Since before New Year's 2013, there has been a growing shortage of popular ammunition available at affordable prices. This drought of brass has led to many not having ammo to shoot for defense, not to mention having spare rounds for practice and training. Here is some advice on how to stay sharp and get the most out of what you have.
Regular Range Practice, not plinking.
Nothing beats safe, regulated, live-fire at targets on a range. Now is not a time to plink and waste ammo on tin cans, watermelons, and old junk appliances. At a minimum this range training should be done quarterly, or about every 3 months or so. During this session you need to practice both single and double shot strings, firing both left and right hand only, firing from different positions, and at different distances. This requires at least 50-rounds per session, but 100 are better. With this in mind, you should be sending 200-400 rounds downrange a year to keep a minimum level of marksmanship skills.
Cadboro's three-round accuracy drill. The idea is to train muscle memory and single aimed shots at medium distance. He is using an XD-45 and dark goggles that simulate shooting in low-light conditions. Safe accurate training still needs to take place as much as possible to keep your sharp enough to prevail in a personal protection situation.
Practicing without brass or ammo
While live-fire is important, it is not an end-all/be-all. You can also help stay sharp without using any ammo at all. After first making sure that you have no brass or ammo present in your magazines or chamber, safe dry firing with snap caps can be done in the safety of your own home free. Snap caps, inert plastic cartridges with a spring to capture the impact of the striker, only cost a few dollars and will save your gun from excessive wear and tear. By doing this dry firing, you will see where trigger slap, poor grips, and rushing the shot have interfered with your shooting. You can also practice magazine exchanges this way until it becomes second nature.
One of the best gunfighters in history, the FBI's Jelly Bryce credited an hour or so of dry firing in front of a mirror every single day with helping him die an old man in his bed while several bad guys who stood in for the mirror in his day job did not. He grew so fast that he could drop a silver dollar from shoulder level and with the same hand draw and fire from his standard holster an aimed shot that hit the target before the dollar struck the dirt. Now that takes a lot of muscle memory to pull off smoothly.
Many modern handguns on the market have companion kits that replace the slide, barrel, and magazine with one that fires, instead of 9mm/40/45, cheaper 22LR ammo. Unfortunately, conversion kits for the XD series pistols currently don't exist in the known world. Advantage Arms, maker of such kits for Glock pistols, had a XD kit in development a few years ago but it never made it into production. In 2010, XD Guys announced they had coming soon: "22LR conversion kit for all XD/XD (M) 9mm/.40 Service Models. A .45 model will follow within 6 to 12 months of the 9mm/.40." Yet within six months removed all the references to it on their website and never coughed up one. Therefore, if you are enamored with the concept of getting a 22 kit for your Croatian gun set a reminder to email/call Springfield once a week with the suggestion but don't hold your breath.
(Yes, thats an airsoft gun)
For years, many ISPC competitors have used 1:1 scale airsoft handguns to stay sharp and work on the fundamentals of trigger control, sight alignment, and proper grip while just spending pocket change for a few hundred rounds. Tokyo Marui, probably the biggest and best-respected airsoft gun maker in the world, has long produced a near perfect clone of the full sized XD (M). It is a blowback (slide actually moves when firing) gas-powered semi-auto that is a dead ringer for the real thing. Its weight is 26.75-ounces which is similar and the gun field strips, has almost the same trigger, sights, and grip as the gun it's inspired by. It shoots 6mm plastic BBs at 280fps so eyepro is needed but with a simple bb-trap, you can shoot to your heart's content in your back yard, garage, or man cave on the cheap-- even using your regular carry holster.
These guns are a little pricey, about $175 through Red Wolf but 3700 rounds of ammo only cost $12. It's worth considering.
Moreover, keep an eye on the shelves of your local gun store for some more ammo while you are at it.