What is training?

You fight like you trainNo one rises to the occasion, they default to the level of their training.

Phrases like that are incredibly common in the firearms and shooting industry, and I’m sure that given a few minutes you guys could probably come up with a double handful of related phrases.  What that leads me to is what exactly is training? If you look at the verb “train” there are two definitions that stand out, the first is “to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior by discipline and instruction”; the second is “to make proficient by instruction and practice, as in some art, profession, or work”.

In the firearms community, I’ve also heard the following said, that “practice is you refine the skills you learned in training”, implying that training generally requires an instructor or partner.  From that, it’s safe to assume that all shooting is not training, and in fact all shooting may not even be “practice” as understood in the sense of refining skill-sets learned in training.

Now, I’ve said before that I view the shooting sports through a very narrow lens of defensive shooting and competition shooting.  90% of my range time is focused around building the skills that make me better at competition and defensive shooting; this post is going to focus solely on that aspect of the shooting sports.  There is absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever with going to the range to pull triggers for fun without any sort of practice or training goal in mind.  Recreational shooting without developing a particular defensive or competition skill set is awesome, but it’s just not my cup of tea.  Casual, recreational shooters fund a huge portion of the shooting sports, and without them it would be impossible for super-consumers to do what we enjoy doing so much.  So please, when you’re reading the rest of this post remember the lens through which I view the shooting sports is very narrowly confined to certain things.

Back to training/practice/shooting.  If I were to define training in the shooting sports, I would put that definition as either attending formal training with someone like Todd Green or Magpul Dynamics (or any of the other top flight instructors and coaches out there).  I would also include under the banner of training any sort of session where you’re working with another shooter of equal or greater skill level to coach and improve one another.  In those settings, you’re learning new skills and techniques, or by having an external eye on your existing technique you’re having them refined at a greater level than you could if you were practicing alone.  Training doesn’t have to be formal, either.  It can often be as simple as a much better shooter saying “here’s a different way to do that”, showing you how, and then going about your business.  If you approach that advice with an open mind, it becomes a training opportunity.

I’d then define practice as any shooting session where you are focusing on a specific set of skills or techniques that you learned in training in an attempt to focus and refine those skills.  Practice doesn’t have to be live fire to be practice, because a good dry fire session is just as much practice as a live fire session, depending on the skills you’re attempting to hone.

What about matches?  I know my competition shooting friends are wondering where the match environment comes in to play.  For shooters whose focus is on competition, matches are where the raw iron of your training is combined with the alloying compounds of your practice under high heat and pressure to form steel.  For shooters that seek to use competition as a venue to improve their defensive skills, matches can be either practice or training.  If you’re squadded with superior shooters, look to them for training opportunities – otherwise, use each match to focus on a particular skill set under the pressure of the clock.

Going to the range and shooting bullseyes for fun, shooting cans in the backyard, and similar activities aren’t training, and I’d say they’re generally not effective practice.  Again, there’s nothing wrong with that – people take up shooting for all kinds of different reasons, and if you don’t view the shooting sports through the same narrow focus that I do, someone I think we can still get along just fine.  I’d rather have you out there pulling triggers at pop cans or just blazing away for fun than sitting at home playing Halo or something lame like that.  All shooting may not be practice or training, but all shooting is certainly fun.

6 thoughts on “What is training?”

  1. Going to the range and shooting bullseyes for fun, shooting cans in the backyard, and similar activities aren’t training, and I’d say they’re generally not effective practice.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while – see growing up, my friends and I used to hang around the boxing gym just listening to stories, trying out techniques, horsing around. That “playtime” was instrumental in developing an immersion in the sweet science.

    Sure there was time to rigorously practice/spar/etc, but some of that informal “familiarization” paid dividends too! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disagreeing, but some of that immersion – where there are no distinctions between training/practice/play – help build consummation in the endeavor.

    (Hell look at Robbie L. and Enos – they talk about spending long nights just thinking about shooting or racing mag changes in “Practical Shooting”…)

  2. I’ve watched magpul’s dynamic handgun. In addition to the drills in the video, what should we be practicing? What does your routine look like? Got to add this part, general physical conditioning is something that most training providers seem to skip.

  3. In addition to the drills in the video, what should we be practicing?

    Go to Pistol-training.com and pick a few drills. Work on the fundamentals. Work on shooting on the move. Go shoot a few matches, subject yourself to some stress, then find out what you’re bad at and practice them…

  4. I’d like to echo that I think it’s very important to seek critiques of your technique from someone qualified or a the minimum, a better shooter than yourself. There’s only so far you can get by practicing by yourself and doing lot’s of dry firing. Sometimes, you need someone to just stand next to you and see things you could never notice looking down the sights. I know that I personally have hit such a wall.

  5. “I’d rather have you out there pulling triggers at pop cans or just blazing away for fun than sitting at home playing Halo or something lame like that.”

    I don’t play Halo, I prefer Medal of Honor…………

    🙂

  6. “Casual, recreational shooters fund a huge portion of the shooting sports, and without them it would be impossible for super-consumers to do what we enjoy doing so much. ”

    Another truth is that the competitor portion of the super-consumer set usually starts at the level of the recreational shooter. They are not all LE or Military. They get started either as youngsters or adults who discover that, as you say, shooting is fun. They take it to the next level and sometimes become ambassadors of firearm training and awareness. I believe that the average fun shooter is the largest and most important element of firearms owners and users not only for financial support, but politically and for the future growth of the shooting sports and training schools.

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