10 things you probably don’t want to hear about Training and Practice



1.       Have a coach set you up with a personalised Training Plan


There are three key words in this statement:

·         Coach’ – I have stated specifically that your personalised Training Plan is to be set up by a coach, and it important here that you accept your lack of objectivity when it come to yourself.  Your Training Plan needs to be designed so that it meets your specific needs (as opposed to what you think your needs are).

·         Personalised’your training plan needs to be set up to address your problem areas in a systematic way

·         Training Plan’ – (it fully deserves the capitalisation) a planned holistic approach will work if you let it: firing lots of shots without a plan merely expends lots of ammunition in the reinforcement of your bad techniques.


Your training plan will need regular review and modification to meet your changing needs.


As an aside, any Training Plan will only work if you stick to it!


2.       Use the same ammunition in training/practice sessions as you will use in competition


It is far better to fire a lesser number of ‘good’ shots than to merely fire many shots.


In the context of ammunition used for training/practice sessions, if you are using expensive ammunition for competitions, for the same expenditure you will be better to use a reduced number of shots of that ammunition than to use more of a cheaper brand:

·         The cheaper ‘alternative’ ammunition will not give the same level of inherent accuracy (otherwise you would be using it in competition?) and you do not need to have larger groups on the target to distract you.

·         The cheaper ‘alternative’ ammunition will undoubtedly ‘feel different’ in its recoil characteristics – you want your training/practice sessions should reproduce your competition shot sequence and this includes the follow-through sequence.


3.       Do not ‘score’ your shot values in training/practice sessions


Consistent placement of a small group of shots on the target is the primary objective (getting that group to the centre of the target is merely a matter of adjusting the sights).


The heresy for many will be that the value of the individual shots is FAR less important than the size of your groups on the target.

The difference between the excellent shooters and the also-rans is simply that the excellent shooters have minimised the number of shots that are not well executed – i.e. they can consistently achieve small groups on the target.

Your objective in training/practice sessions should be the same as in competition, i.e. the release of a ‘good’ shot, and for the timed fire sessions a series of ‘good’ shots.


The ‘scores’ in a training/practice session can be misleading – which of these two groups has the higher score, and which one has the better grouping and could give the higher score if the group was centralised by adjusting the sights?




If you are concentrating on the ‘score’, chances are that you would be reasonably happy with group ‘A’: after all it is a ‘49’ and IF you could get that all the time 6 x 49 = 594 and you could be a world beater.

If fact, group ‘B’ (a score of ‘46’) definitely indicates a sight adjustment is warranted but indicates a greater skill level.  Group ‘B’ is approaching the inherent accuracy of the best pistol/ammunition combination and if the sights were adjusted to bring the group to the target centre and IF you could get that all the time it would be score of 600-60x!


In fact, I would strongly recommend that for your training/practice sessions you use a target that has no scoring rings. 

These are easily made: simply a masking template to the size of the black aiming mark on the applicable target, a can of flat black spray paint and the back of a target…  For the ISSF Rapid Fire target, cut out a circle almost all the way to the 8-ring leaving the white ‘aiming’ lines and replace the centre with your homemade spray painted target material.


4.       No matter what pistol discipline you compete in, Air Pistol will improve your triggering technique


Firing an Air Pistol will identify poor triggering techniques really quickly! 


Whether you shoot Air Pistol, rimfire or Centrefire: whether you shoot ISSF, a ‘service’ style event or Black Powder pistol your triggering technique is critical and the low velocity and extended barrel time of an Air Pistol brings this to the fore.


5.       Once you know that your firearm/ammunition combination meets your accuracy requirements, don’t waste your valuable time on further accuracy testing


OK!  So there are a couple of provisos here:

·         When you get a new case of ammunition, check it through your pistol/revolver to make sure that it meets your accuracy requirements, and

·         If you start to get inexplicable ‘flyers’, check the firearm/ammunition using a machine rest.


6.       If you are consistently getting better scores in practice/training than you do in competition, get help


Despite my advice in point #3 above, human nature is a contrary beast and shooters will score their training/practice sessions: if you do know the score result for your training/practice sessions and they are markedly ‘better’ than you competition scores, get help!


The last thing you need is reinforce the idea that you will shoot ‘worse’ in competition than you will in practice sessions!


Where do you get help?  Simple: get a coach!


7.       Throw out all reminders of poorly executed shots


Don’t merely put bad targets and/or scoresheets somewhere out of sight – trash them and put them in the recycle bin.  You can even go to the extent of ceremonially running them through a shredder or burning them, but get rid of them – permanently!


8.       There is no ‘quick fix’


Training means repeating an action or collection of actions until it becomes automatic: Practice means repeating that acquired action or collection of actions to reinforce them.

To acquire a ‘skill’ means repetitive ‘training’

To maintain a ‘skill’ means ongoing ‘practice’

A coach can identify your problems and advise you what is needed to eliminate them: but it will be up to you to follow the coach’s advice and adhere to the Training Plan.


A new/better/prettier pistol will not in itself improve you shooting.

If you pistol does not suit your physique and hand size/shape, by all means get one that does, or at least get a grip that meets your needs, but do not expect a new pistol to correct poor technique.


9.       Dry firing with the sight picture on a blank ‘target’ is a tool, not an end in itself


Some shooters are using the training technique of dry-firing against a reversed target or a blank wall.

In itself this technique is a valuable tool for a coach to use with a shooter, but it is not the be-all and end-all of training.

If your coach has included this technique as part of your Training Plan, it will be for a specific purpose and should only be used as ‘prescribed’.


10.   Avoid ‘opinion shopping’


If your coach has set out a Training Plan designed for you, and it is not working:

·         The first question to ask yourself is ‘have I followed the Training Plan’?

·         If you have not followed the Training Plan the next question is ‘why not’?

·         If you have followed the Training Plan, have you given it 3 -4 months to work (see #8).






Unless otherwise attributed © 2011, Spencer Tweedie

*Permission to reproduce ‘Nygord’s Notes’ kindly given by Donna Nygord.