Can you improve your performance by practicing a specific skill set over and over. Does it do more harm than good for general preparedness?

Stay focused on the prize

I see so many folks come through our doors and practice the same drills over and over. Many of these drills are “tests” at various schools and some even have cleaver names and titles. I enjoy shooting some of these drills, but the amount of time, energy and resources is relevant to my overall goals. A major focus for most defensive shooters should be mastering being a generalist. You should avoid being a specialist, who is well rounded and capable of adapting to the situation.

Put in the practice

The issue I have centers around the realistic time spent on the firing line practicing, not training. Training is the action of learning a new skill. Practicing is performing a skill or activity regularly in order to improve or sustain performance. I am tickled pink when I can talk with someone who consistently practices on the firing line. To me, that is about ten 2-hour range trips a year firing approximately 100 rounds each trip. While only 1,000 rounds per year it is on the high side for the average shooter. Making it even more important you focus on being well rounded.

Nothing is free

The hard part for many is the desire to get good at something. That seems like it should be a good thing and generally it is until you do so at the sacrifice of the rest of your skills. Developing your skills requires you to acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses in an honest way. To sustain your strengths and work on your weaknesses requires you to allocate the right number of rounds to ensure you meet both objectives. If you expend more ammunition annually for practicing then great, but if all you have is 1,000 then how much do you want to invest in practicing a test. A test that may be so specific it has less value than originally perceived.

Remember, this is fun

Having said the above, I still want folks to have fun, to enjoy themselves while they practice. For many of us, that is a major secret weapon, the joy it brings us to be practicing a skill. The drive to want to be better and improve. The determination to keep at it, even when failure and frustration are more common than success and gains. If you allocate 20-30% of your time and ammunition budget to practicing a test you might not see any negative affects. If you are spending 70-80% of your time and ammunition budget practicing a test you need to really think about how you are expending your resources. Here’s another way to look at it, if you expend 1,000 rounds per year by visiting the range ten times for 2-hour sessions then 20-30% of your time or 4-6 hours is spent being a specialist. That still gives you 14-16 hours per year to practice being a generalist.

There is something to be said about nothing to excess, everything in moderation. This advise transcends all activities and keeps you focused on being a generalist.

1 thoughts on “Practicing for a Test

  1. Ramin says:

    Your opening question is to the point.

    Personally, I like tests but not necessarily the same one over and over again. Even if you were to practice the same test repeatedly it all depends on how frequently,

    I see many police officers (regular not SWAT) only shoot enough to pass their qualifications once or twice a year. Those tests are not even the toughest and geared towards the lowest common denominator. Of course, I also see many civilians but a gun shoot 50-100 rounds and now they think they can defend themselves.

    Here in West L.A. we don’t have easy access to outdoor ranges that are nearby. So, I go to an indoor range every quarter and shoot the GSSF (Glock indoor match) course. It’s not from the holster but it does have the elements of various distances out to 25 yards and also a maximum time per stage. Like the TriCon target you can’t see the zones at 50 and 75 feet. Also, what matters is to shoot it cold without practice. Any practice is better than none and it all depends on dedication, convenience, accessibility, time and money.

    When I used to go out to outdoor ranges, where you could draw from the holster, we would shoot various named drills where both speed and accuracy count.

    Variety is the spice and any practice is better than none.

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