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How to Train for Your First Run and Gun (or Your 50th)

Updated: Dec 26, 2018

So… you’ve decided to try your first Run and Gun.  Now what?

Training for a Run and Gun event is not hard, but it’s also not necessarily easy.

At a high level, we can compare the training philosophy of Run and Gun to the sport of Triathlon (swim/bike/run).

In Triathlon, the athlete may enter the sport with a background steeped in one of the three major elements.  Perhaps the athlete is a runner or a cyclist, but has never swam competitively.  That athlete will need to learn the fundamentals of the unfamiliar sports while combining training for all three sports into a program that may or may not emphasize the things he/she is already good at.  There are technical aspects of each sport that may be counterintuitive to the one-sport athlete; for example, the things that make a runner fast on his feet do not make him/her a fast swimmer.  Quite the opposite is the case.  Add to the training schedule the need to master one’s equipment: imagine being a novice cyclist and having to deal with your first flat tire on race day, or being a new swimmer and having never experienced leaky goggles, or having never been kicked in the face in the water (it happens).   With a little thought, it becomes easy to get dazed by all the things there are to know.  It can be discouraging to the new athlete.


Nobody ever starts a new thing as an expert, and no matter the talents brought to bear on the field of competition, the athlete ALWAYS has room to improve.  This applies in every sport, and most certainly applies to Run n Gun Biathlon.

Now what about Run and Gun? How do we train to be the best we can be?

During a typical Run and Gun, the athlete will be faced with three categorical challenges:

  1. ) The athlete will need to make fast and accurate shots with both rifle and pistol, from unusual firing positions, at targets of varying shapes and sizes at potentially unknown distances.  Some of those distances can be upwards of 500 yards;

  2. The athlete will need to cover ground efficiently engaging diverse terrain and/or various obstacles while carrying all gear needed to complete the course – this gear will add bulk and weight of a nature that may be unfamiliar, especially in the context of trying to quickly cover large distances and make accurate shots; and

  3. The athlete will encounter opportunities to problem solve – perhaps you experience an equipment or gear failure that demands attention in the middle of a stage, or maybe you are expected to engage a target in a manner that you have never attempted.

 It’s all there, at nearly every Run and Gun.  And it’s fun, trust me!

In the sport of Triathlon, there are thick books written by professional coaches that try and make the whole game digestible to a wide audience.  I’m not going to make that type

of play here, but rather I hope to give the reader a nudge in the general direction of seeking specific training or planning your own training path to become a solid RnG athlete.

Before we get too far into Run and Gun training, a word about equipment:

You will require, at a minimum, a rifle and a means to reload it quickly, a pistol with secure holster and at least two magazines, and a means to safely carry all your gear and sufficient ammo to complete the course.  That’s it.  Don’t overthink it.  Don’t let your gear decisions or availability delay your entry into the most awesome sport you will ever experience!  After competing in a couple Run and Guns you will make observations of other shooters and begin forming your own opinions on what will work best for you.  If you really don’t know what to use or get, most of us experienced Run and Gun folks have tried different things and can give mostly good advice.  Enough said about equipment.  More on equipment in a later article.

Now let’s break down RnG training into three main aspects:

  • The Physical Component

  • Marksmanship

  • Putting it all together

The Physical Component

Let’s face it, not every participant in Run and Gun is going to run the entire distance.  In fact, it is the rare athlete who will truly run the whole course.  This is sure to change in time, however, as the sport becomes more sophisticated and participants engage in more specific, focused training.  As it stands today, most athletes employ a mix of running/walking and many participants openly plan to walk entire events.  Regardless of where you are today in terms of your cardiovascular capacity, we will all have a need to safely and efficiently cover ground and engage obstacles.

Training for this portion of the event should focus on regularly covering a distance over ground.  One really good way to do this, in my opinion, would be trail-running three or more times per week while wearing a weight vest for at least one of those runs.  But maybe you don’t have access to trails.  Maybe you can’t run due to an old football injury or some such thing.  On the other end of extremes, maybe you are an experienced marathoner with a training base of 50-plus miles per week.  No matter – there are things we can and should do to improve our RnG performance.

On game day, you will need to carry 15-30 pounds of gear over 3 to 7 miles.  There are a plethora of resources giving guidance on how to train to run, or walk, your first 5K or 10K.  Because of the vast, general availability of these resources, I am going to oversimplify my training advice here by making some broad summations.

First, cover ground.  Just get out there and move.  Some folks run, some folks hike, some folks ride a bike or paddle a kayak. 

