Absolute Minimums: Are you a shooter on a budget?

Absolute Minimums: Are you a shooter on a budget?

Establishing a satisfactory balance between training, gear, mindset and your wallet.


“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was probably not undergoing financial hardship with his net-worth being equivalent of $43 million dollars. However, wisdom shared is very true. Just because you are fiscally hurting does not mean that you have to sacrifice safety.

The Greater-Seattle area median home price is $100k above the national average and the salary required to live “comfortably” sitting at roughly $70k. It is not surprising that the importance of firearms training might fall by the wayside. Firearms, ammunition, range fees and classes have a very real dollar amount tied to them. However, there are plenty of ways to keep your skills sharp without laying out a lot of cash.


First off, I must state that being able to adequately protect yourself and loved ones should not hold a dollar amount. There are many ways to cut costs when it comes to training resources and gear, but the investment of time should never be wasted.

Things you CANNOT cut out of your budget:

Your firearms.

Plain and simple. If you are going to trust your personal safety to your gun, that gun must be reliable and you must be confident in your ability to use it. This does not mean that you have to go out and buy a gun with all the latest bells and whistles. There are many quality firearms at a reasonable cost.

When purchasing a gun for self-defense, you are looking for something with a good foundation that you can later build upon. You want a firearm from a solid and proven manufacturer with a reputable history. Do your research. Look for past safety recalls any malfunctions and overall reliability. DO NOT attempt to cut costs by using a less-than-desirable firearm.

Get what works for you. Is it a shotgun? A rifle? Or is it just a handgun. Individual circumstances dictate the firearm of choice. There are many pros and cons to every platform that should be noted, but the final decision is yours. No one can make this decision for you.

Your training.

Training is an investment in knowledge. Whenever you have the opportunity to train, you must do so. The gun is only as good as its shooter. So, since you made the purchase of a fiscally responsible and reasonable firearm, the rest of your available budget should be invested in training. It is far better to have a $500 gun and $500 worth of training, than just $1000 dollar gun. Invest your money into grasping the basics of marksmanship. Most of these courses are low cost for the amount of value you will get out of them.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to our level of training.”

Where you CAN budget:

Training and practice are not the same thing. When training, you’re learning something new. When practicing, you’re increasing your ability to perform the things you’ve learned. Practice is not a substitute for training, but it’s necessary to maintain and improve skills. However, until a new course is affordable, you can develop and maintain basic skills at a low cost by utilizing some of these practices:

DRY FIRE, DRY FIRE, DRY FIRE! Then, dry fire some more.

Dry firing means performing the actions of firing the weapon without live ammunition in the gun. This can be done at home, if, we keep a few things in mind. The rules of gun safety prohibit us from pointing a muzzle at anything we’re not willing to destroy while reminding us that all guns are always loaded. As such, There are safety requirements for dry fire:

1. You must have a backstop of some sort. An old refrigerator/freezer, a solid concrete wall, something that will stop an errant round.

2. There must not be any live ammunition or magazines thereof in your practice area. If either are in the practice room or within 12 paces of your practice site, you’re wrong.

“Wall Drill.”

– This drill focuses on perfecting sight alignment and trigger control without the distractions of the other fundamentals. You need a wall that is a solid light color (copy paper or a solid-color target could be used in place of the wall).

– You will bring the gun up to eye level and hold it approximately 1 inch from the wall. You must have total concentration on the front sight, Press the trigger smoothly straight to the rear, maintaining focus on the front sight.

– Simulate recoil, rack the slide, repeat.

Live Fire

Since you have no recoil or sound with dry-fire practice, you will need to fire some live ammunition to confirm that you are making. You don’t need to blast hundreds of rounds to work on this practice technique:

“Bullet-hole drill.”

You only need to fire about 10 rounds at any distance. Start by firing one round into a blank sheet of copy paper. That hole is now your aiming point for the next nine rounds. The objective is to fire those nine bullets through the first hole. There is no time limit for this exercise, so use good breathing control and follow through for each shot. After each shot, relax and take a breath, then start the next shot.

“Ball and Dummy”

Snap caps are “dummy” ammunition that are a low-cost item that will yield exponential results. Have a friend load your magazine with one or two snap caps hidden inside a full magazine. Take the magazine and load the gun. Go about your course of fire, pay attention to what your sights do. Eventually, you’ll reach the snap cap and the gun will not fire. If your sights moved, you have identified anticipation.

Maintaining Situational Awareness

At some point on your shooting journey, you will encounter somebody with a big bushy beard, a baseball cap and a deep gravelly voice that will say something along the lines of “stay condition yellow.” Now, we do not need to go into the intricacies of Cooper’s code conditioning, however we will take some key points away.

“Staying yellow” is generally defined as being calm, attentive, alert and visually aware of your surroundings. Yellow is like defensive driving, you are relaxed but aware of other cars and keeping a lookout for potential hazards. This is where people are most effective at decision making and response to danger. Attempt to not break out of this condition, pay attention when walking around. Keep a defensive mindset. Practice analyzing body language, behavior and see if you can pick out abnormalities. When you enter a room, challenge yourself to find your exits. This does not mean you have to count your paces from each door, or memorize every passing license plate, rather, keep a calm cool head and stay alert.

Reading, Listening, Discussing

This is by far the cheapest, easiest and most versatile way to train. You need to read. Read others experiences, opinions, successes and failures. Read police reports on shootings, watch dash cam footage, listen to the people who are actually utilizing and developing the industry. Listen to others. Though you may not value someone’s opinion, they might have some experience or reason as to why they carry certain gear, why they train a certain way, or how their mindset came to be. Discuss. Challenge your own opinions and avoid favoritism and always be humble.

You need to strive to attain a vast mental database of knowledge to better yourself not only as a shooter, but as an individual.

By: Zach North, Firearms Instructor at Bellevue Gun Club

Zach North – LinkedIn

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