We are all familiar with the adage “Practice Makes Perfect”, but what if you are practicing something with poor technique? You are reinforcing that poor technique by repeating it and building the muscle memory. It is a lot more difficult to modify a learned behavior than to do it correctly from the beginning.
Depending on the source, it can take from 50 to 2000 repetitions to form a habit. The one thing all the sites agreed on was it takes 2-3 times that many to break the habit. What does this mean for a shooter? Ammo and time are precious. So we need to make the best use of our practice time. This includes the serious drills, focused on a particular skill, and the days when you just want to plink or make holes in paper. If you are using poor technique, even when just having fun, you are reinforcing that habit. Everyone has a bad day from time to time. If you're at the range & find that you are having a "bad day". Pack up your gear & go home or some other happy place, but don't keep "practicing" bad technique & reinforcing or creating bad habits. Your future performance will be the better for it!
Next time you are at a range, glance around you at other shooters. I’m not advocating staring or even offering “friendly advice”. Just a quick glance and you will see a multitude of poor practices on any average day. People leaning backward instead of forward, someone who is so tensed and hunched up their shoulders are almost touching their muffs, the tea-cupper, the person who fires and adjusts their grip…repeat. These are habits and many people, unless they are working with a competent instructor, don’t even realize they have formed these habits.
If you aren’t sure, go back to your fundamentals and work from your feet up. I was shooting with a friend who is usually a pretty good shot. She was consistently shooting low. We talked, she went back to her fundamentals. She knew shooting low usually means anticipating recoil. Talking it through we recognized she was recovering from tendonitis and was skittish about aggravating it. Once she realized what she was doing, she was able to correct and start getting better shot placement. But had she not stopped and talked it through, the anticipation could quickly become habit and be very challenging to break.
Enjoy your shooting time, don’t over think, but remember, you will do what you practice, so if you practice poor technique, you will have poor technique. If you aren’t sure what you are doing, an hour with a good instructor can be a great investment. Small changes can be worked in improving your technique, your shooting and often your physical comfort.
Shooting is fun, practice smart and enjoy it.