Build A Training Support Structure You Can Be Proud Of

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What is a training support structure? Your training support structure is the combination of your peers and mentors that help you to progress in your training, maximizing benefits while hopefully minimizing costs. Your support structure might consist of instructors who you train with regularly or periodically, peers you discuss the ups and downs of your training with, and your training partners who help you push yourself past your limits and provide active resistance and pressure to your training.

Why You Need a Training Support Structure

Some disciplines directly require support. Jiu-jitsu or wrestling for example are very dependent on training partners. Sure you could learn something in a book or on a DVD, but without a breathing opponent to help learn and test your new skills, you are unlikely to progress very far.

Other disciplines such as shooting don’t necessarily require a training partner. You can head to the range and shoot without someone else, right? Sure you could shoot alone all the time, but friendly competition and another set of eyes can do wonders to help you get past a plateau in your training.

A further part of your support structure should be your mentors. Just about anyone can be your mentor, even your shooting buddy or peers in the dojo. That said, seeking out someone who has been or is at where you want to be can help you find your way faster than you might on your own.

What Makes A Strong Support Structure?

The best support structure is going to always consist of 3 things. One, your training partners need to be accessible. If you don’t ever train with your training partners, then they really aren’t your training partners. The same goes for your mentors.

Two, your training partners need to care at least as much as you do. Dragging a new shooter to the range with you is a great thing for the community, for you, and the new shooter;however, your new shooter probably isn’t as interested as you (yet!), and likely doesn’t have enough experience to be of much help as a mentor. You still often can learn as much teaching as you can doing, but keep in mind balance is required. You need time to work on your own skills.

A training partner who can also serve as a mentor is a great thing. Find someone who you know performs better than you in an area you want to improve. The opportunity to watch and ask questions can be invaluable, but if you are lucky they might even give you some pointers.

Finally, there needs to be trust and respect. A partner or mentor who puts you down instead of picking you up isn’t helpful. A mentor you can’t trust to give you good advice is unhelpful. And training partners who hurt you instead of help you in the dojo are a hindrance not a help. A good partner knows how to work with you, not against you.

How To Build or Find a Support Structure

If you want a support structure to help you maximize your training, you need to go look for or build one. Generally speaking they don’t come to you.

If you are learning a martial art, like BJJ for example, your school essentially provides a support structure for you, in the form of both mentoring and peer support. If you shoot on the other hand, you might have to work harder to find support. Local training groups can be a great place to start as are the competitive shooting sports.  These groups can provide you with plenty of peers and mentors.

Sometimes you don’t have access to ready-made groups. In those cases you need to make an effort and build your own. Attending classes and seminars can provide you the mentoring part of your support system. Some instructors on the traveling road show make recurring trips to an area. Being consistent with one instructor every year can help because they can see as you progress.

A great example of an instructor like this is Craig Douglas. Many people take his ECQC  every year as a way to brush up on and test their skills, and as a result Craig can provide continuing feedback year after year.

These classes can be a great starting point for finding your training partners as well. Network with your fellow participants. Often times they will be local and like minded, making them great training partners. Starting your own group can be a great way to build your own support structure and help others along the way.

Do you have a training support structure? What does it look like, and how did you find or build it?

photo credit: Craig Sunter *Click-64* via photopin cc

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?

You Get What You Train For

Three Second Fighter by Geoff Thompson

I was recently reading a part of the book Three Second Fighter by Geoff Thompson and came across a very telling quote:

You get what you train for.”

What this boils down to is that your reaction on the street is going to reflect your training. What you do the most on the mat or on the range is what you will do when the pressure is on.

Extending this principle you can assume that if you train two different solutions for one problem, the one you train the most is the one you will naturally use under pressure. With this assumption in mind, can we assign any value to training the additional solutions?

