Training? I don’t need no stinkin’ training

Training? I don’t need no stinkin’ training

What is the difference between training and practice?

As a firearms trainer, one of the first tasks I ask of students is to describe their experience with firearms. Most of them answer something like, “I’ve been shooting since I was X years old,” or “I’ve been shooting for ‘X’ years.” Fill in the “X” with any number you choose. Only rarely do I see references to formal training.

Don’t get me wrong–learning the fundamentals of shooting while relatively young is a great thing. Most of the time, we learned something variation of “Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction,” quickly followed by actually shooting whatever was at hand with a short lesson on how to aim. Very likely, that first experience focused around hunting. For some of us, this is the extent of our “formal” firearms training, other than the hunter safety course required before getting a hunting license.

For some of us, the first formal training we received happened after we joined the military. Most often, training there included safe handling, operation and maintenance, and sighting fundamentals, followed by dry and live fire. Others of us may have sought out formal firearm training for beginners. I suspect most of us tried to apply our training with varying degrees of success. This brings me to the point of the differences between training and practice, and the importance of training. Training is usually where a new skill is introduced, although we may also seek out refresher training, simply to get back to basics. Practice is the continued application of that skill.

The Importance of Training

As stated earlier, training is most often where new skills are introduced. However, training also can be environments for correction of bad habits. In training environments, you have (at least) another pair of eyes watching your technique.

As trainers, we do not watch the target, we watch the shooter. Most often we watch the shooter’s hands. By watching you as you move through your shooting exercises, we often can detect issues of stance, presentation, and shot release, and offer immediate correction that will improve your shooting skills. Another benefit of training is that we may remind you of concepts or techniques you may have forgotten.

Concealed carry training is arguably the firearm training presently in demand the most. However, going through a concealed carry class to satisfy whatever requirements your jurisdiction may have is like graduating from elementary school–it’s an achievement that marks a beginning, not an end. Defensive firearm classes build on the elementary skills that may have been introduced in your concealed carry class.

Defense training often includes presentation drills that concentrate on getting the handgun out of the holster quickly to deliver an accurate shot. Your training may also include situational (should I shoot?) training to help you to correlate your immediate environment, the threat, and your response. Training frequently includes movement drills that help you develop your shooting skills where movement may be required to effectively defend yourself. Whatever the defensive firearm training may include, think of more training as acquiring more advanced skill sets that will aid in your ability to defend yourself.

The Importance of Practice

As we stated earlier, training is where new skills are introduced along with reminders of other factors we may have forgotten. Practice, on the other hand, is trying to replicate the lessons learned in training. However, practice brings on its own challenges–one of which is how to measure, or gauge, our performance.

And, as we stated in an another post, it is also important to practice with a purpose. For example: Suppose your brand new, super duper, Never-Fail handgun has replaceable backstraps. How do you know which backstrap works best for you without quantitatively working that out through practice? Developing a practice session where your purpose is to assess which backstrap gives you the ability to place shots on target most accurately, and most consistently in the least amount of time would probably be a profitable practice. You may be surprised that the most effective backstrap is not necessarily the one you would have picked out of the box.

Skill drills are an excellent way to improve your practices. Nearly all the top competitors have developed skill drills to address and improve shooting weaknesses. Some drills concentrate on first shot delivery, others concentrate on multi-shot delivery, while still others concentrate or magazine changes, or changing shooting hands. One source for skill drills is Burnett Live Fire Drill Cards®.

The Cheapest Practice on the Market

Practicing our shooting skills costs money. Even if we hand load, rounds still cost money. The absolute cheapest, and arguably the most profitable practice in terms of ROI, is dry fire. Virtually every aspect of shooting can be practiced in dry fire: sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, presentation speed and techniques. All without the flash, bang, and recoil that instinctively induce reactions. Adding a shot-activated, light emitting device, such as a LaserLyte®, simply adds to the effectiveness of our dry fire practice. Here again, the most profitable practice is one done with a purpose.

The most important aspect of dry fire is to do it safely. Make certain no live ammunition is in the room where you practice. Make certain your firearm is unloaded. Announce to yourself–out loud–that your firearm is unloaded. A tool that may be useful, especially for handguns that require an inserted magazine to fire, is a BarrelBlok®, a combination empty chamber indicator and dummy round device with magazine adapters that allow slides to be racked without locking them back.

Bottom Line

Shooting well is a perishable skill. That means unless we practice and train consistently, our ability to defend ourselves, and those we care for, quickly, and most importantly, accurately will deteriorate.

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