The words we use to describe a particular activity are important. If we use the wrong terms it can lead to a gross misunderstanding by others of what we hope to convey. This is especially true in the use of text since there is no variance or inflection of voice to help get the point across.
With that in mind, I have noticed many people in the “gun world” using the wrong words to describe all sorts of things. One pair of such misused terms is training vs. practicing.
Recently a friend of mine posed the following question on his Facebook wall:
“How often do you train and what kind of training do you do?”
He got a number of responses. Most of them included the some form of “I’m at the range every couple weeks,” or “I shoot 200 rounds a month.”
While it’s actually quite commendable for anyone to take the time and money necessary to spend every other weekend at the range shooting a hundred rounds or so each time, these responses completely failed to answer his question.
These folks have failed to recognize the difference between training and practice. Let’s take a look at what it takes to do both effectively.
By definition, training is “the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing that is being trained.”
In other words, in order for one to be training, they must be in the process of acquiring new knowledge or skills. It is entirely possible to go to a firearms course, listen to every word the instructor says, and perform every drill as instructed and still NOT be training. If all of the information presented in the course is something at which you are already adept and if you fail to acquire new knowledge or skill in the process of the course, you have not been training.
Practice, on the other hand, is defined as “repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency.”
Once training has taken place and you have acquired your new skills and knowledge, you must hone them to get better. In order to do this you repeat them over and over. This process is called practicing.
Going to the range and putting a bunch of lead downrange is practicing NOT training.
If you are one of those people that spend five hundred to a thousand dollars each year putting holes in a paper target you might want to go back and reread that last sentence.
Don’t misunderstand me. There’s nothing wrong with practice. Practice is an essential part of the use of firearms whether you are a beginner or an expert. What is important, however, is the distinction between the two.
You are short-changing yourself if you set aside several hundred dollars each year with which to pay range fees and purchase practice ammunition if you never set aside anything with which to acquire new knowledge and skills. You are deluding yourself if you have convinced yourself that spending all that time and money at the range is training.
What’s the solution?
A well-rounded defensive shooter requires a balance of training and practice.
If you spent a lifetime on learning about the subject, you could still never know everything about the art of self-defense. Therefore, it stands to reason that the average person has much to gain from regular training courses. And those new skills must be put into use through regular practice as well.
I challenge you to set aside just a few hundred dollars each year from your “practice budget” and use it for training instead. Attend one course each year at minimum. Vary the subjects that these courses cover. They may not even be shooting related courses. You might also consider medical, knife, and hand to hand courses to round out your skillset.
Find a good instructor with good, relevant, up to date course material. These don’t have to be the best known schools or the most expensive courses but they must fill a need in your skillset.
Once you have acquired the knowledge and skills from these training courses, spend the next year honing them while you search for the next course to sign up for. I think you’ll find the training side of self-defense is more fun than simply putting holes in paper once you start doing it regularly.