Consistent. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity: free from variation or contradiction

During his Technical Handgun: Tests and Standards class last weekend, John Johnston of Ballistic Radio commented to me that the class had been heavily influenced by two conversations he and I had. In one, I said

You’re a good shooter but your consistency sucks.

He took that to heart and developed a personal program to increase his consistency. Technical Handgun is his road show about how shooters can use a personal program to increase their consistency and competency. Good shooting, even decent shooting, is the result of consistency. By that I mean the ability to perform at some level with a high degree of regularity. As we develop our consistency, the level we are able to perform at ‘on demand’ increases. Many shooters are perfectly content with being incompetent. Many others are not but don’t know how to go about increasing their competency.

Goober target 07242018

An example of lack of consistency

This target has been left at my gun club at least once a week most of this year. It changes a little bit each time but always looks much the same.

Lack of consistency is one of the big problems that many shooters encounter. Now and again, they can pull off a great shot, usually due to random chance, but most of the time they’re all over the place, literally. Building consistency is the purpose of having standards and doing repetitive drills. Standards and repetitive drills are the way all shooters get better. Without them, the chances of becoming a better shooter are negligible.

The NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol Courses of Fire are good examples of standards that shooters can use to establish a baseline of their abilities. The standard to complete the Courses is 100% at each of the six levels. That’s an example of consistency.

Another problem many shooters face is consistently doing things wrong. The bullseye target on the inconsistency target is a good example.

Goober target bullseye

The reason the group is low left of the bullseye isn’t because the shooter ‘is not displaying enough athleticism in his left shoulder’ but rather because he is yanking the trigger instead of pressing it smoothly. Pressing the trigger smoothly EVERY TIME is a task that requires consistency. Dry practice and using Ball and dummy are ways to develop the skill of pressing the trigger smoothly.

Consistency doesn’t necessarily apply to just shooting, either. Gunhandling is another gun related task that requires consistency. Those who consistently: 1) keep their fingers out of the trigger guard until they’re ready for the gun to discharge and 2) point their firearm at something other than themselves are unlikely to suffer a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Failing to consistently do those things all the time is a setup for a Negative Outcome.

Chicago police officer injured in accidental shooting

I’m sorry for the officer but the chances are much greater that he made the gun off while it was pointed at himself than the pistol decided on its own volition to go off.

Developing consistency

For those shooters who are interested in increasing their consistency and competency, I’ve written two different eBooks. They provide a roadmap to improving your competency at your own pace and within the resources you have available to you. For less than the price of a box of ammo, you’ll be able to use your time and other resources much more effectively. Then you won’t repetitively produce targets that look like the inconsistent one above.

For those who carry a concealed firearm, Concealed Carry Skills and Drills, is appropriate for you. It includes instructions for the NRA Marksmanship Program Defensive Pistol Course of Fire. The link to the downloadable eBook is here.

For those who don’t carry a concealed firearm but keep a handgun for home defense, Indoor Range Practice Sessions, is appropriate for you. The link to the downloadable eBook is here.

My downloadable recording, Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make is particularly appropriate when analyzing incidents, not necessarily Defensive Gun Uses, involving firearms.

FTC Note: I didn’t pay to attend the Technical Skills class but I receive no consideration for using it as an exemplar.

8 responses

  1. Not to pile on John, but during a past episode of Ballistic Radio, Ernest Langdon commented about sticking with the same manual of arms to improve consistency. John was cycling through many different guns at the time.

  2. Unsolicited testimonial for Claude’s e-book(s)

    One of the things that comes up in the line of various consultations I do is the question of “deliberate practice” or “deliberate play” if you’re a Cote fan. While I am no longer a firearms instructor, I do instructor enhancement for people who are, among other things, firearms instructors at high levels. One of the concepts that comes up is the importance of deliberate mindful practice (as opposed to initial training) as a way to embed the appropriate pattern recognition and cognitive map in the practitioner’s brain.

    While I’m not a firearms instructor anymore, I was for a long time, and have a great fondness for enthusiastic instructors who are willing to better themselves so as to enable others to save lives. When I talk with them about how to do that in context of firearms training, I ask two things:

    1) What do you do, every single day, to make yourself a better shooter?

    2) What do you do, every single day, to make yourself a better instructor?

    Interesting to watch their faces when they ponder that. The importance of mindful deliberate practice requires a daily discipline — you don’t have to be Dave Harrington and do an hour of dry fire every single day, though it could be argued that if you’re training people to save lives (their own and others) with handguns that kind of discipline might be useful — of some practice focused on your skill set.

    So does being an instructor, and taking an instructor class once a year, which is more than most instructors ever do, is a good start but no substitute for daily mindful practice. Ever help out unsolicited on a gun range and give a few tips? Teach a kid how to cook an egg or ride a bike? Help somebody with their composition or math skills?

    Exercise instructor skills. It’s not hard. There’s a world of people needing to learn.

    Back to deliberate practice with firearms: daily dry fire is like finger and bow exercises for violinists. You need not spend an hour or two a day, though if you are a professional instructor you could certainly make a case for people asking why you don’t. One of the important cognitive aspects of skill retentions under stress is “recency” i.e. how long ago did you practice your skill? For life threatening survival skills, ten minutes every single day for (what did you do it for Claude, 1000 days?) a period of time trumps an intensive hour every other week, or even once a week.

