4-Jun-13 – 09:22 by ToddG

Two unrelated discussions online recently caught my eye as they relate to the why of practice & training.

One asked how much time do you spend practicing a particular technique compared to another. The second made fun of people who chase results on certain drills to gauge their performance instead of “just practicing.”

Both of these, to me, relate to the issue of standards.

someSOMThere’s quite a schism in the training community over this, though most folks — including many instructors — don’t even realize it. But the reality is that some folks train to a standard, and others do not.

If you attend a class and the instructor gives you a thumbs up because your draw is faster than it was before class, that’s not training to a standard. It’s great that you improved, but there is absolutely no context. Your seven second draw is now a six and a half second draw… hooray!

Standards quantify your performance against an expectation. Standards gauge whether your personal performance actually meets an objective measure. It tells you that, let’s say, a 2-second draw from concealment is good. If your draw is slower than that, you aren’t meeting the standard and probably need to work on it. If your draw is already that good, maybe it’s time to look at other things to improve, instead.

So which is right?

Personally, I think you need some of each.

Standards are incredibly important. So many shooters never face any type of standards and frankly have no idea how mediocre they are. Competition shooters see this all the time: the guy who shows up to his first match thinking he’s a good shooter… until he gets absolutely obliterated and winds up dead last. If your only gauge of success is whether you’re as good as that dude in the mirror each morning, you’re probably not going to get much better.

On the other hand, standards can’t be the end-all of training. Taking our example of a 2-second draw, yes it is good to work toward that standard. And once you reach it, yes it is time to see if you’ve got other important skills that need improvement. But a standard shouldn’t be permission to stop practicing. If a 2-second draw is good then a 1.5-second draw is great.

It’s also important to understand the difference between discrete skill standards (2s draw, or being able to hit a 3×5 at 10yd on demand) and multifaceted “standards” that I think of more as tests. The IDPA Classifier is a great example of a multifaceted test. It measures a very wide range of skills performed multiple times at different distances. It allows you to compare your performance against a huge number of other shooters and even goes so far as to establish different levels of achievement (Marksman, Sharpshooter, and so forth).

In my classes — and in my own personal training — the main “standard” I use is, of course, the F.A.S.T. (Fundamentals, Accuracy, & Speed Test). Like the IDPA Classifier, it has different classifications depending on performance. Actually, I stole that idea from the Rogers Shooting School test, as they’ve been consistently one of the most steadfast programs in the country when it comes to demanding performance standards. And like both the IDPA Classifier and the Rogers test, folks who spend their days practicing the test over and over again aren’t likely to see much improvement. It’s the shooters who practice their fundamentals, who push to meet and then exceed the standards for all those discrete skills, who show up and dominate on the broad tests. The guys who win F.A.S.T. coins have never been one trick ponies who do well on that one drill but flail through anything else. They’ve been shooters who have strong fundamentals and the ability to perform on demand under stress.

I think it’s a mistake to ignore standards in training. Many instructors shy away from them because they worry a student’s feelings may get bruised… or worse, that the student may blame the instructor for their failing. I’ve never found that to be the case. I’ve had plenty of students upset with their own performance on the F.A.S.T. at the end of a class, sure. But the benefit of knowing where you are in the spectrum of shooters is worth a little ego bruising, especially if it motivates you to work harder to meet that standard next time.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 10 Responses to “Standards”

  2. Outstanding article Todd! Definitely an ongoing argument in the instructor world that many refuse to address or acknowledge.

    By AJZ on Jun 4, 2013

  3. I keep thinking back to the police officer that killed the burglar/kidnapper but in the process killed the hostage after firing 8 shots… Maybe if stricter standards became the norm we would have less outcomes like this? I don’t want to blame the officer, because you can never relate to what he was confronted with. However, your argument about standards and the need to improve fundamentals seem especially apropos.

    By juan on Jun 4, 2013

  4. Juan, the hostage situation was tragic and probably a hard fast hit that didn’t, but compare that to the 2 NYC cops that hit 9 bystanders before the suspect at the Empire State Building. Is there a difference in departmental “standards” and who sets the standards? Based on what standards?

    By Franky2Shoes on Jun 4, 2013

  5. Another excellent piece

    By Jess Banda on Jun 4, 2013

  6. Spot on, Todd! I have been to courses where no target was ever scored, groups examined/critiqued, etc. The students typically left little or no better than when they arrived. As you know, in my classes every shot is accounted for and serves some purpose. Otherwise, it’s just ballistic masturbation.

    By tom givens on Jun 4, 2013

  7. I don’t think that Todd is arguing that there must be standards as much as a mentality that you must measure yourself against objective standards (such as peers) and at the same time work to improve yourself even if you hit the standards. Guns are inherently dangerous and tragedies will happen, but if everyone with a gun followed that mantra (law enforcement or not) there would be less. Irregardless, I’m happy that people like Todd are preaching common sense.

    By juan on Jun 4, 2013

  8. @Franky2Shoes
    >> Is there a difference in departmental “standards” and who sets the standards? Based on what standards?

    Police and military qualification standards are a liability avoiding practice. Qual standards are set to only filter out the worst performers, ensuring that everyone is “qualified”, at least that’s what the training records claim.

    “Qualified” can entail a whole range of skill levels. If the goal is get everyone qualified then the standards have to be adjusted so that everyone can.

    Good instructors, students and competitors, on the other hand, attempt to filter out the best performers. Good shooters don’t care what an adequate performance is because their goal is to find what the best possible performance can be.

    The stress of qualification is to be good enough. The stress of a good instructor, student or competition is to be the best possible.

    By John M. Buol Jr. on Jun 4, 2013

  9. Most Police Qualification “standards” are set by state POST regulations. Sometimes police instructors are asked to provide input as to which skills are necessary and what scores should be the minimum to show proficiency (I didn’t say excellence) to keep your certification. Having a “test” using the firearm to those qualification details should mimick what is important. Accuracy, manipulation, reload skills, draw skills and judgement are all skills that should be measured during the “test.”

    Most agencies have recognized that the minimum standard to keep your LE certification does not meet their standard, and have raised the bar for their officers. Enticements to improve such as being recognized as police marksmen, or given ribbons to show you excell have worked to motivate some shooters to do better. I agree with Todd that you need to recognize that just doing better than you did, is not good enough, you need to gauge yourself against others to see if you are good enough. Pairing people in simunitions force on force scenarios tends to open eyes and create desire to do better.

    As to the NY cops and the recent hostage case. Time, distance, movement and reaction time probably all had a part in the one miss the officer had, not poor shooting. The 1/4 second from the time he decided to shoot at the open suspect head until he actually pressed the trigger was all the time it took for the hostage’s head to move into his line of sight, and he could not stop the shot. We saw this over and over in training, and Bill Lewinski’s testing has proved that. Sorry for the long post.

    By KennyT on Jun 4, 2013

  10. Great topic.

    I’ve seen reluctance among many of my many range acquaintances to shoot drills and or, “put it on the timer” with their CCW guns. I suppose they are well protected as long as they don’t know how bad they suck.

    An article outlining 3 or 4 “Standards for CCW” in a mainstream gun magazine might make for some interesting “Letters to the Editor” in the follow up issue(s).

    By JimS on Jun 5, 2013

  11. Good post Todd, and spot on.

    I do note that a lot of people I meet don’t want to do drills, shoot standards, etc because they don’t want to know how bad they might suck.

    One of my favorite things to do on the intardnets when I am bored and have someone throwing out something about, say, point shooting, is to ask them how well that works when shooting an El Prez or a FAST. Never had anyone answer that they have ever shot such a measure to prove their style of shooting actually works. It “feels” better/faster/smoother so it mush be. Kind of goes hand in hand with your “feel” commentary from awhile back.

    By Chuck Haggard on Jun 7, 2013

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