Feel Good Training
by Caleb Giddings
When I was shooting Collegiate Bullseye, I was pretty good. Then I started shooting IDPA, and I realized that I wasn’t very good. So I practiced until I was, and made Master class. Then I went to my first Nationals and got wrecked. I also started shooting USPSA and wasn’t very good at that. So I practiced until I made A-class. I thought I was an accurate shooter, until I started shooting Bianchi Cup.
The point is that shooting well is actually hard and there are no shortcuts to the top. I know if I want to win an IDPA Championship, I’m going to have to train my butt off so I can beat some of the best revo shooters in the world.
The difficultly of shooting well is exactly why guys like Robin Brown or Matthew Temkin exist. Guns get wrapped up in ego, so when you’re suddenly confronted by your own suck, it’s awfully tempting to hear the siren call of these clowns. “Shhh, it’s okay” they say as you dump 500 rounds aimlessly into the berm, “that’s how it will be on the street.” Instead of teaching you to excel, they give you an opportunity to hide from your own inadequacies with their pablum of “the streets.” It feels good to shoot a lot of rounds and have a nice old man pat you on the head and tell you that you’re “combat accurate.” It feels good to do drills without a timer and have the instructor (who doesn’t even demo) tell you that he “felt” like it was faster.
You know what else feels good? Masturbation. But it’s no substitute for the real thing, and neither are these fraud trainers teaching meaningless nonsense that not only won’t make you any better with a gun, but could actually endanger yourself or others.
If your instructor isn’t using a timer to objectively measure standard drills, you’re wasting time and money. If your instructor doesn’t believe in using the sights ever, he’s a fraud. I understand the temptation of “feel good” shooting, and there is absolutely a time and place for that. If you want to feel good about your shooting, train for a year. Then go to a public range. I guarantee that you’ll feel smug about your shooting for at least a week. But after that, go to a class that kicks your ass.
Feelings are liars. Your feelings will almost always lead you down the path of mediocrity. The best way to feel good about your shooting is to look an objective metric like a standard drill and see your performance on it. Or look at your match scores and how they’ve improved. Then you have something that you’re justified to feel good about.
Dec 9, 2013
I had always wanted to write a book about shooting. Turns out, I would be asked to publish it. While spending 2003-2010 as a mobilized small arms instructor with the Army Reserve Marksmanship Program I noticed a trend in the different range of skills found among typical military-trained personnel and skilled marksmen, such as those involved in competition. On average, skilled competition shooter were able to exceed Army "expert" qualification standards by 300% or more. Military qualification standards are such that even an "expert" score may still be a novice-level effort as the course of fire isn't capable of measuring higher skill. Note I said "skilled competition shooter." Not National champion or Olympian, just a competent marksmen among competition shooters. As one of my fellow instructors put it, a shooter that doesn't finish in the top ten percent at a match isn't competing, he's participating. Now, there's nothing wrong with participation (I still do it sometimes :) but a skilled competitor will manage to top out in the top ten percent of his/her shooting peers. That is good enough to at least earn "leg" points towards a Distinguished badge, earn a Master classification or something similar. After managing to stumble into the Gunzine game and getting some articles published, I queried an Editor at Harris Publications to write this up. He agreed (see, sometimes gun magazines do publish actual marksmanship material.) I originally wanted it to be a series of articles but was directed to make it a single, very large article. I titled it 300: Tripling Military Shooting Skills and it published as Shoot 300% Better (http://www.tactical-life.com/magazines/tactical-weapons/shoot-300-better) Of course, my originally-intended-series-turned-article piece was considerably larger than most. When it wound up in the word processor of a Harris copy editor, he was directed to cut it in half! He sent me the cut-to-fit revision to review in an email with the subject "Buol Chainsaw Massacre." Turns out this copy editor was friends with the Editorial Director at Paladin Press. While lamenting over hist chopping and dissecting assignment, he quipped that she should ask me to write a full length book for Paladin about it because, "he practically wrote a damn book about it already." So I was contacted, contracted and the rest is the ISBN-indexed dead trees package here: http://www.paladin-press.com/product/Beyond-Expert