By: Chris Andersen, 3-Gun Nation Pro Shooter
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- For this month’s pro tip, I decided not to address any one specific drill or training routine, but instead talk about the efficiency and structure, and how it can help you be a better shooter while you put those ideas to work.
With virtually every element of shooting, loading, and manipulation of three different firearm platforms used in each match you shoot, the idea of preparing for all of it can be daunting, especially for a newer shooter or someone who finds themselves in a rut.
Effective time management in practice is the key to success in a sport like this. Since most people have limited practice time available to them, getting the most bang for your buck at the range means you will have the most to show for it on match day. It can also mean a lot less impact on family time and work.
You will find that efficient practice is one of the biggest keys to success in 3-gun. Because this sport encompasses such a large variety of challenges, how you manage your time in practice can effect improvement just as much as the practice itself.
A shooters training log or journal is an invaluable tool in a sport like 3-gun. I try to keep an ever-changing list of skills I want to improve, or elements that I need to practice in mine, as well as set drills and practice session times for comparison throughout the season. A season calendar allows me to plug in practice sessions and track progress leading toward each match. This log also travels with me to matches, and I make notes in it when traveling home about how things went, what caught me off guard, and elements that need to be improved.
Write down as much information as possible in your training log, and refer to it frequently. This will help you stay focused on your improvement.
Take a look at where you are with your shooting currently and write down a list of all of your strengths and weaknesses. Then at the bottom of that same page, pick five or six overall goals that you would like to accomplish for the upcoming season. I would recommend writing those goals on every page of your training log, so that you constantly reinforce the big picture. Always having them there will help you stay focused on them when you are planning practice sessions, and tracking progress. Develop a practice priority list based on your strengths and weaknesses that push you towards those goals specifically.
Be honest with yourself
Everyone has a drill, or element of their shooting that they dislike practicing. Typically, you hate that element because you are not very good at it. If you are honest with yourself you will realize that the biggest improvements are made if you move problem areas like that to the top of your practice priority list. Trips to the range to repeatedly do something that you are already good at, repeating a tired drill over and over can actually result in backpedalling in terms of your match finishes and overall ability level.
Keep your list of strengths and weaknesses in your training log arranged in terms of skill level and priority throughout the season. I recommend compiling this list from three places. Your own personal experiences, match video review, and constructive criticism from skilled shooters. Multiple sources will help keep you honest and that honesty will keep training on track.
The skills that are most lacking should stay at the highest practice priority, with the items you are best at toward the bottom. Items on the list will likely change in level of priority throughout the season, but this big picture approach will keep your overall skill level improving.
Make every shot count
The more seriously you take practice, the better your results will be. Period. Go to the range with a pre-determined plan and stay on track. Avoid just spraying rounds at a target if things go off track during a drill. Stop. Reset. And do it again correctly to avoid reinforcing negative techniques and mindset. Every shot you send down range should be taken seriously, performed with good fundamentals, and according to a plan. If you get off track, it important to take a step back and figure out why it happened, so you can avoid it next time. That directly translates to the mindset you should have when you shoot a stage in a match, and ensures time well spent in your practice session.
Things won’t always go your way. That is just the reality of this sport…accept the fact that you will take setbacks and have to adjust for them. You are going to eventually make mistakes in your training methods that cost you positions in a match. Regular checkups with your established drills and match performance tracking will tell you what needs to change. If you keep your eyes on the ball though, you can make these adjustments and minimize the missteps, and correct them as quickly as possible when they do happen. This will ensure your big picture continues to improve.
Track your progress
Establish some basic skill drills to do on fairly regular basis and write down completion times to set baselines and track progress. Regular check-ups in practice will make sure that you don’t find out that a particular skill has slipped on the clock in a match. Also log match performances for comparison to make sure you aren’t making the same mistakes over and over again.
Depending on the part of the shooting season you are in, your practices will be different. You should tailor your range sessions to maximize success based on what is available. Typically during the 3-gun season, most of my time is spent preparing for specific challenges I expect to see at the next major match. Map out your season and take a long look at the time available to prepare for each match. Then take that available time and plug in the elements needed for that match into your practice schedule in order of priority.
The offseason is where the big improvements are made. Avoid the temptation to sit around. You will likely have more time to practice because there are fewer matches going on and those who take advantage of it will reap the benefits when the season starts.
Stay out of ruts
Be sure you are prioritizing properly. Keep a close eye on the big picture, meaning your OVERALL skill level. Each small aspect of your abilities add an element to your overall performance. Think of your skill set as tools in a tool box. A good tool box has a diverse selection of quality tools in it. Continually keeping each one of those tools finely tuned means that skill set improves as a whole.
Know when to quit
Some days things just don’t go your way at the range. You’ve had a bad day at work, things are hectic at home, or you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, and you find yourself struggling to stay focused at practice when your mind is elsewhere. Sometimes it is better to simply walk away and come back another time. Improper technique or half hearted practice won’t yield good results. Take the time you need to get your mind/body right and return for practice when you are there. Rest and relaxation can be just as important to match performance as sending rounds down range.
Apply that same approach to match preparation. Cramming right before a test rarely yields good results. Make sure that you allow time in the run up to a match for rest and recovery so that you arrive fresh and ready to perform.
The science of improvement in sport has always fascinated me. I personally enjoy practicing, but not every one does. Practice sessions can really be work, especially if you don’t start see results right away. It is really no different than starting a new diet, or workout routine. That makes it important to inject elements in your practice that you enjoy to keep it fun and fresh. If you practice with a training partner, finish each session with a challenge you can compete at. If you are alone, pick the drill you enjoy most to end on. And don’t be afraid to take a break if things are getting difficult and regroup later to make sure you stay on track. Remember, your big picture is not likely to improve if you are not having fun.
One of my favorite things about this sport is that it can be whatever you want it to be: Anything from an occasional local match for fun, to a season of competition against the best shooters in the world. The one constant at all levels, is that good performances yield more personal satisfaction. Regardless of whether that comes from a good day at the range, a good finish at a local match, or a stage win at a major. A structured, big picture approach to your practice sessions will insure that you get there faster!
Chris Andersen is a 3 Gun Nation Pro Shooter for Team Vertx and regular contributor to AR15.com and 3GunNation.com. Look for his articles and videos every month in the ARFCOM Newsletter to help improve your performance in 3 gun competition.