The “Best” Offense

9-Dec-12 – 11:03 by ToddG

One of the earliest things I can remember about my father, oddly enough, was his business card. On the back he had a motto: If it’s not perfect, make it better. That saying stuck with me ever since. As a kid I saw it in very simplistic terms but as I’ve got older, it’s taken on a more subtle meaning. Lots of people read that motto and translate it into “anything less than perfect is bad.” But that’s not what it says. It isn’t “if it’s not perfect, make it perfect.” The distinction is important.

What does all of this have to do with shooting? As I reflect upon the year’s classes, students, and conversations there are a few people who pop into mind who are constantly chasing perfect at the cost of not really getting better.

Getting better is a process. And the better you are today, the more effort that process takes. That can be a difficult reality for some to accept. Instead of putting forth the time and sweat during practice, some people instead devolve back into the tyro’s classic error of looking for “what’s best?” My splits are 0.02 slower than yours, so I should get a new gun. My IDPA or qual scores aren’t where I want them to be, so I’ll take classes from six different instructors to learn the best way to shoot. So on and so on…

Unfortunately, all of those things detract from shooting.

In terms of hardware, each gun has its pros and cons. Jumping back and forth from gun to gun eats up time and ammo as you familiarize yourself. Look at it this way: if you shot 1,000 rounds this year “testing” and “comparing” guns, that’s one thousand rounds you could have put into serious practice instead. Sure, maybe one gun will give you 0.02 faster splits or be easier when you try to hit the head of a pin at 100yd. But no one gun is going to do everything best. And unless you’re already a one in a million shooter, the harsh reality is that whatever gun you’ve got right now, you can probably learn to shoot it better.

The same is true on the software side. This may sound crazy coming from a firearms instructor, but taking too many classes from too many different people has its own problems. We’re not talking about the guy who’s trained with a bunch of people over a bunch of years. We’re talking about the guy who takes a class from one instructor, changes how he stands and grips and sees, and then six weeks later he’s taking another class from another instructor and changes it all again… and again and again year after year. In the quest to find the perfect technique, he’s stopped putting effort into simply getting better. It’s a harsh truth but training junkies, the guys who take 10 or 20 classes a year, are rarely as good as the guys who take a couple classes a year and then spend the other 50 weeks actually, you know, practicing hard.

Instead of looking for perfect, put your time into getting better.

Because at a certain point, real improvement will only come from dedicated focused work. You can’t establish what works best for you if you constantly bounce back and forth from style to style, pistol to pistol.

I think some people fear putting their effort into something that is “wrong,” so they constantly stay on heightened alert. But that’s not how the process actually works. I spent the first five or so years of my shooting life in a Weaver stance. Do I shoot from Weaver now? No. Is it because I found something better? Yes. But those five years shooting Weaver didn’t hurt me. I learned a lot about shooting during those years. Many of those skills I still use today. That wasn’t wasted time or effort.

Eventually, your technique needs to become your technique. The grip that works best for superstar shooter #1 isn’t the same as the grip that works best for superstar shooter #2. There’s a clue there: maybe there is no perfect. Instead of chasing what someone else shoots or how someone else shoots, at a certain point you need to take what you’ve already got and put in the hours downrange to make it work for you.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 13 Responses to “The “Best” Offense”

  2. Probably the best advise I have heard in a long time :)

    By Dave S. on Dec 9, 2012

  3. I like to imagine posts like this being read by the narrator from that show The Wonder Years. Sage, introspective advice.

    By Wes on Dec 9, 2012

  4. I wanted to add one more thing to this. Like I said before, the best advise I have heard in a long time. I have a love/ hate relationship with Glock. I own 3 of them and carry one at work (I’m PD). I always seem to struggle time to time with it. I have tried everything from trying a Grip Force Adapters to even trying other guns. The truth is and you said it Todd, I need to go out there a train. Not only do I own 3 Glocks (the only hand guns I own) but I am issued one at work and it is the only firearm I am allowed to carry. I am going to be a firearms instructor some time next year for my department. I need to be able to shoot the Glock well, otherwise I am going to be pretty useless trying to teach people how to shoot a Glock if I cannot shoot it stocked IMO. I need to spend more time practicing instead of buying stuff that I think will help me shoot better. I need to go out there and practice and practice some more. Maybe one day I will find a gun that I will enjoy shooting more. For right now I need to shoot my Glock more. Again, thanks for the advice.

