.22 Caliber Cross-Training

Pistol Skills And Drills Can Be Learned Faster, Easier And
A Whole Lot Cheaper When You're On A Rimfire Regimen

Because the Ruger 22/45 Lite has a 1911-type grip configuration, it can be used to perform very
effective reload drills much more inexpensively than can be done with a .45 ACP.

When the Summer Olympics took place in Rio de Janeiro the entire world focused on the myriad of sporting events on display. One of the techniques many of the athletes use is known as “cross-training.” Wikipedia defines it as “Training in two or more sports in order to improve fitness and performance, especially in a main sport.”

Professional handgun competitors use some of the same techniques Olympic athletes use, such as visualization, nutritional support, mental discipline and cross-training. Some shooters tend to focus on one sport. Bullseye competitors tend to only shoot Bullseye matches in order to maximize their scores and techniques in that sport. Bullseye takes a great amount of concentration and precision. I know. I shot it for four years with the Army Marksmanship Unit, and received the NRA 2600 pin, my Distinguished Pistol Shot badge, and achieved the President’s Hundred Tab. To shoot other types of matches like USPSA or Steel would be detrimental to a Bullseye competitor.

Here the shooter walks around the buckets in a Figure Eight pattern while shooting at the target
with a decent cadence, maybe one round every two steps, with the goal of keeping all of the shots in the “A”
zone of an IDPA or IPSC target. Reloads and malfunction drills should also be incorporated into this exercise.

Yep. It’s a teeny-tiny cluster. The results of the Paster Drill should be a 5-shot cloverleaf if you
are executing the fundamentals properly. This accuracy drill is a lot easier with a .22, as you can
get in quite a bit of shooting without the fatiguing effects of heavier recoiling guns.

Scale Down For Success

However, one great technique many pro shooters use to get into top form is to employ a variety of shooting techniques from other disciplines using a .22 Long Rifle-chambered pistol.

Why the lowly rimfire? Because many — if not most — of the drills and techniques employed with centerfire pistols can be performed as effectively and much more inexpensively with the .22. At my local club we host a match called the “Steel Showdown” which closely resembles a Steel Challenge Match. It uses similar targets and courses of fire, and one of the divisions is the .22 Division. A majority of our competitors are from other disciplines such as IDPA, GSSF, USPSA and 3-Gun. Most show up with some form of semi-auto — usually one of the ubiquitous Ruger MK III variants — and shoot the entire 150-round match with it. The pro shooters among them use their pet rimfire to work on specific areas of their technique prior to a big match.

In addition to competing in formal matches, there are several cross-training skills and drills with the .22 you can do to increase your proficiency with a centerfire handgun at a much lower cost, no matter what level you’re at or what type of shooting you do.

The Ruger 22/45 Lite has a very thin barrel with a ventilated shroud, making the gun easy
to shoot from any position. Low ready is a good way to start many drills.

Weak hand drills become much easier with the light-recoiling .22.

Precision Is Paramount

There’s one hard and fast rule with any type of shooting sport. Accuracy is king. No matter if you shoot competition or are a weekend plinker, if you can’t shoot good groups you won’t be successful.

Many competitive shooters think they need to shoot fast to win, and to an extent this is true. But accuracy is equally important. You can improve your level of accuracy by incorporating a bit of precision marksmanship into your practice, instead of the usual run-and-gun shooting. This will reinforce the fundamentals of sight alignment and trigger control. I’ve been to many IPSC matches where shooting prone at a 65-yard silhouette was common, so precision applies to all disciplines, even practical matches.

One drill is to place a paster on any type of target and step back 3 yards. Put a tan paster on a white IPSC or IDPA target. Then start from the low ready position to fire a series of five single shots with no time limit. As you get more proficient, start adding the time element to the drill, getting the shot off within three seconds, then two. All shots must be inside the paster. Work on fundamentals.

Another drill is to set up a 25-yard target with about a 3″ aiming circle. Fire one shot every 10–15 seconds — either one-or two-handed — from the low ready position. The addition of distance to the drill adds a level of anxiety. Look for a uniform group, anything outside the group means you probably broke concentration and forced the shot. This type of precision practice can be accomplished with both iron sights and red dot sights. And since you’re using the 22, you can get in quite a bit of inexpensive shooting without getting as fatigued as you’d get with a centerfire pistol.

This shooter is using the Ruger MK III with iron sights, with an inexpensive leather
holster and good footwork to good effect.

