One of the comments that Dave Thomas with USPSA made on Tuesday’s Gun Nuts was something that deserves further attention, and also dovetails nicely into a comment made by BJ Norris at his blog the other day. Dave said that the top shooters in Steel Challenge are the guys who practice hard for it – and not just shooting matches or plinking at the range, but structured disciplined practice. On his blog, BJ talked about when he practices his goal is to only shoot hits into the A-Zone regardless of time.
That leads us to the subject of “perfect practice”, which is practice for a specific skillset done in such a way to only enforce and train position habits. You set out to your practice, whether it’s presentation, mag changes, hitting a steel plate at 25 yards, whatever your goal is; you practice in such a way that only effective techniques are enforced. For example, I’ve been practicing for Bianchi Cup, admittedly less than I’d want to thank to the weather lately. One of the stages at Bianchi Cup involves shooting a target that is 50 yards distant with a handgun. When I set up my “perfect practice” session for this, my goal was to hit the 10 ring with every shot, regardless of time. The 10 ring on a Bianchi Cup target is 8 inches with a 4 inch x-ring in the center. Any shots outside of the 10 ring, whether they were an 8 or a 5 were considered a failure. After about 20 rounds, I could immediately tell whether or not a shot was good, just by judging my mechanics.
The part where perfect practice comes into play was this – after 50 or so rounds, I could feel my mechanics start to get loose – I wasn’t following through as well, I was losing the front sight, slapping the trigger, etc. In perfect practice, that’s when you put the gun down and step away. Continuing to shoot at that point will only cause you to reinforce negative habits that will lead to poor scores on the range. Once you’ve rested and “cleared your mind” so to speak, then go ahead and resume your practice.
I use this same principle when I’m practicing for IDPA matches. I know that in a major match I’m going to throw shots in to the B zone and C zone from time to time – but during practice, only A-zone (Down 0) hits are acceptable.
If you’re practicing for a particular shooting sport such as IDPA, USPSA, Bianchi Cup, it’s tremendously important to build your practice around the goals of that sport. Whether it’s mag changes or shooting the mover – your practice must be disciplined and focused to improve your skill, otherwise it’s just wasting ammo.