Often, if we consider ourselves “serious” about skill development. We spend a lot of time on the range alone, working our drills, taking notes, and then moving on. All of that is important. We should at times be practicing alone, but we shouldn’t overlook what training with another person, another set of eyes, can bring to the process. Not only can training with a buddy be a little more fun than grinding through drills on the range alone, but it also contributes to our skill development.
One of the most significant contributions of a training partner is competitive pressure. It helps when whoever you are training with can basically match your skill level, or maybe just past it. The desire to be better than the other guy is a real thing, even when the other guy is your buddy. I saw this play out not too long ago when the guy I typically train with beat me in a heads-up shoot off. I usually win those things, but he pushed hard in training, and eventually was able to beat me. Now it is my turn to reciprocate. This back and forth of trying to match skill moves us down the road of development as shooters quicker and further than we might otherwise go ourselves.
Being the Third Eye
A good training partner will also know enough about shooting technique and how things are supposed to work that they can point out weaknesses or failures in technique. If we are consistently struggling in a specific area, hopefully, they will be able to help diagnose the specific issue or offer a few tips for continued improvement. Being an outside perspective, or the third eye has incredible value with identifying small mistakes in technique that perhaps cannot be realized from the first person perspective.
Anyone who is serious about shooting should be attending training courses. If my buddy or I go to a class, we almost always end up on the phone discussing what was covered in the classes we attend. And our next trip out to practice we will share the practical application lessons from the class. This knowledge sharing has allowed me to learn quite a bit from classes I have not been able to attend for one reason or another or provided a different perspective on classes I have taken before.
Good training partners keep us accountable in a couple of different areas. First, and perhaps the most important, is with safety. Having someone else on the range with us, who isn’t afraid to call us out on a questionable issue, will engender better firearms handling habits, and keep us from cutting corners that do not need to be cut.
Second, they keep us accountable to our skill. If we are sucking it up on the range, they should be letting us know. If we are doing really well, they should be letting us know. They also don’t allow second takes. If we mess something up, there is no hiding it from them because they are watching it go down as it happens. If we blow a drill, we don’t get a redo to post on Instagram, because hopefully, our buddy is keeping us accountable.
Difficult tasks are always easier to accomplish, or at least easier to not give up on when there is someone in your corner pushing you to continue moving forward. Someone who doesn’t question your ability to reach a goal, and is more convinced than you are that you can accomplish the task. With shooting, skill development can get depressing, especially when we have to battle getting past a plateau. The encouragement from that training partner is what might be needed to keep from getting discouraged and giving up.
Where do we find this magical creature called a training partner?
It can be challenging to find a good training partner. But usually, the best places to find them are at locally hosted classes or local matches. Engage the shooting community in your area, find a friend, and start comparing notes. I have been training with the same buddy for over five years. We have both benefited from having the other person there.