Think, Don’t Plink

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https://www.tacticalperformancecenter.com/blogs/the-dump-pouch/110306694-designing-a-practice

One of our mottos here at the Tactical Performance Center is “think don’t plink.” More than just a catchy phrase, there is deep wisdom in this statement: each round you fire should have a purpose.

I have lived by this motto and every shot I have fired, of my own ammo, in the last eight years has had one of three purposes:

Does the gun work?
Did my outcome match my intent?
Did I follow the process I wanted to follow to release this shot?

Unfortunately, this approach is rarely seen at the range. Too often I see shooters simply turning money into noise without gaining performance improvement. Occasionally I’ll even have a shooter tell me something like “Yeah, great practice. 1,000 rounds down range.” They grow quiet though when I respond with “Great! Did you get 200 bucks of improvement?”

As shooting becomes more expensive and the reasons we shoot–whether it be training to defend our life, protect the public, or win a match–have become more pressing, we owe it to ourselves, and those we protect, to be as good as we can be.

The good news is that improving our performance doesn’t mean that we need to spend more money on ammo or even more time at the range. We just need to build better practices!

At our TPC boot camps, we do just this. While we focus on principles and fundamentals for world class shooting, these concepts are new to most and unlikely to stick after just three days of instruction. For that reason, we also teach our students how to design practices that lock in those fundamentals and improve the speed and consistency with which they can deliver shots.

Here is how we work with our students to develop a practice:

START WITH THE FUNDAMENTALS

Start and end with the fundamentals of grip, stance, isolating the trigger, letting recoil happen, calling shots, and active follow through. If these are not holding, stop and work on just them. If you have 200 rounds, use a large percent of them here.

ONLY DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO WITH LIVE FIRE

You can perfect a reload with very little live fire but a lot of dry practice. We can hone technique dry and then measure or experiment live.

THINK SMALL, LOOK SMALL

I recently had a fellow instructor who was visually leaving targets early in a rush to get to the next target. This was causing misses and hurting his competition performance. Together we designed an *exercise using dots focused on follow thru. He did this exercise with 100 rounds a day, over two days. At his next performance at a large competition he found that his problem was solved.

*Note that we designed an “exercise”, not a drill. We want to improve a fundamental skill that we can reuse elsewhere, purposefully, not just as a series of sequences where we can fool ourselves with improvement by memorizing a sequence of actions.

END WITH THE FUNDAMENTALS

We used this process to design a 200-round practice with a group of students at a recent boot camp. Our “look small” goal was to improve our ability to isolate the trigger, including under speed stress. The class had wisely deduced that a lot of low hanging fruit in improving their performance could be found in the trigger pull.

Here is what our practice looked like:

  • 75 dots, dry, focusing on a different element of the shooting cycle on each row
  • 75 dots, live, focusing on isolating the trigger on each dot (3 shots per dot)
  • 40 alpha exercise (from the Army Marksmanship Unit Action Shooting team)
  • ½ USPSA metric target, at 15 yards (this simulates a 30 yard shot)
  • 40 shots, in 5 shot strings, as fast as the sights present what you need to see
  • Strong focus on isolating the trigger
  • 75 dots, live, focusing on isolating the trigger on each dot (3 shots per dot)
  • 75 dots, dry, focusing on isolating the trigger on each dot and active follow through

This practice took 190 rounds and an hour and a half to complete. Every person on the line got 20+ Alphas, with some in the high 30’s. When I asked them “was that worth 1.5 hours and 20 bucks in ammo?” the universal answer was that it was the best experience shooting, in terms of improvement, they’d ever had.

Now imagine doing that twice a week. How good would you get with $40 a week in ammo and three hours of your time?

I encourage you to bring PURPOSE and PLANNING to your practices. You will improve at a dramatic rate and the gains will be more permanent.

Think, don’t plink!

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Competitive Shooting: Not Just a Game

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Field Notes Ep. 13, Competitive Shooting with Robert Vogel, Not Just a Game.

It’s worth noting that Mr. Vogel won his first national championship using the same firearm he carried on duty as a law enforcement officer.

