Maintaining your Firearms Skills While on Disability
My surgeon says it will be at six months before I can live fire a pistol again. Here’s how I plan to stop my skills from perishing with these SHOT Show products
Note: If you have sustained any type of injury, please check with your physician before performing the drills listed below. What works for me may not work for you – Ron.
Like many of you, years of wear and tear add up and I finally needed back surgery to fuse my lumbar spine. This puts me completely out of work for six weeks and on light duty for another six months to a year depending on healing time.
As a part-time firearms instructor, I know that my skills are perishable and not practicing them for even six weeks can leave me rusty – and after six months? I’ll have nothing left. But I am in luck, due to products introduced at SHOT 2023 and some coming up at SHOT 2024.
I cannot bend, twist, or lift more than 6 pounds. My training battle belt with a SIG P320, three spare loaded pistol mags, and more ammo in a dump pouch gets close and it’s too short to go over my back brace anyway.
I haven’t covered recoil yet, which would go right down my spine possibly shearing the screws securing the titanium plate holding my vertebrae together.
Until I did the research, I had no idea that from 1993 through 2015, there were an estimated 2.6 million emergency department visits for injuries due to firearms. 10,296 of these injuries involved the spine – with 28.6% involving the lumbar spine. My surgeon says it will be at 6 months before I can live fire a pistol again.
So, no heavy battle belt, no rifle, and no recoil. But as I said, some new and not-so-new products are here which will let me practice my craft without injury. Let’s take a look.
For my P320, I used the Surestrikemag, jointly developed and sold by Laser Ammo (SHOT Show booths 14432 and 20012) and DryFireMag. (booth 10129) There are two components that make up the combo – the Smart DryFireMag® and the SureStrike Cartridge by Laser Ammo.
Installation is simple. Put the button batteries into the laser cartridge and charge the Smart DryFireMag. After ensuring your pistol is clear, install the cartridge into the chamber of the pistol, lock it in place from the front of the barrel with the safety pipe, then insert the Smart DryFireMag into the magwell. Every time you pull the trigger, the laser fires. Let the trigger go forward and the trigger resets. The trigger pull and laser timing are both adjustable to match them to the feel of your own pistol when live firing.
The iMTTS controller has multiple drills, each programable. I set it for 15 shots of shoot/no shoot. Green is shoot; red is no/shoot. I press Start which begins a 4-second countdown. I definitely need more practice.
I said that I cannot use my heavy everyday battle belt, but I do need a belt to hold a holster lighter than my EDC. I am wearing a back brace and even if I pulled most of the attachments off either of my two battle belts, they are 3 inches too short even at full extension.
When I was at the 5.11 store in Las Vegas during SHOT 2023, I was impressed by their selection of all types of belts, and selected a two-part Maverick D-ring battle belt from the rack. Unlike my existing belts, this one is adjustable to larger waist sizes and has an ergonomic “U” curve to make it more comfortable when worn.
Because my brace is covered in Velcro, I skipped the Maverick’s inside belt and attached the outside belt directly to my brace. Yes, there was a little vertical give, but protecting my back is primary.
The first use of a pistol in 4 weeks were with the Laser Ammo iMTTS target system. The drill consisted of 15 shots of shoot/don’t shoot with a par time of 2 seconds. I was shooting from 3 yards at 1/5 scale targets so in theory this is equivalent to shooting a full-size B27 at 15 yards.
You can see how I did in the video. As I my pain decreases and I am allowed more movement, I’ll work up to shooting from 5 yards, or a simulated 25 feet and moving to low or high ready between shots (you can see that I did this one time in the video then decided against it) and a 1-second par time.
All in all, I had a great time getting back to the range, even if it was in my living room. I didn't do too badly after a month of not handling a firearm. Now I know that I’ll be able to return to teaching classes when the doc clears me with most of my skills intact.
Yeah, I’ll still need to re-learn how to deal with recoil and prepping the trigger while getting back on target, but that’s better than having zero neural pathways (sometimes called muscle memory) when I start sending lead downrange.
This is an excerpt of an article which originally appeared on Police1, the leading online resource for law enforcement, and is reprinted by permission of the Police1 editorial team. Visit Police1.com to access news, commentary, education information, and training resources that help officers protect their communities and stay safe on the streets.
Ron LaPedis is an NRA-certified Chief Range Safety Officer, NRA, USCCA and California DOJ-certified instructor, is a uniformed first responder, and frequently writes and speaks on law enforcement, business continuity, cybersecurity, physical security and public/private partnerships.
He has been recognized as a Fellow of the Business Continuity Institute (FBCI), a Distinguished Fellow of the Ponemon Institute, Master Business Continuity Professional (MBCP), and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).