It’s easy to fall into a rut in any sort of activity – a comfortable place where you only practice the things you’re good at, and therefore think you’re good at the activity as a whole. This could apply to shooting, driving, flying, running, waterskiing, etc. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss.
I was shooting with Mike Pannone a week or so back and shot a new drill he is working on which forces the shooter to do things he or she normally wouldn’t do (for practice purposes) at various yard lines and within certain time limitations – I will let him come forth with the details, but the way he hasÂ structuredÂ it made a lot of sense to me. It pushes the shooter out of his comfort zone.
This made me think about how earlier this year, I decided to focus on one area I thought I had ignored for too long – bullseye shooting – and spent quite a lot of time improving my skills in this area. In fact, “fixing my failings” is something I’ve tried to do for a very long time. Not only have I chosen to try to build skills across various disciplines – mastering none but become decent at many – I try to focus on improving whatever subsets of skills in which I find myself to be weak.
When I first started driving, I thought I was Petter Solberg. Heck, a movie producer paid me to drive him around in a Bentley. Did it go to my head? Kinda. However, after spinning out various V8 and turbo V6 cars on paved roads which had small amounts of dirt strewn across the surface, I knew I needed to improve not only my ability to control a vehicle in these circumstances, but learn to recognize the signs the car was giving me in the fractions of a second before the car swapped ends.
Long hours spent practicing car control on desolate roads – as well as professional instruction at schools like Bondurant – have paid off, such as when I had a blowout in my Mini at 110mph, when I’ve had the opportunity to do fun things like push a Z06 Corvette to its absolute limits in Italy, or every time I drive my 450hp, 2800lb classic Mustang, which I built with my dad from the bottom up, in the rain.Â Even so, I still know that I’m not perfect – the first time I tried to spin the Z06 around a cone with the stability control/traction control off, I just managed to make a lot of smoke and spin the car around in no particular pattern.
One of the next “weak areas” I’ve identified as far as driving goes is fine-tuning braking before a corner to manage weight transfer (as appropriate for the corner). I’ve plenty of room for improvement as a driver, but this is what I’m focusing on next.
Flying is something else I spend a good bit of time doing. I learned to fly on floats in Alaska, and flying on floats is quite different than flying on wheels. One thing that’s notably different is dealing with a crosswind – when you’re on the water, as long as you’re not forced to land in one particular direction for some other reason, you can just line up into the wind (looking for the crests of the waves to tell you this) and land.
On wheels, you’re probably going to land on a runway, and while many airports have multiple runways for you to choose from, others only give you one. Depending on how strong the wind is, you might not be able to effectively control the aircraft and land – but at points below that limit, it’s possible to use various techniques to land safely. Dealing with crosswinds was something that I didn’t pick up overnight and still haven’t fully mastered – but when the winds pick up around here, rather than saying “nah, it’s too windy to fly,” I say “Hey, this looks like a good time to practice landing in a crosswind.” Â Similar to driving a car at its limits, learning to feel what the airplane is communicating to the pilot is vital to, well, not dying in a fiery crash.
My next hurdle, flying-skill-wise, is getting better at short field landings, especially when dealing with updrafts and downdrafts due to terrain. I know I can make great short field landings, because I’ve done them – but I can’t do it as consistently as I’d like.
The reason why I bring in driving and flying is simple – while this is a firearm-focused blog, I want my readers to identify whatever skills might be critical to their daily lives – whether they have to do with shooting or not. If you’re a police officer and you’re a good shooter, but your “subduing a resisting suspect” skills are lacking, polish them up before some bath salt-enraged dude takes you down and eats your face. If you’re a Border Patrol agent working alone in the desert and you can’t read sign to save your life, focus on that.
I can’t tell you what you’re not good at, but chances are that you know better than anyone. Take some time to identify and work on these issues. Even if you’re really good at something, chances are that you’ve got a few weak points.