The case for multiple solutions

Assuming multiple solutions work for slightly different problems in the same problem space, then yes there is some value to the multiple solutions approach. Sometimes your conditioned response to an attack just won’t work, and you will need to fall back to any alternatives you have practiced. Keep in mind that any initial response to an attack works best if it is a non-diagnostic skill, i.e. no decisions required.

Some situations lend themselves to multiple solutions much better than others. For example long distance shooting often allows much more time for thinking. Where clearer heads prevail reliably, you can afford to build in choices. On the other hand, knowing and training 5 different default positions is counter productive for all but those resigned to nothing but teaching.

The case against multiple solutions

The unfortunate reality is, however, that most defensive problems do not allow thinking. Multiple overlapping solutions to a problem levy a tax on your ability to defend yourself. The deeper the decision tree, the longer it takes to respond and the more likely you are to fail.

If you always default to one of those solutions, you will also find that any effort placed into training the unused alternatives is wasted energy. The only exception here is if you enjoy training for training’s sake. Take the default position as an example. I should have a single, automatic default position every time I react to a sudden surprising attack. In-depth study and practice of 4 more default positions doesn’t make me more prepared, but instead might cloud my reaction. If I won’t use the other positions why practice them?

Ultimately balance is needed. In some cases training multiple overlapping skills can be a waste of energy. If you train for the sake of entertainment, then this is less of an issue. Overlapping skills can work very well, as is evidenced by some very successful competitive fighters, but they do require a much higher initial investment.

Also keep in mind that studying alternatives always has value. If you attend a seminar and are exposed to a new default position, try it out in that class. Maybe you find it works better and it becomes a replacement for your current solution. Remember that this is different than continued rigorous training of multiple skills that will compete for your focus.

What is your take? How do you feel about multiple overlapping skills, and do you train any? Please join the discussion by posting a comment below!

6 Signs Your Aren’t Maximizing Your Training Effectiveness

Does your training gear still look brand new?

When you train your goal should always be to train effectively. If every training session doesn’t get you closer to your goals, then you are really just wasting time, money, and your energy. Sometimes it can be difficult to really know how effective you are in your training. Below you will find a list of warning signs that suggest your training may be ineffective. How many of these apply to you?

The data in your training log shows no progress

In your training log or journal, you should always be seeing a trend of progress. Your shooting splits should be decreasing over time. Your max reps or weights should be going up, and scores in general should improve.

When you look at your log, you should be able to see this progress. Maybe not on the scale of each session or even each week, but over several months you should be getting better. If you are constantly gaining and losing again, you might want to consider redesigning your program to improve your consistency.

You don’t have a log

You do have a log right?

Not everyone believes in tracking progress, but I do. When you do see trends of growth and improvement you have the record of who, what, when, why, and how. Without it you can’t learn from your successes or your mistakes. And those long term trends are hard to see without it.

Furthermore, seeing improvement is a great motivator.

You haven’t checked your progress against your goals

Do you periodically check the data in your log against the goals you set at the beginning of the year?

If not you are missing out on an opportunity to directly measure how effective you are being. Having good, measurable goals means that you can easily see just how well you stack up to your plan.

Your equipment still looks shiny and new

If your equipment isn’t wearing out at least a little, or it is collecting dust, you probably aren’t training often or hard enough.

As an example the Glock 17 I use for most of my dry-fire and live fire training has some smooth shiny spots where the finish is starting to rub off, and the inside of the magwell is dinged up from thousands of repetitions of reloads. If the gun still looked new, you would probably say I wasn’t using it.

The same goes for any other training gear you have. Ever see an experienced black belt’s belt? The guys who train the hardest always have tattered belts after years of training… and it’s not from the washing machine…

You haven’t adjusted your plan

When you set out to achieve your goals, you make a training plan. Certain days get set aside for certain things and you plan out how you will achieve your goals.

As the saying goes: no plan survives contact with the enemy.

As you compare your results with your goals, you should be adjusting your plan. Some areas might not be getting the attention they need while other areas might be showing more progress and you can afford to redirect those efforts to your weak spots.

