One of the more difficult concepts to keep in tune for the serious practitioner is maintaining a high level of precision under pressure, especially in dynamic situations. In fact, I found myself stumbling a bit this year due to some bad habits that I had developed over time. It wasn’t anything big, mind you, but noticeable over a period of time.
You see, we get out of tune. Like a finely-tuned instrument, we have to recalibrate our bodies and our minds. You really only notice it when you are shooting under pressure. Then, if you pay close attention, you notice a failure to maintain a skill set at a very precise level when operating at the top end of your performance zone. Simply put, you find yourself doing other things besides seeing what you need to see and isolating the trigger properly.
In the past month, while preparing for major competitions, I perceived that I had a definite problem with getting my shooting cycle out of sequence. In my quest for speed, I was neglecting accuracy. There were a few inches of drift, sometimes more, or a misalignment of the gun in the first shot as I trained ever faster. Then came the realization that I was not able to simply hold still and let the shot break. I constantly found myself pulling the gun down too soon and pushing the shot from time to time.
Most would not notice it as I shoot. But I did. And so, in the final phase of training this month, I didn’t speed up. Instead, I went back to some basic programming drills and exercises and created a strong mental image of what I needed to do to bring my skills up to where they needed to be.
Accuracy and speed are not friends. In fact, they don’t get along well at all and are constantly fighting with each other for control of the shooting. The only way they co-exist is when there is an intermediary functioning. That intermediary is calmness. Being able to control the mind and hold still while manipulating the trigger at high speed is one of the most difficult things to do under pressure. However, if you wish to reach the higher levels of skill at arms, then it is a necessary mental attribute to develop.
In order to train effectively for accuracy, you will need to train under pressure. Almost anybody can shoot well if they are given time to shoot. When there are strict time limits imposed or the targets become smaller and the shooting platform is less than ideal, then you have an opportunity to see what you are made of.
If you pay attention as you train under pressure, you will find yourself doing all sorts of things you did not intend to do. This is the result of the brain perceiving what is about to happen and developing compensation responses to it. Everyone has these responses. Some have it more than others.
Once I perceived what I was doing wrong, I did a serious analysis about where the skill was breaking down and I visualized what needed to change. Reprogramming the mind and slowing down while recalibrating is a difficult but necessary step in fixing the problems.
To reprogram my bad habits, I took a variety of our TPC targets and put them up. I started out standing still, with no time limits, just allowing the shot to be fired without rushing it. I repeated this basic set until I was satisfied I was able to control my mental and physical processes on a conscious level and could absolutely guarantee the shot.
Then I added time limits, slowly decreasing the amount of time I gave myself to accomplish a series of shots. Again, I worked through the targets, using imagery to guide the shooting until I was 100% successful. As time went on, I added a lot of variations. It was frustrating at times but necessary in order to reach a level of highly consistent shooting at high speed.
For me, the value of training for accuracy cannot be overstated. Over time, your accuracy under pressure will erode alarmingly. I see it constantly in training and real-world environments where shooters cannot hit on demand. You MUST put yourself under pressure when training for accuracy. You must learn to function under the allowable time and opportunity given to you.
Training for accuracy remains the one skill that must be trained relentlessly. As former world champion Ross Seyfried once said, “You can’t miss fast enough to win.”
Ron Avery, Co-founder
Tactical Performance Center