Do You Train Fight Avoidance Skills?

Photo Credit: danielcruz

Photo Credit: danielcruz

Recently Dann from the God, Gals, Guns, Grub Blog posted a comment on my post: Can Competition Really Get You Killed?:

 

Competition is good for developing certain skills, but as for preparation for real life… when the man says, “Shooter ready? … Stand by…” “BEEEEP”… and the shooter leaves his or her gun in the holster, turns and walks away from the stage therefore winning a gun fight by avoiding it… then, maybe we’ll be getting closer…

 

This comment really got me thinking… how many people really invest any time into fight avoidance skills? It isn’t really all that glamorous to practice talking and maneuvering your way out of a fight, but I would think that of any fighting-related skill, avoidance would be the one most likely to be exercised in real life.

I’m definitely all for training any pre-fight skills, but what about you? Furthermore, what classes, trainers, and methods work the best for training these skills? Please post a comment and share your opinion!

Are Classes The Best Bang For Your Buck?

Photo by DrJimiGlide

Photo by DrJimiGlide

Over the past few years as I delve deeper and deeper into the world of training, I have noticed a pretty obvious trend: attending more classes does not necessarily mean more skill.

Despite this trend I can’t help but to notice how many people seem to hope for the converse. Time and time again I see well-intentioned students of the gun who are in the constant cycle of bouncing from class to class.

On one hand I must applaud these guys for doing what most gun owners don’t have the stones or smarts to do: get training. But on the other hand, I can’t help but to scratch my head when I see these guys fail to improve despite spending thousands on training from top tier instructors.

Classes Does Not Equal Improvement

Quite frankly most trainers can’t make you improve by all that much… at least not in a single day or weekend class. Instead a good class should give you the tools and techniques you need to improve yourself on your own time. Receiving instruction is never a replacement for old fashioned hard work.

When I compare myself to some of these “class junkies,” I can’t help but realize that with only a few classes under my belt, I tend to fare better when it comes to skills. On a good day, I can shoot the F.A.S.T. in 6-7 seconds, and when I shot the IDPA classifier a few weeks ago I was less than 4 seconds outside of SSP Expert (I really bombed stage 3). While neither of those are amazing feats, I find that there are a lot more people who can’t match that performance than there are people that can beat it.

Guess how many classes I went to in order to get to that skill level?

The grand total of my pistol training comes down to several 2 hour blocks taken at a tactical conference a few years ago, several Southnarc Courses (ECQC and VCAST) which contain very little actual shooting time and next to no work on the fundamentals, and the pistol work at the Larry Vickers course I took last year. And quite frankly none of those courses immediately offered huge bumps in improvement at my next range session.

Compare my abilities and quantity of training with some of these guys who go out to Front Sight every year or do multiple shooting classes a year, and you’ll find that the thousands they spend on training doesn’t offer any significant improvement over where I am. So why spend the money?

Money Better Spent On Ammo

Rather than drop $500-1000 a year on classes, spend that money on more ammo. Or even better yet, just dry-fire! Work up a training routine for yourself that includes dry-fire and live-fire, and keep at it. You’ll notice more improvement than you ever would just taking expensive classes.

When you do consider taking a class, keep in mind that a solid class has two purposes. The first is when you have no skill set at all. Learning to safely draw from the holster and learning good technique for running your gun is critical to get your training off to a good start. The second is when you have been at things a while and hit a plateau. If you can’t improve yourself, it’s time to have someone else help you. Let someone else look at your technique and offer alternatives.

Ultimately it takes consistent, focused dedication to the task at hand to improve. There are no easy answers or shortcuts, just effort and time.

What’s the ratio of classes to individual training that you use? Please post a comment!

Can Competition Really Get You Killed?

Photo Credit: Bob n Renee

Photo Credit: Bob n Renee

Last week there were a few posts out of Gun Nuts Media on the subject of competition. Both Caleb and Tim weighed in, giving their opinions on the matter. More specifically they discussed an idea that some trainers promote amongst their students: competition can or will get you killed on the street.

Both were very much in agreement with each other… competition will not in fact get you killed.

A counterpoint… sorta

While I am very much inclined to agree with these guys for a number of reasons, I do think the topic wasn’t 100% fleshed out.