If you aren’t adjusting your plan regularly, you aren’t thinking critically about your training, and therefore are not maximizing your effectiveness.

Your plan hasn’t stayed the same for longer than a week

On the other hand, changing your plan too often can be your downfall. If you don’t give your plan at least a few weeks or months to prove itself, you are doing yourself a disservice.

No plan can really prove its effectiveness or lack thereof in a few days. Stay the course long enough to see if it works. Only when it has been given enough time to demonstrate how effective it is should you change your plan.

These are just a few signs you can watch for in your own training. Any of these can be an indicator that you aren’t maximizing your effectiveness in your training.

Do any of these warning signs sound familiar? Are there any other warning signs I missed? Post in the comments below.

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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?

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?

Improve Your Training With This Simple Trick

Photo credit: pontuse

How specific are you about the techniques you use? Can you describe the process of drawing your pistol in extreme detail? Or how about your grip?

Some of you will respond with a definite yes. The rest of you are either very early in your training journey or just aren’t committing a whole lot of time or energy to exacting practice.

Whichever category you fall in, there is a solution to make it easier to identify exactly what it is you are doing, and even better, document it.

I call this solution the ‘codex’.

What is the codex, and what does it contain?

The concept behind the codex is a document that describes everything you are training. It should describe the equipment you are training to use, and the reasoning behind your equipment selections. It should describe in great detail (and justify why you do them the way you do) the various skills you use: draw-stroke, reloads, and even the fundamentals like grip, stance, and how you work the trigger.

Why should you write a codex?

Documenting these details forces you to think about the skills you might currently take for granted, and it should help explicitly define what you do. The problem for a lot of people who are working on training these skills is that they practice without focus.

A great deal of the skills you use should be describable in a precise and clear manner. Sure, some speed and efficiency comes from pure repetition, but we all need a place of reference to make sure the technique we are practicing is a good one. What exactly is your technique, and what makes it good?

When you train specifically, you are going to make skills gains far more quickly. And being precise means less time relearning or fixing broken skills.

Who should write a codex?

You should! Anyone who trains any skill would benefit from thinking about it enough to precisely describe it on paper. Thinking precisely about your technique should help you discover efficiency you didn’t know was there. This is the same as the concept of learning by teaching. Making yourself understand a concept well enough to communicate it has enormous benefits.

How do you write a codex?

Start with what you already know and put it on paper. Break down all the skills and tactics that make up your personal defensive doctrine and start describing how you do them.

This may be easy for you. If it isn’t, the most likely reason is that you haven’t invested any time thinking about how instead of what. If this is the case, start with one skill at a time and break it down. This process of rediscovery should help you grow in your training and will be well worth the effort!

When to write a codex?

Right now! Start chipping away at writing down all the skills you train regularly. Set aside a few minutes every day and you should get through everything in no time.

If you are just starting to train, writing down what you think you know should help you break past the common problem of oversimplifying the process associated with a skill.

For those who have been training for ages, finally writing down what it is you are doing might be the assistance you need to finally fix some bad habits and make some significant gains.

Just because you write your codex today doesn’t mean it’s finished. A document like this should be living, meaning it is constantly changing as you change. Attend a class or make a discovery that causes you to change how you do things? Update your codex. Even better, keep the old versions around and you can compare your growth as time moves forward.

By spending the time to write a codex, you will stop the cycle of haphazard training. Be specific about the skills you use, and reap the rewards.

Do you want to see an example of a codex? I’m in the process of writing mine. Subscribe to the email newsletter and I will send you a copy when it is complete. Have questions or need assistance writing yours? Post a comment below or hop on over to the contact page and drop me a line.

Have you ever written down how you perform your basic skills in detail?

Is Specializing Your Skill-Set a Mistake?

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

Should you be training generic or specialized skills when dealing with firearms? What exactly does this mean? I’m talking about determining the benefits of learning the best way to run your gun vs the best way of running any gun.

