Monday, June 10, 2013

Perfecting Practical Routines

By Dave Dargo

We've all heard, "Practice Makes Perfect" and most of us have heard the correction, "Perfect Practice Makes Perfect". What does perfect practice mean and why should we worry about it?

I previously wrote about gun safety rules and the need to handle your pistol consistently. Do the same things each and every time you handle your pistol so that you have no chance of missing a step or adding an extra step that causes a negligent discharge.

Pistolcraft is the skill and art of handling a pistol and it is one of the most perishable skills you can obtain. Without proper practice you will lose the skill rapidly. With most activities we take up as a hobby that's not an issue. However, pistolcraft is different - if you lose your pistolcraft skills and need them in an emergency you may not be able to perform to the required level. Your best performance under stress will be like your worst day at practice. Therefore, we need to practice and we need to practice properly.

There are things you can do to practice your pistolcraft without even thinking about:

  • Always draw your pistol like you mean it. If you carry a pistol and store it outside the holster at home then be sure to draw the pistol like you mean it when putting the pistol away for the evening.  Every time you draw your pistol from the holster you should do it exactly the same way - whether it's to put it away, to draw it for practice, to draw it to check its condition or to draw it in case of confrontation. If you can discipline yourself to always draw your pistol the same way then you are more likely to draw it that way when under stress.
  • Get in the habit of checking the condition of your pistol every time you pick it up. Even if you just checked the condition of your pistol before setting it down only a few seconds ago, when you pick it up check its condition again. The purpose of the condition-check is to determine if the pistol is loaded.  If you always check the condition of the pistol when you pick it up then you will establish the unflinching habit of checking it the same way every single time. You will build proper pistolcraft habits.
  • Always reload your pistol the same way. Grip the magazine and the pistol the same way whenever you're loading the pistol and get it up in your work space. Again, by doing it the same way each and every time you will instill a habit that may become critical in a crisis.
The reason you want to create these repeatable and predictable mechanisms for handling your pistol is so that you don't need to think about them. If you always reload your pistol the same way, and practice reloading your pistol in that manner then you will have one less thing to worry about in a crisis; you should be able to rely on your practiced mechanics to perform the function without any additional thought.

Removing excess thought from the routine mechanics of pistol handling allows you to use your brain for any crisis you may be managing.

But, you may ask, how do we know we're doing it properly? Get a coach. Have someone who knows the proper techniques watch you, coach you and drill you. In our defensive pistol classes we may require you to grip the holster 50 times before you move to the second step of drawing from a holster, "clear". The drill isn't repeated just for fun or for repetition's sake; it's repeated until you can confidently repeat the mechanical action of gripping the pistol in its holster without thinking about it.

This stepwise approach to mastering a skill will allow you to build the proper foundation necessary to become both confident and competent in your practice sessions and we all know, the more practice is like real-life, the more real-life is like practice.

Practice well, practice often and you will find that your pistolcraft becomes routine.

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