Training: The Myth of Muscle Memory

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The Myth of Muscle Memory
by Louis Awerbuck

“[If] you fire ten rounds and hit the target nine times, you do have a 90% hit ratio. But the bad news is, you have a 10% miss ratio. Not satisfied with that—and rightly so—you decide to crank a bucketful of ammo downrange at the same target, from the same distance. Five hundred rounds later, you have a great-looking target, with the center drilled out in one ragged hole.

“After totaling the individual bullet perforations that impacted around the periphery of the large central orifice, you find that you fired 50 “loose” rounds out of 500. You still have a 10% miss ratio. So not only have you expended a bunch of ammo, you’re also stuck with your basic problem.

“What to do? First, define what is causing the loose rounds, either from personal past experience or from a knowledgeable friend or instructor.

Second, do not initially try to correct the issue by launching a plethora of ammunition at the target. Start off with a minimal amount of rounds and force yourself to have to work for success.

How I cured my personal accuracy plunge was by self-imposed mental control. The primary success element for my personal ballistic rehab – I took only 25 rounds to the range. Once I was hitting with all 25 rounds, I pushed the tally to a total of 35, then 50, then 100. I implemented each increase in round consumption only after I was getting the desired results from prior range visitations with a lesser total amount of ammunition. Did I miss the desired mark on occasion? Sure—we all do. But the primary successful facet was that I was no longer trying to fix the problem by sending hundreds of rounds of garbage quantity downrange, but instead substituting quality for quantity.

I later picked up an excellent pistol practice drill from Colonel Cooper. Starting with a holstered pistol, fire one round at an eight-inch target from 25 yards—two-and-a-half-second time limit. It’s plain, simple, and combines many facets of basic defensive shooting. It also requires the absolute maximum mental control for each and every shot fired. If this doesn’t work, nothing will.

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Hit Or Myth


Hit Or Myth by Louis Awerbuck

A thoughtful text on approaching range exercises to learn tactical scenarios. This book is an ideal place to go once a reasonably high level of shooting skill has been obtained.

It is true that scored range exercises and drills will only take you so far and polishing them to perfection will begin to show diminishing returns. That point is well illustrated here. The problem is too many trainers and trainees use this fact as an excuse to never learn solid marksmanship and gun handling.

Consider this point made early in the book. In discussing scored range drills like the El Presidente the author notes that, “A polished performer can consistently execute the drill in 7-8 seconds with a ‘near perfect’ score.” Scored as a Comstock course, this would indicate a Hit Factor score of around 7 or more.

If you or your charges are routinely shooting the El Prez with Hit Factors near 7, or some other similar high mark of marksmanship and gun handling prowess, then you really do need to spend much more time on tactical scenarios in training. Square range live fire drills should be reduced to a minimum to retain the skills already developed and this book will help you to that end. Force-on-Force training will also be very helpful.

Here’s the rub. Excluding those with a formal competition background or similar high-level shooting experience, I challenge you to find police, soldiers, or CCW civilians that can pull off a range drill like the El Prez at this level. They exist, but are rare. You’d be surprised at the number failing to consistently get 12 hits on the damn target, much less in the center, regardless of elapsed time. Yet, these low level shooters will be the first to complain that competition will “getcha killed” and want to buy a bunch of Simunitions to rush head long into tactical scenarios.

Hit Or Myth points out a number of real world issues that standard range drills fail to address but that doesn’t remove the need to use them.

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