I recently had the pleasure of Hosting Frank Proctor for his excellent Performance Pistol course here in Pittsburgh. Frank was very clear about the distinction in practicing shooting between “running drills” and “shooting exercises”.
The analogy that Frank made that really stuck with me was one akin to lifting weights. If your goal was to bench press XXX pounds would it be wise to just go to the gym and put XXX pounds on the bar and go at it? Or would it be more effective to learn form, to start lighter, and to gradually work your way up? Why then, as shooters, do we think hitting the range and going full out at that one max rep over and over and until we luck one into the A zone is “practice”?
This is a such a strong analogy I think we can extrapolate a great many useful training points from it over our more generalized skill sets.
“There are no shortcuts. Everything is reps, reps, reps.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
Let’s say I’m working on my boxing (which I am currently) and trying to refine my cross. I’m really working on max range and turning my hips and shoulders into the strike. There are a lot of small technical points. I have to think about keeping my chin tucked and head forward with eyes on my target, I have to keep my shoulders loose so the scapula can move freely and quickly, I need to drop my weight with the movement putting torque into the blow as I turn the fist over and connect. That’s a lot of details! The training outline that seems reasonable to me is to work on those elements in isolation without pressure during shadow boxing (dry fire!), then get reps in with contact on mitts and a bag (live fire!), and then work under pressure and resistance (competition shooting, force on force, live training).
I believe that we, as shooters, can maximize where most of our range time is spent and that our precious time resource can be used more effectively to yield better results if we take this approach.
If my goal is to decrease my time on target transitions, rather than spend 200 rounds of ammo and the only hour I have free that week chasing a score at max speed I would suggest taking a more refined approach. How does a typical weight lifting session go?
Do we do max effort on every trip to the gym? Maybe when the weight is low setting a PR happens every time, but as we progress and everything gets heavier and more technically demanding that sort of self congratulatory training becomes less and less effective. Having the self discipline to hit the range with a goal like “see my sights settle as I enter the shooting box” takes a different approach than a goal like “hit sub second draw”.
Yesterday I hit the range with 300 rounds and about an hour and a half total shooting time. I wanted to work on my target transitions, specifically focused on seeing the shot break before visually indexing the next target.
I set up 2 IPSC targets about 7 yards apart. With my firing position 7 yards out this is a good triangular set up for me, and means I cant keep both targets in sight at the same time but can keep the target I’m not engaging in my peripheral vision.
I feel like this gets me moving and warms up my eyes to visually be able to lock in on that sight picture. It works my hand movement, vision, and accuracy. I like to do the first few sets for time to just to see where I’m at cold on the timer, but then I leave the timer alone and finish the warm up with a focus on performing technically perfect shooting.
- Draw and 1 to each body through a 6 shot string x 50-60 rounds.
- Draw and 2 to each body through a 6 shot string x 50-60 rounds
- Draw one body left target, head right, head left, body right x 50-60 rounds
- Draw two body one head each target x 50-60 rounds
I will use the timer for some of these strings, but I’m not chasing any sort of score, I’m simply taking note of my time between targets to get a feel for how that time relates to what I saw.
I like to run through a few of the day’s exercises without shooting, some draws, see my sights, maybe reloads or anything from the day that stands out.
One of the many benefits to a multidisciplinary training program is the ability find commonalities between skill sets. We get to enter a world where outcomes become greater than the sum of their parts. Its not just the shooting, or the jiu-jitsu that I love. Its the place where these things meet and complement each other, where synergy happens and suddenly 2+2=5.