In my experience, people have often acquired a number of bad habits that make them bad shooters. The list below explains the top 11 bad habits I’ve seen in my 25+ years of training everyone from US Navy SEALs to new shooters. If you’ve found yourself engaging in any of these bad habits, it’s time to correct yourself and work toward improvement. Unless, you know, you don’t want to get better.
- Practicing at the range. The way most people learn to shoot is at a live fire range. They go to a range and get handed a live firearm and are told, “If you do anything wrong, someone could die.” They don’t know how to stand, grip the gun, aim, focus, or manipulate the trigger. The gun goes bang and they’ve instantly developed a bad neural pathway they’ll spend the rest of their lives trying to rewire.
What if you practiced all those skills at home until you built perfect neural pathways and THEN you go to the range to confirm your training is working? If you’ve learned the old way, take the 30 day dry fire challenge and practice 5 minutes a day at home before firing your next round. You’re welcome.
- No training plan. How many of you have a written training plan? A detailed map of where you are now and where you want to go? As many professional athletes know, having a written training plan is key to reaching their goals. Just going to the range and hoping to get better is not a plan. Even taking a shooting course is not a plan, but it could be one of the waypoints on your path. Make a detailed plan about where you are right now, where you want to end up, and then figure out what you need to do to get there.
- Copying methods. Most people learn to shoot by watching a great shooter and copying everything they do and expecting the same results. That would be like me watching Michael Jordan shoot a basketball and copying how he stands and holds the ball and expecting to be the best basketball player of all time. This plan doesn’t make sense and it isn’t going to work. We are all built differently, so the way we need to stand or hold the gun is going to be different, too. Focus on the mechanics of a solid shooting platform and grip and apply those mechanics to you and your weapon system.
- Not being present. Most people who shoot are either thinking about their last time at the range, their last shot, the score they want to get, or some other future outcome. By definition, you are not being present. Think about it: How can you shoot effectively if your mind is in the past or the future? Your mind needs to be here and now! Once again, the quickest way to learn this critical skill is through meditation. If you don’t like the word meditation for any reason, call it Brain Performance Training.
- Pre-existing beliefs. When it comes to anything in your life, you’ll only be as good as you believe you can be. People write me all the time and the first thing they say is, “I’m a bad shooter,” or, “I always flinch.” And the first thing I tell them is to stop telling themselves that story. We will always live in the stories we tell ourselves. What story are you telling yourself?
- Not focusing on the sight. This most often means looking at the target instead of your sights. Sometimes, however, you might focus your eye on neither the sights nor the target, but since the target is blurry, you’ll assume you are looking at the sights. You must put all your focus on the front sight post, not just “look” at it. It will feel strange at first, but you’ll like it when your rounds are hitting where you want!
- Losing focus. I’m not just talking about losing focus on your sights, I’m talking about losing focus on what you’re doing. Whether you’re in a competition, protecting your life, or just trying to impress your buddies on the range, there’s a lot going on in that brain of yours.
Your ability to focus on what’s most important at that moment and time (and quickly shift focus as needed) will be the difference between first or last place, losing a gunfight (never fun), or your buddies laughing at you! To fix this, you need to practice focusing your mind, specifically through meditation.
- Anticipation. Anticipation can cause muscular reflexes that so closely coincide with recoil making it extremely difficult to determine what your other shooting errors might be. Anticipation is also a precursor to flinching, which is a less common bad habit of reacting to the shot going off. The cure for both is easy — dry fire training to teach your body and brain that the gun going bang is not going to hurt you.
- Holding your gun up too long. Any adverse conditions that interrupt your ability to hold your sights on the target (wind, wobble, wild squirrels) will cause you to delay your shot and wear you out. The worst part of this? You’re doing it unconsciously. To combat this bad habit, the best thing you can do is breathe and relax. When the shot’s there, take it!
- Improper grip or body position. Suffice it to say that you cannot shoot consistently with any gun at any target if you continually change your grip or body position. Consistency is king! Practice grip strength and getting into the same position every time you shoot.
- Heeling. No, not like Jesus, though that would be awesome, but pushing forward with the heel of your hand in anticipation of the recoil. Most people who do this do not have a solid grip and find the gun is recoiling more than they would like. Work on your grip strength and trust it!
That’s it for today! If you want to take a deeper dive into any or all of these skills, I cover them all (and more) in my book Navy SEAL Shooting. If you would like the help of me and my team you can sign up for one of my premium memberships to start Paving Your Path to Perfection.
Do you have any bad habits? Let me know in the comments below.