Five Not So Easy Steps To Better Shooting

Five Not So Easy Steps To Better Shooting

There are two types of range trips, the ones that are just for fun, and the ones that are about getting better at applying the craft of shooting. One doesn’t require much thought or planning, the other one actually requires a good bit of consideration to get the most out of it. I will let you guess which is which, you can probably figure it out. We have written before about different drills or strategies for really getting better at shooting. This time we are talking about the larger process of getting better. Processes are all about following a series of steps. Follow the steps, improvement will come.


In order to know where we need to go, and how to get there, we need to know where we are right now. Skill has to be measured and noted. How we measure the skill is up for debate, and somewhat depends on what type of shooting skill we are trying to develop. I am going to assume though that since you are here reading, it is probably defensive-oriented shooting. There are more than a few assessment tools for that type of skill, but here are a few that I personally like.

  1. Seeklander Skills Test
  2. IDPA 5×5
  3. FAST
  4. Dot Torture

Once we have established our baseline skill, we can start figuring out where we want to go.

Goal Setting

This is when we decide where exactly it is we want to go. We have to be careful here though. If we do it wrong this whole getting better thing will become incredibly discouraging.

There are actually two types of goals we need to set, short term goals, and long-term goals. Long term goals are the big, 10,000-foot view goals. Things like shooting a certain level in a competition, a class, or maybe a specific drill. These should be difficult to reach and require some investment.

Short term goals are where the work gets done. These are things we can accomplish in relatively short order, to be followed by another set of short-term goals. These are the things that keep us moving. As our skill level progresses, typically the improvement becomes more and more incremental. We have to have small goals to keep us focused and positive.

As an example, my current short-term goals are a sub 2 second Bill Drill, and a consistent sub 1 second draw to an IDPA -0 at 7 yards. They are very focused goals, and very specific. They serve as a waypoint on the road to the larger, long term goal.


Once we have set goals, we now know how and where to train. Training is different than practice. Training is going somewhere and learning how to do something. Practice is mastering what was learned. Once we know where we are, where it is we want to go, we have to now learn how to get there. Seek out a good instructor, take a class or two, then start mastering what was learned.


This is where skill gets perfected. Most people go to classes because they think it will make them better within the confines of the 8 or 16 hour course. It might, a little, but the real skill-building happens outside of the class. We go to class to learn how to get better, but it is up to use apply that knowledge in our practice sessions.

Another way to think about it is classes give us a foundation. The quality of the class and the instructor will determine how good that foundation is, but a foundation nonetheless. It is up to us to build our castle that goes on top of the foundation. That is what practice is about, it is castle building. Hard, labor-intensive work, but with a great reward. Like building a castle though, there needs to be a plan, and the plan should be followed. Likewise, our practice sessions should be planned, and we should try to stick to the plan.


After we have set our goals, trained to learn what the path to our goals looks like, and then walked the path with our practice, it is time to test our skill. Testing is like glancing at the map periodically to make sure we are still on the right path. If we aren’t, we make the course correction and we drive one.

Testing for me is shooting bill drills and checking 1 shot draw times since those are the short term goals I am after. Since I documented my skill level at the beginning of the cycle, I can see if there is an improvement or not.

Once I have glanced at the map, I start back at the beginning of the cycle. I have a new benchmark, can set new short term or maybe long term goals if I need to, and go through the rest of the process. It sounds like a simple thing to do, but the reality of it is this takes a concerted effort.  Kind of like starting a new diet or workout routine, it takes consistent work over time to pull it off, and it is easy to be lazy.

Do the work, and I will see you at the top of your castle.

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Nate spends his days trying to find ways to afford more ammo. Nate is a performance driven shooter with over 400 hours of formal firearms instruction, dabbles in local handgun matches, and teaches the occasional shotgun class.
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