An example: there are several methods of executing a reload. You can use the overhand (aka “slingshot”) method, use your firing hand thumb on the slide release, or use your support hand thumb on the slide release. All three options have advantages and disadvantages. Do you decide which method to train based on the features of the gun you use most, or based on what is most applicable to any gun you might encounter?

The overhand method is perhaps the most generic. Not all guns have slide stops or have slides that lock back. Additionally the overhand reload skill works exactly the same as our tap-rack-bang malfunction clearance. On the other hand, this method is the slowest of the three options if you do have a slide release due to the huge amount of movement required to handle an otherwise simple task.

The firing hand thumb is the fastest method provided the slide release is positioned such that you can reach it with this thumb. You are moving your thumb less than an inch to perform what requires movement of an entire hand when using the overhand method. The downside is that the same muscle memory can theoretically cause you to inadvertently stop the slide from locking back.

The third option, using the support hand thumb, works across a variety of handguns that have a slide release, though you may have issues if you have trained specifically with guns that position the slide release in a specific spot. This is almost as fast as the firing hand thumb but is slightly more generic.

I have seen top tier trainers advocate all three methods.

Why is generic better?

If you intend to be shooting a variety of guns, generic skills are better. If you carry a pocket pistol in the summer and a duty pistol in the winter (or perhaps carry a pocket pistol when not working, etc.), you want a set of skills that translates to both weapon systems easily.

Special forces and high-speed-low-drag operators might need to work with a variety of firearms to operate with indigenous weapon systems to perform their missions. Some people just don’t get to choose their tools.

Why is specialized better?

Performance. If you know you will be operating a specific firearm all the time, adapting to that firearm means you can get the most performance out of it. Being faster and more efficient can be the difference between life and death, so maximizing performance should improve your chances greatly.

Personally I carry either a Glock 26 or 17 depending on wardrobe. Both pistols have the same control in the same place. I choose to specialize and use the firing hand thumb as it is the fastest and most reliable for me. I’m most likely to use my guns to defend myself. I don’t mind my reload performance suffering a bit when using my ‘range toys’ if it means I can have maximum performance when using the tools I carry.

Being generic without a need only hurts you

For me, generic skills would reduce my performance with the tools I am most likely to use in favor of tools I am unlikely to use. Does that make sense?

Are you really expecting a ‘battlefield pickup’ to be your tool for survival? Most of us will never live the plot of the Die Hard movies… prepare yourself to use the tools you carry every day.

Customization of your tools

Extended magazine releases, extended slide stops, and improved triggers are commonly used to improve pistols. Oddly, the people who make these customizations can often be proponents of generic skills. If you want to be able to handle any firearm, why make your pistol specialized? Logic would dictate that keeping your pistol as stock as possible makes it easier to transition to another of the same model, if not a completely different pistol.

Changes to your gun to maximize performance are very similar to changes to your skills for the same purpose. Make sure you are at your best with the tools you are going to need the most.

Counterpoint: long guns

One counterpoint I must mention: generic skills might be an advantage with a long gun. I’m far less likely to use a long gun in a violent confrontation. For most people that will use a long gun, there is a far greater chance they might be using one that isn’t theirs than with a pistol. The proliferation of AR-15 type rifles means that a ‘battlefield pickup’ is probably an AR-15.

Learn to run your AR-15 with stock controls (lose the BAD lever or ambi firecontrols). Unless your unit or department standardizes on these upgrades, you are far more likely to pick up a gun without them.

This all boils down to one simple concept: if you are training to use the tools you carry, then optimize your performance around them. If you train to be proficient with any tool you pick up, then generic skills are justifiable.

Ultimately generic skills are great, if you have a need for them. Otherwise they just hinder your performance with the tools you are likely to use. Carefully weigh specialization and see if it helps you.

