Shooting is Shooting
A different approach to practice.
Do you go to matches and end up leaving frustrated because your match performance doesn’t seem to come close to what your performances in practice look like? Your approach to practice might be contributing to those frustrating match experiences. I would like to suggest something that may be a little different.
First, let’s take a look at how I had been practicing, and how I think a lot of people approach their practice sessions. I think a lot of people will take 200-400 rounds to the range and have 1-3 drills in mind to work on a few specific areas of concern or skillsets. It really feels like it’s working. You work on a drill for 200 rounds, and by the end of your practice session you’re performing better on the drill. At the end of the day you go home and feel like it was a productive practice session. Your next practice session you go out and do the same type set up, over and over again. The problem with that approach is you expect to perform well or “get better” by the END of the practice session. The expectation is that you will shoot well, but only after you have shot a couple hundred rounds. This is problematic because shooting a couple hundred rounds prior to stage one isn’t really an option at matches, nor does it give you much confidence heading into a match. Another problem with this practice mindset and set-up is after about two runs on a specific drill or “stage” muscle memory has set in, and reacting to your sights doesn’t happen, you simply drive the gun to where you know the target is.
I would suggest you take a slightly more random approach to your practice sessions. Set up 5-7 targets and a couple pieces of steel, if you have them. Then create at least 3 shooting positions using either cones, boxes, walls or whatever you have available. From here you have an almost infinite number of “stages” or drills you can shoot. The goal is to mix it up, start from different positions, shoot the targets from different positions, shoot them in different orders, and move the targets around. My rule is to never shoot a run more than twice. I feel like two runs are important. First, if I shoot something twice, I don’t feel like I have developed muscle memory by the second run. Second, shooting it twice allows me to check my time on my first run, or put on pressure to perform better on the second run.
Why would you want to practice this way? I think there are multiple benefits from it. First, shooting different stages and planning them becomes much easier. You are constantly being forced to memorize and execute something new. Second, you get better at reacting to your sights. Because it is always different, your body doesn’t automatically know what each run should look or feel like. Third, you learn where you have to be mentally to perform on every run. Because you are changing everything up all the time, you cannot rely on anything other than solid fundamentals. Lastly, you have to learn to let things go. You will have bad runs, and you will want to run it again in order to fix it, but the truth is running it again, or running it “better” doesn’t fix it. You have to accept that shooting is shooting. Make your next run, on something random, better. Not better because your muscle memory kicked in and you hooked up, but better because you figured out what you needed to do to shoot to the best of your abilities.
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