Training Phases

After a skill is learned, the role of training is to enhance performance. This enhancement is a cycle and requires a balanced approach. The skill of marksmanship directly relates to combat performance and thus, needs reinforcement. Speed is a combat skill that also needs reinforcement.

Speed and Accuracy are two sides of the same coin. The trick to mastering a skill lies in balancing competing requirements. Skill acquisition/learning can be broken down into phases. When we understand these phases, we can develop a plan to accomplish our goals and reinforce our skills.

In this section we will offer a few examples techniques in order to illustrate our point. This is not where we debate the pros and cons of a given technique, we'll do that in the podcast and other sections of this web site.

Phase I: Skill Acquisition

Choice of Technique. This is a critical step in skills acquisition. We tend to imprint the technique we first learn and then default to that technique under stress.

For example: when performing a magazine change, should we "sling shot" or "slide release"? Not getting into the merits of either technique, we must determine the technique's suitablity. Can the technique impact the operation of the weapon?


Pistol Type


Affected by
Slide Release or Slingshot Method


Both techniques work without detrimental effect


Beretta 92f

"Slingshotting" the slide can engage the safety.

Yes, Slingshot

This means that shooters must be taught the possible pit falls of a given technique vs. their weapon type. Then they must learn how to apply that technique with those problems in mind.

Care must be taken in deciding which technique one should learn.

Phase II: Skill Reinforcement

This phase is process oriented.

The procedure has been learned and is reinforced/mastered here in Phase II. Pay careful attention to components of the skill. Stop when needed and immediately correct flawed technique. A good example of Phase II: Accuracy Drills. Fundamentals of shooting are reinforced in competent shooters and further developed in novices. Phase II training will give shooters greater confidence in accuracy skills and allow them to progress to Phase III.

Phase III: Skill Performance

This phase is goal oriented. Shooters must show some level of competence or mastery before progressing to this level. Staying with the example of marksmanship, here we push the level of ability. The instructor/coach/shooter must identify an acceptable level of accuracy in a given period of time. Remember we are goal oriented not process oriented. we are concentrating on the ability to deliver effective rounds to target.

Phase IV: Sparring

This phase is application of skill to environment. Sparring should progress through increasing levels of intensity. Once a high level of intensity has been reached scenario and environment should be changed regularly. There will be more on sparring in the articles and podcast sections in the future.

Boxers don't spar all the time. They practice punching too.
When you reach the level of sparring a new training plan must be established. The new plan should distribute time and resources as needed, focusing on identified weeknesses.

Range Drills + Sparring = Training Time Sparring is good for mental conditioning. It is very bad for skills maintenance. Sparring may identify weak skills but it can also reinforce sloppy skills performance. Thus, range time is needed to ground shooters in their fundamentals and SOPs.

Phase II + Phase III = Range Time Shooters should balance their range time between Phases II and III. This time division is based on self and external evaluation and focused on critically weak skills. If magazine changes have been identified as a weak skill, then the first drill of the day should be mag changes performed at Phase II pace. Then progress to a more goal oriented drill after you are satisfied with performance.

Training is a cycle. Remember that skills development and sparring are conditioning. You are setting up subconscious cues and triggers for certain actions. If you train well these actions require no conscious thought. If you neglect any aspect of your skills development from malfunctions to accuracy. They will not be there when they matter most.

The gunfight is won or lost on the range, in sparring and in the mind long before the test of combat.

Daily Drills

    Why drill daily?

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