After spending the better part of the last 10 years training US Army combat troops to take the fight to our nation’s enemies I have some definite opinions on what is and is not effective training. I have a background in long range precision rifle fire and specialize in advanced marksmanship training. In my experience one of the keys to effective training is determining if the individual is “involved with” or “committed to” improving their shooting ability. The soldier who is “involved with improving” views achieving a passing rifle qualification score as acceptable. The soldier “committed to improving” refuses to rest until they routinely achieve expert qualifications. The difference in mindset is small but the results from being fully committed to improve are considerable.
No matter the agency or background I have noticed one constant trend as an instructor. Whether it be military, law enforcement, or civilian it comes down to one thing in my experience; your level of commitment directly influences your individual performance. With that in mind here are some steps I routinely suggest to assist with improving marksmanship performance.
1. Train with a partner or as a group. Over time complacency can set in and there is a natural tendency to stay in your training comfort zone. You may find yourself shooting the target ranges or courses of fire you know you will consistently hit. Working with another shooter allows you the opportunity to tailor training to challenge each individual. Take turns setting up a course of fire or designing a training stage. Most importantly, though, is to provide your training partner honest feedback on areas to focus on in order to improve.
2. The majority of precision rifle shooters I work with use a mil-dot, TMR, or similar “ranging” reticle on their rifle. These reticles are designed to allow the shooter to quickly and accurately establish the range to an unknown distance target using the mil relation formula. The ability to estimate the range to a target under any conditions in any environment is an invaluable asset for the precision rifleman. Oddly one of the first things I see many shooters do during training is reach for a Laser Range Finder (LRF) to begin establishing the range to each target. This is a missed training opportunity and a waste of resources. I recommend shooters take the time to practice range estimation every time the opportunity is presented.
3. Take the opportunity to challenge yourself by competing in long range (LR) precision rifle matches. I’ve worked with MIL/LE shooters who viewed competition shooting as a game with limited training value. Oddly, the standard for military precision fire is a center mass bullet strike on a 20″x40″ man sized target, while competitive shooters view a strike in the X-ring as the only standard of accuracy. LR precision rifle matches instill the “accuracy first” mindset, reinforce the need for proper fundamentals, and force shooters to deal with stress. Few scenarios are as stressful as being judged by strangers who know what they are doing and are watching as your score plummets during a poor performance. That is when the shooter learns to focus and deal with stress.
Finally I would suggest making an investment in training with a reputable organization. Col Jeff Cooper said “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” These words still ring true and I believe every responsible gun owner should continually strive to train and learn in order to be better prepared to defend themselves.