Scrolling through Facebook this morning, one of the beginners’ groups where I lurk was having a discussion about shooting better. 1
During this group discussion among beginners, someone posted a Very Bad Target and asked what they were doing wrong. Another commenter responded, “You just need to practice a lot more. Practice will fix it!”
That’s a lie. It’s almost certainly a well-meaning lie, but it’s a lie all the same.
Here’s the sad truth: Practice does *NOT* help if we are not practicing the right thing, in the right way.
If we do something in the wrong way (unsafely or inefficiently, or outright missing the target) for 2,494 times in dedicated practice, then guess what? On the 2,495th time we do that thing, we will very likely do it the same wrong way.
Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. 2
More. Sometimes, in similar conversations, people say that old thing about “perfect practice makes perfect.”
That’s another lie.
There’s literally no such thing as perfect practice, and perfect isn’t attainable in reality either. That particular saying drives me right up the wall, because the quest for “perfection” often slows down progress toward “good.”
Good practice means learning to correct mistakes. It doesn’t mean not making them.
But in order to correct our mistakes, we have to know that they are mistakes. And we have to know what doing the right thing looks like so we can do that instead.
And that, friends, is why good classes exist. They don’t exist to “make me a better shooter,” all by themselves, this weekend or any other. They exist to show us how to practice, so that when we go to the range on our own, we are able to mindfully practice in ways that result in safer and more efficient action.
- That’s a rarity; most of the time beginners just want to talk about what to buy, apparently with the idea that a better gun means better shooting. Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, wrong… in exactly the same way that buying a better pan does not magically make someone a better cook. ↩
- I have seen this saying attributed to Pat Rogers. Maybe he said it first; I don’t know. The first time I heard it, it was around 1976 and I was a small child sitting in church listening to the preacher. Pretty sure the preacher wasn’t Uncle Pat, but in retrospect he might’ve known him. ↩