You can argue that competition could, at least in a small way, get you killed in a street fight. The trainers who support this theory will often cite the fact that competition has specific rules that tend to favor some sort of gaming. Players always adapt to the rules of a game, and it is unlikely for those rules to perfectly mimic the real world.

Face it… if you focus on competition, some of the habits from that game will follow you into the real world. Not all of those habits will be good ones when viewed through the lens of a real life-or-death struggle. You might have a tendency to forget about follow through with a threat, you might shoot a certain number rounds instead of shooting to stop, or you might have any number of other competition-centric habits.

Tim also took BJJ as an example in his post, saying:

Have you ever noticed how no one ever says that competing in a BJJ tournament will get you killed on the street? That’s because it would be pitifully easy for an accomplished BJJ competitor to take the guy who said that and turn him into a pretzel in a matter of seconds. See, the Brazilian Ju-Jitsu competitor has had to learn grappling skills and has had to apply them at speed and at full force against someone else who is trying just as hard to do the exact same thing. He’s likely had his game plan trashed by circumstances and has had to figure out what to do when in a disadvantaged position. He’s sharpening his skills and his ability to manage stress using the crucible of competition…but replace BJJ with a handgun and everything changes? Nonsense.”

Well, let me be the first to say that competing in a BJJ tournament could get you killed on the street. BJJ, and especially competitive BJJ focuses on its own set of rules. These rules take the threat of weapons out of the picture… and not understanding how to prohibit the in-fight access of your adversary’s weapon could, at least in theory, end in your death.

I have spent enough time in classes like Southnarc’s ECQC to know that while BJJ skills often do create a huge advantage, someone like me with almost zero mat time can and will occasionally come out the victor over very experienced BJJ students and competitors. Competition could at least indirectly diminish your ability to survive a fight.

The whole truth

All of that said, I am still in the procompetition crowd. For all of the downsides, the huge upside is an excellent opportunity to test your skills under real pressure. Skills, especially shooting skills, have the unfortunate tendency to fall apart under pressure, and a lack of pressure testing means you will never know those weaknesses.

Furthermore, competition is a good way to inoculate yourself to that stress. If you can act and react calmly and coolly under the stress of a match or tournament, you have a much improved chance of doing the same under the stress of a life-or-death encounter.

Those trainers that say competition could get you killed are at least a little right. Many forms of competition tend to instill habits that won’t always be the best habits to have when things turn ugly.

The alternative, however, also has a chance of getting you killed.

It is easy to argue that anyone who puts forth the effort to become competitive in any sport that is at least partially congruent with real life fighting skills will have a lot more to bring to the table in a real fight. There have been a few stories about some stupid people trying to mug pro-MMA fighters only to get flattened… and I would definitely want to avoid a gun fight with the likes of David Sevigny, Robert Vogel, or Jerry Miculek.

Do you compete?

What about you? Do you compete or do you think competition might get you killed?

How Much Use Do Your Snap Caps Get?

My snap caps have seen hard use.

About a month ago, as I came back from the dead so to speak with my own training, I found my trusty training tools on the brink of their own demise. My snap caps are probably the most used tool in my training arsenal. They get used every day I dry fire, and they have seen thousands upon thousands of repetitions through my guns.

As I tried to clear one out of my Glock, I had some difficulty with extraction. Upon inspection I found that the snap cap rim was beginning to tear off. If I had owned these for a few days or weeks, I would say that the product was faulty. But after almost a year of daily dry-fire, these snap caps have held up great.

Best uses for snap caps

Using snap caps during dry-fire can be a great way to protect your firearms from unnecessary wear and tear caused by dropping the firing pin on an empty chamber. While this benefit alone is a great reason to use snap caps, I find that their value goes far further.

Malfunction Drills

Snap caps are excellent for malfunction drills. You can easily create double feed and misfire scenarios with your snap caps for practice clearing them.

When combined with live-fire, snap cap utility is fairly obvious. A snap cap can represent a misfired round. When randomly loaded into your magazines, they can create unexpected malfunctions.

In dry-fire sessions the snap caps can take the place of both the malfunction rounds and fresh ammo. When performing a malfunction clearing drill, always make sure a follow-up round gets chambered properly, validating your technique. Create double-feeds by placing a round in the chamber before easing the slide forward on a full magazine.

