On Training Guns

There’s a notion floating about the internet that to “Get Good” at shooting, one ought to shoot a gun that is difficult to shoot well. E.g. to learn follow through, you ought to shoot a flintlock rifle, as these have long lock times. In fact, you should shoot it offhand (read: standing), so that you don’t have good support to assist you.

Bullshit.

What should you train with? The gun you use most, which is probably a gun you like. If you haven’t a gun, buy something modern and use that. If you buy a hunting rifle, for example, put the sort of glass you’d use in the field on it. If you buy a carbine, mount the red dot or variable power optic you’d want to use on it.

The notion in the opening assumes that you’re a very self-disciplined shooter, that you’re a good enough shooter to correctly understand how to apply the fundamentals in question (in the above example, follow through, but this could be whatever aspect of shooting you please), that you know how to self-diagnose your own errors, and that your other fundamentals are reasonably sound.

So yes, you need good follow through to shoot a flintlock rifle well. You also need good eyesight to use the small irons on a flintlock rifle, and good upper body strength and offhand shooting technique to properly hold the rifle steady. If you lack those other things, your shots will not hit the mark, and you won’t have any idea why.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but if I am honest with myself, or ask my subconcious, whom I cannot lie to, I’ll tell you that the above doesn’t describe me on my best days. If I fired a flintlock rifle as a training aid I would get incredibly frustrated at just about everything. And I’d have a bunch of convenient excuses for my poor shooting, presuming the frustration didn’t make me hurl the thing over the berm and take up golf.

No gun that has ever been called “hard to shoot well” is ever called that for one single thing. It is a collection of many factors. So you’re not isolating a single thing to work on. This isn’t the gym where you get to isolate muscle groups. You’ve got the whole thing. So did you miss with that Kentucky Rifle because it’s heavy and the gun wobbled a lot? Or was it because you couldn’t see the sights? Or because the trigger is heavy and gritty? Or because you didn’t follow through? Or maybe you flinched? See, it could be any one of those things. Or a combination of all of the above.

Self diagnosis is hard. It’s one of the reasons why training classes are so good. Because it’s a lot easier to see errors in others. And to be honest with what you see in others. It’s hard to be honest with yourself. There’s a gun that’s hard to shoot right there! And we like to lie to ourselves. A trained professional instructor will spot things we’re doing badly, and things we think we are doing well but aren’t.

Or you could set yourself up with a pretty good gun and not have excuses. You don’t need to spend a fortune. Just get something modern and solid. Example: I carry Glocks. I compete with Glocks. So guess what gun comes with me to class and to the range for practice? Yep: A Glock. Now, I don’t put a crazy race trigger in most of my Glocks, but I do like the factory “minus” or the TTI “minus” connectors. And I certainly don’t make myself miserable by putting in an NY2 trigger spring for a 12 lb trigger pull. My Glock 34, for example, has a few optimized controls that I like. And a factory minus connector. The pull was pretty good out of the box. I did my best to zero the sights from a bench. And then, at class, or when I’m practicing on my own, I know that errors are on me. Maybe my follow through needs work. Ok. No problem. I can work on that with the Glock, or any other gun. And as I do so, I’m going to be having fun.

I like shooting my Glocks. They’re fun to shoot. They fit me well. And I’m also quite used to the characteristics of them. All that practice means that they’re very familiar. And, given all the training, I know what I can do with them. Which means there’s nothing more comforting on my hip than the Glock 34 that I took to class. And with that on my hip in class, and sights zeroed beforehand, I knew that any screwups are on me. Could I make it easier to shoot? Sure. But I could also make life suck for myself. And I didn’t. I could have been dumb and taken a brace of flintlock pistols to a class, but I didn’t.

If you like shooting weird and exotic things, knock yourself out. But don’t feel that you have to. Or that its optimal. Truth be told, focusing on one quality platform is almost certainly the optimal route if you want to minimize the time taken. But “minimize” is a relative term. It’s gonna take a lot of shooting to make USPSA Grandmaster Class. So do it on a platform you love.

Also, if you want to occasionally pick up something else, and enjoy shooting it for it’s own sake, feel free. Feel free to enjoy it for its own sake, and don’t feel like it has to be your training tool.

We often remark that it’s the shooter, not the tool, to discourage newer shooters from chasing every gadget under the sun in a vain effort to make up for skill. Well, just like a new Blastomatic 2000 won’t magically make you a better shooter overnight, it won’t make your practice better overnight either. You still have to put in the work, and focus.

Want to make it faster? The right answer is training with a good instructor. Bad equipment will just make you take up golf.

Leave a Reply