Skip to main content

Deep Practice: Improve Your Shooting The Right Way

Done right, deep practice will help you engrain good shooting techniques in order to build skill and increase performance.

Deep Practice: Improve Your Shooting The Right Way

Shooting skills, like a good drawstroke, can improve your performance and get you on target faster. Practice is important, but practicing properly will ensure the right techniques are reinforced. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

Under the watchful eye of one the nation’s top martial arts competitors, I jumped and spun 360 degrees to execute a kick that was part of the form or “kata” he was helping me perfect. I landed clumsily and was embarrassed. I tried again and again, each time exerting maximum effort but each time falling short. Finally, my mentor stopped me, explaining that I had reached the point of diminishing returns.

As a 16-year-old karate student in the late 1980s, I assumed repeating full speed repetitions of the kick was the way to master it. Seemingly, many students of pistolcraft believe a similar fallacy.

Too often, a shooter whose goal is to draw and hit the target from, say, 5 yards in less than a second will repeat this draw and fire sequence over and over. While this is a sure way to test yourself (you either get the hit within the allotted time or you don’t), it’s hardly the best way to improve. That’s where deep practice comes in.

Drawstroke grip and support hand placement
Improving a technique can mean breaking it down into "chunks," or separate steps, getting those right and then putting it all together. For the drawstroke, the first chunk is practicing getting your hand placement — shooting and support — just right. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

A term popularized by Daniel Coyle in his book, “The Talent Code,” deep practice refers to a specific method of practice designed to build myelin. Coyle described myelin as a “dense fat that wraps like electrical tape around a nerve fiber, preventing the electrical impulses from leaking out.”  Myelin rewires the brain by creating and reinforcing neuropathways. The result is stronger, faster and more accurate signals and, subsequently, improved performance. But what exactly is deep practice?

Deep practice requires you first see the big picture. If you want to improve your drawstroke, watch someone who’s drawstroke you’d like to emulate, perhaps a World Champion shooter like Robert Vogel. (Check out this video from SureFire’s Field Notes series.) Don’t focus on specific details but rather, take in the overall technique. Watch the drawstroke over and over until you can close your eyes and envision the sequence.

Clear the holster, orient to target
The second chunk of the drawstroke is clearing the holster with a good shooting hand grip and orienting the muzzle toward the target. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

Continuing our example, now, with Vogel’s drawstroke firmly embedded in your psyche, it’s time to break it down into its individual components, a concept often referred to as “chunking.” Perhaps you chunk the drawstroke as follows:

  1. Establish your grip and bring your support hand to your body
  2. Draw the gun from the holster and orient the muzzle to the target
  3. Join the support hand to the grip, and drive the gun to the target
  4. Press the trigger

Notice how he breaks the drawstroke down. Each component can and should be practiced individually before practicing the drawstroke in its entirety. One of the benefits of chunking as well as practicing in slow motion (another element of deep practice) is that it enables you to identify and immediately correct mistakes that would be imperceivable at full speed.

Slow motion repetitions allow you to feel a technique. For instance, could you feel any wasted motion as your hand moved to the gun? Were you able to feel that contact between the backstrap and the web of your hand? Did you feel your middle finger touch the bottom of the trigger guard before drawing the gun from the holster?

Forming a two-handed shooting grip
Once the pistol is clear and oriented, join the support hand to form a good, two-handed shooting grip. After that, drive the gun to the target and break the shot. (Photo by Alfredo Rico)

Of course, even deep practice must be reinforced with repetition. After all, there’s a reason they call repetition the “mother of skill.” And yes, some of those reps should be performed at full speed. It’s important that we push ourselves to the limit of our ability, but, like the kick I was trying to master in my teens, you shouldn’t dwell there, or you too will reach the point of diminishing returns.

For maximum Return on Investment (ROI) of your training time, focus on deep practice. Build that myelin to reinforce proper technique. Quality trumps quantity. Myelin wraps but it doesn’t unwrap. If you’re not careful, you could get really good at executing a technique like the drawstroke incorrectly. But, done right, deep practice will allow to engrain proper techniques in order to build skill and increase performance.




Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Optics

HIVIZ FastDot H3 Handgun Sights

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Optics

Meprolight's M22 Dual-Illumination No Batteries Reflex Sight: Video Review

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Other

Ballistic Advantage Continues Excellence in Barrel Design

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Rifles

Winchester Ranger Returns! Now In .22

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Rifles

Latest Name In Lever Guns: Aero Precision

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Rifles

SAKO 90 Quest Lightweight Hunting Rifle

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Optics

Warne Scope Mounts New Red Dot Risers

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Accessories

New Warne Scope Mounts Skyline Lite Bipods

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Handguns

Smith & Wesson Response PCC: Now Taking SIG Mags

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Optics

Mark 4HD Riflescopes: The Latest Tactical Line From Leupold

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Rifles

Show Stopper: Smith & Wesson 1854 Lever-Action Rifle

Its seems like every year is a busy year FN, and 2024 is no different. Joe Kurtenbach is joined by Chris Johnson and Ric...
Suppressors

FN 509 Pistol Updates and New Suppressors!

Guns and Ammo Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Guns & Ammo stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now