As a Police Officer, Swat guy and a firearms instructor I am often asked about my personal training regimen. When newer shooters hear my response, they are surprised it’s not more “high speed”. The truth is good shooting is always rooted in the application of the fundamentals of marksmanship, done properly, at speed. It really is that simple but also that difficult.
The simplicity comes from mastering the basics. The difficulty is most people I see don’t want to do fundamentals. They’d rather do whatever drill the latest commando or pro shooter is doing, “high speed” or “tacti-cool” stuff. Most of these drills are tests to evaluate one’s shooting ability or ability to apply fundamentals, even if it’s not specifically stated. Others are tactics such as shooting from in and around vehicles. These drills are not as effective at building good fundamentals. I will admit I do enjoy a good scrambler drill. Who doesn’t like to be challenged? But I also use these drills to self-evaluate so to train on my deficiencies, which are many.
Firearms instructors and training companies are also aware of new shooters tendencies to shy away from classes which focus on fundamentals. By shooters, I’m talking about men. Women want to know everything; the why, the how and more, there’s no ego. Male shooters typically come with egos, big ones. Men were born with the ability to drive, shoot and fornicate right ladies? Trainers know this and therefore dress their classes up with names that hide the fact that they are rooted in the basics. After all, it is a business and marketing matters. Either that or they do not even offer classes focusing on fundamentals. I once heard that effective providers give people what they think they want as opposed to what a provider thinks they need. What I see more often than anything is ego getting in the way of improvement. In a class, I attended Pat McNamara stated: “Ego is a Training killer.” Someone else may have said it too but Pat said it to us so he gets the credit today. After the class, I thought about this statement for a long time. In fact, I continue to remind myself with all training I do for myself. He is correct. One must dispense of their own ego and do the things they need to do to have the most effective training. Growing up I trained in martial arts in a school that constantly emphasize fundamentals so Pat’s words were not necessarily new. They simply drew attention to the obvious. Many people do things they are not ready to do in order not to look “basic” and therefore sacrifice results. Think about how many injuries are sustained in the gym do to this mentality. How many alcoholic beverages did you have in your youth because you were too manly to stop? And how much ammo did you waste because you didn’t want to use it on training fundamentals or doing drills to work on your weak areas? So remember, drop the ego to maximize results. Work on the areas you are weak, even if they make you look bad.
How do you know if you need to work on your fundamentals? Here are some basic drills and criteria I like to use when evaluating a shooter. A staple drill for training is what is referred to as the dot drill, not to be confused with the commonly known “dot torture “. While dot torture is an excellent training template, what I’m referring to is slightly different. A shooter who has a mastery of sights and trigger should be able to shoot a 10 round one hole group, from 10 feet, with their handgun. One should also be able to do this shooting 10 singles, or draw, fire one round and repeat 10 times. If you are now saying to yourself, no way, you may have an ego problem. Next, a shooter should be able to fire five rounds onto an index card, from 10 feet, in 1.5 seconds starting from high ready. If you do not have some sort of a shot timer, your training is flawed. Last, a shooter should be able to draw and fire 5 rounds, into an IPSC A-zone, from 21 feet in 2.5 seconds. In addition, that first round should be under 2 seconds, from a level 3 holster or concealment. If you cannot accomplish these tasks, why?
A Shooter should not only know why they are not accomplishing these tasks but how to fix their deficiencies. In summary, a good training plan will include PERIODIC self-assessment. These assessments should be done cold or first thing without warm up. Do not train constantly doing the assessments either. You’ll just get good at that task. An example would be the commonly seen 1-5 Vtac drill. A good drill turned into a circus trick.
Maximize your training time and resources. Go into each session with a plan of what is to be accomplished, specifically. Some examples would be working on recoil management or precision fire drills. Once you have obtained a firm understanding and ability to perform these skills move on to stacking two or more into another drill. You can further maximize your training by adding what I refer to as secondary tasks such as reloads. This is not to imply that reloads are a second-class skill, not at all. In an age of high cap mags though if one loads to capacity for all drills how many reloads will you get out of 50 rounds. Therefore, download mags to increase the number of reloads. When it comes to maximizing training time I’ll mention one last thing, get a shot timer. It is an essential piece of gear to measure improvement and performance. Once you learn what about a first round on target, splits and how to manipulate and improve those times you will improve quickly.
There is a place for advanced firearms training, scenario based shoot no-shoot training, room entry and vehicle tactics etc. All these begin with knowing and mastering the fundamentals of marksmanship until they are a part of you. Shooting on the move is not a fundamental, it’s a situation. A shooter must deal with that situation within their ability. This goes for many other tactics as well. Get the basics mastered, apply them at speed and you will truly be on your way to becoming an advanced shooter.