my holster and a spare magazine to replicate a standard two-shot drill and pull from stealth to two targets with a magazine swap. With a shot clock app on my phone, I can time each drill, and 25 cycles of the drill costs less than $3, 100 shots for $3, compared to at least $80 (if I could find 100 rounds of 9mm). This process hones draw, presentation, sight acquisition, trigger management, magazine changes, staying on sight after the last shot, and re-holstering – anything that involves valuable training, with the exception of recoil management. All of this can be done in the backyard, in the basement, or even in the living room.

SIG P365

The real SIG Sauer P365 and the BB P365. Can you spot the difference? The real gun has some holster wear and the 12 round magazine.

It would be even easier to just work on your draw. At three yards, pull on a delayed beep and take a shot. Passing through a CO2 cylinder gives valuable insight into your speed level and strengthens your gross motor skills when executing the draw. It allows you to eliminate snags in your draw and teach safe and conditioned reholstering skills. Any shot within a three-inch circle at that range is considered a success.

All successful shooters use dry fire as a training tool and airguns give more feedback to the user. I have no idea what the future holds in terms of ammo availability and cost, but I’m sure airguns can offer a path to skill during these trying times – especially for new shooters.

Read more: .357 SIG vs. .357 Magnum: Which is stronger?

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