Believe me. I know that it feels really great to share and post pictures of an awesome target with a tight group dead in the center. I still aim to do that myself (pun intended). But I honestly believe that if we go to the range to train, and our targets always look as perfect as we can get them, then we may be missing the point. If that shot group is too tight, are we really pushing ourselves? Are we shooting fast enough? Are we visualizing the threat? Are we shooting to be prepared for a defensive encounter? Probably not.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to separate the different worlds of defensive accuracy and marksmanship. I mean, besides being a firearms instructor and lifelong learner, I am a competitive shooter. In a competitive shooting match, points down is an important part of the game. It can mean the difference between winning your division and coming in second place. Of course, I do not go to competitions focused only on winning. I do not really go to beat other people either. I go to learn, and I go to challenge and better myself. I go to beat my own personal records and my own self-doubt.
However, I know that competitive shooting is very different from defensive shooting. In a life-and-death situation, we may not have that perfect stance or grip. We may not have good sight alignment or sight picture. We might not even be able to see where the front sight is. In the intensity of that moment, with an adrenaline dump happening, we will probably be able to focus only on the target, and we will likely have to rely on our natural point of aim and unsighted fire to stop the threat.
So, the question is this: Are you challenging yourself? Are you practicing for a dynamic critical incident? Do you feel proud of a target with a mess of holes after an intense day of defensive pistol training, or are you just working for that perfect score to brag about on social media?
Undoubtedly, marksmanship has its place. It is impressive to have perfect shot placement at 7, 15 and 25 yards and beyond. Accuracy also has an important role even in self-defense situations. Because we are responsible for every bullet that leaves our firearm, we definitely want to ensure that our shots are on target. I think it is time that we step up our game, and I think it is time that we share our not-so-perfect targets and take pride in them.
While I am certainly not asking anyone to sacrifice good shooting, I would like to challenge shooters to perhaps look at firearms training a little bit differently. Do not let your goal always be a tight shot group. Let your goal be growth and learning. Be willing to push your limits in order to gauge and improve your skills, and do not be afraid of that imperfect target. That imperfect target may teach you that you are flinching or breaking your wrist or maybe that you need to slow down a bit. In fact, if you have not made mistakes, you are probably doing it wrong.
Therefore, do not think about your target emotionally; think about it rationally. Imperfections can be a valuable asset. Your errors and misses can tell you exactly how, when and where to focus your time, energy and effort for the maximum improvements and the greatest success. This could mean the difference between being a match winner or a division loser, but more importantly, this could mean the difference between being the victim or being the victor.