The Difference Between Being a Great Shooter and Great Competitor

There are many good shooters. There are much fewer good competitors. This article will discuss the difference.

I’ll say up front that I don’t consider myself a great competitor…at least not yet. I have had moments in recent years where I was, but I am not near my full potential. I do believe that I know what the differences between being a good competitor and a great one are, and want to discuss that subject in this article. Want to become a great competitor? This article will open your eyes to the differences.

I want to break down the differences into actionable chunks. Hopefully you can then take each piece and apply it to your puzzle. I warn you though, being a GREAT competitor is not necessarily fun, and certainly not easy. And by the way, this article applies to BOTH the Defensive and Competition shooting spectrums.

Good competitors maintain their gear system. Great competitors master theirs.

I am lumping gear together, meaning the gun and any supporting item, like carry gear and ammunition. There is a big difference between simply maintaining your gear system, and mastering every detail of it. I have witnessed defensive handgun students showing up with carry guns that were not even close to zeroed properly. I have witnessed competition shooters experience catastrophic failures from their firearm because they failed to inspect it before the match.

Leave no stone unturned is a great analogy in terms of your gear. If you are primarily a defensive shooter, this means researching every single piece of potential carry gear available that will maximize your success in a fight. Have the best belt, holster, and magazine pouches you can find. Research and set up your carry gun so it is a refined and highly functional tool. Select the best flashlight, knife, and supporting gear you can find.

A great competitor on the competition circuit will know every single detail of their firearms. While they might not be the primary gunsmith on the gun, they will know nearly as much as the gunsmith does, and most importantly how to inspect the gun for potential failure. Their ammunition will be inspected and checked, each and every round. They will select and modify their holster/magazine pouch system to the point where it can not fail them in competition. They will leave nothing to chance.

Good competitors can perform on demand under stress. Great competitors actually get better, on demand under stress.

I have witnessed great shooters like Rob Leatham and Dave Sevigny rise to the level needed to win and actually get BETTER under the stress of performance on demand. Great competitors have taken the time to not just master their skill, but to know how far they can push it when the need arises. A good competitor can perform on demand, but they do not know how far they can push their performance. A great competitor knows.

This applies in the defensive world as well, as a great competitor has done the steps necessary, such as visualization and mindset preparation. They completely understand their level of skill, and have tested it under the stresses of hard training.

Good competitors train when they want to. Great competitors train when the DON’T want to.

How many times have you trained (practiced) when you were motivated? Probably a bunch! Why? Because you were motivated. But how many times have you hit the range when you were sick, tired, or very unmotivated? I would guess much less. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating beating yourself up, but rather assessing when you need to train versus when you want to. Instead, I am saying that when the goal requires the work, you have to be disciplined enough to put it in.

How do we find this discipline? It’s simple, just do it. Don’t miss practice. If you can’t say when you show up to the event that you did everything you should have, then you failed yourself. On that thought, I used to follow a specific training plan, then tell myself that I did everything I could to prepare when I showed up to the match. I realized, that to an extent, I was lying to myself. The real question I had to ask myself is that was the frequency and duration I set for my training plan going to allow me to have the skill needed to perform my best? If I HAVE THE TIME AND RESOURCES, and I do NOT choose to train at a frequency and duration that facilitates success, then by choice, I had failed myself.

Have you done everything you can do??

That said, we all have limitations on time and resources. If you have maxed out your time and resource limitations in terms of practice, then you have done your job. But if not, then you should ask yourself if you really wanted the end goal as much as you thought you did. I remember my buddy Rob Leatham telling my one time that he committed everything to dominating his sport, to the point that EVERYTHING else came second. Are you willing to go to this level? It is perfectly ok if you are not, it is your life and you are the boss.

Like I said, these are just a few motivational thoughts. I do not have all the answers, but what I do know is that if you choose to become “great” then the path will not be easy. I would never tell you to put your hobby before your family or job. But in order to succeed, remind yourself that if everything is a priority, then NOTHING is.

Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.

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