Whatever your thing is, get to a point where

you know, without

question, that you will be able to safely complete the course.

Please do not show up and place yourself at serious risk of overexertion on some remote piece of ground with limited access to rescue. 

Trust me, nobody wants to tell cool stories about the helicopter evacuation they got to watch.  So, get out there today and cover ground.  Do it often enough that you can measure improvement.

Next, get stronger.  This may mean hitting the gym, doing a bunch of body-weight exercises (think: push-ups), or it may mean just moving heavy things around.  The point here is to be able to climb the tree, fence, or walls that are presented to you along the Run and Gun course.  Your chosen event may also require you to carry something heavy during a shooting stage, or drag a huge weighted object, or maybe flip a tractor tire.  You get the idea – we are talking functional strength here, not a beach-body pursuit.  You may want to designate at least one day per week to core exercises.  Remember, even if your chosen Run and Gun is light on obstacles, you still must carry all that gear.  And even though your burden might get lighter towards the finish line due to burned-up ammo and chugging your water, it will remain a fact that you are carrying more weight than you are probably accustomed to.

Finally, get flexible Stretch or do yoga.  Do something.  The payoff here will be in your range of motion and your ability to navigate unusual or unconventional shooting positions.  Secondarily, you will see an improvement in your ability to apply your strength through a longer/wider range of motion.  This will pay dividends at the obstacles.

For all the above, I’d give the usual precaution – check with your doctor, yada, yada, yada.  And get fit.


This is the common denominator that brings us all here, right?  We all love to shoot.  It is the rare Run and Gun athlete that signs up for one of these events and has also never fired a gun.  But these unicorns do exist, and we WELCOME you into our fold!

Pistol and rifle, rifle and pistol…  Because we all grew up watching John Wayne movies, we are therefore all expert shots, right?  Wrong.  Sorry, the truth is, most of you have a long way to go before you can claim to be expert marksmen.

I will not go into the intricacies of how to shoot in this article.  Like running, there are a gazillion resources for quality marksmanship training.  But I will make one vigorous recommendation: go participate in an Appleseed weekend (sign up at ).  The marksmanship processes taught during an Appleseed will be applicable to almost any shooting endeavor.  Over the fast-paced two days, you will learn the steady-hold factors as they apply to shooting a rifle standing, kneeling, sitting, and prone; you will learn the six steps of firing a shot; and you will learn how to find and use your Natural Point of Aim (NPOA).  The methods taught at Appleseed will carry over to any rifle-based sport you can think of, and also happen to play quite well into pistol shooting.

By the way, it is uncanny how many of the top shooters at RnG have an Appleseed pedigree.  Just sayin’.

Marksmanship is a perishable skill.  As a result, there are some relative absolutes to incorporate into your overall Run and Gun training plan.  In no particular order:

Dry Fire This is where you go through the steps of firing a shot but you do not use any ammo – the firing pin/hammer/striker is allowed to fall with a “click” while you are focusing on your

sight picture, trigger press, and follow through.  The advanced dry firer will incorporate magazine changes, target transitions, and movement.  You can do this comfortably at home, in the living room, in your garage, whatever.  Also, you should do some of this at the range incorporated into your live fire training.  There are some high-speed training gizmos that can make dry fire more productive.  For example, there are pistol magazines that allow you to make successive dry shots with your handgun without having to rack the slide each time.  One tool I recently acquired, and am thrilled with, is called the Mantis-X.  It uses very small accelerometers to measure the movement of the gun before, during, and after the shot to provide measurable feedback on the quality of your shot.  It’s pretty slick.  There are also devices that incorporate lasers and other gadgets that are all designed to help you get better.

I cannot overstate how valuable Dry Fire is to your training.  As a case in point, I have a very good friend who has been doing RnG for about ten years.  He scarcely fires a live round, like almost never, unless it is at an RnG.  Seriously, he maybe gets to an actual range four times a year besides at RnG’s.  But he is a zealous Dry Fire practitioner.  This allows him to stay sharp, and when it comes to making good hits, accuracy is his strong point.  Dry Fire works.  You should do it.

Live Fire.  Everybody loves range days.  Unfortunately, not every Run and Gun athlete has access to a private range where we can set up diverse targets, draw from the holster, or make rapid-fire shots.  Lots of good folks are limited to their nearby public range, and however, as they are excellent venue to verify your rifle’s zero or test the accuracy of the ammo you want to take to Run and Gun.  So, what’s a guy or gal to do?

How can you get in meaningful, fast-paced training to get ready for Run and Gun?

My answer: