Personal Best vs. On Demand

12-Oct-12 – 19:15 by ToddG

Shooting a personal best on a drill is a great feeling. It’s evidence that all your effort is paying off. Many shooters can rattle off their personal bests on any number of standards and drills. Often one of the first things a student tells me about himself in class — or even before I meet him in class — is his personal best F.A.S.T. score.

But a personal best doesn’t tell the whole story. By definition, it represents a single instance where everything came together as well as it could.

Personally, I’m far more interested in consistent on-demand performance. The way I practice is a reflection of that.

With the help of some readers, I’ve been running something of an experiment. We took a very simple but unfamiliar drill — draw, three to the body, two to the head — and collected two separate bits of data. First, the shooter’s personal best on the drill… the fastest he was able to shoot the drill and score all five hits. Second, the shooter’s consistent on-demand ability… the speed at which he could guarantee all five hits every time.

Not surprisingly, the difference between personal best and consistent ability was significant. On average, the shooters needed greater than 20% more time to guarantee their hits. One shooter’s difference was particularly huge at 42%! On the other end of the spectrum we had someone whose on-demand speed was less than 5% slower than his best run.

Does focusing on consistent performance mean you don’t try to get better? Of course not. But it means that instead of putting every effort into one awesome run and ignoring all the mistakes you make along the way, you’re honest with yourself about what you can actually do when the chips are down. We had someone on our forum talking about how fast his reloads were in dry fire, but they weren’t nearly that fast during live practice or at a match. Nonetheless, he kept trying to speed up his dry fire reloads. Why? How about figuring out the reason your real reloads are lagging behind and trying to make improvements to them, instead of working to set new personal records that clearly aren’t carrying over to performance when it’s needed for real?

If you make setting personal records your goal for every rep of every drill, you’ll most likely discover that your really good runs are outstanding but your average overall is disappointing. Flailing like mad to be faster than ever before every single time tends to lead to more mistakes, fumbles, and eventually bad habits than taking a more methodical approach. You still have to go fast to get fast, but if you throw caution to the wind in an attempt to impress your buddies (or the internet) every time you draw your gun you’re not getting in the good reps necessary to build consistent skill that you can call on in demand under stress when you really need it.

That’s not to say that your personal best is unimportant. It tells you what you’re capable of when everything comes together as best you can manage. It’s a goal in and of itself. Practice should be about getting your everyday on demand ability closer to that personal record. If you do that, you’ll find the personal records improve all on their own.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

(photo courtesy Arclight)

  1. 11 Responses to “Personal Best vs. On Demand”

  2. While I wasn’t able to shoot this drill I did look back at my practice records and the differance between personal best and on demand on most of teh drill ran between 10% & 20%.

    I have allways had teh unconcious habit that when I miss I back off the speed drasticly to make sure I get perfect hits. All those years of pounding into my head perfect accuracy over speed. It hampered my developement as a SPEED shooter until I could break the habit.

    By rsa-otc on Oct 12, 2012

  3. Nice article! I do believe I’m the 5 percenter you mention – I was performing poorly that day. It seems to me that on bad days my on-demand performance suffers, but my personal best performance suffers much worse. Inversely, on good days my on-demand performance is better than usual, but my personal best performances rock.

    In other words, my on-demand performance varies much less from day to day than my personal best performance. Hmm, I didn’t think this comment would end up in Captain Obvious territory, but there it is…

    By MDS on Oct 12, 2012

  4. Man sometimes common sense just seems so radical. Good article dude, I can think of a number of people that should read this and take it to heart.

    By Rob E on Oct 12, 2012

  5. This article was for ME! Thanks, Todd. I’m taking my sorry butt to the range ASAP. Time to have a very real heart to heart discussion with myself.

    By Jet Joe on Oct 12, 2012

  6. Timely article for me as well.

    Reminds me of a past article Todd wrote about the hazards of chasing scores on drills.

