Technology Is No Substitute For Practice

A good friend of mine and I were talking today about  the relative merits of lasers and red dot sights on handguns.  We both agreed that there were several positive aspects to each.

That being said, I also recall the words of my dearly departed Uncle Guru on the subject.  I remember I was considering a laser or somesuch thing and it wasn’t exactly inexpensive.  If I recall it was a couple hundred dollars.  Never one to mince words or hold back his opinions on the topic of firearms, he gave me alternative advice.  He told me that I should take that two hundred dollars and buy ammo with it.  And then go shoot it all.

His theory was that by the time I got through however many rounds that was, I’d be a better shooter with the iron sights and therefore would not need to rely on the laser.  He also pointed out that not every gun comes with a laser, and I were to ever be worth my salt as a handgunner, I should be able to pick up any pistol and make it work.  I should be programmed to automatically focus on the front sight when I picked up the weapon to fire it, as opposed to focusing on the target, waiting for a red dot to appear.  His point was that batteries die, things malfunction, and if you get use a crutch all the time, you’re going to get used to leaning on it.

There are lots of people with bad eyesight that can utilize a laser to great effect. I still contend that there are certain advantages to using the laser.  But what Uncle Guru said is absolutely true.  You can’t use enough technology to replace practice.  If you want to be good at something, you have to put in the time and effort.  There are no shortcuts.

Uncle Guru might look askance at all the red dots I’ve got on various weapons.  But I still put in the effort to make sure I maintain the proper habits.  All those years ago, I took his advice and bought the ammo.  Ammo then was a lot cheaper than it is now, and I was able to get an entire case of .38 special.  He also insisted that I shoot EVERY day.  Even if it was just one cylinder.  And he meant rain, sleet, snow, shine, hurricane, monsoon, whatever.  I wasn’t all that great when I first started shooting.  But shooting on a daily basis, so long as you are practicing the right techniques, will make you a better shot.  I learned how slick the grips got when it rained.  I learned how much I could and couldn’t see the sights on those winter afternoons when the sun goes down way too early.  I learned a lot over the period of time I practiced every day.  And as the round count increased, my group size decreased and my speed increased.

There’s a book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  It’s a book that is well known in the corporate world because it explores why some people have been able to be so successful.  It explores their habits and the path they took to becoming truly exceptional at what they did.  This applies not just to business superstars like Bill Gates, but to athletes, musicians, and more.  He talks about what is called the “10,000 hour rule”.  The people that were successful shared an important trait.  They all spent at least 10,000 hours perfecting their craft.  I believe this holds true for the truly exceptional shooters as well.

Alas, time, the cost of ammo, and other circumstances stand in the way of most of us spending 10,000 hours practicing with our firearms.  But, if we do what we can, when we can, I think we’ll find that we get better.

I found out this week that a good friend of mine from high school passed away.  She was a teacher, and had wanted to be one since she was very young.  I recall that all the way through high school, she was adamant that teaching was what she wanted to do.  She passed away suddenly.  I recall that when we were in high school, she was voted most likely to succeed.  As it turned out, she ended up doing exactly what she set out to do.  She had recently been promoted to Vice Principal.  That didn’t surprise me, even though she was somewhat young to be awarded that position.  Her colleagues had nice things to say about her, as she was an amazing person.  They also recognized the effort she put into her job, noting that her car was always the last one to leave the parking lot every day.  She put in the time it took to be the best at what she did.  She was always successful in her life because she understood the immutable truth: if you want to be good at what you do, you have to put in the hours.

I see the truth of this in my professional life as well.  The people that are the most successful put in the time.  They constantly practice what they are going to say to prospective clients, and critique themselves.  There is simply no substitute for getting out there and doing it.  The ones that make the most money are the ones that work smarter, make that extra call on Friday afternoon, and are pleasantly persistent.

If you want to be proficient with firearms, you need to take classes to learn the proper techniques.  And then you need to practice.  You have to put rounds downrange.  As in other disciplines and perhaps life in general, there is no substitute.  That is yet another reason why I so strongly endorse shooting .22s.  That caliber choice makes it easier to put more rounds downrange due to the lower cost.  Though I am no longer able to shoot every single day, I still benefit from all that practice.  When things go bump in the night, the last thing on my mind is the price of ammo.

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