I’m probably stating the obvious. But if one wants to become a better shooter, the key is training and practice. Training and practice works.
Well, duh! Maybe it’s just me, but the thing is that it may not always seem like it.
Personally, I still consider myself a novice. As I’ve stated before, I consider myself new to guns and shooting altogether. While I’ve been a licensed to and have carried a defensive handgun for years now and been a gun owner a little longer, I’ve only really started to work on improving my proficiency with firearms this year (2019). My tipping point was the first time I took a beyond the basics pistol course simply because I thought it would be fun.
Don’t get me wrong. Prior to that course, I spent quite a bit of time at the range punching holes in paper. But most of that was for recreational reasons and just to make sure my defensive firearm was in an operational condition. The first course I took really opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know.
Since that day, I’ve:
- received private instruction to help me learn to shoot a rifle beyond 1k yards,
- started participating in IDPA matches regularly,
- and participated in a tactical pistol and rifle course.
While the experiences have been fun, every time I’ve received instruction I’ve walked away realizing there are deficiencies in my equipment and there are abundant skill gaps I’d like to close. In short, I’ve walked away with the perception that I haven’t attained the proficiency that I’m after. In even simpler terms, I’ve walked away feeling like I suck. Not in a bad way, but in a humbling way.
Why am I sharing this? Well, I recently went to my local range to try out a gun I won via raffle to evaluate a change I’m considering to my every day carry defensive pistol in response to things I learned during the most recent training course I participated in. I ran a few drills I’ve picked up from training to help inform my evaluation of the pistol. This caught the attention of the range safety office on duty (whom I believe is a newer employee). On my way out, I bumped into him and he complimented me on my shooting skill and asked if I was a competitive shooter.
I’m not going to lie. This compliment was a huge boost to my ego. At the same time it affirmed a few things.
First off, I am definitely improving. This was the first time somebody I didn’t know gave me an unsolicited compliment. I’ve improved enough that somebody not participating in the same activity noticed my skill. The trends in my IDPA scores also confirm this, but the compliment was definitely a bigger ego boost.
Also, I’m my own worst critic. This is probably why I still consider myself a novice and walk away from training and matches humbled. I’m willing to bet others who are also seeking improvement in firearms proficiency feel the same way.
Bottom line is training and practice work. Training provides an opportunity to identify bad habits to break and good habits to develop. It also provides us with drills that can be used to break those bad habits and develop the good habits. Using those drills during practice allows practice to do what it does best, form and refine habits. Over time, that builds skill and proficiency. But one has to do both to level up. Otherwise, practice without training just sustains the current proficiency level while training without practice is just knowledge building.