    The advice Todd gives goes hand in hand with Pat McNamara’s “Gunfighter Moment” post on – “If you done what you have always done, you will get what you always have gotten”

    I have wasted quite a few bullets during my last few practice sessions chasing a consistent sub 3 second bill drill from concealment =( . At least I gained experiential knowledge on how not to practice =)

    By blee on Oct 13, 2012

  7. … “personal best” should be taken as your “on demand” goal. I also believe that average is a reality check point and training tool… Great post!!!! Smart and simple…

    By Afs on Oct 13, 2012

  8. Someone shared with me a similar story/axiom/principle in golf.

    Everyone remembers their best club hit. “I can hit my 9-iron 190yds!” So they choose the 9-iron when they need 180yds to the green. Then they wonder why their scores aren’t so good. It’s because their AVERAGE 9-iron is 120yds. Basing decisions and confidence off of their BEST instead of their DAILY, ON-DEMAND performance.

    Human nature; mental fallacy that often gets us in to trouble.

    Todd, This post reflects a recent, previous post on your reload practice. You were getting fast, but inconsistent reloads. Then you focused on quality reloads and your average time improved with fewer mistakes more so than your fastest reload. Good on ya, mate!

    By GhettoSmack on Oct 14, 2012

  9. Wow, this article spoke directly to me. Thank you as it is something that I have been struggling with and trying to break the habit of dry fire/live fire practice. Will definitely keep this in mind.

    By TElmer2 on Oct 14, 2012

  10. You see a lot of stuff like this in the weightlifting community. Duded who are obsessed with their 1-rep max and cranking that number up. Having a big one rep max is cool and everything, but as indicators of actual strength go it’s not as telling as your 5-rep max.

    Same goes for shooting drills. While it’s nice to know what I’m capable of when the light is perfect, my body feels good, and my hands and eyes are united in one purpose, I’m far more interested in how much performance I can coax out when I’m bone tired at the end of the week and am just operating on instinct.

    By caleb on Oct 14, 2012

  11. GhettoSmack — You’re exactly right. When I first started having problems with my 1911 reloads, I broke my own dry fire rule and used a shot timer to push myself. Sure enough, my dry fire reloads got faster. My best reloads were better. But my average reloads actually got worse. When I stopped using the timer and spent my dry fire effort working on perfect fumble-free practice, all of my reloads got better.

    By ToddG on Oct 14, 2012

  12. A very obvious, but often ignored, aspect of shooting. Its probably one of the largest separations from ‘competition’ vs. ‘real world’ performance. If you’re prepped and ready, waiting for the buzzer, maybe running the same drill over-and-over, with your tricked out 1911 from an open competition holster, until you finally get a really good run…that’s a far cry from standing in line at the local minimart and two robbers come in with the saw-off shotgun and you’re holding a carton of eggs and gallon of milk with your .38 snubnose in your pocket (with a current valid, CPL of course). Its just not anywhere in the same realm.

    I think the term is ‘grandbagger’–those that practice a drill over and over, until they can blaze that one, single particular drill at warp speed, but if you change anything, or perform any other drill, the performance drops like it fell of the edge of a cliff. But again, if you want to win the major matches, to some degree, this type of situation is required, because that’s the course you’re going to be test on. If you want to win a Bianchi Cup, you don’t go shoot trap with a shotgun. You practice the stages, over and over, and over again.

    I guess it a boils down to what you’re doing, and how realistic your are about it. If you really want to test yourself, it would mean making everything a ‘cold’ run, which would be very time consuming and probably while informative, not overly productive. I mean do you want to want to leave the range and wait probably 30+ minutes between string of fire? Probably not, but that would be a more realistic, representative testing procedure.

    Does this mean you shouldn’t practice? Of course not…you won’t rise to the occasion, you’ll revert to your training. Just be realistic about it.


    By BOSS on Oct 16, 2012

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