Training with the Best: Improve How You Improve

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As I write this, I am sitting in Georgia preparing for the Southeast Regional ProAm. It’s only one week after the Brownell’s Lady 3-Gun so I figured I would stay the week, see some friends, and shoot the match. I am the first to admit that I am a writer, not a shooter, and my skills are in constant needs of improvement. Staying here for the week presented me with a unique opportunity to do just that: An opportunity to spend an afternoon training with World Champion Dave Sevigny and his wife, Brooke, also a high-level competitive shooter.

While not everyone gets the opportunity to train with someone like Dave, and it’s certainly not something I get to do frequently enough, there were a few things I noticed and learned from being on the range with him. There were some things he did we all could and should apply to our practices, no matter what discipline we’re training for.

While I’ve spent time on the range before, training specifically for a ProAm-style match really highlighted the differences between my shooting ability, as a D-class USPSA shooter or IDPA Marksman, Brooke’s abilities as a B-class USPSA shooter, and Dave’s world-class shooting abilities. For those not familiar with ProAm, it’s an all-steel match with par times set on each stage. The goal is to shoot as many pieces of steel down as possible in that par time.

On a very basic level, this means Dave will shoot down more pieces of steel than Brooke who will shoot down more pieces of steel than me before the buzzer. On a more detailed level, this affects how many positions I will shoot from, and possibly how many pieces of steel I will engage from each position. Which means the way I approach each stage is different from Brooke, and both of us will differ our approach from Dave. This really highlighted the different ways we all needed to practice and the different items we needed to focus on to get ready for the match, which brings me to the first thing I learned from the training session: Have Something to Focus On.

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Putting rounds down range is all well and good, but pinpointing exactly what skills you need to improve on will make those rounds far more worthwhile. For example, in this particular practice session I was working on two things in particular: Trigger reset and the grip with my off-hand. They both seem like straightforward things, but focusing on them actually improved my shooting significantly during the approximately 300-round practice session I did.

A big part of my struggle as a shooter is that I simply don’t practice enough. A lot of the time when I’m on the range I get bored with my drills, and it makes me less likely to go back to practice. When I was on the range with Brooke and Dave, I certainly did not get bored. They were careful to change the drill to Work on Multiple Skill Sets and set everything up in a way that allowed them to Make Training Fun.

All of the drills we did were on steel plates. Some required more accuracy while others required more speed. In the course of the session, we would normally only run a drill two or three times before moving on to something else – if something required more work, it was always possible to set up a different drill that used those same skills. This kept me from getting frustrated, which is something I have found myself doing in the past when not preforming to my own expectations.

There is still a lot I have to learn about shooting, and about how to improve my own performance. Practicing is a skillset in and of itself, and we should be constantly working to improve the ways in which we improve. Studying the greats – in life or on YouTube – is one way many of us gather information on how to shoot better. We can do the same thing by learning about how they practice. There are excellent books available from some top-tier shooters across many different disciplines that highlight different drills and mindsets that help them succeed. There are also a lot of really great trainers who, during the course of the class, will not only help improve your skills but give you the information necessary to continue to improve your skills.

By Shelley Rae. Originally published in the December 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.

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