Reloading Drills

Snap caps are excellent additions to emergency reloading drills. Fresh magazines with snap caps allow you to ensure a round gets properly chambered. Dropping the slide too early during a reload can be a disaster, forcing you into an immediate action drill. Training with snap caps keeps you honest about the timing of your reloads and ensures you don’t drop that slide too soon.

How much use do your snap caps get?

I obviously use snap caps quite a bit in my own training, to the point where I would consider them disposable short-term-use items. Personally I keep a package of spares on hand for the next time the rim breaks off one of my snap caps.

How often do you use snap caps in your training, and what do you use them for?

Don’t already use snap caps? I use and highly recommend the snap caps from A-Zoom. Support small business and Indestructible Training by ordering yours from our friends at WTBGU. (Disclaimer: the preceding link is an affiliate link, and I will receive a commission for anything you buy through this link).

3 Steps To Make Your Training Work With a Volatile Schedule

Photo Credit: fabiennew

My schedule is almost always jam packed. Between the ”day job,” running my new dojo, serving on the BoD at my local fish and game club, and all of life’s other little surprises, there is almost always something I need to be doing.

Some of these demands on my time are constant. I know I’ll always be in the dojo certain nights and that most of the day I’ll be on site working for my clients. Working my training around these fixed obligations is relatively easy.

What’s more difficult is finding time when my schedule changes rapidly. A deadline approaches at work, an impromptu meeting, or maybe even just coming down with a cold all throw a wrench in the works. It’s dealing with an ever changing schedule that really makes consistent training hard.

Fitting your training in

In my situation I’m pretty much forced to find a way to make my training fit in around the rest of my life. I’ve found a few tricks that really help me, hopefully they can help you too.

Break your program into manageable chunks

If you have a tight schedule to work around, you should consider breaking your training program into smaller manageable chunks. Maybe 10 or 20 minutes each.

Breaking your program into small pieces provides two benefits: firstly, shorter sessions can easily be worked in and around your schedule. If your schedule changes, it is a lot easier to move a 20 minute workout around compared to a 2 hour mega workout.

You might even plan to do 3 of your mini sessions back to back under ideal circumstances – but when things change you can easily reorganize your schedule.

Organize your ‘chunks’ into your program

Once you have multiple sessions to draw from, you want to organize them to form a training program. For dry-fire training you might have 5 different dry-fire days, each of which consists of a different routine. Work your dry-fire days in order to ensure an appropriate balance regardless of whether you can do 10 sessions a week or 1.

Using multiple sessions like this means that when something unexpected comes up, it doesn’t destroy your program.

Pick optimal training days and times

My dry-fire days are usually Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, since those are the days I’m free of most of my evening obligations. As a result I tend to tentatively plan on working my dry-fire sessions in on those days. By keeping these evenings open for dry-fire I force myself to make a consistent effort to work on my goals. Don’t just assume that once you have broken your program into smaller chunks you will train when it strikes you as convenient. You still need a plan, but being flexible with that plan will help you stay on track.

This is how I work around my volatile schedule. Do you have a crazy work or travel schedule to work around? How do you handle it? Do me a favor and post a comment to share your strategies.

3 Less Than Obvious Benefits to Using a .22 for Training

I don’t think there is a single capable shooter who would claim that the .22LR cartridge doesn’t hold any training value. Just about everyone agrees: the .22 is excellent for training and provides the extra benefit of being great for introducing new shooters to the shooting sports.

Most of the justifications for using a .22 are obvious. Limited recoil means that you are less inclined to develop a flinch, allowing good practice for follow through and trigger control. No matter what round your centerfire is chambered in, .22 is going to be cheaper. The cost advantage is hard to ignore. Ultimately when these two factors are combined, they allow you to build good habits through many solid repetitions.

Beyond the obvious

What may not be so obvious is that a .22 allows for some good training that might not even be possible with a centerfire firearm. When you consider the limited facilities you might have available to you, the .22 opens up even more options.

Trajectory

If you shoot rifles, trajectory is one of the key skills you need to master to really consider yourself a capable Rifleman. If you have a 500 yard range in your back yard, you might be able to practice compensating for trajectory on your centerfire rifles (and if that is available to you, definitely do it!).

For most people getting beyond 100 or 200 yards at their local club is a little hard.

Take for example the average 5.56MM round out of an AR15. With a 300 yard zero, at 500 yards this round might drop approximately 3 feet. At 200 yards the same round is actually about 6 inches high. At 100 yards you are still pretty close to 3-6 inches high. Inside of 200 yards the round requires relatively little compensation.

