Winter Indoor Self-Defense Training Tips


I don’t know about where you’re at, but I’m looking out the window at 6″ of fresh snow that I have to go clear. We’ve been switching back and forth between mid 30s and single digits at a head spinning rate.

This has driven most shooters’ training indoors.

So, today, I’m going to give you a few tips for how to make the most of winter indoor training.  They’re tricks that you can use year-round, but they’re especially valuable during winter months.

To start off, something that should be obvious is that winter time is PERFECT dry fire time.  A couple winters ago, I took 6 months off of live fire practice to demonstrate the effectiveness of our fundamentals dry fire training system.  At the end of that 6 months, I was shooting better than ever and it’s when I recorded the video where I shot a 17 round, 1” group with .68 second splits from 11 feet.

I didn’t realize what a big deal that was at the time, but, since then I’ve found out that roughly only one out of every 1,000-10,000 shooters who have tried it can do the drill at 6 feet.

To be clear, the video isn’t a demonstration of my shooting ability–it is a demonstration of the power of our unique form of dry fire training.  At it’s core, the drill simply tests a shooter’s ability to line up the sights and press the trigger without consciously thinking through the steps.

How big of a deal is this?

Well, consider this…

Almost everyone thinks that close, 1″ groups are easy, but…

When you actually put shooters who carry on a regular basis (military, law enforcement, competitors, and regular carriers) on the line and have them try to shoot a 5 round 1″ group at 6-10 feet in perfect lighting with no time constraints, only about 10% can do it.

Squeeze out luck by increasing the number of rounds to 10 and the number drops to about 1%.

Overwhelm the conscious mind by mandating sub-second splits so you get a picture of how well the subconscious mind can run the show and, like I said, the number drops to between 1/1,000 and 1/10,000.

Dry fire done correctly can fix this.

Old school dry fire is relatively ineffective, but dry fire done correctly will correct flinch, mashing, milking, lookie-loos, and even train proper grip and recoil control.

And it’s proven out again and again.

Every time I’ve had the pleasure of shooting various winter national championships, I’m amazed at how solid performing shooters come up to me at some point and tell me that they didn’t have a chance to do live fire practice in the weeks or months leading up to the match, but that they did as well as they did because of using our dry fire training.

These are solid performers who, in some cases, are taking home hardware.

Indoor Live Fire Range Training For Self Defense…is it possible?

I was on a recent Modern Combat And Survival podcast with Jeff Anderson and one of the things we were talking about is how to train for self defense with the crazy restrictions that indoor ranges have.

In short, it’s frustrating if you try to mimic real-life shooting at an indoor range.

You can only shoot 1 target at a time, you have to shoot S L O W L Y, in most cases, you can’t shoot from the holster.  You can’t move & shoot.  Many won’t let you shoot humanoid targets.  etc. etc.

But there’s still a lot of value in indoor live fire shooting.

And if anyone tells you that standing flat footed and shooting holes in a paper target doesn’t prepare you for self defense, it’s probably just because they fail to accept the fact that shooting is a crawl, stand, walk, run process.

In a race to do fast, impressive, and tacticool shooting, many shooters want to gloss over the basics and focus on speed and movement.

They forget that all shooting is built on a foundation of fundamental skills.  That foundation can be made of sand or stone.

Those fundamental skills are really basic…stance, grip, sight picture, sight alignment, trigger press, follow through.

In reality, it’s more basic than that…all you need to do is line up your sights/muzzle with your intended target, press the trigger without disturbing sight alignment/muzzle alignment, and repeat.

The 2 fundamentals are
Muzzle Alignment and Trigger Press
The other “fundamentals” just make the big 2 easier…

When you focus on the basics and get passionate about perfecting them, you develop more resilient technique that holds up better under stress.

But when shooters pay lip service to the fundamentals in a race to do cool stuff…speed, stress, OR movement will all cause their groups to open up like a shotgun blast.

You can look at other physical skills to see the same pattern play out.

Would you teach a kid carpentry by giving him a full-size hammer and start him learning on 16 penny nails?  No!  You’d start him out with small nails and a small hammer.  Eventually, he’d perfect his technique and that solid foundation will make it effortless to use a full size hammer to drive a 16 penny nail in 1-2 whacks.

In traditional martial arts, the foundation is forms and katas.  You master the basics before moving on to the complex.

But MMA is full of fighters who rushed past the basics to get to the cool stuff.  They want to learn 100 techniques at a surface level instead of mastering 3-4.  They look good shadow boxing and hitting bags, but their technique falls apart and they fight like a 6 year old as soon as they get punched in the face.


Because they paid lip service to the fundamentals instead of mastering them.

How’s that apply to shooting at an indoor range?

I look at live fire shooting differently than most people.

