How many times in your life have you heard that old adage that “practice makes perfect”? Sure, it may have been an excuse for your parents to encourage you to go outside and spend an hour running off energy in the name of “practicing” for your chosen sport, but that old adage has stuck around this long for a reason. Whether it’s sports, music, or any other life skill, practicing plays a vital role in the learning and improvement processes. Given that, you can probably guess what we’re about to tell you. As far as we’re concerned, shooting practice is a necessity, not a suggestion. Here’s why:
First and foremost, regular shooting practice helps improve safety. However, we should probably give you a bit of a caveat first. When we talk about shooting practice, we mean going to a range or other safe location for the express purpose of focusing on your skills. That may mean formal classes, dry firing drills, focusing on your accuracy at the range, or working through an outdoor course to practice different shooting positions. In this regard, even going out to the back 40 and spending an hour or two plinking could be considered practice — but not always. The main difference is the intention. In that same vein, going to the range and firing a few dozen rounds mindlessly isn’t going to do much to help hone your skills. However you choose to practice, when the intentionality is there, you are helping yourself.
That being said, one of the biggest reasons shooting practice matters is that it is a great way to help improve safety for yourself and others. The more comfortable and familiar you are with each of your firearms, the safer you are going to be handling them. A big part of this is having a well-ingrained muscle memory for each of your firearms. While we never suggest handling your firearms absentmindedly, that muscle memory means you are more likely to immediately move your finger off the trigger after firing, rather than let it rest where it shouldn’t. The other big boon is that the more familiar you are with the feel of your firearms, the less likely you are to fumble, fidget, drop, or otherwise mishandle your gun because you feel some level of discomfort. Think of it this way: when you’re cooking, the more familiar you are with how it feels to chop things with your big chef’s knife, the less likely you are to accidentally slice into your finger. The same goes for handling firearms, but to an exponentially more important degree.
Yep, you guessed it, shooting practice helps improve your skills. Who’da thunk, right? More specifically, regular and intentional shooting practice helps improve accuracy, precision, and control. As is the case with safety, muscle memory can play a big role. In terms of precision and accuracy, reducing your flinch can help a ton, and muscle memory is a key player in minimizing that instinctive flinch reaction each time you fire. If you don’t want to go through hundreds of rounds at the range to work on your flinch, dry firing can help.
The other big player in terms of accuracy and precision is your shooting stance. When you practice moving slowly but assuredly from relaxed to ready, the muscle memory will develop. Over time and with intention, this will mean you can draw and go straight to a firm stance more quickly. It also cuts down on things like fidgeting to get just the right grip on your handguard rail. The more practiced and familiar the motions, the better your overall control will be. Corollary to this, practicing your draw generally makes you more familiar with sighting in, so you can do so faster and with better accuracy.
New Firearms or Accessories
When you get a new firearm, one of the first things you should do is head to the range and start familiarizing yourself with it. This means taking the time to find a steady, firm stance and getting a feel for the recoil. However, it also means taking the time to clear, disassemble, clean, reassemble, and reload (if you’re going to continue firing). When you get a new gun, taking the time to do these steps purposefully from the beginning may feel a bit useless, especially for more experienced firearm owners, but each gun is different and will need a different set of muscle memory to aid in safety and improved skill.
The other facet of this is helping you adjust when you get a new accessory or decide to ditch your old, heavy handguard rail. This is particularly impactful for the AR 15, which is made to be modified. Say you choose to swap your heavy, old Picatinny rail for a new, lightweight BCM KeyMod rail. The difference in weight may not affect your grip, but it may change how it feels to fire. The same idea goes for different optics or custom AR parts. Get your practice in to help make the adjustment safely.
We like to assume that all firearms owners are smart and safe when it comes to their guns. Of course, a little extra caution never hurts. Consistent shooting practice also means you’re going to be cleaning and caring for your gun regularly. This may mean catching wear and tear or other issues before they can cause a misfire.
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