A .22 at 200 yards on the other hand might drop anywhere between 3 and 7 feet depending on the exact load you are shooting.

In this case a .22 can be a great tool for learning how to compensate for bullet drop. Even better if you can place steel at multiple or unknown distances out on a range. Learn how to measure range to the target with your reticle and compensate to hit the target.

Wind

Wind is also hard to practice compensating for unless you have a lot of wind and a range long enough for it to really have an impact. Your .22 rifle will be impacted far more by wind over a shorter distance than say your .308.

At 200 yards in a 10mph cross wind a .308 round would only get pushed about 4 inches off target. Your .22 on the other hand might drift 15-30 inches in a similar wind. This provides for another great opportunity to practice advanced skills without the heavy burden of an expansive range.

Steel

Reactive targets are certainly fun, but they are also great for building decision making skills under pressure. Unfortunately steel can splash back pretty badly, so it requires more space between you and the target. Paper can be shot at safely with the muzzle on the target, but that is not the case with steel.

A centerfire round, especially a rifle round, will have far more energy than a .22 and therefore it requires far more distance to the target to be shot safely. It is generally not a great idea to shoot steel with a centerfire rifle inside of 100 yards. Shooting steel closer can decrease the life of the steel and increases the likelihood of splash back. A .22 on the other hand can be safely fired at steel much closer. Steel at 7 yards with a .22 is both safe and great for training.

When you also consider that rifle-grade steel is much more expensive than .22-grade steel, you can start to see why a .22 is beneficial. Ever been to a range that doesn’t allow rifles to be shot at their steel? It’s because that steel is too soft to handle repeated hits from a centerfire rifle. These rounds will damage the steel and make it unsafe as ricochets will become both common and unpredictable.

If you have a .22 that mimics your carry pistol or duty rifle, you can practice engaging steel targets safely and far less expensively than you would if you were to do so with your carry pistol or duty rifle.

If you don’t already use a .22LR for training it might be time to start. The benefits of training with a .22 are numerous. You can easily enjoy more practice for less money, and more importantly, you can expand the types of training you can do by taking advantage of the limitations of the .22LR cartridge and treating these limitations as strengths.

What do you use a .22 for in your training?

Let Me Introduce You To Your New Best Friend: Your Target

The best tool for improving your marksmanship is your target. Like your best friend, your target is always there and willing to help. But unlike your best friend, your target will not lie to you. Whatever you are doing wrong or right, your target will provide an immediate and unambiguous record. If you know how to read your target, there is a wealth of knowledge to be had every time you go shooting.

The principle is simple really. Just about every common shooting error presents in a predictable way on your target. If you make one of those common mistakes, your target will show it. Knowing how to identify these mistakes can help you easily self-correct and improve your shooting.

Learning to read (your target)

A variety of individuals and organizations have published charts to assist you in identifying your errors.

Using a chart to identify your errors can be straightforward, but if you haven’t done it before there are a few tricks to make it easier.

Step 1: shoot the target

Until your target has holes, there isn’t much it can do for you. Kind of like if your wife were to ask you if an outfit looks good on her despite the fact that you haven’t seen it. The question gets you nowhere except a trip to the doghouse. You can’t blame your target when you shoot poorly, but she still blames you if she doesn’t like your answer. Go figure.

Step 2: consult the chart

Once you have holes in your target, the fun begins. Now you can compare your target to a chart and identify your shooting errors. How you compare will depend heavily on the kind of chart you are using.

These charts come in two main varieties: shot group examples, and wheels. The shot group example charts tend to show pictures representing example groups. With this kind of chart, find the picture that most closely represents your target.

With the wheel charts, things are a little different. Here you need to compare your group position to an area on the wheel. Once you have found a group or a section on the wheel, you should now have a list of one or more errors you could be making.

Step 3: process of elimination

Once you have your list of errors you can start eliminating potential problems. For example the first chart below indicates that with the pistol groups hitting low left generally can be caused by poor trigger control or poor sight alignment.

In order to identify which of these errors you could be committing, you should start by posting a fresh target and shooting another group. This time focus on not making one of the errors you found. With the above example you might choose sight alignment. Make sure those sights are perfectly aligned for each shot. Did the issue go away? If not then repeat but try focusing on a perfect trigger squeeze.

