Practice vs. Training

Are they the same when it comes to firearms? The answer is “No.” When you practice your shooting skills you are doing the things you already know how to do, you are just trying to become more proficient at doing so. On the other hand, when you are training, you are learning new things that you did not previously know. We do not learn things we already know, we only reinforce them.

I encounter many folks that are enrolled in concealed carry classes that think they already know how to shoot a handgun. The only reason they are taking the training class is because the government requires them to do so before they can be issued a concealed handgun license. However, invariably most learn something new that they did not previously know. The sooner that occurs in the course, the more attention these students tend to pay attention to what else is being taught by the instructor.

It is important to practice the things that you already know, especially those that are based on muscle-memory. It is only through repetition that those things are ingrained so we can perform them without conscious thought. But, you do not know what you do not know, so it is important to also take training classes to learn new things.

So what are some of those “new things” that you do not know that might be useful to you? If you have ever fired a gun before, you know that by pulling the trigger you can make it fire. You probably also know roughly how to hold a firearm in your hand (s). What you may not realize is that there are some specific techniques that you can use to “pull” the trigger that will significantly improve your shooting accuracy. The same thing applies to how you hold the gun.

Over time, techniques evolve as we learn more about them and incorporate refinements. What we may have learned ten or more years ago may no longer be optimal. Therefore, taking a class to learn the new techniques becomes important. Then, once the new techniques are learned, you need to practice them so they become ingrained in your muscle-memory.

One of the problems many shooters face while practicing is they tend to focus on those things that they do well and ignore those techniques that they do not do so well and that they should really be working on. When you continually practice the same thing, you tend to become complacent. This can lead to sloppiness creeping in. Bad habits can develop and it will take hundreds of correct repetitions to get the incorrect techniques programmed out of your muscle-memory.

Even if you are practicing regularly, it is a good idea to periodically take a class to see if there are new techniques that have been developed for the things you already do and perhaps to “relearn” something you may have forgotten. It might also benefit you to learn how to use a different firearms platform. Doing so can help you understand the benefits and shortcomings of a particular firearm. So, if you have only trained in the use of a handgun, but you also own or have access to a shotgun or rifle, you might want to take a shotgun or rifle class to learn how those platforms might be applied to self-defense. Just something for you to think about...

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