The 3 “P’s” of Training


Women target shooting

Shari’s portable 6-plate steel target bank set up to shoot. Don’t be afraid to set it up on uneven ground. It’s good practice.

There are a lot of obstacles to competing: The travel, the equipment, the guns, the ammunition, learning and mastering the game. But, I find, the obstacles of practice are often overlooked: The time, the location, the right type of targets. Shooting paper targets at an indoor shooting range is great for sighting in, learning how to shoot correctly, tuning up and working on fundamentals, but indoor range shooting is not adequate for serious practice. The target and the shooter are both static, so training for 3-gun, IDPA or any other type of shoot-and-move competition is not an option.

Some shooters are lucky. They have a shooting range set with steel targets or the range allows you to bring your own. I’m not one of those lucky shooters. If I want to practice shooting steel targets for an upcoming competition, I’m out of luck. The nearest shooting range doesn’t have steel targets and doesn’t allow you to bring your own. And without practice, being competitive is a distant dream. However, living in Arizona has its advantages. I loaded up my steel targets and headed out to the desert to an area well known to shooters for a day of good target practice.

The Sonoran desert is a beautiful, stunning landscape of rolling hills dotted with Saguaro cactus and Palo Verde trees. It’s not the flat, sparse, forsaken Death Valley image that first comes to mind when the word “desert” is mentioned. After traveling about 30 miles outside of the major metropolitan Phoenix area, my companions and I turned off the main highway, on to a dirt road leading back into those beautiful hills. I could see places where shooters had staked their territory, backing up cars and trucks to block off areas. Seeing a location that wasn’t too crowded with a natural berm, we parked and watched for a few minutes as several shooters shot at cans and plastic bottles set up as targets.

It was a beautiful February day in Arizona. Clear blue skies, not a breath of wind and about 75 degrees. A perfect day to shoot and get some serious practice in if I could just maneuver around all the shooter trash covering the desert floor!

Reviewing the ground for a location to set up my targets, all I saw was spent shotgun shells, brass of all different calibers, parts of shot up stuffed toys, tin cans, balloon pieces, glass jar fragments and other “stuff” I couldn’t identify. This “shooter trash” wasn’t new, either. It had been there for some time, well imbedded into the ground, covered with dirt and dust. A big screen television had been set up as a target, shot at and left there.

After perusing the area and getting over my initial shock of thinking this was what my sport had become, we unloaded the 6-plate bank of steel targets we had brought, inserted the removable legs and set it upright about 25 yards away. Next, out came the shooting bench, along with bags, guns and other paraphernalia and finally, we put down a tarp to catch the brass.

As I lay down the tarp, covering the discarded brass, a thought came over me: the previous shooters at this location didn’t worry about money as much as I did because they didn’t feel the need to pick up their brass. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury. I don’t have a bullet fairy and reloading is a mainstay at the top of my to-do list.

Shooting women target

Shooting competitively means practicing a lot. Shari uses a tarp to collect her brass for reloading.

Do The 3P’s

While loading magazines and preparing to shoot, a number of shooters walked up with comments like, “Wow, that’s quite a set-up,” and “Those are some pretty nice targets” and “You’ve got a lot of stuff.” In truth, I really didn’t: just targets, a table and a tarp. The real difference was what I packed in, practiced with and packed out. And that’s the name of the game: 3P—Pack-in, Practice, Pack-out.

There are two things most needed for practice: time and location. The time can be made but not the location, and once lost, rarely is it offered again. Where we shoot, how we shoot and what we shoot is our signature. When “shooter trash” and careless behavior is left behind, our signature is seen like a giant blinking neon sign, impacting every one of us.

Practice is as important as competition. The more practice, the better the shooting, so I was dumbfounded when I saw the environment of this practice area. We are a resilient sport, used to not having the best venues to compete or train in, so what we do have we need to take care of. Pack in what’s needed and when done practicing, pack it out.

My standard 3P-package consists of: safe, reusable targets to shoot and don’t litter. Steel targets are available for the average shooter and are not as expensive as you think.