If you go through all the listed options without fixing your issue, you have one of a few potential problems: you were unable to actually self-correct one of the issues, your chart is incomplete and you are committing another unmentioned error, or you are combining multiple unrelated problems which happen to combine to look like a different problem altogether.

Potential pitfalls

Before you head to the range and expect these charts to be your new savior, remember one thing: these charts are imperfect. The real world isn’t always black and white. It’s not impossible to be doing more than one thing wrong (sometimes they will even cancel each other out, masking the problems altogether).

Sometimes you might find new and exciting ways to screw up too, meaning your mistake might not be on the charts at all. Congratulations, have a cookie.

Charts

Not all charts are created equal. They tend to all have common themes and areas where they overlap, but some charts list errors that others don’t. The amount of information on these charts can differ greatly. Which one you use is up to you. When in doubt keep a collection of various charts – more information is never a bad thing so long as you can parse it.

There are many similarities between disciplines, but for the most part these charts are targeted towards one type of shooting. Below are some charts I have found for analyzing pistol marksmanship. If you are looking for a chart that covers rifle marksmanship errors, check out an Appleseed, they provide some great materials.

1. Target Shooting Canada:

This is a good fundamentals chart of the group examples variety. This is a great place to start, especially if you are just starting out.

2. NEShooters (Awerbuck):

This analysis tool caters more to the tactical/defensive shooting crowd. Personally I take exception to a few of the listed errors: in particular 9 o’clock shooting errors being caused by not resetting the trigger quickly enough. This is a good example of a more complicated wheel type chart presenting all of its information in one diagram.

3. Degrata Tactical:

Another good general fundamentals chart, similar in many ways to the first. While the first one had brief lists of errors, this actually provides advice on correcting technique.

4. Xavier Thoughts:

This chart is probably one of the best because it’s so simple. Unlike the other charts I listed, this one is a very concise and clear wheel type chart, but it does require a bit more knowledge to use.

Analyze your groups regularly to improve

Your target doesn’t lie. If you want to improve your shooting and don’t have the luxury of the oversight of an experienced instructor, the next best option is to look at your target. Let your target do the teaching. With the right materials, you can identify your errors and correct them yourself.

What group analysis resources do you use in your training? Post a comment and share!

4 Factors For Finding the Best Time of Day to Train

Photo credit: remind

Recently I changed up my writing schedule. For the longest time I was waking up in the morning and spending 30 minutes to an hour writing. At the time I thought that was the best way to operate. The time in the morning between waking up and heading to work was otherwise inefficiently utilized, and I figured I was fresher and more focused since I hadn’t been to work yet.

I was wrong. After hearing the last complaint I could possibly bear about my writing from my personal editing staff (my wife amazing wife) I decided to try writing after work when the morning haze is long gone.

The result? A much higher quality of my initial writing. You probably didn’t notice a difference because my wife can turn my crayon drawn scribblings into the work of Da Vinci. For some strange reason, being more awake had a huge impact on the quality of my efforts.

Why am I talking about why I changed when I write? Because like writing, when you train is important.

How do you decide when to train?

The quality of your time training is very closely tied to when you train. Just like being tired and unfocused had a profound negative impact on my ability to write, being tired and unfocused can have a profound negative impact on the value of your training time.

To get the most from your training, strategically setting aside time can have a huge impact on your training performance. Here are a few important points to consider when deciding what time of day to train:

1. When do you have time?

Sometimes the most important factor in deciding when to train is purely when you have time. If you can’t make your own schedule due to a strict policy at work or other obligations, sometimes just having time is all you can afford. Maybe you only have time early in the morning before the kids wake up, or late at night after they are asleep. Maybe a long lunch break works best for you.

Sometimes whenever you have time is the best time to train.

2. When do yo have the energy?

Second to having time, is having energy to train. If you work long hours and get home late, you might have some time, but if you are exhausted will you gain anything? Strength training when you are over-tired is an excellent way to injure yourself and stop your training altogether. If you are too tired to keep your eyes open or focus, will you improve your pistol handling skills? Maximizing gains in all arenas require laser sharp focus. If you can’t provide that, then getting some sleep might be more important.

