Training doesn’t always equal skill

Henry rifle .45 Colt headshots

Here at Gun Nuts we’re big advocates of getting professional training. One of the big reasons I push that people get training is because it’s difficult for self-taught practitioners of anything to identify places where they’re making mistakes. Video taping yourself practicing can help, but it’s always useful to have a second set of eyes watching what you do and making corrections or offering tips.

However, just taking a class doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get any better at what you do. This can be for a number of reasons: the instructor isn’t very talented, the class is way below your current skill level, etc. However, assume for the sake of argument that the class is appropriate for your level of skill and that the instructor is talented enough to actually provide useful feedback to you as a shooter. It still doesn’t guarantee you’ll get better.

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The reason it doesn’t guarantee improvement is because improvement is self-motivated. You can take 5-10 training classes and if you don’t take any of that learning and practice it in your own time, you’ll never improve. The cycle of improvement looks like this:

  1. Learn new skills (class)
  2. Practice skills on your own (range, dry fire, etc)
  3. Pressure test skills (match, other venues)
  4. Identify weak spots, and refine

You can repeat steps 2-4 as many times as necessary to continue to refine your skills; but at least for me I’ll eventually run into a point where I then need to go back to step one as well. Classes are incredibly useful for breaking through plateaus, because again of that value of the second set of eyes that are on you. But just taking classes won’t make you better, because it’s way too easy to brain dump everything you learned in the class and not bring it into your training regimen.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you took 6 classes last year you’re better as a shooter. I’d rather see someone take 2 classes and spend that extra time and money on refining their skills on the range, shoot a few matches, and continue to work. My ideal class/training schedule would look like this:

  • Season start: take a class to knock any rust off/tune up. For me, this should be a relatively high intensity class, for example the Automatic Accuracy class I took a few years back.
  • Early-Mid-season (March-May): Dry fire, range work, refine skills. Shoot club matches, maybe some state level stuff to start getting back in to match rhythm.
  • Main season: (May-Sep) focus on major matches, keep shooting club matches and keep doing range work, but focus is on main matches. Somewhere in here, work in another class to tighten up any weak spots identified with pressure testing.
  • End of season (Oct-Jan): Do season review, identify success/failures, and do a final skill assessment to identify any weaknesses that can be addressed during the off season. Off-season is he best time to work on holes, since (at least on Hoth) matches basically stop after October. So get in the indoor range and get in your house and dry fire.

Bottom line? As it turns out, the shooting sports are like any other sport. You won’t reach your maximum potential just practicing in your basement or going to the batting cage, but you also won’t reach it if you don’t practice at all. Today’s post has been brought to you by Captain Obvious needs content.

1 thought on “Training doesn’t always equal skill”

  1. I really like this 4 point process. If you’re stalled out on item #4 and don’t know what you’re doing wrong or just generally can’t do what you think you need to, time to go to item #1.

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