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Freshening Up Your Training

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Ask any high-level competitor and they’ll admit there was a point in their career where they thought they had peaked, and it likely wasn’t anywhere near where they are now. Invariably, we all hit walls in our training, and we shouldn’t shy away from that fact. Similar to any other problem, the first step to solving it is admitting it exists. Routines get stale, progress diminishes, and we sometimes get too comfortable with our current environment. Further, we begin to lose our drive once we have met our initial goals or start to believe—even for a moment—that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. However, ask any title winner, and they’ll all agree that the work was indeed worth it and all that was needed was a little tweak to what they already have been doing all along.

Here are five great ways to freshen up your training and bounce over any hurdles.



Whatever your goal, I can guarantee you that there are other ways to get there. As I type this, I recall a time I wanted to strengthen my offhand shooting in service rifle. As smacking the same paper repeatedly for hours became boring (and tiresome), I dabbled in smallbore silhouette shooting. Something as trivial as switching from paper bullseyes to metallic animal targets suddenly made this position exciting again. It also challenged me, as these matches don’t allow competitors to wear shooting coats. Although the course of fire was ultimately different, later I shot my first perfect offhand target ever, which I doubt was a coincidence. Practical pistol shooters have been known to take advantage of the same principle by shooting in their sister association. IDPA shooters join USPSA matches to shoot a more game-based course of fire, while USPSA competitors often grab a vest and run an IDPA match to maintain their concealed carry skills. However, once the gun is drawn, the concepts of stage planning, economizing motion and ammunition management all come into play. At the least, you might make a new friend.


If you do happen to make a new friend or two at these outside associations, consider training with them. One of the reasons we plateau is that we practice with the same people. In doing so, you’ll eventually learn everything you can from each other, or even worse, get too cozy to push yourselves any harder. Sometimes the pack suffers this phenomenon together, and then your entire group enters a vicious downward spiral. With the addition of a new training mate comes a life’s worth of experience, which may include solutions to some of your shooting maladies, or at least different approaches toward training them away. I believe in this concept, and recommend it to my students, even though it cuts into my bottom line. I always say none of us get it all from one person, and at the same time we should never stop learning. Many times, their work with other instructors rejuvenates our work together, and we see a rapid improvement in our next sessions.

NRA Bullseye pistol shooter

Shooting at a new location, such as the NRA National Matches at Camp Atterbury, can help improve your skills.



Whereas the last paragraph is about taking a new friend to your range, meeting at theirs is another good way to mix it up and rekindle growth. Often, something as simple as an unfamiliar firing line or shooting pit can be enough to reel you back into the fundamentals and remind you of your goals. However, more often, that new location gives you the tools you need to surmount the hump. When I first started, my rifle shooting hit a dead end when the distance ran out. Then a twist of fate landed me on History Channel’s “TOP SHOT,” and I met Mr. Keith Gibson, who introduced me to long-range shooting. During that time, he taught me about reading the environment, and I showed him everything I knew about reloading. Within less than a year, we were making first-round impacts out to a mile right on his farm.

GSSF competition

Simply adding some stress to the equation will often get things moving again. (Photo by Chris Christian)



A running theme here is that we get a bit too comfortable at times, and by staying uncomfortable, we continue to grow. Scenarios, people and locations are all instant ways to do this, but if your training relies on other people, you are doomed. When my students plateau, the first thing I ask them is if they are spending time at the range by themselves. If the answer is yes, I follow up by asking them how they are using it. If that answer doesn’t include a shot timer or exercise, then I remind them that there is nothing pushing them to improve. Sometimes just a lick of stress is all it takes to get moving again. Adding a timer to segments that are not timed or cutting the time down on ones that are, are excellent ways to get started. Have fun and use your imagination.


As they say, absence makes the heart grow founder. Sometimes we get a bit too programmed in our practice routine that it stops being fun, and we find ourselves just going through the motions. If you feel that is the case, take a break. There is no point in wasting the ammo or time when you can be doing better things. Don’t forget that you have a life outside the range, and there might be people and places that are missing you. A short break to catch up with friends and family or pursue interests outside of shooting sports could be all that you need to fall back in love with, beating your own score. Not long after, you’ll likely find the range calling you with the same intensity it did when that fire was first lit, teaching us that excellence is a balancing act of patience and hard work.



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