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