Reprint with permission from the IDPA Tactical Journal (authored by Mike Seeklander).
I want to spend a little bit of time and share with you the top 9 mistakes I see it most of my training classes. Now keep in mind these mistakes are not all shooting related mistakes, but they are all things that greatly affect my students performances and their ability to train themselves to a very high level. So let’s get on with it!
- Number 9 on the list is the mistake of having the wrong gear for the job. I can’t tell you how often I go to a class to teach and see students showing up with belts, holster systems, mag pouches, footwear etc. that is just not right for what they’re trying to accomplish. For example often times I’ll have student show up with a very cheap plastic or Kydex holster that is loosely mounted on a small belt system that allows the holster and magazine pouches to move around. The entire process of being able to draw the gun fast means the handgun and the holster needs to maintain the same position and angle on the belt, so a cheap flimsy belt and a loose holster just won’t cut it. The reality is in this day and age you can get an entire belt and holster system for about $75-$100. Another example of inproper gear is when I actually had a student show up to one of my classes, a competition handgun course, wearing slick bottom cowboy boots. Now there is nothing wrong with cowboy boots per se, my father is actually a cowboy and he wears cowboy boots all the time. The problem is kinda obvious that in our sport we are required to do athletic movements left right forward and backward and slick bottomed shoes just won’t give you the traction that you need.
- Number 8 is the shooter that spent an entire year training to take a class..and shows up with an ingrained set of techniques that are all wrong! No, I’m not harping on the person for having something wrong in terms of their technique. The problem is they waited an entire year to take a class thinking that they needed to practice and train first and then go to the class. Instead they could have gotten the most value out of the training class by taking the class very early in their shooting development. If you are a newer shooter, invest in things that matter, and by that I mean knowledge. That way you’ll learn proper technique and when you start your training drills you won’t be ingraining bad habits. Unfortunately one of my main roles in any class is to try to fix bad habits. Don’t be that guy.
- Number 7 on the list is that guy or gal that has modified their handgun to the point where it doesn’t work at all. They’ve change springs, they’ve changed triggers, they modify the internals, they’ve added titanium parts, they’ve done everything you can imagine except for spending money on quality ammunition. And that is what they really need in most cases to become a better shooter…not gimmicks and parts on their handgun. Don’t get me wrong, trying to maximize your handgun’s performance ability is a good thing, but don’t get too tied up in that gimmick stuff in the beginning of your shooting career. Learn how to shoot first. Most stock guns out there are just fine the way they come excepting maybe some fine-tuning and a good set of sights.
- Number 6 on the list relates to the good ole saying that someone once said (I believe it was G.I. Joe): “knowing is half the battle”. I use that phrase in classes to describe the issue of knowing what the right technique is yet not applying that information. Remember, knowing the information is only half the battle, the other half is actually putting that information to use. An example is when you’re firing a bad shot and you’re not correcting it, you know you’re firing a bad shot because you see the sights move, but you’re not doing your job and fixing the issue. Make an effort to spend every second in training like it’s your only second to train and make every round you fire count. Don’t let it go down range unless you’re learning something from it and trying to get better!
- Number 5 on the list actually comes from a discussion with my good friend Rob Leatham where we discussed his philosophy and showed me his video on learning how to pull the trigger without moving the sites. The key point there is most people focus entirely too much on aiming the gun and fail to realize that learning to pull the trigger without moving the gun is what is really important. As Rob says, “Not moving the gun is the critical part of the process because aiming doesn’t mean anything if we move the gun before the bullet leaves the barrel!”
- Number 4 is the guy or gal that spends way too much thinking about the trigger pull. Now don’t get me wrong, proper trigger management is really a big part of shooting and you need to learn how to do it properly. There are so many people out there that try to pull the trigger in different manners…they squeeze the trigger, press the trigger, slowly pin the trigger to the rear and reset to the click, and in reality most don’t work under the time constraints of the practical shooting environment. We need to learn to pull the trigger quickly (and not move the gun)! The point here is: if we spend time training a trigger management method that we do not apply in the environment we plan to use it, then we are waisting time. Focus instead on pulling the trigger in the manner you need to on most targets in matches, and learn the difference between a slower pull on a hard shot and fast one on an easy shot. That way you can use what you need, when you need it.
- Number 3 on the list is those that grip the gun by holding it instead of actually physically managing the recoil. A large majority of my students benefit greatly from the grip lecture in my classes because they actually learn how to grip the handgun properly and control the recoil through friction and leverage. If I had to guess I would say that the large majority of my students are not properly gripping the handgun and controlling it as good as they could. To grip the handgun properly we need to have the hands as high as possible on the handgun. Specifically this requires that we flag the strong hand thumb so the left hand palm can actually get in the right place on the grip panel. The second part of the equation is gripping with both hands with enough force to control recoil. I’d like you to try a little trick recently that I’ve been teaching my students and that is to counter rotate your hands to increase the pressure on the back of the gun. For example imagine if your right hand were screwing a jar lid on, and the left was screwing a jar lid off. The hands counter-rotating push the palms together and increases the pressure on the back of the gun. Think of the direction the gun recoils (toward the rear) which is why we want to build that pressure wall on the back of a gun.
- Number 2 on the list is the forum junkie. The guy or gal that spends all of their times on forums, jumping from system to system or class to class. While I highly recommend learning as much as you possibly can, eventually we’ve got a put the firing pin to the primer. Taking class after class or reading book after book or searching for the secret sauce just doesn’t pan out. The real answer is on the range after countless repetitions of practice where you know exactly what works or doesn’t work for you and your body type. Sometimes I have students come to my class that have taken classes from other instructors and what I’m teaching may contradict what they just spent so much time trying to ingrain. It’s great to train with different people, just beware that there is a downside doing it too much, too often. Strongly consider finding The best instructor you can that has reached the level you’re trying to get to and take their class and follow their system for a period of time. Once you really learn what they’ve taught and can apply it, then consider jumping into another instructor’s material. Just keep in mind if you jump too quickly you may constantly have conflicting instructions in your brain, which is going to do you no good whatsoever.
- And lastly number 1 on the list is the person that has every excuse in the world for why they haven’t reached their goals instead of finding solutions to the problems they have. I personally feel that one of my jobs is to challenge my students and make some of them feel uncomfortable about where they currently are, so they do something about it. Just like my fitness trainer Jake makes me uncomfortable about my fitness level and how I could be working harder during some of my training workouts or eating a cleaner diet. Sometimes what you need to hear is not what you want to hear, so if you have found excuses to be less than you can be shame on you! Look yourself in the mirror, grab those excuses and wad them up like a piece of paper and throw them away and start your new journey. Make a decision on where you’re going right this moment, and begin the journey of getting there.
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Until Then – Train Hard!