Based in Caldwell, Idaho, MGM Targets offers a variety of different targets. Made in the USA, their centerfire rifle-rated targets are made from 3/8-inch premium 500 Brinell steel, also known as AR-500, the equivalent of armor plate. Rimfire targets, depending on the specific product, are made of 3/16-inch AR400, 5/16- or 3/8-inch AR500 steel.
Targets created just for the regular shooter include the MGM Sportsman series, which is a collection of durable, reliable, portable targets, specifically designed to be affordable. This series of targets are geared towards the budget-minded shooter and will last for years and years. A 28-inch tall Sportsman Colt Speed Plate or US Popper will set you back about $89.99. They easily fit in the back of a car, SUV or truck and they’re simple to set up and take down.

Grizzly Targets out of Tampa, FL., offers galvanized targets and stands. The zinc metal used in their galvanizing process creates a barrier between the steel substrate and corrosive elements in the air. Grizzly’s bestseller is the AR500 Reactive Popper. The target springs back up to its starting position after being hit. Weighing in at 21 pounds and measuring 14×4 inches with a 3/8-inch target faceplate, transporting this target is quick and easy. It’s a fun target to shoot and there’s no waiting for a cold range to walk downrange to reset.

Action Target is another company offering static and reactive steel targets made from AR500 and AR550 steel with proper alloy elements to produce the required toughness and depth of hardening. They offer a wide range of paper targets as well.

range shooting

The area at the practice range in the desert, riddled with tin cans and a shot-up large screen television. Steve Hillis and his grandson Justin picking up their targets and taking back a little more. If you pick up your targets and maybe just one other piece of trash, you will make the shooting area a little better for everyone.

A Means Of Support

A portable shooting bench works best, but a card table will work just as well. The bench I use folds down flat and compact. More importantly, the table allows me to properly sight-in, whether I’m using a handgun or rifle. I have something to set my guns, bags, magazines and other “stuff” on and don’t have to work out of the back end of the truck or car.

A tarp is last but clearly the most important. No matter where I stood, underfoot were old shotgun shells and brass. I pretty much know where my brass is going to land, so laying down a tarp to catch the brass is not just eco-friendly, it’s economical. At the end of the day, I pick up the tarp, with all my clean brass, and dump it into a container to take home. The tarp protects it from the dust and dirt and I don’t lose it. Remember, I don’t have a bullet fairy, I reload.

A 3P-package like this costs between $170 on up to $350 and lasts for years. When I finish my day of practice, it takes 10 or 15 minutes to pack up my gear and leave the spot exactly as I had found it, no worse for wear. At least, the wear I could inflict.

I found a statistic stating “nearly half of all hunters conduct a portion of their hunting activity on public lands and lack of access is cited as the primary reason hunters, anglers and target shooters stop participating.” Open access to public land is vital to preserving our sporting heritage.

The “Respected Access is Open Access” campaign was officially launched in late 2008 at the request of the Federal Lands Hunting and Shooting Roundtable. The campaign works to educate and improve the behavior of outdoorsman. The ultimate goal is to protect and enhance access for people so they can enjoy recreational hunting and shooting, now and in the future. There was little I could do about the shooters who had come before me, but I’m making an effort to educate the shooters who come after me.

The two shooters who were plinking in the area when we arrived were average, normal guys, friendly and welcoming. Steve Hillis, 64, had brought his 20-year-old grandson, Justin, out to do some target practice. Shooting at tin cans and plastic bottles they had set up, they didn’t stay long, and when finished, asked if we would cease-fire so they could pick up their targets. My heart lifted and I introduced myself, explaining the story I was contemplating. We talked about it, and Steve said they always pick up their targets but didn’t know what to do about the brass. I pointed out the tarp idea. We shook hands and Steve and Justin went on their way.

A few hours later, long after I had left the “range,” I received a voice mail from Steve, saying it was a pleasure to talk with me and he felt bad about leaving all their brass on the ground. So he and his grandson went back out to the area to pick it up, only to discover it was gone. Yes, Steve, the brass was gone, because when I see shiny, new 9mm brass on the ground, it gets picked up. I’m my own bullet fairy.

Tread Lightly!
353 E. 400 S., Suite 100
Salt Lake City
UT 84111
(800) 627-0077

MGM Targets
P.O. Box 17891 Karcher Rd.
Caldwell, ID 83607
(888) 767-7371

Grizzly Targets
4406 W. Virginia Ave.
Tampa, FL 33614
(800) 701-1620

Action Target
3411 Mountain Vista Pkwy
Provo, UT 84606
(888) 377-8033