One of the best ways to practice your defensive skills is to use the "shooter and coach" approach. Instead of everyone shooting at the same time, teams are formed with one member shooting the drill and the other acting as the coach, watching the shooter to ensure they are performing properly and applying constructive input for improvement.
There are a lot of times when practicing defensive skills that we develop undesirable habits, often times without even realizing it. We'll have students come to a class after a few months or longer since their last training and they'll be doing things that are incorrect. Over time during their practice things have gotten a little out of shape, out of sequence, or extra motions and unnecessary actions have been added to a sequence. A lot of the times this occurs without the shooter even being aware of it. "I'm doing that," they ask, after I've offered a correction. "I didn't even know it," they say. One of the best ways to avoid this, and to improve and hone your skills, is to go shooting with a partner, but instead of everyone shooting at the same time you use the shooter/coach technique.
Of course this assumes that both of you are on the same sheet of music, but usually this is the case with people who practice together and have attended the same training. The shooter runs the drills. The coach watches, ensuring the shooter is performing correctly or supplying corrections when needed. Just remember that criticisms should be constructive. For example, "After you press the trigger focus on follow through - recovering from the recoil, reacquiring a sight picture and resetting the trigger," is good. "Dude, you suck," isn't really that helpful.
Having a coach watch you ensures you're performing properly and not letting any bad habits creep into your routine. Plus, it's critically important that every repetition you perform is a good one. Remember bad habits can be learned just as easily as good ones.
Another advantage of this practice is that as coach you're still learning. One of the major ways we learn is visually, watching someone else perform the task you're working on learning. While acting as coach, making sure the shooter is performing properly and supplying corrections, you're also learning.
Running shooter/coach drills is a benefit for both participants. With someone watching you perform you're ensuring that mistakes are corrected, as opposed to bad or incorrect skills becoming ingrained into your habits. While acting as coach you're helping your shooter improve, and at the same time learning through observation and coaching. Using this system produces better results, using less ammo and more return from the time invested.
If you're serious about preparing for a self-defense confrontation you should research and study up on various techniques that can be used to improve your practice sessions. Going to the range and blasting is fun, but the true joy should be found in recognizing you're getting better and better at the skills that may be necessary to save lives.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911