An Introduction

Shooting is a skill, and one with a wide range of purposes. For some it’s relaxing, others it’s competition and fun. It has, and still does, bring food to the table for a countless number of people. And for a few, it’s survival.

You will constantly hear the buzzwords “fundamentals”, “brilliance in the basics”, and the like. It gets boring and dull, almost tedious in repeatedly performing the same drills. The static drills on a gun line get old; you feel like skipping them to do something operator as f-… you get the point: basic drills are boring. I’m not going to disagree, I dislike doing them, and I’ve fallen into the trap of skipping them to do things like practicing room clearing.

Here’s the thing… all the really cool stuff is just an application of the fundamentals. The worst possible thing someone can do is ignore the fundamentals, even when they have a strong foundation in the fundamentals. The more complicated drills are necessary for progression, but they shouldn’t be the starting point or sole focus.

Rick Crawley of Achilles Heel Tactical instructing at RX Range Day

What Do I Mean?

What are the fundamentals, and what does proficiency mean? The fundamentals can be argued, but my philosophy has been: grip, sight picture, trigger pull, and stance. Those basics will lead into things like recoil control, target transitions, movement and shooting, and everything else that looks operator.

Proficiency is harder to define, and needs to be taken into context since it’s both objective and subjective. An experienced and seasoned shooter’s objective proficiency is, generally, going to be higher than a novice’s. However, the experienced shooter may personally feel that their proficiency is lacking with a 1.1 second draw from a duty holster, and be striving for a 0.8 or 0.9 second draw with a hit on target. Meanwhile, the novice shooter may just want to be able to work the holster consistently.

Both shooters have measurable proficiencies, as well as personal ones that they are working towards. For the purposes of this, and future articles, we’ll stick with objective proficiency, and work with the assumption that everyone is striving to improve what they’re already able to do. In both cases, everything is built off fundamental skills, and becoming more efficient with them.

So What?

So how do we go from Elmer Fudd to John Wick? Like everything else, it requires training and practice. Learn from more experienced and more proficient shooters; take lessons and knowledge from them and apply it with what you do. Take an honest look at what you’re doing and dissect it. Look at what you’ve learned from them, and dissect it. Now see what they do differently, and what you can apply to yourself. This learning process is half of it, and needs to be followed up with practicing those lessons learned.

That practice, however, is only as good as what you put into it. Make a conscious effort into getting proper repetitions in to make each fundamental skill second nature. This will turn into “muscle memory” (this is a whole separate article), it becomes instinct on how to draw the gun and bring the sights up on target; you automatically have a solid grip on the gun, and are in a stable but flexible stance. From there, you must find where you can do things more efficiently; efficiency builds speed. Everything is built off the fundamental shooting skills.


There is no shortcut around this, regardless of what class you might take, what gun you use, or what gear you have. Strive to perfect the fundamentals, and understand where you stand in personal proficiency to know what you need to work on. Measure your proficiency to reinforce your knowledge of yourself, and so you can see whether you’re making improvement or not. Learn from yourself and others on what you can do to become more efficient and proficient in the fundamentals, and then apply those fundamentals together to intermediate and advanced skills. From there, it’s the same cycle or learning, and there’s always something that can be learned.

Rick Crawley of Achilles Heel Tactical instructing at RX Range Day

4 thoughts on “Primer – Learning

  1. Steven Wagner says:

    Being a reloaded I was a bit disappointed when I first started reading. But then I was glad because it is interesting. I am almost 60 with some physical disabilities so my shooting and training have to be very different. When I was much younger and in good physical shape I trained in tae kwon do. The same principles apply. The reason black belts can execute perfect punches and kicks is because they are right there doing them with the white belts. They have done them perfectly thousands of times. Just like drawing, lining up the sights, and squeezing the trigger. It might seem monotonous but that’s what it takes to become proficient. I admire the old West shooters. As much work as it is to load a bp revolver they were dedicated to becoming proficient. Thanks for the article.

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