The Cornered Cat

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

If you practice doing something wrong 3,428 times, guess what? On your 3,429th time, you are going to do the wrong thing. You will have permanently engraved the wrong action into your habitual responses.

What this means for each of us as shooters who want to improve is that we can’t get lazy when we practice. It might be easier to neatly collect our revolver brass every time we reload instead of briskly dumping it, but if the goal is to learn to do a quick reload under pressure, we’re better off to dump the brass and pick it up later. It’s often easier to yank the trigger roughly than it is to pull it smoothly to the rear, gradually increasing the pressure while we maintain a perfect sight picture — but if the goal is to learn to shoot accurately, yanking the trigger back is not going to get us where we want to go.

It also means that it’s a good idea to learn the fastest, smoothest way to do something before you start doing that thing a lot. There are a lot of old guys out there who have literally spent years practicing an inefficient reload or a dangerous holstering technique, and who have to erase the habits they’ve built up over many years before they can learn better shooting techniques and safer gun handling skills.

If you are a beginning shooter, please consider this carefully: at this point, you have the perfect opportunity to begin with a clean slate. If, right at the beginning of your shooting career, you find a good instructor and learn to do it right in the first place, you can save yourself literally years of fighting bad habits.

It’s worth thinking about.

Incidentally, there’s another, more popular “practice doesn’t make perfect” saying in the firearms training community. This one goes: Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

That’s true as far as it goes, but I don’t think it goes far enough. The fact is that because you are a human being, and because human beings make mistakes, you will never be perfect in practice. And that’s okay.

Just don’t repetitively practice doing everything entirely wrong.