We get a lot of questions about the structure of our various firearms training curricula. Melissa Scholar, our Training Manager, has designed these training programs to meet the needs of an incredibly diverse audience. We got here by repetition, trial and error, and breaking down the various firearms skills into highly specific areas. Generally, it’s a Big Picture class like “Intro to Defensive Pistol”, followed by three Skill Builder classes. Here’s why we train the way we train.
Big Picture Classes
The “Big Picture” classes for pistol training are Intro to Defensive Pistol, Holster Draws, Applied Movement, and Applied Positioning. We offer similar big picture classes for rifle and shotgun. These classes are generally 3-4 hours long. We use some of that time in the classroom learning the basics. The rest of the time you are on the range, putting into action what you just learned. The purpose of these classes is to lay a solid foundation for firearms safety, use, and maintenance.
But there is so much material to cover in these 3-4 hour classes that knowledge retention is difficult. We find that the best learners usually take home about 30% of the material presented in class. This isn’t college, so there’s no exam, and therefore very little studying going on after class. There are some exceptions to that, and you know who you are. 🙂
Most students retain what is (a) brand new or (b) really interesting to them as an individual learner. But those two things don’t always mesh with what the instructor needs you to learn. That’s why we created the 1-hour Skill Builders classes: focus, focus, focus.
Skill Builder classes are one hour classes focused on one specific skill. You repeat that skill until you get it right. Then you repeat that skill – correctly performed – until it becomes muscle memory. When you focus on just one piece of the big picture, your mastery of that one piece comes much faster than if you attempted to practice everything, all the time.
Here’s an analogy. If you want to improve at soccer, you can go to soccer practice every day for 1-2 hours, working on a wide variety of skills. You’ll improve, but your growth will be limited to the total amount of time you put into improving specific skills. Or, alternatively, you could spend that 1-2 hours per day focusing on one specific skill the entire time. Very soon, you will master that skill, and then you can focus on the next skill you want to master. Mastery requires maintenance and practice, which is very different from learning how to do something.
Finally, it’s the repetition that builds your skill into muscle memory. Once you know how to do something, you can do it. But can you do it blindfolded? When you can repeat a task – one like changing out the magazine in your Sig P320 – blindfolded, then you can say you’re well on your way to mastering that skill. As you can imagine, such mastery requires repetition.
How many times do you think Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski practiced their pass plays? They repeated them so often, in practice and in games, that they never had to think about what to do and when. It was 100% muscle memory. That’s why we train towards muscle memory.
The result is what we’re after. When you’ve put in the time, done the reps, mastered the skill, you won’t have to think when the time comes and you are required to put that skill to use. You’ll just do it, without thinking.