Airsoft will also allow you to practice techniques that are prohibited at most ranges like shooting while moving, shooting from behind cover, drawing from a shoulder or ankle holster, and shooting from and around a vehicle.
So, in addition to almost every drill that you can do with your firearm and dry fire practice, I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite at-home drills that airsoft guns are particularly suited for.
- MOVEMENT/FINDING COVER/SHOOTING AROUND COVER/ CONCEALMENT. Gabe Suarez has trained shooters on force-on-force skills extensively with airsoft, paintball, and simunitions and one of the biggest factors that he’s identified to increase your chances of surviving is to “get off the x” as soon as you realize “it’s on.” In other words, taking a stance, planting your feet solidly, drawing, aiming and firing isn’t necessarily the best option, even though that’s what how ranges force you to train.
A better approach is that, instead of planting your feet, immediately start moving to cover or concealment as you’re drawing your firearm. If you happen to be able to get a shot off before you reach cover, that’s great. If not, get behind cover, get your firearm ready to go, and then decide whether to engage the target around your cover or retreat
This is a drill that is PERFECT for airsoft.
[You can still put a hole in sheetrock, break windows and valuables, break skin, and rupture an eyeball, so you need to make sure that you’re doing the drill in an appropriate area.]
As an example, if you’ve got your target set up at the end of a hall, you can stand at the other end of the hall and instead of simply standing, drawing, and shooting, you can get your body out of the hallway as you’re drawing and lean back into the hall to engage the target.
You can also hit the deck behind a couch or bed and practice shooting around, over, and even under concealment. When I’m doing this drill, I’ll usually wear knee pads so that I can hit the deck harder and faster than I normally would in repeated training.
- PUNCHING AND SHOOTING. It’s been said that the main reason for handguns is to serve as a backup to a long gun or as a tool to help you fight to your long gun.
Well, there’s another level to that line of thinking, and here it is. If you are within 21 feet of someone when a violent encounter happens, they will be able to get to you and hit/ stab you as fast or faster than you will be able to get off your first shot. That, combined with the fact that most violent encounters will happen at “smelling distance” and not at 21 feet, it’s quite possible that you’ll have to use your hands to fight to get to your firearm/ knife/OC or other weapon. In fact, recent National Institute of Justice studies of 10 years of law enforcement and civilian self defense shootings show that the majority of them happen within 11 feet.
I practice “fighting to my gun” in a couple of ways. I’ve got one of those “Bob” punching dummies that is a life sized torso of a man on top of a heavy, water filled base. I’ll set it up next to a man-sized torso paper target to simulate multiple targets and I’ll stand in front of the Bob and the paper target and assume that they have done something to start a violent encounter.
In this drill, I strike the Bob on the throat/neck/ eyes/ears and then move away from “Bob” so that he is between me and the paper target as I draw my firearm…essentially slicing the pie and setting up a scenario where the untouched attacker has to go around his injured partner to get to me.
Then, I engage the punching dummy with my firearm and then slide to the side until I can see the paper target and engage it as well. (The airsoft BBs DO bounce/ricochet off of my punching dummy with a lot of speed and could hurt you or break things. There is also always a risk that the airsoft bb’s will penetrate and permanently damage your punching bag/dummy. I usually have a t-shirt on my Bob and the airsoft rounds put holes in the shirt but my Bob is still 100% intact after taking thousands of rounds at close range.)
If your training environment permits and it won’t cause alarm among neighbors, you can add in yelling commands, like, “Drop the weapon!”
- TRANSITIONING FROM PRIMARY TO SECONDARY WEAPONS. This is a simple, but valuable drill if you ever carry both a longarm and sidearm…and another one that is hard for civilians to practice at ranges.
Put simply, the way I do this drill is to put 5-10 rounds in my airsoft M4 and go through drills. When my mag goes empty, I drop and retain it with my left hand and go for my sidearm and continue engaging the target. Anyone who has done this can tell you that this is easy to mess up on. Does your long gun even have a sling? Where does your long gun end up if you simply drop it? What do you need to do to make sure that you don’t get caught up in your sling when drawing your secondary weapon? These are all problems that get flushed out with airsoft training.
My transition consists of pulling my M4 down and across my body with my left hand as I clear my holster with my right hand. Once I’ve cleared my long gun with my handgun, I bring up my left hand to assume a 2 handed grip.
- TRANSITIONING FROM TARGET TO TARGET. If your local range prohibits shooting across lanes, you’ll love being able to do this one. It’s simple…set up 2 or more targets and engage them, one after another. I sometimes do this one with friends in my garage. I go out of the garage, they set up multiple targets, and I go into the garage and identify and engage them. To add to the difficulty, sometimes I’ll enter the garage in the dark with my flashlight on strobe mode so that I have to maintain cover, identify targets, acquire my sights, and engage with the added disorientation of the strobe.
