When you were a kid, how often did your parents tell you, “Practice makes perfect,” to explain why you need to go back and spend another 30 minutes on your homework or do some practice drills for your sport of choice? It’s such a common phrase because it holds true in a huge variety of different situations and skills. We even used it a few weeks ago when we discussed dry firing, so it’s not exactly a phrase you’ll ever outgrow. And, when it comes to firearm ownership, practice is absolutely a necessity. Whether you stick strictly to range time, or you supplement at home with some dry firing drills, keeping up with regular shooting practice is absolutely a necessity just as much as regularly cleaning your guns.
First, we should probably clarify something. When we talk about shooting practice, we mean intentional, purposeful shooting practice. Yes, that means attending formal, teacher-led shooting courses, but it isn’t just that. What it isn’t is going and plinking at cans out in the country or going to the range and pulling the trigger repeatedly without much thought. When we refer to shooting practice, we specifically mean the times you go to the range, take a class, run through dry firing drills, or any other instance that you purposefully train yourself on things like drawing your firearm, sighting a shot, and moving into a steady stance. It’s this latter set of shooting activities underscored with intentionality that actually helps you. But how?
The biggest reason you need to keep in practice boils down to safety. When you’re familiar and comfortable with each firearm you own, you and those around you will be safer. Shooting regularly with attention to your stance, grip, and grouping helps you become more familiar with the feel of your firearm. It also helps you create muscle memory to go from relaxed to a ready shooting stance more quickly. The more familiar you are with your AR, the less likely you are to flinch hard or fumble because you feel unsteady. Think about it this way: fumbling a knife while cooking is dangerous enough, fumbling a firearm is exponentially more so. The more familiar and comfortable you are, the less likely you are to be unsteady whenever you handle your firearm.
This sort of piggybacks on building muscle memory. Regular shooting practice will, as you probably guessed, help improve both your accuracy and your precision. For shooting newbies, accuracy refers to proximity to the target, while precision generally refers to your grouping; the closer together your shots are, the better your precision. Regular practice helps your aim in a couple of ways. First, if you take the time to move slowly and intentionally from relaxed to ready, you build up positive muscle memory. This makes it easier to find a steady stance and firm grip without needing to fiddle around or resituate. As you build up that muscle memory, you’ll be able to draw and move to that firm grip more and more quickly. You’ll also grow more comfortable with sighting in, meaning you’ll be able to hone in on ways to improve your accuracy.
Consistent shooting practice also means you’ll grow more comfortable with the feeling of firing and the recoil, which will ultimately help you minimize your instinct to flinch. Dry firing drills can go a long way toward helping you become comfortable with the feeling of firing, but it isn’t a replacement for actually firing rounds. And, of course, it’s important to remember that shooting is a skill you build up and lose depending on how frequently you keep up your skills. If you build up a solid proficiency, you can still lose all of that ability if you go months without taking your AR out to the range.
The AR 15 in particular is known for how easy it is to exchange or replace components, so odds are good you’ll swap out to a few custom AR parts at some point. Maybe you’ll get a new carrier group, try out a new hand stop, or swap out for an entirely new upper receiver assembly. Shooting practice is a good way to get a feel for the changes, if any, that can occur when you swap out parts or accessories.
For additional ways to improve your grip and hone your aim, try a lightweight, durable hand stop or rail scales. Check out RailScales online to learn more!