When I first started shooting, I was obsessed with my round count. I knew that the top pro shooters shot tens of thousands of rounds each year in training and competition, and I believed that shooting that kind of volume would get me to that level. It did work a little. From 2011-2013 I shot around 25,000 rounds a year, and went from a middling C-class USPSA shooter to banging on the door of Master class. Compare that to 2016-2018 where through all three years combined, I’ve fired a total of 27,968 rounds. That averages out to 9300 a year, which is a lot by most people’s standards, I’ll agree. But what’s interesting is that despite shooting 1/3rd the ammo I shot in 2013, I’m a much better shooter now. What changed?
The biggest change has been in the quality of my training. I was so obsessed with getting my round count where I thought it needed to be that I didn’t necessarily have the right kind of focus in my practice sessions. Hammering Bill Drills for 30 reps isn’t necessarily quality training, and a lot of the time I’d show up at the range with a giant bag full of rounds and no plan.
In weightlifting, bad repetitions don’t count, unless you’re doing Crossfit then who cares about form? In a lot of ways, what I was doing with my guns was similar to crossfit – doing all kinds of crazy reps without any programming or planning. The problem of course is that only thing that Crossfit makes you better at is…Crossfit, and all I was actually getting better at was shooting a lot of rounds.
In 2016, I found myself with ample free time to pursue shooting excellence as a goal, but I was lacking a generous ammo sponsor like I had in 2012. This was for the best! It forced me to spend time planning my training sessions to get the best possible results from the time spend on the range, and it also forced me to spend a lot more time in dry fire. Look, I know that everyone already knows how great dry fire is, but I always struggled with actually doing it. The problem is that I could never keep my attention focused long enough to do these marathon 1 hour dry fire sessions that everyone on Instagram seems to be doing.
I discovered that quality reps mattered a lot more than quantity reps. Dry firing two times a week for 15 minutes allowed me to keep myself focused during the entire session. Before the session, I’d pick one skill to work on for the entire 15 minutes. That could be drawing from a retention holster, reloading from slide lock, target transitions, or whatever. The point was that instead of trying to have a huge volume of reps I was going to focus on having quality reps. Bad reps didn’t count, and I added speed once I could complete the task without fumbling.
Here’s how that worked in application: I’d dry fire on Tuesday and Thursday, then hit the range Friday morning. Whatever two skills I worked on in dry fire during that week would be what I worked on at the range. If I worked on drawing from the holster and slide lock reloads, I’d take my best dry fire par time from Tuesday and Thursday and work on getting within 0.20 of that time in live fire. For example: let’s say I was practicing drawing from a Safariland SLS holster to a 3×5 card. If my best time in dry fire was 1.25, I’d want my live fire par time for one shot to be 1.45 by the end of the day.
The end result of all this was that the number of quality reps I was getting increased even though my ”time training” decreased. The difference was that previously when I’d been “training,” it had been a lot of aimless blasting. Now when I train, the goal is always focused, positive reps.