This shooter is using a modified Weaver stance and an iron-sighted Ruger MK III.
Note how the Range Officer is prepared to record his “split times.”

Get Rhythm!

A key to successful shooting — of any kind — is to have good rhythm when firing multiple shots. This allows equal time for the proper application of the fundamentals for each shot, and it keeps you under control. Very few things rattle a shooter more than hesitating and interrupting his rhythm when firing a string of shots.

Why? Once you hesitate you tend to rush subsequent shots and end up spraying the targets. This can happen during a stage like the Plate Rack at a GSSF match, or a multiple target array at an IDPA or Steel-type match.

Practicing rhythm requires a shot timer to record the time between shots (“split times”). If you don’t have one there are Smart phone apps capable of serving the same purpose.

Two drills help with rhythm and timing. First, if your local range has a plate rack, use it! Firing at a plate array with a .22 pistol allows you to concentrate on keeping your finger moving and picking up the sights quickly without having to fight the effects of recoil. If you don’t have access to a plate rack, a second option is to set up some IPSC or IDPA targets with a large, blank, square target placed in the center. Set up an array of three to five targets at various distances and spread them apart. Fire two shots at each target and work on lowering both your split times and overall time.

The most important aspect of firing a series of shots is to get the first one off. Many shooters hesitate on the first shot. This will destroy the rhythm and cadence needed for proper application of the fundamentals.

The heavy fluted barrel, combined with the weight of the sight and the muzzle brake, make the
Ruger MK III a very easy gun to shoot “at speed.” Note the brass is flying out the ejection port,
but the gun has barely moved. That’s what’s great about a .22.

Drills with the .22 LR make shooting the Caspian Officer’s Model 1911 .45 ACP Steve
built much easier. Here his son puts the big-bore carry gun through its paces. The pistol
is still in white, soon to be sent out for refinishing.

Shoot And Scoot

One of the most overlooked aspects of shooting, especially practical shooting is footwork, or moving and shooting. Two good drills are the Figure 8 and the Box. The Figure 8 is just that: Set up two barrels or obstacles, place a target at 15 yards and move in a figure eight around the barrels while firing one shot about every two seconds. If you run out of ammunition before completing the figure eight, execute a reload and keep firing. Shooting this drill with the .22 lets you focus more on footwork and less on fighting recoil.

With the Box Drill, try to focus on keeping the feet slightly apart and walking around a “box” heel-to-toe forward and toe-to-heel backward. Although these drills are geared toward developing footwork, make sure you’re also getting good hits. Again, use a blank paper target. Your goal should be to keep all your shots on paper at the end of the day.

Malfunctions can happen anytime, and the shooter needs to know what type it is and how to
correct it quickly when the timer is running. This young shooter is using the S&W .22 M&P
to good effect, but is experiencing a rare double feed.

This target array is from the shooter’s perspective in the shooting box. At the start, the sequence
is right, left, right, left, and the 8-inch round stop plate. You can see perfect sight alignment isn’t a
requirement. The targets are large and close, so speed is the key.

Reloads And Malfunctions

One of the keys to executing a proper reload after the last shot is fired is to bring the pistol back and hold it at an angle in front of your face to “look” the fresh magazine into the pistol, while at the same time hitting the magazine release button to drop the empty one.

First, bring the pistol back as your weak hand goes for the fresh magazine. Second, insert the magazine, making sure you hear it seat and “click.” Third, pick up the sights again as you extend both arms back toward the target.

You can practice this drill over and over much more inexpensively and just as effectively with a rimfire, especially with the Ruger 22/45.

Malfunction drills really need to be performed with a shooting buddy. Your partner can load the dummy round or rounds into your magazine at random. Not only is this a great way to become proficient at clearing jams, but by using dummy cartridges, you can also work on getting a surprise break when working on double taps, or when working with the plate rack and multiple target arrays.

Have your buddy place a single dummy round into the magazine without your knowledge. When you drop the hammer on a dummy round without knowing it’s coming, you may either jerk or heel the gun. It will be immediately obvious. This drill reinforces the concept and skill involved in a surprise break — one of the keys to accurate shooting.
The next time you head to the range, take your .22 pistol and work some of these drills into your routine. It’s an inexpensive way to get in a lot of solid practice to increase your skill level quickly. And it’s fun.

For More Info:
Bluegrass Sportsman’s League

Ruger Firearms

C-More Systems

Caspian Arms Ltd.

Order A Printed Issue $12.95

Purchase A PDF Download For $4.50