Reading Targets in Practice

Ben BerryBlog

During my practice session at the range on Saturday, I shot a lot of dots, all at 7 yards. I’m still working out these changes to my grip and trigger pull, but I can feel the progress, I just have to make it repeatable.

But in the targets I shot, I saw an interesting example of the value of reading the pattern in the targets, not just scoring them. (Also a major theme of Ben Stoeger’s “Breakthrough Marksmanship” book.) Here are the first and last sheets I shot of the day:

The first sheet is all over the place. You could generously score it as 29/36. But I didn’t clean a single dot. I had at least one shot out on every dot.

The second sheet is the same score, 29/36. But the individual dots are very different. I cleaned three of the six dots. If I only looked at the aggregate score, this seems like a failure. But as I was shooting it, I could feel the difference between the process that led to the clean dots and the bad ones.

This is important because this is how progress happens sometimes. It’s not a linear process where you creep up tenth by tenth. In my experience it’s usually much more this kind of breakthrough where you go from being consistently mediocre to erratically excellent. The challenge becomes to dissect and reproduce the circumstances that lead to the excellent performances and the pitfalls that trip you up from achieving it. Once you know those two things, excellence just becomes a simple matter of consistently doing the correct things and avoiding the unproductive behaviors.

The target backer after I was done.