Measuring long-term performance increases…

People who actually want to get better at shooting, AND have the self-discipline to put in the work, find pretty quickly that if they never shoot any diagnostic drills then they have no idea what they are good or bad at, which means they don’t really know what they should be working on.

It is really temping to just work on the things that you think are “fun” — but chances are, those things are both easy and also are things you are already good at.  Sure, doing that (and getting even better) isn’t a bad thing–but if that is all you do, you simply aren’t going to get much better overall.

It is important to understand where you are with regard to basic shooting skills, so you can work on removing weaknesses, and increasing overall skills.  There are a number of drill descriptions on the Internet that do a good job of being diagnostic–in other words, they allow you to rate your ability at certain skills.  Now, it is important to pick the diagnostic drills that monitor and rate the skills that are most important for you.  If most of your needs are for concealed carry defensive skills, using the 500-point bullseye test as a diagnostic isn’t going to be very helpful, or at least it isn’t going to be testing skills that are as important to you as a different drill might.

(That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do that drill once or twice sometime, because it’ll tell you something about a particular set of skills.  BUT….it is a much lower priority than other skills for your particular situation.)

So the first thing is to look at your main reason for having a gun.  Competition?  Concealed carry?  Bullseye precision?  What exactly is the most important thing you will need to do with your gun?

Once you have that, then you can figure out what specific skills are the ones you need to prioritize in terms of becoming competent, (and later, hopefully expert).

Here’s three good, short diagnostic drills, along with a list (in some cases, partial list) what skills they test.  This list is primarily focused on physical shooting skills that should probably be priorities in terms of skill-building for self-defense purposes.

  • Hackathorn 3-Second Head Shot Standards
    Skills tested:  Draw to first shot, accuracy at speed, accuracy under known time pressure, transitions
  • F.A.S.T.
    Skills tested:  Draw to first shot, accuracy at speed, appropriate speed for low-percentage versus high-percentage targets, slidelock (emergency) reload, shot after reload
  • 10 Round Assault Course
    Skills tested:  Draw to first shot, precision accuracy at distance, accuracy at speed, shot after movement, shooting while moving

Some reasons I like those three:

  1. None of them take very many rounds, or much time.
  2. You get only one chance to do it right, and you can’t fix mistakes you make.  There are no makeup shots, and no fixing errors.  Either you do it right, or it shows.
  3. Every single one puts you under time pressure of some sort.  Now, this isn’t important if your main focus is bullseye accuracy–you should be using different diagnostics for that.  But for a self-defense or competition focus, time is ALWAYS important.  Diagnostics that don’t include time pressure are ignoring an element of  primary importance for those foci. (And these three drills all include time pressure in different ways.)

Recently, Rob Pincus has continued his crusade to have people stop getting better at shooting skills by again claiming that using timers (and other tools used for actual skill-rating metrics) isn’t useful and will actually make you worse.

This, of course, is belied by the knowledge that every teacher/instructor/trainer of any physical skill knows, which is that if you don’t know what works and what doesn’t work, you can’t actually get better in an efficient fashion.  Sure, there are plenty of self-defense skills that you can’t put on a timer.  (Or measure in an objective fashion.)  This doesn’t change the fact that keeping track of the physical shooting skills that you hold as a priority is important–because you can then look at what you do well, and what you need to work on.

What diagnostic drills do you like?  Why do you like them?  What skills are you tracking over time?