3. When can you minimize distractions?

Sometimes you might think you have time, but really you don’t. You might not be occupied with anything in particular in the afternoon, but constantly receive phone calls, or have to watch the kids. If you are constantly breaking your focus to deal with another task, you are not in the optimum time slot for training.

Furthermore, for things like dry-fire, this can be extremely dangerous since you will not be constantly focused on your training and keeping your dry-fire area safe. Your best bet is to find time you can dedicate to your training to keep your head in the game.

4. When are resources available?

Aspects of your training require resources you can’t control. Want to go shooting at 3am? Unless you belong to a range that’s open 24/7 this might be a problem. The same goes for using a gym at weird hours.

It may seem obvious, but you will have to schedule aspects of your training that require these types of resources for times when they are available.

But don’t think that just because the range or gym is open, any time will do. Most public indoor ranges are packed on the weekends, especially in the winter. Your local gym probably has peak hours as well. If you can find an off time to train, you make your whole session more efficient since you aren’t waiting for resources to free up.

In a nutshell you need to find a time you can be efficient, but also focused.

If your body or mind isn’t focused on the task at hand, you won’t gain as much as you would if you were extremely focused. Similarly, if you train when you need to spend extra time waiting for equipment or to get on the range, you are wasting time and not being as efficient as possible.

Avoid inefficiency so you can spend more time benefiting from training instead of just “training.”

What time of day do you train and why? Post a comment and let us know.

5 Tips For Winterizing Your Training

Photo Credit: christgr

Living in New England means that when winter rolls around a lot of things change. The days get shorter and colder. Snow tires are installed and snow blowers come out of storage. Gloves and hats become a normal part of our wardrobe. Winter has a profound impact on our lives.

Winter also has a profound impact on your defensive posturing. In many cases the pocket guns that are so popular in the summer spend the winter in the safe to make room for full framed service pistols. The wardrobe changes associated with winter allow more concealment options for these larger guns.

Just like you winterize your car, wardrobe, and choice of armament, you must also winterize your training.

Why Winterize

The justifications for winterizing your training can be divided into one of two categories: objectives and methods.

Objectives

One major reason to winterize is that your objectives in training change due to the changing of the season. You might wear different clothes in the winter to deal with the changing environment, you might carry a larger gun because you can now conceal it, and the environment in which you might find yourself in a gunfight can be very different than the rest of the year.

The cold temperatures of the winter months often force you to bring out the heavy winter coat. Concealing and accessing a pistol under a winter coat is much different than under your t-shirt or in your shorts pocket.

The scenarios you face might also change as your environment will not be the same as it was in the summer.

Training

The other major justification for winterizing your training is the training itself. Training outside in the winter is not quite as simple as during the summer. You might seek out the indoor public range in the winter, but you might be far safer braving the elements. If you do train outside in the cold, that doesn’t mean that your fighting environment will change. Personally I live and work primarily indoors. Regardless of the season, I am more likely to encounter a gunfight indoors while wearing a polo shirt and jeans than an outdoor gunfight. Are you likely to be defending your home in full winter gear? Probably not. You might want to consider training for both outside and inside carry in the winter.

Some Tips For Winterizing Your Training

Wear a warm but thin base layer

If you want to continue practicing using your indoor carry methods despite the weather, you want to wear a warm base layer like Under Armour’s compression ColdGear to make sure you can keep warm at the range. Even if you do find yourself preparing for carry under your heavy jacket, I don’t think you’ll mind the extra warmth.

Bring thin gloves

If you are training outside for prolonged periods of time, your hands are bound to get cold. Cold hands don’t move quite so well, so keeping your hands warm and toasty should be a priority. I strongly recommend a pair of warm but thin gloves. If you can still shoot your gun while wearing the gloves, great. Remember though if you don’t often wear gloves like these you should still spend at least part of your time training bare handed. You don’t have the luxury of putting on gloves prior to an attack.

Practice in your winter wardrobe

You should always be training in whatever wardrobe you are currently wearing day to day. It doesn’t make sense to train in your shorts and hawaiian shirt in the middle of the winter, nor your heavy coat in the summer. Even though I personally put priority on preparing for a gunfight indoors during the winter since I spend more time there, I will still put some reps in wearing my winter garb.

Practice with your winter gear

If you change up your carry gun for the winter, then please train with it! Don’t shoot your pocket gun all winter long unless it still resides in your pocket. Train with whatever it is you are carrying.

