Are new shooters a gift to our own marksmanship?
“If you want to keep it, you have to give it away.” Interesting paradox, right? The preceding adage can refer to many aspects of life but it is almost exclusively associated with knowledge. As more and more new gun owners enter “our” ranges most folks will look at this as a hindrance. However, if you truly believe that we were put on this earth to support each other than you might start to recognize new shooters a gift to our own marksmanship.
Firing a gun accurately is a highly perishable skill. It involves the balance of technique and instinct. This alone screams practice, practice, PRACTICE! However, practice time isn’t always readily available, and let’s face it, shooting once a month just isn’t enough time to maintain our skills, let alone develop new ones. I have always realized this but it never became more apparent than when I opened Renaissance Firearms Instruction. Running a firearms instruction company, and acting as the lead instructor didn’t leave much personal time for shooting. Furthermore, after being on the range for 8+ hours it is generally the last thing that I want to do. However, something amazing happened to my shooting ability over the last 10 years; I have improved in every discipline that I taught. I attribute my growth and maintenance to continual emersion in firearms through teaching. Simply put: Teaching newcomers has kept me fresh.
Consider this: When was the last time you thought about natural point of aim or respiratory pause? How about trigger finger placement? Follow through? Perfect stance? Perfect draw? Before instruction, the answers for me were essentially never. After teaching these things on a daily basis today I can’t pick up a gun without thinking about and applying them myself. The same held true for entire disciplines that I normally push off to the side. Working with a continuous flow of new shooters forced me to concentrate on areas of marksman that were of little interest to me. Take shotgun shooting for instance, this is not my go-to for practice. Typically I dart straight to the rifle range or pistol pit whenever I have a free morning to get in a little personal practice. Although I enjoy breaking clays, and I am even pretty good at it, I seldom go out to shoot a game of trap or skeet as my first choice. However, over the past few years, I have found myself forced to do more and more research on the subject, as well as spend countless hours with several champion trap and skeet shooters discussing shooting and teaching techniques. After collecting this information and applying it to students it became cemented into my shooting as well.
Week hand shooting is another practice that many of us shy away from. If you are looking to get better with your week side it’s a simple fix – find a lefty and teach them how to shoot. Being a lefty myself, I have done enough demonstrations with my right hand that I am nearly ambidextrous today. I never realized how much so until I was forced to hit a three-inch gong that was 300 yards out off of the “weak” shoulder. The match directory was a true sadist, as this forces you to also induce cross-eye dominance. None the less, prone and unsupported I rang that gong on a cold bore shot. For this I have about 20,000 right-handed rifle students to thank…..that’s too many to send cards to.
Sharing your knowledge will not only make you a better shooter but a better person as well. If you identify a new shooter at your local range or club take a few minutes to help them out with some of the basics. While our scores and improvement are quantifiable, the feeling you get helping others simply isn’t.
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