    By Dave S. on Dec 9, 2012

  5. Excellent post, Todd. And great timing for me.

    Thank you!


    By Bill Lance on Dec 9, 2012

  6. Well said! The nascent shooter can benefit from competent initial instruction, as well as regular additional follow on training. An intermediate level shooter can likely benefit from a couple of training classes each year, but needs to focus on consistently spending time practicing fundamentals, while working on increasing speed and accuracy. As a shooter advances in skill, there is a time when diligent practice and occasional mentoring by experts is far more important to progress than additional training classes.

    By DocGKR on Dec 9, 2012

  7. A most excellent perspective. Thank you for posting this.

    By Redchrome on Dec 10, 2012

  8. Training classes aren’t a substitute for doing the homework that leads to real increases in skill. If they were, I’d be awesome.

    By TCinVA on Dec 10, 2012

  9. Todd, do you think there is value in training other systems for improvement in your primary?

    I did a class once where we shot all weekend mirror image (two handed with your weak hand, mags and holsters transposed). When we switched back Sunday afternoon I felt like it was beneficial having done the wrong handed work. I feel I was a little more aware of what I was doing where I took my technique for granted before.

    Additionally, I have heard of folks that shoot revolver to work on DA work. The SIRT junkies claim there is benefit to training with a heavier trigger than your normal gun (not to be taken out of balance with shooting your normal trigger).

    I guess I am asking for your thoughts on training using your primary vs. different systems deliberately used for training purposes.

    By Chem on Dec 10, 2012

  10. I think there is a happy medium. I went from mid-March until the end of Sept, practicing three times a week, with no classes, and made progress. I then shot with you, Rogers and Vogel in two months, and have improved my measurable performance more in those two months than in six months and 20,000 rounds of focused practice. In particular, Vogel’s approach to grip, has been significant to what I see in measured speed/accuracy. Only reason I even was aware of this, was Gary’s AAR — sure glad he was taking classes in addition to his practicing. It is easy to get stale practicing on your own, and sometimes a little insight can go a long way. Agree, that classes without practice are counterproductive, but some of us living in remote area don’t have the opportunity to shoot informally with other good shooters like you can.

    By GJM on Dec 11, 2012

  11. To add one more thought, taking classes with instructors that demo each drill, like you, Rogers and Vogel, and being able to watch those demos, is extremely helpful!

    By GJM on Dec 11, 2012

  12. GJM — Good point on the demo thing, and motivation for another post soon. Thanks.

    By ToddG on Dec 11, 2012

  13. In almost 30 years of “high level” courses, I can count on one or two hands, the number of real demos I saw by instructors. In most classes, the instructor did not live fire a single round! Then in March of 2011, I went to Rogers, and was blown away to see Bill Rogers demo each drill and shoot the whole school test as a demo. As you know, each following day, one of Bill’s instructors does the demos. Then in the last year or so I trained with you, Manny Bragg and Robert Vogel — all of who demo every or most every drill.

    This does a number of things — it keeps the instructor happy because they get to shoot and stay sharp, it provides credibility for the instructor (usually!) and what they are teaching, and it shows the student would they should be striving for.

    By GJM on Dec 11, 2012

  14. Great post Todd, great advice. Too many guys get wrapped up in trying the “latest and greatest” from different trainers. Not that letting beginners try several methods to find the one that works best for them is a bad thing, but then they need to focus and practice, practice, practice to get to the point where they can shoot without thinking too hard on it.

    And What? You think instructors should demo the courses to show what they are teaching is good?

    Okay, I agree. Having gone to a course where the instructor tried to convince me his way was better, only to get shown up when I challenged him to shoot the drill his way and I would shoot it my way(very embarrassing to him in front of a paying class to be proven wrong)it makes sense.

    Any instructor should be willing and ready to shoot any drills he asks his students to do. Yes, it gives you a lot of credibility when you show how it can be done.

    It also motivates students when you tell them that you used to be at the state they are at, and with practice you got to the state you are at now and they can get there if they desire and practice. Gives them a goal and works wonders for their confidence.

    By KennyT on Dec 14, 2012

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