You can also do this with a headlamp strobe. These flash slower than a tactical flashlight strobe and, depending on the speed of your strobe, you might be able to do a drill where you identify and engage a target every time the strobe lights up. This version of the drill is simply fun.
- WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF SHOOTING while in the garage, airsoft gives you a good opportunity to practice drawing while in the drivers’ seat of YOUR vehicle, practicing taking cover behind your engine block, and shooting around, over, and under your car. Remember, you can break out windows, blind yourself or others, damage paint, and break valuables in your garage, so only do this if you are willing to take those risks.
I do this drill several times of year, but the most important and most awkward time is in the fall when I change from summer clothes to winter clothes.
When I started doing these drills around my car… the car that I paid for and didn’t want to damage unnecessarily…I became VERY aware of the fact that it’s possible to have a perfect sight picture of a target over the top of a car or other cover and still hit the hood of the car with your round. It sounds obvious, but since your barrel is lower than your sights, you need to raise your muzzle up over cover enough so that you don’t shoot your cover instead of your target.
- STRESS DRILLS. Airsoft is also a great way to practice shooting when your fine motor skills aren’t working right. While you can’t completely replicate the stress response without stress, you can do some things to get used to manipulating your firearm when your hands and fingers don’t respond as well as you’d like.
The first drill that I do is to shoot during or after exercising. My normal workout is an interval workout where I go hard for 20 seconds and then take a 10 second break. During that 10 second break, I practice drawing my firearm and engaging targets. Sometimes I do it after a run, sometimes during/after doing a heavy bag or Bob workout. In any case, I wait until either my heart rate is elevated, I’m shaky from an endorphin dump, or my hands don’t work right from a post workout “pump.”
This is also a good chance to practice techniques to lower your heart rate quickly… namely combat breathing. Simply put, combat breathing is taking in a deep breath over a 4 count, holding it for a 4 count, and then breathing out through pursed lips for a 4 count. When you’re breathing in, you want to focus on pushing your diaphragm down (stomach out) instead of pushing your chest up. This can quickly lower your pulse 10-20 beats per minute.
The second stress drill that I do is putting my hands in snow or ice water until they don’t function right and then do airsoft drills. It feels like my fingers are sausages and like I’m wearing mittens, but this drill has helped me get rid of a lot of “fancy” gun handling techniques in favor of simple ones that are more likely to work under stress.
The third stress drill that I do is a completely different kind of stress, but still helps for training. It’s going through drills using a shot timer. You can buy dedicated timers, or, if you have an iPhone, IPSC has a Shot Timer app that you can download for $10 and customize for however loud your particular airsoft gun is. When you go to the range, you can change the settings for live fire and you’re good to go. Shot timers will record how long it takes you to get off your first shot and how long it takes between shots, providing measurable feedback on whether or not your skills are improving or not.
One of the drills I do with my shot timer is drawing from concealment while moving to cover. I hit the start button and a random countdown timer starts that takes from 2-3.5 seconds. When it goes off, I start moving towards cover and drawing/engaging my target or targets.
A second drill that I do is called “El Presidente.” In one of it’s most basic forms, it starts with the shooter looking away from a group of shoot and no-shoot targets. When the buzzer goes off, you turn around and engage all the shoot targets with one round to the center of mass and then one round to the central nervous system while not shooting the no-shoot targets.
And, a third drill that I do is to put 3-5 rounds in a mag and have a spare mag handy.
I start the timer, draw and engage. When the slide locks back, I immediately reload, reacquire my sights, and reengage my target. In this drill, I pay attention to my time to my first shot, but the focus is on the time between the last shot of my first mag and the first shot of my second mag. Basically, I’m trying to speed up the loop of identifying that my mag is empty, dropping the empty mag (or retaining it) loading a full mag, racking the slide (if necessary) and reengaging my target.
You’re on Camera! One of the biggest reasons to train with an instructor isn’t so that they can teach you some incredible new “sexy” technique that will change your shooting overnight…it’s so that they can identify and help you fix basic fundamental problems with your shooting.
At some point, you’re probably going to know HOW to shoot with solid fundamentals better than you’ll actually be able to shoot with good fundamentals. When you find yourself in this situation, pull out your video camera, digital camera with video, or webcam and start recording your airsoft training.
Doing this will allow you to quickly see if you are shooting with an aggressive stance like a fighter or if you’re weight is on your heels; whether you’re squeezing or slapping the trigger, whether you’re reacquiring your sights as quickly as you should be, if you’ve got overtravel between shots, whether or not you’re anticipating recoil, and where you’ve got wasted movement on your presentation, malfunction drills, and reloads.
If you have the ability to play back your recording at 1/2 speed or 2x speed, you’ll pick up even more inefficiencies that you can improve.
As I mentioned before, don’t be afraid to train at 1/2 speed… even with airsoft. It will allow you to imprint quality muscle memory and speed is one of the few components of your firearms handling that will increase when you’re under stress.