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Practice: How to Get the Most from Training

We recently conducted a survey asking how often our readers engaged in live fire practice in anticipation of our newest product release, the Range Tech BT Shot Timer. The results of the survey, especially for the question about how often each person does live fire training, was interesting.

The survey was answered by about 2,000 of our readers, all of whom practiced at the range with live fire with varying frequency:

  1. Several Times a Year: 27% (595)
  2. Monthly: 21% (463)
  3. Twice Monthly: 19% (424)
  4. Weekly: 19% (412)
  5. Yearly 7% (168)

We'd like to encourage you to go to the range to practice as often as you can, and to up those numbers.

I'd also like to make a distinction between live fire practice and training. To me, they're not the same thing. Not even close. Practice is the intentional development of skills. Therefore, firing a few mags at a zombie target isn’t that beneficial unless you are actively working on improving key techniques such as trigger control and recoil management.

And even if most of us only get to the range a few times a year as several of the respondents said, are we doing any actual training in between?

Do you train? Or do you practice? Do you do both? If so then you’re on the right track, but not many people realize there’s a big difference between the two concepts even though these terms are often used interchangeably.

This discussion of vocabulary might not seem very important, but knowing how we become better at a skill is important for progress.

While training and practice are words that many use to refer to learning a skill, they are actually very different and we must utilize both methods in order to become better protectors.

What is Training?

Training can be defined as: what you do to pick up new skills or learn better ways to perform old skills under the supervision of a subject matter expert to ensure the techniques are applied correctly.

This kind of preparation is what you do when attending a firearms class. No matter what your skill level when it comes to the manipulation of firearms, there is always something more to be learned and/or perfected.

When you attend a class on combat pistol and are taught by the instructor how to approach a situation, or how to more efficiently perform, you are training. Training is where you are taught, and practice is where you develop proficiency of what you were taught.

What is practice?

Practice lets you perform a drill repeatedly until it becomes as natural as breathing and reduces the amount of thought you must put into an action. There is a lot going on during combat. There are hundreds of things to consider, many of which are life and death decisions.

Humans have a limited amount of processing power and especially so in a situation as intense and dynamic as a firefight. Shoot, move, and communicate being the primary goals for surviving combat are made even more difficult when you must add on sight picture, speed and tactical reloads, grip, trigger control, recoil management, and good tactics.

Since practice lets you learn these actions so well that you stop thinking about them altogether, your mind is freed up to focus on the ever-changing environment and anticipate enemy actions since you aren’t trying to remember where your magazine release is located on your pistol.

Instead, your eyes are up, scanning for threats and making important decisions instead of glued to the mag well while you try to fumble in a fresh load.

From this, it is easy to see that both training and practice are invaluable to competent self-defense. But how do you practice on your own without someone directing you on what to do?

Drills are the best way for this to happen and can be as simple as practicing reloads and holster draws. But, you won’t know if you are progressing if you don’t keep track of the data.

Knowing how fast you completed a drill, and how accurate your shots were, helps you to understand what you might be doing wrong.

For example: say you are trying to work on a faster draw from concealment. If you are reaching your time goal, but your shots are outside of the acceptable areas, this means you must slow down your movements to achieve that delicate balance of both speed and accuracy.

Using a shot timer, like our new Range Tech Shot Timer, is one way you can accomplish this with confidence. Shot timers record how quickly you completed a drill and the target will show how well. Combined together, this gives an accurate indication of competence.

Shot timers also let you know how effective your dry fire practice has been between range times. If you can only go to the range a few times a year like 27% of our readers, you want to make sure you are spending your limited time wisely.

If during your range time you make 2 acceptable shots after a draw from concealment in 3 seconds, then return a month later and achieve a 1.5 second decrease in your time, you will know that your dry fire time was well spent.

If there is no progress, or you’ve gotten slower, it might be an indication you need to seek out some professional help to figure out why. But without a shot timer showing you this important data, you won’t know that, and you might continue thinking your skills are adequate when they aren’t.

If you consider yourself a student of the gun and are actively trying to improve, you need both training and practice to accomplish this. Here's that link to our new shot timer, one more time, in case you wanted to check it out. It's the most affordable one on the market, and pairs with your smart phone via Bluetooth.

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