    If you’re serious about deliberate practice, Claude’s books display the genius of elegant spareness and simplicity. There is EVERYTHING you need and not one word more. If you, no matter how advanced a shooter you think you are, apply yourself to going through each and every exercise to the standards described, and then set those benchmarks, you will have a guided journey through the distillation of deliberate practice as applied to the handgun.

    Despite being in my 60s and with shaky hands from a stroke and multiple health issues, I stil like to get out on the range, and I found that working on consistency challenged a shooting skill set I’ve developed over 40+ years. I recently was working with a snub revolver (motivated by Claude’s performance with one) and was quite pleased with myself by after multiple renditions following Claude’s counsel, I was able to make a series of demanding hostage shots ten times in a row at a reasonable assessment speed.

    Not that my Shooting is particularly impressive, because its not, but I attribute that consistency to Claude’s clear and simple and specific guidelines in his books.

    I would question the seriousness of any instructor or dedicated fighting firearms practitioner if they did NOT have a copy of Claude’s book available on their cellphone or tablet when they went to the range. There’s nothing better or more portable or more thoroughly vetted out there, and you get the benefit of one of the top handgun instructors in the world in a clear fashion you can take anywhere with you.

    Sorry for the long windedness, Claude. I am prone to go on, LOL. Take care and thank you very much for your work in the world. It’s seen and very much appreciated.

    Cheers, m

    1. “For life threatening survival skills, ten minutes every single day for (what did you do it for Claude, 1000 days?)”

      I’ve done the 1000 Days of Dry Practice twice now. Even though I’ve finished those sets, I still practice nearly every day.

      1. Hi Claude — well, at your level of mastery you don’t NEED to practice every single day in order to maintain your level, though you actually do practice everyday. Visualization, active visualization coupled to kinesthetic recall honed through millions of reps over those multiple 1000 days on top of a lifetime of shooting and watching shooters is essentially the same as doing the physical dry fire. You may not be consciously aware of it, but running in your preconscious perceptual filters is a program that is constantly aware of the kinesthetics and visual aspects of firing whatever handgun you have on in the environment through which you travel. That’s the piece that deliberate practice on a daily basis gives you — it automates not only the physical piece of the motor skill, it embeds that automated process within the context of continual data processing (situational awareness) — you don’t get that embedded layered skill set without daily practice. Skipping all the old mylenation chat, what happens is that you train your perception filter and your pattern recognition to recognize and predict based on increasingly smaller pieces of a larger probable pattern…and the only way to do that is to drive the practice deliberately, daily, and adding elements of visualization and emotional content to the practice. That’s the current model of transferring expertise from the expert to the student, you provide a model and coach the student to an approximation of your model and then refine to suit them.

        What we’re working on is the next evolution, where we take an expert like you, run you through shooting and shooting scenarios, and capture your psycho-physiological data, and then “install” it into a student. Good examples in this video here, of training novice pilots how to fly by taking the captured brain patterns of expert pilots and installing it into novice brains while they are working in a flight simulator.

      2. And we have made expert marksmen this way, though we are still working on making expert gunfighters. Maybe 3-5 years out, with targeted neuroplasticity training.

    2. I agree dry fire doesn’t have to be hours and hours a week. It could be 5 minutes today then 10 tomorrow.

  3. I have been a follower of Marcus Wynne’s work in neuro and accelerated learning for several years and actually use a number of his training techniques. Advancements in using tDCS to enhance learning and skill retention can also have application to firearms training, but is in its infancy and will probably not find widespread use outside of a few trainers who are the cutting edge. As much as I respect and enjoy Marcus’ work, stating that the imbedded video describes “… training novice pilots how to fly by taking the captured brain patterns of expert pilots and installing it into novice brains while they are working in a flight simulator” is not correct. The video did no such thing. Maybe Marcus has seen the unpublished portions of the study and can bring us up to date on the subject.
    That thought probably came from the press release about the pilot training study (February 2016 issue of the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience), which states: “We measured the brain activity patterns of six commercial and military pilots, and then transmitted these patterns into novice subjects as they learned to pilot an airplane in a realistic flight simulator.” This published study used tDCS to enhance learning during flight simulation training, but did not provide any information about transmitting any expert brain activities into these novice students. Since tDCS does not transmit brain patterns but is used to stimulate specific areas of the brain to enhance learning and skills retention, I’ll have to wait for the rest of the study to be published to actually find out how they transmitted the brain activity of the experts to the novice students.
    For those interested in tDCS you might find the second video that comes in the pop-up after the imbedded video to be of interest.

  4. I think the target shown is a good example. No plan or goals just blast some holes in a target. It’s seems like very, very few people I have seen wil except help to become better shooters. Very few will get a knowledge professional person to help them. Once the get help and get on track they have to make the time and effort to become better. Making time for weekly dry fire and range work .

    They have to set goals and write them down and chip away at them little by little. Get a timer and use it . Not worship it but use it wisely to measure the progress. Get some 4×6 cards and 3×5 a the Dollar Store for two cents a piece. Now set some speed and accuracy goals with them .

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