I was recently ask after a class by a good friend and student; “What do you do to get better at shooting”. I did not have an immediate answer for him. After a minute’s thought the fog lifted and I was able to tell him what I do. This article is a direct result of that conversation.
There are about as many ways to train as there are colors in the spectrum. That goes for anything; physical fitness, rock climbing, whatever. In the context of self defense, there is an equally long list: Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun, Knife, Hand to hand (which is massive in and of itself), mentally training, so on and so on. That said, the way I do things is a way, not the way. If you like it and it works for you, take it and run with it. I have developed this methodology over time and still allow room for modification.
This approach and process can be applied to any skillet. We will use handguns here, as that was the original context.
I take the approach of getting better like I would if I was to eat a whale, one bit at a time. When I go to the range, I go to get better at head shots at 10 yards from the holster, or get better at unsupported support hand shooting and reloading, or whatever I am improving.
I do not go to the range to “get better”. If you go to the range just to get better, you never will… What I do, and what I recommend students try is profound, are you ready!? Here it is: “Focus on one thing at a time!” See, not so hard right? But it’s so obvious, there must be more to it, well, there kinda is.
Let’s say you want to get better at shooting handguns, overall. Your groups are spread out and sometimes you miss all together. How does fixing one thing at a time help? Well, I’m thrilled you asked. Everything! Remember, what I said about the whale? One bite at a time. You will not become an expert shooter in one range session, not gonna happen. That takes time and practice. What you can do however, is get a little better each time!
When you go to the range to get better, start big and get small. Meaning, work on your big actions (stance), and move small (trigger control). So, you are at the range, and shooting all over the place. First things first: be consistent! If you are nothing else be consistent, you cannot improve until you are doing the same thing over and over.
Once you are doing the same things constantly, you can begin to improve what you are doing! Start with your stance. Make sure you have a good, solid, comfortable, and repeatable stance. Once that is solid, go smaller, how about your grip? Is that a great grip, or is it meh? Get it great and move smaller. Trigger control and sight alignment are the most critical functions for accuracy, they are also the smallest.
Now, about 90% of what makes you a better shooter can be done by dry firing. Please make sure you are being incredibly safe while dry firing! Follow all safety rules and remove any ammunition from the area!
When I go to the range, I will go with at least 100 rounds. I will spend all 100, more or less if that is what it takes, to work on one particular skill. If I need to work on my trigger control, then each shot is slow and analyzed to death. If I want to practice speed reloads from running dry, I will only put a round or two in the magazine so I can maximize my reloads, while still working on a shooting skill.
Do not try to do too much at once. That will frustrate you and you will not improve, because you will never know what works and what does not. Be particular, and take your time. Change one thing at a time, otherwise you will end up “chasing the bulls eye” and you will only become frustrated. When you train, train with a purpose, do not go shoot just to waste ammo and money. Nor should you swing a knife around and call it training, use these principles in all areas of training and watch yourself grow. Training implies improvement, and we should always be improving.
What can we learn?
- Be consistent! You will never improve without constancy.
- Once you are consistent, you can move your group
- Focus on improving one thing at a time. Do not change too many things at once, if you do you will never know what works and what does not.
- Start big and go small. Start with stance, move down to trigger, one step at a time.
- Dry fire training will make you better when done correctly and safely
- Be patient
I hope this helps, Nighthawk.