Most people get to the range now and then; weekly if you're lucky and disciplined; many folks less often. (For context, a trainer of a national-asset HRT team once told us that 200 rounds a day of practice was the minimum for that level, and 200 rounds a week the minimum for any operator at a lesser level. Frankly, I thought he was being generous - I would have expected the numbers to be much larger. I know of units where several thousand (handgun) rounds before lunch is common.) Once at the range, most people tend to shoot the same routines - they have fallen into a rut. Most practice is at 7 yards plus, and people tend to care a lot about nice, tight groups... and they practice all the little things that achieve them: sight focus, steady posture, two-handed shooting, deliberate shot release, and so on.
None of that is realistic.
"Whoa!" you say. "I shoot IDPA (or IPSC.) Granted that these competitive sports aren't realistic, but at least they are more realistic than static shooting, and they certainly mix things up - no ruts here!"
Sorry. You said it. They aren't realistic, and they require a significant amount of time and commitment to participate in, plus you're operating on someone else's schedule. All of which makes realistic practice difficult.
So herewith 10 ways to take your irregular practice sessions and make them more realistic, with no additional time or equipment needed. That is, to modify them so as to practice survival gun fighting, not merely shooting.
1) Move Closer
The average (mean, for you math people) gunfight happens at five feet - which means that half of them occur even closer! I'll bet that very few readers bother to even practice at these "ridiculously" close distances. If all you're trying to do is make a good shot then, agreed, there's no need to. If you're practicing survival shooting, it's not that easy. The dynamics of a fight with a gun change dramatically at these extremely close quarters (ECQ). You can't stand still. You can't bring the gun up to eye level. You can't use two hands. In short, you have to learn an entirely new repertoire of skills. You have to practice fighting - not shooting.
2) Shoot from realistic ECQ positions
Clear the holster, and shoot from a close shooting position. That is, one-handed, with your forearm next to your ribcage (and the gun canted out slightly, for obvious reasons, unless you carry a revolver.) This is sometimes called a "retention" position. Pelvic shots are the most natural thing from this position. From here, target indexing has to be done propriosepticly - that is, you have to have a good sense of where your gun is pointing because you have no visual index, and your "felt" index is tenuous and is unlikely to be recognized in the violent chaos anyway. This is why you need to practice despite the "can't miss" (not!) distance involved.
3) Use Target Focus
Under the extreme stress of a violent encounter we are hardwired to focus on the threat. Trying to focus on the sights is an un-natural action. It can be trained into us, so long as we also train to keep our stress level below the tipping point where our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) overrides our para sympathetic nervous system (PANS). (Training isn't just to develop skill at shooting; it's also to reduce our SNS response to stressful situations.) But if you are over the tipping point - if you are into SNS override - then Mother Nature rules, and you threat focus. This is more likely the closer you are to the violence, and the more surprised you are. So, if this is the way you are likely to have to fight (while looking at the threat), then you need to practice that way. Since you aren't under extreme stress at the range, you will want to focus on the sights - which it what you've trained yourself to do while you're calm. Thus you need a trick. The trick is to force yourself into a Zen-like concentration on the target (mimicking the overriding focus we will have on it under stress), raise the gun to eye level, (once we are past the ECQ range), and fire with tight grip on the gun - one handed. (You will need you other hand for other things - moving as loved one out of the way, holding a child, preventing yourself from falling, etc.) You will be amazed at how far out you can get pie-plate sized groups with this method - 10 yards is not unusual. Colonel Applegate was right. Imagine that!