Bad Habits Die Hard. Don’t Let Them Kill You First

At a big 3-Gun match recently I was reminded of a trip to the ocean: Watching the porpoises jump and arc forward through the sea.

What reminded me of this was a shooter who arced his pistol to the target every time he shot. It was comical to watch as this competitor took excessive time to present his pistol to the target in anything but a direct and economical fashion.

Do you think this fella had any idea that he was wasting so much time in a timed arena? I figure not. Remarkably, I never said anything to this guy about the ridiculous fashion with which he presented to the target. It looked like a porpoise bounding through the seas as he lobbed that pistol out to the target. If you listened closely you could hear “Back to the Future’s” George McFly in a monotoned and slightly frightened voice saying, “Hey you! Get your damn hands off her!” My point is: You will do what you’ve always done! Facts about performance often include the statement that, given no time to think, you will react as you have been trained. I venture to say that that fella’s presentation of the pistol has never been diagnosed as inefficient.

If he was a cop I would bet that he ignored the critique, if ever given to him. After all, this fella shot well enough and how could you critique someone who hits what they aim at.

Slow is just slow!! I no longer repeat the mantra that slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

Reality clearly proves that slow is just SLOW! Smoothness with speed as the goal will create the speedy performance you seek. Exaggerated practice with the understanding that you will make mistakes and that is okay as long as you can recognize and get past them.

So this guy with the wasteful presentation of the pistol? Obviously he’s never worked with another shooter who can do things more quickly or more accurately because no one said, “Hey! You present the pistol like George McFly.” However, if they did say this to him and he tried to fix it … it makes my point. If you don’t make an effort to train hard in the proper fashion, exaggerate your movements and do it under the watchful eye of a solid instructor, you will do what you have always done when you have no time to think.

When seconds count… If you have seconds to react to a threat, you’d better know how to save and shave tenths or hundredths of a second off your performance times.

Presenting the pistol to the target in anything but a, “Freeze RIGHT NOW!” fashion puts you in danger.

You’ve got to drive the muzzle to the target. When you do this, you’re able to get the sights into your plane of vision quickly. If you can see the sights with target beyond, you can touch the trigger and get through the slack and to the pressure wall. If you get to the target with some semblance of sight alignment and your trigger finger already working, you can begin to deliver accurate fire NOW! A fast miss… A fast miss with a fast followup hit is way better than a slow first round hit. Unfortunately most people don’t practice for this. For years I would try to get a first round hit which ultimately caused me to be slow. (See, slow is just slow!) I would slow down until I got a first round hit every time which really did me no good. I was accurate but unwilling to miss in the interest of progress toward speed. Now I practice to be fast by just trying to hit as fast as possible.

If I miss fast, I try to get a second round hit as fast as possible.

Another saying I don’t use any longer is: “It’s not practice that makes perfect but perfect practice that makes perfect.” My new mantra is, “You have to be willing to commit imperfect practice in the pursuit of perfection.” As a former boy, current father and all around man, you can probably believe that I learn best by making mistakes.

That’s the whole point behind the imperfect practice. You make mistakes and learn from them. Back to the porpoise of this story! The fella who moved quickly and took aim slowly may shoot well but he’s never going to be a winner. Of course it’s okay not to win in a competition.

But, on the street, where the prize is your life, there can be no option to lose.

If you’re doing something wrong or ineffectively, today is the day to change.

Listen to what your instructors tell you and do your best to apply it. If you aren’t getting the instruction you think you need, find it. Practice under the watchful eye of someone who can guide your skills. It’s important to know why you are slow, why you miss and why you hit. Once you can identify what you’re doing right or wrong, then and only then, can you begin to break bad habits and build new, good habits.

I hope my next gunfight is against a fella that can’t drive his gun in my direction faster than I can drive mine towards his.

It’s all about the fundamentals!