There is a big difference between training and practice. When it comes to firearms skills, do you work on individual items or do you combine skills into scenarios? Do you train with a series of skills or do you practice one at a time? We all can get into the habit of going through the motions to work on singular skills such as marksmanship, drawing, or stance, but can you use them all at the same time under intense pressure? I recently noticed that because I have been competing and practicing for competition, I picked up some bad “real world” habits. Because I have been PRACTICING, I have been working on sets of skills that were specific to pistol competition. The habit I have noticed was to drop my mag and clear my weapon after completing a string of fire without thinking about it. This is a fine action in the realm of competition, but this can be a fatal habit in the real world. This is where I one day realized I was no longer TRAINING, I was simply PRACTICING.
Practicing is as important as training. In practice we hone our grip, trigger skills, stance and reloads, to name a few. When we practice we focus on individual elements to fix minor problems and improve our accuracy or a skill. We can also practice with sets of skills that are specific to things like competitions. When we practice we develop individual habits that are specific to a particular short term goal.
Training is the act of taking all the skills we practice and making them come together to react to real world scenarios. The bad habits I developed while practicing may cost me dearly in a situation in the real world. Not taking the time to look around and scan my surroundings after engaging a target may allow for an accomplice to the aggressor to blindside me. When we TRAIN we take all of our individual skills we practice and put them into a scenario. We should make training scenarios happen in a way they could in the real world. Carriers of firearms should train to draw from concealment, not competition concealment…real world concealment, in the way you typically carry every day. If you are a lady and prefer to carry in your purse, do you practice drawing from your purse? Are you absolutely sure you can get to your firearm quickly enough to defend yourself? Do you shoot while moving, sitting or laying down? How about grabbing a firearm off a table or taking it out of your nighttime lock box? These are all areas you should TRAIN in if you choose to have a firearm for defense.
When I train, here is my usual order of actions: I like to use a competition timer on a random start setting, or a friend giving me a verbal signal, so I do not know when I am going to start. This hones my reaction and decision times much better than knowing when I am going to start. I also will yell at my target ” drop it, drop it” or “get back, get back” as I would if I was being attacked (I know this may seem goofy, but you will revert to what habits you have if an incident happens and warnings are good habits to have). I engage with a minimum of two rounds (center mass) per target and, in some cases, more if needed. I will engage multiple targets from the highest threat to the lowest threat (closest to farthest, or armed vs unarmed). Once completing a string of fire, I will scan my area right to left, then behind. Once looking around, I will re-load as needed and either top off with an admin reload or a fresh magazine if I am empty, then re-holster. Now from what I know at the amateur competitor level, most competitions allow for people to finish a string of fire with proper defensive tactics such as scanning your area, changing mags, or finishing whatever good real world habits you have, prior to rendering your weapon clear and safe. This is a good practice to follow. I would rather fight the urge to scan after a string than become accustom to only a competition environment.
I have realized that needing to practice and train should be part of every time you get out to the range. If you are TRAINING your skill will become second nature and happen without thinking about it. If you are simply PRACTICING then your body and mind will have problems putting all the individual skills you practice together under intense duress to deal with an incident in the real world. Get out and practice, but don’t forget to also train yourself for the whole reason you have a firearm.