My goal is to make the biggest gains possible while investing as little time and money as possible.

So I don’t look at the majority of my live fire time as training or practice.

I either look at it as “fun time” or as an opportunity to verify and validate the training and practice that I’ve done with dry fire.  Here are some of the things that I test:

  • Does the grip and flex that I’m practicing in dry fire bring the sights back into fast, perfect alignment after each shot, or do I need to make adjustments?
  • When I have all the time in the world, can I deliver rounds EXACTLY where I want them to go? If not, is it a visual issue that I can fix by covering one eye?  (If so, I need to do vision drills until I get the same performance with both eyes open)  Is it a trigger finger isolation issue?  (If so, I need to do sensory and cerebellum drills to improve trigger finger isolation.)
  • Am I anticipating recoil and do I need to alternate between dry fire and live fire or switch to a ammo/gun combination with less recoil?
  • Am I twisting the pistol as I press the trigger or am I gripping tightly and isolating my trigger finger from the rest of my hand?
  • If my thumb is moving as I’m pressing the trigger, is it disturbing sight alignment or is it away from the slide where it won’t do any harm?
  • Can I maintain my speed/accuracy if I turn my body 45 degrees, put both feet together instead of having them in a perfect stance, or lift one foot off the ground an inch or so with a normal stance so I’m balancing on 1 foot?

You can use indoor live fire range time to focus on perfecting and refining the fundamentals without the distractions and complexity of “real life” shooting.  Again, get the foundation built solidly and then you can start adding in the variables of “real life” shooting.

And when you get home, you can confidently practice self-defense skills like drawing from concealment, using cover, moving and shooting, engaging multiple targets, and more with dry fire, knowing that you’ve verified and validated the fundamentals with live fire like what we cover in Dynamic Gunfighter and with our Tough Multi Targets.

It’s a loop…train and practice with dry fire, verify, validate, and refine with live fire, train and practice and build in defensive skills with dry fire and test & validate with competition.  This method gives you the biggest gains in the least amount of time with the least expense.

Train hard, and train smarter than the other guy.


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  • Norbert

    Reply Reply January 12, 2021

    As always, Ox hits the nail… almost literally. The advice is priceless and sound. What I learnt from Ox here has made me a better shooter, I can see it already. I’m not pro by far, but I’m getting there.
    Thank you Ox!

  • Frank R

    Reply Reply January 9, 2021

    Hey Ox, as I was doing some dry fire training yesterday I began to wonder why it is so easy to shoot one inch groups from around eight feet with a laser trainer (SIRT gun), and so difficult to do it with live fire? (I’ve tried a few times unsuccessfully.) Also, what can be learned from that difference? I’m thinking it has to do with the effects of anticipating recoil, but I would be curious to hear what you think.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply January 14, 2021

      Great question…there’s a few answers. You hit #1 on the head…

      1. Recoil anticipation. Sometimes it helps to count backwards out loud as you’re shooting so that you don’t think about pressing the trigger.
      2. Impatience. Shooting a gun is FUN and a cascade of neurotransmitters are released. Once your brain makes the connection between pressing the trigger and the effect, it wants that feeling sooner and more often. You’ve got to be the taskmaster.
      3. Excitement about seeing where you hit. It’s very common for shooters to lift their head and drop their gun slightly to see the target better/sooner AS they shoot. When I say AS they shoot, I mean within .1 seconds of the shot. When the focus shifts from the sights to the target, the brain suppresses the transition and fills in the gap with an instant switch from front sight to target…so you may not even know it’s happening as you shoot. Shooting with a SIRT can actually exacerbate this issue because it’s so fun to see where the laser hits. The way around it is to make sure you get a sight picture after each shot, regardless of whether it’s with a SIRT or live fire.
      4. The triggers on some real guns kind of suck. They may be long, heavy, gritty, and inconsistent. You can still shoot 1 hole groups with them, but it takes more focus and effort.

      • Frank R

        Reply Reply February 4, 2021

        Hey Ox, can’t believe it took me until now to find my way back to this page. Thanks so much for taking the time to provide such a detailed answer to my question. All of my training for the past couple of months has been dry fire (due to the weather and an injury), so I’m looking forward to continuing to work on my fundamentals, especially trigger control, and then having another go at the one inch group challenge in a couple of months or so.

  • Shirley H

    Reply Reply January 9, 2021

    Thank you for the information re:getting back to basics. Really appreciate it.

  • Dano

    Reply Reply January 3, 2019

    Excellent information practical valuable for improvement and proven. That is why I respect Ox and keep on watching and reading.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply January 3, 2019

      Thank you, Dano!

  • Stephen

    Reply Reply January 13, 2017

    I enjoyed this article very much, esp. the linear, lateral thinking part!

    Thank You!

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