There are a few universal drills, standards and qualifiers I use regularly. I go alone or with friends and students. As for training with others I’m not certain without an expert present that self-training can only lead to engrained habits of poor tactics and form.
There are a lot of terms used in firearms training, and often this can cause confusion. I like to think of training with four parts aligned with the Triad of Armed Self-Defense; knowledge, training, practice and measuring. Some of this can be done individually, some with friends but I’ve found it best to always have someone with expertise present.
Knowledge is learning about shooting. It’s a passive activity to a large extent. In a LCDT class this is where you will spend 75% or more of your time, being lectured on guns, technique and even to some degree tactics.
Training is where you take action and learn to apply the knowledge you’ve gathered. Ideally, you should have an expert who can make necessary corrections and instruct you on how to get to the point of competence more quickly. I’m not a fan of videoing my practice session but many use it to good benefit. Training is what you get from a professional instructor.
Practice is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you turn knowledge and training into actions you can execute unconsciously under stress. You can practice on your own or with a group using live fire and dry fire. But you want to make sure you’re disciplined about it. 10 minutes of perfect practice daily is way more effective than two hours of randomly throwing rounds downrange once a week/month.
Measuring your ability and the effectiveness of your training and practice is a critical element in learning, it is taking the test to see how well you perform over time and it will decidedly tell you what stage of learning you have reached. You can test yourself with a timer and a scored drill, with friends in informal competition and in formal competition like IDPA or USPSA.
There are four levels of competence in learning or mastering a physical skill; unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence. We tell our students that by the end of a class they will be consciously competent but will lose it quickly if they do not practice what they have learned. We often see students a year or two later who have zero skills, just like the day they first came to a class because they had not practiced. Shooting at the range is not practice, it is simply measuring the effectiveness of your practice.
Unconscious incompetence is what we see at public ranges on a daily basis, where people don’t know what they don’t know. They believe they are practicing but in most cases they are only engraining bad habits and celebrate openly when they make one hit out of a magazine. 10% effectiveness is not success.
Conscious incompetence is where our students generally come from, they know they don’t know but want the knowledge and education.
Conscious competence is where we hope to have our students by the end of the first day of training, they have knowledge, and understanding and now know how to do something. They may to a large degree still have to consciously think about the individual steps to perform successfully. This can become the most frustrating stage of learning, because they may know what you need to do but have yet to have practiced enough for the skill to be unconsciously performed and often their technique will fall apart under the stress of performing on command. When we have students come back for additional training this is when the wheels fall off the bus, they know what they should do but have not committed the skill to memory.
Unconscious competence is when you can perform a skill without consciously thinking about it, while your attention is elsewhere, or under extreme stress. Driving without having a wreck is to a large degree an example of unconscious competence. Once you start the engine and engage the transmission your unconscious drives the process. If you were to actually try to cognitively recognize each visual and audible input and conscious plan a reaction you would have multiple accidents in one trip. When someone reaches this phase with a particular skill, it is generally called mastery, you can drive without endangering yours or others’ lives, hopefully.
If your technique falls apart under stress, it’s a sign that you’re in the conscious competence stage and you need a combination of better mental control and more practice. If your technique doesn’t fall apart under stress, then it’s an indication that you have achieved unconscious competence and will want to gradually increase your speed and difficulty to stretch your skills even further.
Failing to train IS training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training