More from Robert Vogel:
https://firearmusernetwork.com/tag/robert-vogel/

Definitions: Training, Instruction, Practice

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From Merriam-Webster

develop, development

  • to set forth or make clear by degrees or in detail
  • to make visible or manifest
  • to work out the possibilities
  • to create or produce especially by deliberate effort over time
  • to make active or promote the growth of
  • to make available or usable

process

  • progress, advance in the process of time
  • a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result
  • a series of actions or operations conducing to an end; especially: a continuous operation or treatment

training

  • a process by which someone is taught the skills that are needed for an art, profession, or job
  • the process by which an athlete prepares for competition by exercising, practicing, etc.
  • the act, process, or method of one that trains
  • the skill, knowledge, or experience acquired by one that trains
  • the state of being trained

practice

  • to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient
  • to train by repeated exercises
  • to be professionally engaged in

instruction

  • direction calling for compliance
  • the action, practice, or profession of teaching
  • instructions (plural), an outline or manual of technical procedure

education

  • the action or process of educating or of being educated; also: a stage of such a process
  • the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process a person of little education
  • the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools

coaching
[from the concept that the tutor conveys the student through examinations]

  • a private tutor hired a coach to help her daughter prepare for the test
  • one who instructs or trains; especially one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a sport

Training classes are NOT, I repeat NOT making you a better shooter….GASP, what did he say? | masf.co

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https://gatdaily.com/training-classes-are-not-i-repeat-not-making-you-a-better-shooter-gasp-what-did-he-say/

Training classes are NOT, I repeat NOT making you a better shooter….GASP, what did he say? That’s right, taking a weekend class with your favorite instructor does not make you a better shooter. I don’t care if you take 10 classes a year. Taking a class does nothing more than give you ideas, theories and mental stimulus or “tools” for the proverbial “toolbox”. Improvement happens with purposeful and regimented practice wherein the tools you gain from those classes can be utilized toward a goal that is worked for. That’s how you make the training classes pay off.

http://masf.co/2016/07/17/training-classes-are-not-i-repeat-not-making-you-a-better-shooter-gasp-what-did-he-say/

How To Practice

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https://www.facebook.com/TEDEducation/videos/1489398127740055/

 

  • Repetition of an activity creates myelination by adding and changing the myelin “sheath” covering axions in the brain. Like insulation on electric wires, myelin prevents energy loss of electrical signals from the brain through neural pathways, making the action easier and more efficient to perform.
  • The specific number of repetitions or amount of time needed is unknown, largely because skill is more dependent on the quality and effectiveness of the repeated action through practice. Myelination will occur over time with any repeated action, including those you didn’t intend.
  • Effective practice is mostly about performing a given action/task correctly and often enough through numerous sessions for myelination to occur and then be sustained. Good practice needs to be consistent and intensely focused.
  • Effective practice is focused and targets specific content and weaknesses that work up to and are at the edge of one’s current ability.
  • Regularly conduct short, focused sessions with minimal distractions.
  • Start slowly or in slow motion and build quality, correct repetitions. Remember, myelination occurs with any repeated action, including those you didn’t intend.
  • Gradually build speed of quality repetitions, building up to and/or just beyond the edge of your current ability.
  • Multiple short sessions held regularly are best.
  • Visualize performing skills correctly between sessions. Mentally performing the task correctly is another form of practice.

Training Scars: Brass in Pockets

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The “found brass in pockets” story is a popular old saw offered as a warning against developing bad habits or training scars. The legend goes that some police officer was found dead with spent brass in his pockets. Being of the era when revolvers were common, the doomed-but-nameless officer unintentionally stuffed his brass into pockets while reloading during a protracted, long-ago fight – thus slowing him down and sealing his fate. Details are rarely offered, but the boogeyman to avoid is unintentionally developing a bad habit and to only do things exactly as told or you’ll suffer the same fate! Boo!
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Simulators For Training?

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A primary flaw of simulators like the Weaponeer were/are there aren’t enough of them around in routine use to make an actual difference. The Army’s EST 2000 suffers the same problem. Dry practice remains the best “simulator” based on availability and price, but only if you can get people to actually do it regularly and care enough to pay attention when they do.

Improvements via training require regular, programmed, on-going sessions. Instruction serves as an introduction, and may be adequate for tasks/skills that aren’t time-critical, but this ceases to be training after ideas are introduced.

Even lousy physical fitness programs commonly found in military and police PT use recognize that about 3-6 sessions each week are needed for improvement. Skill development for tasks that must be trained – like shooting – are no different.

The Weaponeer could have accomplished the designer’s intent if trainees used it 3-6 sessions a week for the duration of basic training. Instead, recruits get shuttled through it once so the Drill Sergeant can check a block and that’s it.

Weaponeer: A US Army Rifle Simulator from a Bygone Era

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