Getting the most out of your practice

I’m a fairly accurate shooter. Thanks to my introduction to shooting coming from the traditional bullseye sports, I can shoot pretty consistent groups on the reg, which is a valuable skill to have when I’m testing and evaluating guns. It’s also a huge mental crutch for me, because it’s my default setting for when I can’t think of anything better to practice.

815 Magtech 158gr (640x480)

See, if I’m actually practicing, I need to be practicing the things that I suck at, not the stuff I’m already good at. Spending my practice sessions shooting tight groups in controlled slow fire doesn’t really make me better at anything other than shooting tight groups in controlled slow fire. Which is a cool skill and everything, but it’s not really applicable to my personal shooting goals.

To really get the most out of your practice session you need to find a balance point of “doing hard stuff” and “reinforce stuff you’re good at.” I don’t believe that you should ever practice for the shooting sports with a session that does nothing but frustrate you. A baseball coach once told me “never end batting practice on a bad swing”, the rationale behind that is that if your last rep is garbage, you’re going to spend the rest of your day thinking about that one garbage rep and what you did wrong instead of what you did right on the other 20 swings.

That doesn’t mean you should lie to yourself about mistakes. I keep a hand-written training log with me when I practice. That way I can keep track of scores and times on key drills and understand where I’m improving or where I need more work. The reverse of the “bad swing” is where you shoot a Bill Drill in 1.89 Seconds and miss half your shots, but congratulate yourself on a “really fast time.” Balance. All training is about balance.

If you’re a serious shooting athlete though, this gets a little more complicated. Because if you’re really serious, you’re going to have bad training days. You’re going to have rough sessions where you slog through your drills. It’s frustrating, but it’s the truth. Learning to manage those sessions is important as well. It is a lot like exercise in some ways. There are days when I’m well rested, ate right all day, nice and hydrated, and I can blast through three miles and 100 pushups like it’s nothing. There are other days, maybe I had a couple more drinks the night before, maybe the dog kept me up that 3 miles is a long way to go, and 100 pushups just isn’t happening. You can’t expect every day to be a new personal best. It’s not realistic. That’s why the training log is important, because it allows you to see increased performance over time.

I personally tend to default towards “having fun” with my training. Because if I’m not having fun training, I should probably go to the batting cages or something instead. But maybe you want to grind it out, which is awesome too. Just find your balance and kick ass!

1 Comment

  1. I agree that you should work on the stuff you don’t do well to improve, but disagree that shooting groups is a crutch, unless you make it one. Shooting groups stresses the basics of shooting and it’s the basics that we will never master. Just like going for a faster time on an El Pres, you should be trying to shoot a tighter group every time you practice them. That’s one of the great things about shooting, you never max anything out, you can always get a little quicker or shoot a tighter group and if your goal is to become the best you can be that is the path.

    I’ve seen shooters get frustrated with their progress and blame their speed because they were a little slower than the match winner, at the same time ignoring the three misses they had in the match. That thinking gets back to your point about focusing some practice time on the things you don’t do well, just make sure you are honest with yourself, another good trait competitive shooting can develop.

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