Saturday, July 13, 2013

Some Thoughts About How Good Do We Want To Be?

I got a really good comment on my last post, where I was musing about changing competition guns at the last minute. From Obiwan:
You change guns like one would change underwear... I appreciate the availability of high end guns, but your muscle memory and shooting ability has to suffer.
Well, yeah...a lot depends on what you want to do with your shooting ability. My friend Rob Larimer at WHEN THE BALLOON GOES UP blog recently did a great article on this very subject:
Since shooting is a perishable skill it is like a bucket with a hole in it.  
All of the time you spend dry-firing, visualizing skills, and practicing on the range is the effort you put into building that skill (I am assuming that it is 100% effective training). At the same time there is a whole in the bucket and some of that skill is leaking out because of time and as we get better it leaks out faster because of the extra pressure.  
Furthermore as we age our reflexes may slow, our vision deteriorates and the more out of shape we are that hole gets bigger. 
As long as your effort exceeds the leakage, you get better, if it doesn’t you get worse. 
If you want “to be as good as I can possibly be” then you have to focus on shooting to the exclusion of all else. Not practical. 
(Cool graphic courtesy WTBGU)

Years and years ago, when I was a serious USPSA competitor, I had a regular training schedule that included daily dry-fire, 2 live-fire training days a week, physical training (including lifting weights and aerobic and sprint training) and a match AT LEAST very other weekend and usually every weekend.

Add to that the time spent reloading, time spent setting up and running matches, time spent taking classes and seminars, time spent futzing with gear, etc....lots of time, and for someone who was self-employed (even with a percentage of my time sent working on gun articles and for USPSA), that time translated directly into money not earned. All that time (and no small amount of money) bought me a "slot" as a competitive club shooter. Not a competitive national shooter, but I was headed there.

A key point here is that I had to be very, very — no, exclusively — focused on USPSA Limited...weak point training, very specific dry-fire, guys know the drill. I took a break from USPSA for personal reasons (life changes) and became a pretty good age-group triathlete, which led me to extreme sports, which oddly enough led me back to practical shooting. I came back into USPSA as a "C" Open bucket had leaked a bit. Eventually became involved in the launch of IDPA (I am member A000009) and spent a number of years shooting that sport.

My huge overwhelming flaw as a competitor is that I have the attention span of a gnat. The irony is that my short attentional span, coupled in with a great memory and an ability to focus in very quickly, made me a really good journalist, which in turn allowed me to be self-employed for my career. It also turned out to perfectly suit me to television production, where Adult Attention Deficit Disorder is practically a prerequisite for employment.

As Ron noted, I no longer have the time to do what needs to be done to compete at the upper levels, not and continue to do what I do in Television World. And, honestly, time is running against me...although I flatly refuse to believe it!

I've also found my interest has changed a lot over the years. I love cowboy action shooting and Wild Bunch, and I'm good at it (plus I've got the hats). I'm fascinated with 3-Gun and, so far, I'm terrible at it, but I'm looking forward to riding the that early stage of the learning curve up up up. I'm a lot more interested in rifles than I used to be, and I see long-distance precision shooting as the Great Uncharted Country. Oh wait, and sporting clays...I can see why people obsess over sporting clays.

So yes, I give up ground on the "muscle memory" question, although I think it's more properly termed a neural programming issue. I figure as long as I'm willing to "play the fool" I'll be able to muddle through all the various competitions (and, I'm hoping, African plains game with a Ruger .300 Win Mag in September). As the great Robert Heinlein once noted, "Specialization is for insects."


Anonymous said...

I guess the real question is "what's good enough?" If one peruses Jerry Miculek's videos it is readily apparent that "absolutely outstanding" is "not good enough" for Jerry - he never stops practicing, thinking, evaluating, working on skill development and retention, and most important, remaining consistent at that level of performance. Seven 98% stages and one 70% is a disaster; all eight at 95% probably wins nearly every match, and gives you that 5% to target for improvement. The same is true in every athletic, personal or business endeavor.

Very few of us are blessed with Jerry's native ability, even fewer blessed with the sponsorship that provides the ammunition and time to get that good and keep improving.

We mere mortals have to be satisfied with trying to maintain, and perhaps incrementally improving, our level of performance. My measures of success have always been "was I better than last time," "did I learn something this practice session or match," "can I discover something that will make me better next time," and the big one: "am I enjoying this?"

Every now and then I turn in a personal best on a stage that is a world class performance; the goal is to match that personal best on every stage and improve on it. Think "donkey and carrot...."

As long as I can put the gear back in the car after a match or practice session and say "this was a good day" there's the incentive to keep working at it. And, I'm hard pressed to consider sending rounds downrange as anything but a good day.

Bubblehead Les. said...

But on the Gripping Hand... Let's say you are caught behind Enemy Lines in a VolksRepublik (like Colorado) when the Ballon Goes Up, and you are stuck at a Friends Home w/o your Personal Firearms because the Central Committee has deemed that YOU aren't allowed to use the RKBA. Your Friend opens his/her Gun Safe and says "Arm Up!"

You are (probably) part of the 1% of the Population that could look into your Friends Gun Safe, and pick out just what is available to Defend yourself properly.

So don't beat yourself up because of "Diminishing Skills".

Obiwan said...

Well said. I can also see that with your chosen profession that you need to be reasonably conversant with most, if not all, shooting disciplines. That means going hands on. Since you've already "been and done" on most of them, then enjoy all of them at whatever level that you want.

Anonymous said...

RE.: "Changing guns.......";

Guns to me are tools. I am also a skilled tradesman, trained and skilled in many disciplines; all of which involve tools. I regularly use a variety of tools that are intended to accomplish the same outcome, even though they may differ slightly, or even greatly.

As an example, I have more hammers than I can count. All are made for pounding. Some are made to pound specific things like nails. Others may be made to shape things, such as a ball-peen hammer and an auto body hammer. If we stick with the ones made to pound nails, we can see a wide variety of handle lengths, head weights, hammer face styles, head styles, etc. The commonality is that each is designed to hit the nail and not your thumb. In many cases, it is necessary to "hit" many thousand nails on a single job, such as in roofing. Even though I do "miss" occasionally, I "make hits" the vast majority of the time. I can do this with great regularity, even though I may choose to use a different hammer for certain applications, all on the same job. I find this to be no different than when I go shooting, or hunting. There, I usually enjoy selecting which gun I will carry afield that session for the same reason I make a tool selection: sometimes "just because".

In some instances, I am forced to use a "strange" tool, but I still come through with my accuracy. This happens with guns too.

My favorite explanations is: "The gunfight is in the head, not in the hands." (As said by "Kid", in the movie "The Quick and the Dead".)

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