WHY Should You Track Your Firearm Training and Practice?
Before we discuss the best tools and methods, let me begin with some reasons why I feel it is a good idea to log and track all your shooting!
You Cannot Improve What You Do Not Measure
The reason you take more classes and spend time in live fire and dry fire practice is to enhance your shooting skills. While you can, of course, improve your skills without taking any notes, timing yourself, and generally speaking not capturing any data; don't you think it will be easier to build a training plan if you did know?
You need a benchmark. A starting point that allows you to clearly identify where you are weakest and where you are starting. If you join a gym and hire a personal trainer the FIRST thing that trainer will do is test you on all the core exercises. Before building a training plan your trainer will need to know how much you can bench, how many sit-ups you can, do, etc. They need to take inventory of all the various aspects of your physical strength and endurance.
Shooting is the same way. There are a lot of shooting skills that are important if you want to be hard to kill. Before you build yourself out a good training plan you need to take inventory of your shooting skills. You may have strong grip and sight acquisition skills but be weak in your trigger manipulation, use of cover, and moving while shooting skills.
So the first reason we track our firearm training and practice is to constantly know where we are strong and where we are weak. There are industry standardized drills that help you measure specific skills and those drills have par times and scores so you know how you stack up.
Second, knowing how your current performance levels are can help you choose training courses that would be appropriate for you. Different courses focus on different shooting skills and/or are designed for shooters of different levels. Since every good training plan is made up of formal training courses, live and dry fire practice, and general learning; you need good data about where you stand in order to build out your own training plan.
This is why our Guardian Pistol Curriculum is focused on a large number of drills that make up both in-class exercises as well as “tests” that students complete at the beginning and end of the courses to measure growth and identify where more improvement is needed.
The Potential Legal Benefits
In logging all your formal training and your ongoing practice you have some potential legal benefits. As we all understand, in a lethal force incident one's actions need to be reasonable. That reasonable standard essentially means that you did what would be considered reasonable by a jury of your peers given the perspective of a defendant possessing similar capabilities and specialized knowledge as you possess.
So, documenting your training and your practice provides context for what capabilities and specialized knowledge you do possess. For example, if a prosecutor claims that your shot at the bad guy was obviously reckless because it shot from 10 yards away at a watermelon-sized target; your documented training and practice may be able to show that for you and your experience you have a track record of making that kind of shot over 90% of the time and thus for you it was reasonable and NOT reckless.
The potential danger is if you either receive training or conduct practice that is poor (IE an expert witness would say your education and training was given by a nut job instructor) or if your training and practice were within industry standards but then you acted outside of what you were training and practicing. Receiving bad training, or acting outside of the good training you received is going to open you up to allegations of clear recklessness or negligence.
I asked Andrew Branca, attorney and author of “The Law of Self Defense,” for his thoughts on this topic and he summarized it this way:
Bottom line: Get trained (you need to win the physical fight before any other consideration), make sure that training is reasonable (by responsible & credible instructors, preferable people who can be your expert witness at trial), document your training, and conduct yourself in conformity with that reasonable training. Check those boxes, and it’s all upside. Violate any of them, and things can get messy.
What Are the Best Tools and Systems For Tracking Your Training?
Well, I suppose before I suggest you spend some money on tools that in my opinion are WELL WORTH THE COST I should disclaim that all you really need in order to track your training is a pencil and paper. That said, please consider the following options:
Concealed Carry Gun Tools App
I'm partial to a FREE mobile app available for both Apple and Android mobile devices. I'm partial because it is the official app of ConcealedCarry.com and we've put a lot of sweat, tears, and money into making it awesome.
Once you download the app and setup (or login to) your free user account you have 3 sections that help you with tracking your training.
First, the “Training” tool where you can input a training session. You can include an immense amount of detail including the location, time spent, training conditions, type of training, targets used, rounds fired, guns used and much more.
Second, the “Drill” tool where you can select from popular industry standard drills and input your own scores and times each time you run them.
Third, the “Training Dashboard” where you can see reports about the skills you are building and neglecting, the frequency at which you are training and practicing, and much much more.
Live Fire Drill Card System
A friend of ours, Steve Burnett, designed this clever system that is basically built on a set of clever but extremely simple “drill cards.” Each drill card features an industry standard drill, includes visual and written instructions about how to setup and run that drill, and has dedicated space for you to write down your own scores each time you run that drill.
It is a fabulous way to keep track of your progress over time and to go to the range with a plan. The “Log Book” also includes more generic training log cards where you can write up your notes, loadout cards to annotate the holster and firearm you are using for any given practice session, and other great information for shooters as well.
Longtime readers are probably familiar with the MantisX. This tool is mounted to the rail of your handgun and sends data about the movement of your gun back to a free app on your phone. That data is used to identify deficiencies in your shooting skills.
Recently MantisX also added the ability to save your shooting sessions in the app to your user account for later review. This makes the tool a great way to both decide WHAT to focus on and RECORD results.
LASR App & Community
I am also a big fan of LASR, a computer application whose full name is “Laser Activated Shot Reporter.” This amazing software installs on your laptop or desktop computer and using any webcam, detects shots fired from ANY laser training pistol onto any target surface. It is a cinch to setup in your home for some fast and effective dry fire practice.
Recently LASR added an online community to which you can upload your time, scores, and other data in addition to building out drills or running drills added by other members of the community.
Do you currently track your training and practice and if so what is your favorite tool to do so? Let us know in the comments below!