Practical shooting is terrific fun. We get to run around with guns and shoot fast. With all the noise, smoke and flying brass who couldn’t enjoy it? Plus, practical shooting is one of the most directly useful formats available. The problem is, as great and useful as this can be, it is a poor way to begin your shooting career.

Consider that many of the IPSC “old hands” are still competitive. Despite the increasing numbers of participants few have risen to challenge the folks who were winning in the Eighties. I am convinced that this is largely due to the fact that many people enter practical shooting with no previous marksmanship background and never learn solid fundamentals.

Brian Enos has discussed this in a number places including a great “Hate” rant. “Old school” practical shooters began life participating in other, more accuracy intense disciplines such as PPC and made the switch. New practical shooters are now beginning their competitive experience in practical shooting and not enough ever learn disciplined marksmanship. Standards courses from 25 to 50 yards used to be a staple at every match. Now they are rarely encountered.

I made the switch from civilian practical competition to Commonwealth-style combat matches several years ago, largely because the US Army Reserves sponsor teams and pay me to shoot. The pistol courses can be described as a mix of Bianchi Cup and PPC shooting. On several occasions participants with a solid practical background have attended these events and the results were disappointing. They simply didn’t have the raw marksmanship chops needed to put together a respectable score. Despite a Master classification from USPSA and IDPA it took me some time to bring my accuracy up to be competitive.

This is NOT a condemnation of IPSC, USPSA, IDPA or any other practical shooting format! The problem is that shooters start there and want to race without ever learning how to shoot with some degree of precision.

Set down the timer, put away the holster, break out the bullseye targets and dummy rounds and work on fundamental marksmanship.

Mix some dummy rounds into your magazines. If you can’t shoot a slow fire group without flinching on the click you’re wasting ammo until you fix it. Yes, I know that timing or “Post Ignition Push” is needed to shoot really fast, but you should NOT twitch during slow fire! Work on slow fire group shooting out to extended distances, 25 yards at least.