When To Make A Change

By Jace Bauserman

Man loading pistol outside

You’re practicing hard, but the results don’t match the effort. You’ve tried working on your form. You’ve hired an instructor. Nothing seems to be working. If you’re new to shooting and it isn’t panning out like you’d hoped, don’t get frustrated—take action.

Don’t Ignore The Signs

Nobody likes it when performance doesn’t live up to their hopes and expectations. But when it comes to shooting—especially shooting a firearm for self-defense—sweeping the problem under the rug is the worst thing you can do. Don’t stop training. If you’re going to tote a firearm for defense, you’d better know how to use it and use it well. Halting regular practice sessions out of frustration not only leads to increased accuracy issues, but also hinders muscle memory.

Any shooting discipline is personal, so bear with a personal example. I cut my teeth shooting upland birds and waterfowl with a pump shotgun. But at the age of 22, I jumped full-on into archery. When I walked out of the pro shop that June day, I was toting a brand-new 32-inch axle-to-axle bow with a five-pin sight and light arrows.

Although the setup was superb, I fought it for a year. I missed a couple of deer and just wasn’t shooting well. My form was solid. I finally visited a certified archery coach who said everything, for the most part, looked good. I needed to make a gear change.

That day, I traded my bow for a longer model and went to a single vertical pin slider sight. I added some weight to my stabilizer and selected stiffer arrows. It was a huge change. I ate some coin, but the result forever changed my shooting. That season I climbed onto the podium at a few state-sanctioned shoots. Sometimes, a big change is simply necessary.

How To Start

If you’ve worked with an experienced shooter and have eliminated any major flaw in your fundamentals, stop, take a breath and start tinkering. First, play with some different ammunition. You might find your firearm likes a certain load better than another. This is an easy, inexpensive fix.

Another quick fix is holster choice. If it seems counter-intuitive that a holster would have any bearing on shooting accuracy, Minnesota police officer and former Marine, George Walker, explains. “I’ve gone through dozens of holsters and experimented with throngs of carry positions,” he says. “The key is finding a holster that feels comfortable for your body type, promises functionality and builds confidence. You won’t shoot well if your mind is constantly worrying about the firearm retrieval process.”

“Being able to effectively operate your firearm and put a round on target is all that matters. If you can’t do that, it’s time for a weapon change.”—Jim Gilliland

If it’s not the ammo and not the holster, it might be the cartridge. Jim Gilliland is a former Army Ranger. He did a pair of tours in Afghanistan and another two in Iraq. He is a self-defense wizard, and he’s quick to point out that certain firearms and calibers aren’t for everyone.

“It happens a lot,” Gilliland says. “I start working with a shooter and can tell from the get-go the firearm is too much for them. It might be too heavy in terms of weight or produce recoil the shooter isn’t comfortable with. Being able to effectively operate your firearm and put a round on target is all that matters. If you can’t do that, it’s time for a weapon change.”

Go For It

As was the case with my archery experience, a gear change might be all a shooter needs to build confidence and start experiencing the accuracy they’re looking for. Good shooting leads to more shooting. More shooting leads to confidence. Confidence leads to an ability to put a round on target even during an intense situation. If you feel like a big change is necessary, don’t be afraid to make it.