SMART Steps to Getting More Out of Training

What’s your reason for training with firearms?

Here’s how you can apply SMART goal-setting to your pistol training and actually become a better shooter.

What’s your reason for training with firearms?

Maybe you’re a target shooter who wants to improve accuracy or speed. Maybe you’re a competitor looking win competitions. Maybe you’re someone who carries a gun for self-defense, and you’ve realized that hefty responsibility requires training. Maybe you’re an instructor who realizes that training is never finished, and you actively seek to learn more in all disciplines.

Whatever your reason for wanting to improve as a shooter, you had better have one. Not many successful people have gotten there by accident; successful people have a plan of action, and they work to make it happen. Stop waiting for your skills to magically materialize, and instead do the work to improve. Here’s how you can apply SMART goal-setting to your pistol training and actually become a better shooter.

Specific

“Become a better shot” is not a specific training goal. Let’s say you’ve decided that you’re focused on pistol shooting for self-defense purposes. Your goal might be, “shoot 90 percent or better on the Texas LTC qualification test.” Once you’ve determined what your focus is, and you know what it takes to get there, you can more easily set specific, step-wise goals.

Measurable

Obviously, calculating a percentage of your total rounds which hit their mark is a measurable goal. But, what if you “just want to get faster” at drawing from concealment and accurately hitting your mark? That requires a shot timer, and it wouldn’t hurt to take video so you can critique technique and make sure you’re not sacrificing technique and safety as you work to increase speed.

Attainable

It’s unlikely that a new shooter will qualify for an Olympic rifle team in their first year, but placing in the top 20 in a local Steel Challenge match might be realistic with adequate training and practice. For the defense-minded, if you’ve already earned your LTC (License to Carry) in Texas, you should have been required to shoot with 70 percent accuracy in the qualification portion of the class. Improving that score to 90 percent could be realistic with a specific plan of action.

Relevant

Set a goal that’s important to you. Why is improving a qualification score by 20 percent important? Why do you want to increase your target presentation speed from concealment? Both speed and accuracy will benefit anyone interested in carrying a firearm for self-defense. You may (hopefully) never have to employ those skills in real life, but you’ll be more confident and better trained having developed them.

Time-Limited

“Someday” isn’t on any calendar I’ve ever seen. Give yourself a hard deadline for meeting your training goals, and stick with it. Write it on the calendar, and then figure out what halfway to your goal looks like. Write that on the calendar halfway to your deadline. We know through research that practicing skills the right way more frequently works better than infrequent marathon practice sessions, so schedule daily or three-times-weekly practice sessions once you’ve trained and learned those skills.

Set a goal today, and if you need training, set it up now. There are ample opportunities to train with firearms in Central Texas, and we’re working every day to bring you more. Whatever your goal, train SMART, and train for real life.

The 3 Cardinal Rules of Dry-Fire Practice

Here are three things you must do every time you dry-fire your unloaded pistol to improve your marksmanship during live fire.

Dry-fire practice is done with an unloaded gun. Check it for open and clear, check and double check that the magazine is empty, and manually clear the chamber before you start. Make sure there’s no live ammo in the same room. Then, treat the weapon like it’s loaded and don’t point it at anyone (even yourself) or anything you’re not willing to destroy. Do not cut corners with safety during dry fire.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Industry experts are all over the place when it comes to dry fire. Some say do it all the time, others say keep your practice real with live fire, and then there are those who argue that you should buy snap caps to prevent damage to the firing pin. We’re not getting into that part of it today. Instead, if you’re into dry-fire practice, here are three things you must do every time you dry-fire your unloaded pistol to improve your marksmanship during live fire.

1. Take It Into Slow-Mo

Slowing down your movements requires that you think about what you’re doing, and any time you’re facing accuracy issues, going into slow-mo can help you pay attention to every little detail so you can correct deficiencies. Start with your foundation (stance), your balance (weight slightly forward), and finally, your draw (from concealment or holster). Going into slow motion with your drawstroke should help you identify any deficiencies, such as sweeping your non-dominant hand or, in the case of drawing from concealment, sweeping to your rear or sides. Stay mindful of every single aspect of your stance, balance, and drawstroke, and don’t practice the draw until you’ve corrected safety and technique issues repetitively. It’s true that practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. Commit each and every little movement to muscle memory.

2. Focus on Sight Picture

Once you’ve established eye dominance and determined what your next-step shooting goals are (speed or accuracy), it’s time to perfect your sight picture. The act of drawing your firearm should always end when you come to an acceptable sight picture. Well, let’s call it an “accurate” sight picture (ASP). When you’re drawing for practice, if you don’t end your draw with an ASP, you’re wasting your time. It doesn’t matter how fast you get if you can’t accurately hit a target after you draw. Get that front sight in focus, target and rear sights blurred, with every draw. Commit that to muscle memory with lots of repetition, paying close attention to proper stance and grip. If you find any of your fundamentals suffering, slow it way down and start over. There’s no need to speed up until you’re drawing flawlessly in slow-mo.

3. “Trouble-Shoot” Trigger Control

Once you’ve come to an ASP without safety or technical errors and you’re happy with your speed, add in a slow-motion dry fire. You can employ snap caps or spent cartridges if you’re worried about wear and tear on your firing pin. You can also balance a spent casing or a penny on your front sight as you maintain your sight picture and complete the trigger pull. If the casing falls, check your grip and finger placement and practice slowly until you can keep the muzzle stable enough to keep the casing from falling. Practice that trigger pull perfectly until you’re ready to add in drawing to ASP, and start the entire movement over again in slow motion. Speed will come with muscle memory, but that takes daily practice.

Perfect practice.

Texas Personal Firearms Training instructors use dry-fire for their own training and practice regimens. Contact us today to customize your training program so you can improve your accuracy and speed in just 15 minutes a day.

Former Anti-Gunner Now CEO of International Women’s Shooting League

A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League CEO Robyn Sandoval shares her story in the viral article, Discoveries of an Anti-Gunner: My Conversion to the Other Side.

CEDAR PARK, TX–A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League has, in less than a decade, revolutionized the shooting sports industry and shattered the glass ceiling that had previously marginalized women shooters. CEO Robyn Sandoval recently shared her own story of transformation, and won the Internet. Read Robyn’s Discoveries of an Anti-Gunner: My Conversion to the Other Side, and see intelligent firearms discussion in action.

Ready to learn more about guns? Join the Temple Chapter of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League for Girls’ Night Out the first Tuesday of each month. Find us on Facebook to get event notices and learn about nearby firearms education and training, and keep your focus on improving your skills as you train for real life.