Be ready for whatever winter might throw at you

In general the winter is not very hospitable. If you are going to shoot in the winter months, I strongly recommend coming to the range prepared. Have first aid supplies handy for cold weather mishaps, bring warm clothes, and be prepared for a snow covered range. Being uncomfortable will not help you stay focused and safe.

Winter Training Is Great…

I love training in the winter because the crowds of the spring and fall disappear. Few people want to brave the cold to train. Take advantage of this time of the year to get some training in without being crowded. Leave the fools to their public ranges and make the most of the season.

A little bit of preparation to winterize your training goes a long way to ensuring you get the most benefit of your time in the winter.

What do you do to winterize your training?

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Driving Your Training With Skills Assessments

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

What is the biggest challenge in training? Some might argue that it is determining exactly what to spend your time on. It can be very easy to practice mindlessly, but to get the best results for your time you need to know exactly how to stage your training.

When you undertake your training you are trying to reach some sort of goal. Achieving a singular, simple goal can be easy, just practice until you succeed. Balancing your training to reach a complex set of goals on the other hand is where things get difficult. How do you manage these kinds of goals to achieve them all in a finite set of time?

Drive your training with assessments

One method for balancing your training and determining exactly what you will work on is a progress assessment. The concept is simple: measure your progress against your goals, and re-balance your training plan accordingly.

Sometimes dividing all of your time equally among many activities has the downside of diluting your efforts to the point of ineffectiveness. Redirecting your training based on a set of assessments has the benefit of allowing you to determine exactly what needs the most work so you can direct the most effort to that area.

How do you assess?

The biggest hurdle in driving your training with these assessments is determining exactly what and how to assess.

Some things are easily assessed. Weight lifting provides a simple example. You know exactly how many reps you did, and how much weight you are lifting.

Other areas are not quite so easy.

Shooting is a great example of this. Unlike weight lifting, every training session doesn’t measure progress in itself (unless you have a lot of money and a range in your backyard). Dry-fire is much harder to measure than live fire. You can improvise in dry-fire, but you need expensive equipment to avoid sacrificing the accuracy of your measurement.

Make the most out of each range session and devote at least some of it to measuring your progress by recording hits and times on a consistent course of fire. Personally I use the F.A.S.T. and Dot Torture to measure my own progress.

Some things can be even harder to measure than your ability to hit a target or the amount of weight you can lift. Take for example some fairly subjective things like your fighting techniques. What are you struggling with the most? Kicking, punching, or maybe footwork? There is no completely objective way to measure these skills. If you can’t be objective (or even if you can) you might want to ask a training partner or an instructor on a recurring basis to determine exactly what you need the most work on. If neither is available, consider video recording yourself, it might make self-assessment easier.

Taking your scores home

Once you have a good idea of exactly how you are performing, you need to take those numbers and turn them into an adjustment to your training plan.

Weight lifting naturally lends itself to self-adjustment. If you are working to improve your bench press, you might choose some weight and attempt to perform a number of repetitions. When you can successfully complete that number you increase the weight.

Shooting on the other hand might not be as obvious to adjust. One method to use here is to take your scores from your shooting assessment and compare them against your goal.

Personally I’m trying to improve my F.A.S.T. When I look at my resulting time breakdown, I can see exactly how I performed. Since my goal is for an overall time I compare my component times to what I know are good times. How does my draw, reload, and follow up shots stack up against David Sevigny’s (or some other master class shooter)? I know my reload time is the component furthest from my goal, so I emphasize my training towards correcting that weak spot. When my assessment indicates that my reloads have improved, I will refocus onto my next weakest area.

Why base your training off of assessments?

When you train without a defined purpose, or without clearly measurable goals, you are destined to not hold yourself to a real standard. Measuring your progress allows you to confirm that what you are doing is really working. If you find yourself expending lots of effort for little gain, it might be time to try something different.

Your goal in training should be to improve your ability as a whole, but also to round yourself out. The shooter with the best draw in the world but the worst reloads isn’t the best shooter in the world; instead, the shooter with the best balance of skills will always be better. The same goes for just about anything. If you only train what you want to train, or what you are good at, you won’t really be improving yourself because these big gaps in your overall abilities will remain. Using methods to assess your progress and logically determine what to work on takes your ego out of the loop and allows you to work on what you really need to work on.

How do you assess your skills and determine what to train?

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