I see it almost daily. A competitive shooter shows up at the range and has fun. Awesome… except when I later see them at a match or after a qual and they didn’t have fun. So what did they do wrong? They simply did what a lot of people do… they practiced what they liked or what they were already good at.
So what should you actually be practicing? I don’t know the answer for you; it depends on what skills are important, how much effort is required, and where your strengths and weaknesses are.
What is Important?
If just one thing were important, my article would stop here. I’d say “decide what is important and practice that,” but it isn’t that simple. Lots of things are important–and their importance changes with time, mission, and other factors. You have to adjust and your plan must adjust as well.
In addition to what is important, you also need to have some idea of the effort required to achieve the the skill you are going to focus on. How long will it take and how hard will it be to develop that skill?
And finally, of the things that are important, how good are you at them? The key here is to be completely honest with yourself. What is the best way to be honest? Be quantitative. If a timer isn’t in your bag, get one. If you aren’t practicing with accountability, start.
To determine what you should practice and where you should focus your efforts, you can build a simple chart to help objectively guide your decisions. See the example below:
After analyzing the chart, a few things pop out. First, we need a LOT of help on movement efficiency/speed (something the triangle drill measures), and it is very important (a 10). Second, we are weak in .2 splits, which are also very important. Third, while we are solid on reloads, we can improve our skill there with not much effort.
Using this information we will can now create an effective practice plan: focus practices on developing .2 splits, set up triangle drills (I’ll cover these in another article), and, on the side, we’ll work on reloads because it won’t take much effort to improve.
When I first learned of this technique, from Saul Kirsch’s excellent book “Thinking About Practical Shooting,” I had trouble using it because I didn’t know all the skills I might need. The key here is to not fall in love with your current “important skills” list. As you build broader knowledge, that list changes to include broader skills. As your mission changes, that list changes to reflect new goals. As your depth of knowledge becomes deeper, the list grows more specific.
Even if you are a professional shooter or trainer, you will never have all the time, money, or ammo you want to reach the level of skill you wish to attain. Using an objective approach, like the example above, you can escape the rut of practicing what you already rock and instead strengthen or develop new skills.
-Ken Nelson, Co-Founder