I conducted a skills improvement class this past weekend for a group of people who have been legally carrying for between one and four years. As a result, I had instructed them to come to the class with their normal carry equipment and dressed in clothing that they would typically wear when carrying out in public.

First things first. In order to assess the skill levels of the participants, I had them unload their firearms and then, one at a time, demonstrate their drawing techniques. What became immediately apparent was that there was quite a bit of difference between them in terms of their speed and smoothness.

Three of them were quite proficient. More important, they were consistent, even when I had them do the exercise four or five times. Two were what I would call adequate: not great, but not all that bad. The last student was clumsily fumbling with his shirt and having a problem getting a consistent grip on his gun.

Naturally, I questioned each of them as to how often they practice drawing from concealment. I doubt that any of you will be surprised to learn that there was a direct correlation between the amount of practice and their skill levels. The one who had the most difficulty admitted that he had never actually spent time specifically focused on drawing his firearm.

Note that none of these students had taken their original concealed carry class with me. However, the three who had the highest skill level all stated that their carry instructor had strongly emphasized the need to practice drawing from concealment, just as I do in all of my classes. By contrast, the other students were given little to no instructions on practicing their draw.

We then proceeded to the live-fire shooting portion of the class. Here again, I worked with one student at a time while the others watched. I do this both for safety reasons and to give the proper attention to each student.

The shooting exercise revealed the same spread of skill levels across the group. The three students who excelled at drawing from concealment also showed a high level of proficiency in rapid fire and multiple-attacker defensive drills.

The two students who had shown reasonable but not stellar drawing speed performed similarly in shooting: good, but not great.

And finally, the student who had struggled with drawing his gun was the worst performer on the range.

When I asked how often each of them practiced, it was no surprise that those who showed the highest skill levels were the ones who went to the range regularly. When I asked about things such as dry-fire practice at home, the results were the same; the top shooters all did so regularly. The mediocre shooters did occasionally, and the poor performer admitted to doing almost none.

What we can all take away from this is that there is no way you are going to achieve and, more importantly, maintain proficiency unless you practice regularly. This is true in every sport from golf to auto racing. I frequently shop in Daytona Beach, often right across the street from the world-famous racetrack. No matter what day of the week, even in the off-season, you can hear racecars roaring around the track.

Top performers in every field practice — constantly. I strongly encourage you to do the same.