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​​​​​​​​​​Target Shooting vs. Training

By Tim Siewert​​

Recently, I was talking to a person I know.  This person I will refer to as “C.”.  C. recounted a recent experience at the local trap range to me.  He had started shooting in a trap league and one of the men that he was shooting with, who had never shot trap before, was not using a traditional stance when he called for the bird.  This is one of those very rare times were thinking outside the box is not advisable.  He was using a “tactical” stance i.e. he had his gun loosely in his shoulder but the muzzle was pointed at the ground in front of him and he was leaning forward markedly.  Now I may not be a grand master trap shooter but I have run 50 birds straight on more than one occasion.  I am here to tell everyone: that is NOT how to shoot trap.  For everyone’s information: the proper way to call for the bird is to first mount the gun to your shoulder with your cheek on the stock and then put the bead on the appropriate part of the house i.e. the left corner when on station one; the center for stations 2, 3, &4; and the right corner for station 5; and then call for the bird.   My whole point of this introduction is this: trap shooting is target shooting and not necessarily training.

​When I was in the Corps every Marine was required to qualify with the standard issued rifle once a year.  This was accomplished by shooting at targets at known distances on the rifle range.  That is target shooting.  When we trained, we were usually in the woods, running around with our rifles loaded with blanks, digging holes, and shooting at each other.  I knew a ‘Nam vet for a very long time.  He spent three years in country, most of the time as a Navy Seal.  He told me that every fire fight/battle was unique.  The point of this intro: target shooting is distinctly different from training.

​Target shooting can be viewed as training in that it is good practice when good shooting habits are used repeatedly.  Therein lays the caveat; good safety habits and shooting habits must be practiced whether you are target shooting or training.  To be sloppy because “I am training and not target shooting or vis-à-vis” is totally counterproductive.

​Overall, training is much, much more.  It should be all encompassing.  When shooting at the range, I focus on good shooting habits and safety only.  I concentrate on proper sight picture, stance/shooting positions, trigger control, breathing, and follow through.  However, when I shoot a pistol match, I view it more as training in that many times there is movement involved combined with shooting from behind barricades.  My focus when shooting a pistol match is getting all of my shots in the “A” zone, while still practicing good shooting/safety habits, more so than being the fastest because truly, I only compete against myself.

​I know another man who I will refer to as “E.”.  E. is 6’ 7” tall.  He spent some time in Vietnam also as a Navy Seabee.  E. is very fond of saying that when the bullets started to fly, he very quickly became one of the shortest men in country.  That is part of good training.  Training should be more focused on developing a winning mindset and the skills necessary to survive a gun fight.  This can be accomplished without even handling a gun.  Chuck Norris’ reply when asked what he did to become World Karate Champion was that he fought every one of his opponents 1000 times in his head before he ever stepped into the ring.  That is good training.  When at the range, a good adage to remember is “shoot slowly quickly”.  Too many people are overly concerned with being fast when at the range whether they are shooting a rifle or a handgun.

​When at the range practicing placing multiple shots on target, develop a cadence while still focusing on good shooting/safety habits; when training on the other hand concentrate on using cover and movement.  The speed will automatically come when the adrenaline starts to flow.

​I have heard it said on occasion that when out in public, you should be aware of your surroundings and possible threats constantly.  While this may seem to be good advice, what happens eventually is a state of adrenal deprivation/ exhaustion; not a good thing.  If you are really concerned about your well-being and not some squid-brain, then I think a better approach is to use the “color” method to mitigate adrenal deprivation.  This method is as follows:

Green: a 100% safe environment; you’re at home.

Blue: a 90% safe environment; you’re at a trusted friend’s or relative’s home.

Purple: a 75% safe environment; your place of work if you do not deal with the public on a regular basis.

Yellow: a 50% safe environment; anytime you are in close proximity to strangers.

Orange: a 25% safe environment; a possible threat has been identified.

Red: an unsafe environment; a threat has been positively identified.

​Properly identifying your situation at all times is good training and using the color method is a good start.  When in the first three conditions a person needs only to be casually aware.  I think that anytime one is driving a car condition yellow is appropriate.  The only time the adrenaline should be pumping is orange or red.  I offer these thoughts so that you can start training with your mind; your most important weapon.  I think everyone serious about training should start with this to preclude adrenal deprivation.

​My reason for mentioning adrenal deprivation is that a person’s body can only make so much adrenaline at a time.  It is necessary for the proper functioning of several parts of the body.  Medical authorities maintain that it may take up to three days to fully recuperate from something as minor as being dramatically startled or frightened (having the crap scared out of you).  To be at a constant state of readiness only serves to drain you of necessary adrenaline and when the time comes that you actually need the adrenaline, it’s gone.

​Obviously any environment can change status at a moments notice.  Current events have shown that a work environment can go from purple to orange or even red almost instantaneously.  How one deals with the changes can be affected with good training in that prior mental evaluation when not in a red situation, when you have time to think about what you can do, will go a long way to insuring survival if the situation presents itself.  It has been my experience that most people only train for a fight.  I think that while this is a good start it is myopic.  By accessing your surroundings routinely it will be easier to avoid a fight all together.  This has been my experience.  I much prefer avoidance to a fight.

​That is not to say that I do not recommend a person train because my position is quite the opposite and concerning training, realistically one is only limited by ones imagination.

​Here are a few recommendations: 1) Start practicing shooting from behind a barricade or something that resembles anything that may be used as cover.  When I was in the Corps cover referred to one of two things; the first was your hat and the second was anything that would stop or deflect a bullet.  Some suggestions are to practice shooting around a door; practice shooting seated, as from your car; and practice shooting prone (both on your stomach and on your back), not only with a rifle but also with a handgun and a shotgun.  Believe me; shooting a handgun prone is distinctly different from shooting a rifle prone.  2) Definitely practice shooting weak-handed.  3) Practice your draw; both open and concealed, with an unloaded gun.

When out in public, be aware of any available cover.  People are creatures of habit.  Most people frequent the same businesses for the same things.  Most people gas up their car at the same station week after week.  The next time you are at the same gas station, take mental notes of where any cover is and the alternate exits; exits have to be clearly marked according to fire codes.  Also do the same the next time grocery shopping.  This is all part of training.

​Another part of training is to talk about some possible scenarios with your family; both at home and out in public.  Several years ago, I read an article written by a well known writer for some gun magazines and he wrote that every six months he and his wife would review their plan for a possible home invasion scenario.  That’s dedication.  I know an older gentleman that lives alone.  He has a loaded gun in every room of his house; and in some rooms there is more than one.  That’s prior planning.  So in a word training is all about being prepared (my motto) and it is much more than just going to the range and standing upright and shooting at targets even if the targets are lifelike and at varied distances.

​Still another part of training is talking with other people that are similarly minded.  Find out what they do if they want to share their secrets.  And finally, read anything that you can find about the subject; I still do even after 45 years.  I may add more in the future so stay tuned.