A handgun is the most difficult firearm to shoot well. It takes proper training to learn the basic skills and considerable practice to master them. That requires shooting a lot of rounds. Just how many is a debatable point, but many top-notch trainers consider 5,000 rounds to be the minimum to begin to develop expert skills. That can get expensive, especially if shooting factory centerfire ammunition.
The .22 LR Option For those who wish to master handgun skills, a .22 LR pistol or revolver is a smart acquisition. It requires the same mastery of grip, stance, sight alignment, sight picture and trigger control to hit the target as a centerfire gun does, but .22 LR ammo costs a quarter (or less) than even the cheapest centerfire factory loads. A quality .22 LR pistol or revolver can cost as much as $700, but if you do the math, you’ll find that after about 2,000 rounds you will have recouped that cost when compared to the price of an equivalent amount of factory ammo. Every round after that is cheap practice. And you now own a gun you can use for a lot more than just practice. There are .22 handguns that mimic several popular centerfire models and you can probably find one offering comparable handling characteristics to your centerfire handgun. The Ruger SP101 .22 will teach double-action revolver skills, the Browning 1911-22 is a 1911, and the S&W M&P .22 is a dead ringer for the M&P centerfire model. There are also conversion units for some semiauto handguns that replace the existing slide, barrel, and magazine with a unit capable of firing .22 LR cartridges.
Consider Airsoft Rimfire ammo is cheaper than centerfire ammo but it still requires a shooting range. Airsoft guns are even cheaper to fire and don’t require a range. Airsoft guns shoot plastic pellets, which cost almost nothing per shot—fractions of a penny. They will l penetrate a cardboard target, but not much more, and are accurate enough to hit a bottle cap at 7 yards. Airsoft guns are available in a wide variety of models, from single-shots powered by a spring to midrange models that use battery power. The most pricey, which still won’t set you back more than a few hundred bucks at most, use CO2 cartridges and are available in models that duplicate the weight, controls, sights, and handling qualities of many popular semiautos and revolvers. They allow rapid fire and function just like the real thing. The upper-level CO2 guns are used by some law enforcement agencies as part of their training and by some top-ranked competitive shooters to train when the winter weather turns nasty. Airsoft guns allow you to practice working from the holster, multiple target acquisition, weak- and strong-hand shooting, and other important skills. You can put up targets in your backyard and blaze away. If you hang a swath of canvas or carpet as a backstop behind the target, you can shoot them in your living room.
SIRT Training Saves Ammo SIRT, or Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger, refers to a full-size handgun in a semiauto model profile that’s powered by batteries. It doesn’t fire projectiles; instead, it displays a laser beam onto the target with each pull of the trigger to let you know exactly where the shot would have gone. There is no need to re-cock the gun after each shot. This allows rapid-fire multiple-target training. These guns are available in several models with price tags in the few-hundred-dollar range. Some feature two lasers: One displays when the trigger is partially pulled to let you check your muzzle alignment, and a second displays when the shot is fired. Some variants only display the fired shot and are available with either red or green lasers. Both colors will show brilliantly in any indoor environment, but red disappears rapidly outdoors. Green shows up better outside and is preferable if any outdoor training is anticipated. The SIRT laser will show precisely where you hit a target. But you don’t have to restrict yourself to boring stationary paper targets. Combine a TV with a SIRT gun and you can mimic all those expensive video-training systems used by law enforcement and the military. Both the red and green lasers will show on a TV screen with no danger of damage. Any TV show will have a number of stationary and moving targets that can appear and disappear quickly. Hit them if you can, whether from the holster or with gun in hand. It’s the type of advanced training that can cost a lot at a shooting school. But you can do it in your living room, which definitely qualifies as practice on the cheap.