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The Zen of Gun Practice

June 4, 2012

Mastering a skill is a simple regimen of refining what you should do, and unlearning the mistakes that have crept into your performance.  I saw it in flying.  That is why licensed pilots take annual check rides with an instructor.  They do a similar thing in theater.  The things you have forgotten can surprise you.  For me it is shooting handguns.

I’d learned to shoot target pistols years ago.  I’d done that for years before it occurred to me that I’d never picked up a loaded gun.  That certainly changed when I tried combat handgun where most drills begin with a loaded weapon on your hip.  Safety is a necessity because accidents are unacceptable.  Drawing from a holster is as prescribed a motion as a coreographed step in classical dance.  Like dance, it must be correct, fluid, and fast.  Welcome to the yin and yang of combat handgun.

I’ve let this sound like I’m juggling knives for sport, but it isn’t that way.  You often practice with an empty gun.  We don’t call it dry-fire practice since there is no explosion.  We call it dry-practice  and this is the chance to go as fast as you can until your performance becomes ragged and uncertain.  It is a rare chance because an uncertain outcome isn’t allowed on the target range.  Dry practice is also a chance to go as slow as you need to be perfect.   The perfect pattern of motion is slowly scratched into the stone of memory.  Slow is smooth.  Smooth is fast.  Fast is essential.

Slow repetition is as boring as a musician practicing scales.  Slow practice is where a gun owner becomes smooth and fast while locked in a room without ammunition or distraction.  This is where a gun owner earns unconscious competence.  The firing range is the noisy concert hall where all that practice comes to fruition.

So, I practiced and surprised myself.  I was letting my finger slip onto the trigger too soon.  Shame on me!  One of the cardinal rules of safe gun handling is to keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

My motions had become worn.  I’d strayed from perfection in my haste.  I had to go back to the slow fundamentals.  Back to the katas of karate.  Back to the musicians scales.  I had to slow down until I could rediscover consciously perfect practice.  Nothing is perfectly written in stone but must be refreshed by man from time to time.

The things you’ve forgotten can surprise you.  There is a lesson here if I will slow down and learn it.


Robert the slow

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