How to Handle a Bad Day at the Range

How to Handle a Bad Day at the Range

Once upon a time some poor nameless individual—whose name totally wasn’t Michael Jenkins—went to the range. And while there, this nameless soul—again, absolutely not named Jenkins—has a really crappy time. The facility was pleasant enough, the day was cloudy and cool but otherwise fine. It wasn’t even that crowded on the firing line. But for some reason our anonymous hero who totally wasn’t Michael Jenkins couldn’t shoot well. The groups he was getting at 10 yards would have been embarrassing at 30, and the whole thing became an exercise in mind-melting frustration.

We all have days when we’re not shooting as well as we’d like, regardless of our level of experience or practice. Advanced shooters get frustrated by not performing up to their abilities, while newcomers fall into despair and wonder whether or not they’ll ever get the hang of this shooting thing. Which leads us to the question implied in the title of this piece: how do we handle it? What do you do when you’re not shooting as well as you’d like?

First off, take a deep breath and accept that this is going to happen, with shooting and with anything and everything else. You’re going to have off-days, that’s life, let it go.  And please, DO NOT blame your equipment unless there’s something tangibly wrong.

After that, step away from the firing line and do something else for a few minutes: take a walk, check out what other shooters are doing. If your range is attached to a gun store, wander inside and start mentally spending your next paycheck—gun porn does a lot to raise my spirits and I suspect the same is true for many of you.

Once your head is clear, take a minute and diagnose what’s going wrong. If there’s a hiccup in your technique, figure out what it is and plan a course of corrective action. Note I said plan—you’ve got a bit more head clearing to do. Keep walking/gun shopping/watching others shoot and go over your corrective strategy in your head.

After a few minutes of mental practice, it’s time to step back onto the firing line and put another magazine or two on target while implementing whatever corrections you deemed necessary. After that, take a step back and look at how you did. Was there improvement? If so, how significant was it? And just as importantly—are you getting more frustrated or feeling proactive and engaged? If it’s the latter, I suggest that you keep going—go slow, but keep going. Make the changes you need, run the appropriate drills, and start working on fixing the problem.

But if it’s still frustrating and you’re just getting more and more angry at yourself, this is the time to quit. Pack up your stuff, clear the firing line, and go do something else. Dumping more ammo while getting yourself riled is a waste of time and money. It’s one bad day, they happen, and there will be a next time.

These are just my thoughts. If you have another approach that works for you, let us know in the comments section.

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  • I find that in general, when I have days like that, stop. Take a break.

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  • Gluke

    Another thought:
    Would you ever make fun of an overweight person who’s working out at the gym?
    Then don’t make fun of someone who’s shooting poorly at the range.

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