Random Training Produces Random Results

September 7, 2015
Aaron Barruga


If you are going to the range without a plan, you are wasting money. If you are not collecting data with a shot timer, you will never advance plateaued skills. Moreover, temporarily plateaued skills can turn into complacent ability. If you are not measuring your growth, then how do you confirm improvement?

In his marksmanship manual “T.A.P.S. Tactical Application of Practical Shooting,” Patrick McNamara writes about “training-itus”:

Train like you fight is one of the most abused axioms in tactical training… It is easy to get stuck in a rut when training on a flat range. We are going through a motion or ritual of sorts. When one performs a ritual, one is training his body and not his mind. One is performing a motion with no cognitive thought process, and he may forget why he is doing it, let alone whether or not it makes sense.

McNamara’s point is accurate in that training labeled as “tactical” can often disrupt the advancement of skills. Often I encounter shooters that pay less attention to the drill they are performing, and focus more on their post-drill tactical rituals. For example, shooters will completely forgo follow-through so that they can “search and assess;” or shooters will immediately begin lateral movement to “get off the X” despite having failed to score threat neutralizing hits.

It is absolutely permissible to perform shooting exercises that isolate certain fundamentals and forgo the performance of tactical rituals. For example, slow-aim-fire bulls eye shooting is great for reinforcing trigger control. Although going slow in a gunfight is not practical, analysis of trigger control provided by this exercise is invaluable in developing our overall comprehension of marksmanship.

If the absence of performing a tactical ritual during a shooting exercise distorts a shooters sense of ability in the real world, chances are that shooter has not been properly trained.

Tips For Success
It is okay to draft up a range plan, and then adjust it mid training session. Sometimes we are too ambitious and need to dial down the intensity; or after analyzing our performance we may identify a more pertinent issue that needs work.

Regardless, you should always gather data on what you are doing. Here are the best ways for adding value to your training regime:

1. Plan your shoot, and shoot your plan. Adjust as necessary.
2. Use a shot timer.
3. Analyze your performance in real time. This doesn’t always have to be recording results on paper, and can just be a mental talk through.
4. Track your results. Too often shooters will develop a solid training plan, use shot timers, analyze their performance, and then fail to record any data. This might seem intuitive, but we often do this because of laziness. Again, you don’t need to write down everything you do, but you should record something from your range plan so that you can start developing performance metrics.

Know Your Limits
Plateaued (or outright complacent) tactical shooters speak against the use of shot timers and the need to compete. They commonly excuse themselves by proclaiming they are “training for the real world” or that “bad guys aren’t impressed with tight shot groups.” Advocates of this complacency mask their inabilities as “combat effective shooting.” They excuse tight CQB-like shot groups, and instead permit excessive flyers so long as a shooter is going for speed.

It is very easy to develop quick hand speed that is sloppy. However, reinforcing this anxious type of shooting, in which accuracy is sacrificed for speed, is dangerous. Because we lose a lot of fine motor skills in a real gunfight, our limitations are exaggerated. What might have been a C-zone flyer can become a round that is sent completely off target.

Although you definitely don’t want to be the slowest participant in a gunfight, consideration should be placed on how we train and why. The consensus against shot timers is nonsense and a methodology that needs to be disenfranchised. Trainers that support this ideology do so because they face an existential threat to their credibility, in that shooting for both speed and accuracy will expose their lack of ability.

Matches are another great metric for measuring the limits of your shooting ability. When I first started shooting matches, I thought some of the stage designs and props were impractical. However, at the end of the day, my performance (good or bad) spoke louder than my boasting of Special Forces credentials. Will you ever encounter a plate rack or a Texas star in the real world? No, but the ability to rapidly engage those targets in a match demonstrates comprehension of marksmanship fundamentals.

Random training produces random results. Maximize your time and money spent training by using the aforementioned techniques. Reviewing our improvement strengthens our confidence, and keeps us from plateauing or staying in extended training ruts.

Aaron is a Special Forces Veteran and teaches classes in Southern California. Check out the trailer for his courses at: Instagram: guerrilla_approach


12 Responses to “Random Training Produces Random Results”

  1. Petro says:

    Good rehash of Mac and Pannone?

  2. Chris K. says:

    Well said. It’s just like PT, if you wanna improve you have to target specific areas of fitness which involves doing a lot of stuff that’s not tactical.

  3. mike says:

    All this searching and assessing and no one looks up for drones. Tisk tisk.

  4. Joe says:

    Good post. Important to note that we often forget the cost of training aids. Ammunition and equipment are great, but the shot timer, good paper targets, and good steel are just as valuable.

  5. Bill says:

    Great piece. FWIW, I’ve found that limiting the amount of ammo I take to shoot forces me to emphasize quality, versus quantity. Having a plan as pointed out is critical in everything we do. I’d rather focus on 25 as close to perfect rounds fired than 100 average rounds.

    I’m also a firm believer in what I think several writers have stated: train in what we don’t like to do and aren’t good at. Yeah, we need to maintain skill, but we can’t get into the feel-good rut of doing the things we already do best.

    Having said that, I always try to end a session with some “perfect” rounds. I don’t want to leave the range sore, dirty, tired and depressed because I’m unhappy with my transitions to my reactionary shoulder or such. I’ll leave knowing that they still need work, but than I can still shoot.

    But that’s just me.

  6. Ed Hickey says:

    a good read

  7. Trajan says:

    We need more stuff like this.

  8. majrod says:

    Great stuff!

    Anyone have tips on using a shot timer on a crowded range?