The Secret of Training: Train to Suck Less

Photo Crddit: DrJimiGlide

I have recently come to a conclusion in my own training. Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t many ways to do something right, just many ways to do something wrong. Countless individuals strive to get it right thinking that there are many right answers. But in many cases, that simply isn’t true.

I’ve found that rather than trying to perfect a skill, we are all really just trying to suck less at whatever it is we are doing. Perfection is impossible to achieve; after all, how do we define perfection?

Most skills are subjective, and even measurable skills have no clearly defined upper bounds. The fastest shooters in the world right now might be able to draw onto a certain size target and get x number of hits in y number of seconds. Who can say whether that is “perfect”?

With a little more training they could probably beat their best.

The continuing theme in training though is the constant fight against the downward slope that inactivity causes. If you train every day you might improve, if you train a few times a week you maintain, and if you train less you get worse.

Anyone at the lower levels of a given skill set look up to the best of the best and can say that their actions look effortless. The truth is that these individuals really are expending a huge effort just like the rest of us when we try and push ourselves to the edge of our game.

Despite what you think you are training to do, you are really training to be slightly less bad at whatever you do, not to achieve perfection. Improve the consistency with which you perform, and you make your best days as well as your worst days better.

Every instructor might have their own ideas about a given skill, so of course there can be more than a single “right way” of doing something. But my point is that these “right ways” are really just less wrong than the alternatives. Don’t look at the training spectrum as a multitude of right answers and even more wrong answers. Instead we have an infinity of wrong answers in training, some are just less wrong than others.

Equipment Issue? Three tips to make sure it’s not you

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army

A common experience around firearms is the blame game. Is it the rifle or pistol that’s shooting crappy groups, or is it you? Too often it’s the gray matter behind the gun that is causing the problems, but the blame is put on the equipment.

Still, there are times when it really is the gun that is to blame. Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing if you are the cause of a problem, or if it is the equipment. When you are an experienced shooter, this determination gets easier as you have years of evidence of good shooting to fall back on. For the new shooter, this can be a difficult problem to solve.

There are a few steps you can take to help narrow down the culprit and save yourself some frustration. If you are shooting a new gun for the first time and run into issues, or your groups suddenly open up or move, here are a few ways to help identify the cause.

Check for loose parts

The most likely cause of a moving group or a group that opens up is loose sights. Check the front and rear sight or your scope and make sure they are tight. I have seen shooters not realize their sights were loose until their front sight or scope walks itself off the gun.

If you are frustrated at your performance, double check the sights before you get too upset.

The sights aren’t the only part that can come loose. Check that barrels are secure (on rifles) and for excessive slop in the action on pistols. Some rifles like the 10/22 can lose accuracy if the action screw (or any other mechanism) holding the action in the stock becomes loose.

These are easy things to check and are a good first step if you are having problems.

Have someone else shoot the gun

If the issue truly is the gray matter behind the gun, having another experienced shooter try the gun should prove it. Try to have someone you know is a better shooter try the gun, or just go for an increased sample size and get multiple shooters to try it.

An issue with the gun will become quickly apparent if no one else can shoot it better.

In the absence of other experienced shooters, shooting from a shooting vice or ransom rest is great alternative that takes any issues you may have out of the picture.

Shoot a different gun

Sometimes neither a rest or another shooter is available. When this happens, your best bet is finding another gun to shoot. Maybe it’s a completely different gun, or just another of the same model. If you can demonstrate the skills needed on a different firearm, you can either eliminate yourself as the problem or start narrowing down skills that might be specific to the gun you are having trouble with.

An alternate gun isn’t a perfect test, but whenever I feel like I’m doing horribly with a new gun, I like to go back to a known standard. I pick up something that I know I can shoot well to prove my technique hasn’t taken a vacation without telling me.

Poor results from your shooting can be very frustrating. Knowing how to resolve these issues quickly and calmly not only helps you get back to being productive faster, but it also eliminates unnecessary self doubt.

How do you identify whether an issue is you or the gun? Post a comment below and share.

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