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Be sure to practice from the barricade!

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Gunfights are a mess. They are loud, frantic, adrenaline fueled moments of sheer terror during which you will sink to your worst performance with a firearm of your life. It is always easy to fire at paper targets, clay pigeons, tin cans, or fruit at the range-- they do not shoot back. To stand your ground and take aimed, effective shots at a target is fundamental. However, except in few instances, during a gunfight you are going to want to take cover and concealment into account. The life you save may very well be your own.

Cover is the concept of taking shelter behind significant structure to prevent getting lead poisoning from a bad guy. By "significant structure," I mean to say something that you believe will stop a bullet. Examples of this include solid brick walls, boulders, and engine blocks of cars, thick hardwood trees, sidewalk culverts, and so forth.

Concealment is hiding behind something to prevent the bad guy from acquiring you in his sights and sending hate mail in your direction. Concealment is not the same as cover as it is lighter and generally will not offer realistic ballistic protection. Examples of concealment are hiding behind couches, press wood cabinets, interior doors, and sheet rock walls. The idea is to keep unseen from the bad guy for as long as possible, hopefully figuring out where they are and aligning your sites on him before he can on you.

Unless someone picks a fight with you while you are standing in the middle of a football field, odds are you can take advantage of cover and concealment. To be ready and prepared to use cover and concealment properly should the time comes, you need to practice it. This is where barricade shooting comes in.

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For generations law enforcement and military shooters have been forced to go through firearms qualifications training and drills while shooting from behind a barricade. The barricade is simply a structure erected at the range to simulate firing from behind a wall, door, or piece of furniture. Typically, as much as 25 percent of the rounds fired in most modern handgun qualification courses are shot from behind a barricade.

Practice shooting from the left of the barricade just as much as from the right. Practice shooting from both standing and kneeling positions. Prone positions, where you are laying on the ground, should also be experimented with. Practice drawing, holstering, and reloading, from behind that good cover.

Most traditional civilian sport handgun ranges, especially those that are indoor, do not have barricades available for practice from. This is an unpleasant fact of life due to liability and cost. If your favorite range does not have a barricade, talk to the owner or manager about possibly installing a simple plywood one on a standalone lane or two. If they do not bite, check out other ranges in your area or local private shooting clubs.

Where I live, the three nearest public ranges do not have barricades, but the local members-only club does as they run 3-gun matches. The local law enforcement range that I train at has trashcans, postal mailboxes, and old used cars to run and gun around.

If you have your own safe backyard range, as many rural shooters do where legal, any number of simple barricade designs can be made for under $20. One of the best choices is simply using a second target stand to simulate a barricade.

Another option is dry firing your safely unloaded weapon (check it several times) in your own real-world surroundings of your home. This will give you the best and most realistic training as to how to get into your positions. Likewise, this practice will point out to you where your best observation points, rally points, and fields of fire are-- before you need to know.

A good tip for this training is to do it when the house is empty and the shades are drawn. The only dirty looks I get when I do this around the house are from the German Shepard.

This may all sound a little extreme, but practicing this is a tool in your toolbox that may save your life in an armed encounter.
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