How can you increase your shooting performance by failing? Make more mistakes.

When in training, most of us try to do our best to either increase or maintain our shooting skills which takes commitment, time on gun, and hard-to-find ammo. It takes even more of the same to reach the consistency desired for on-demand shooting performance. What are three key teach points that can give you the greatest gains with the least amount of time and ammo? These are comfort, failure and nuggets.

Try not to dwell on the failure itself
or become emotionally attached to it.


As crazy as it sounds, if you’re not making mistakes, to include mental errors, then you’re not pushing your skills hard enough to move past your comfort zone. Only when you step outside your comfort zone can that less-travelled-path be included as part of your gained ground. As a result, that newly earned real estate becomes part of your new comfort zone and pushes the edge of your skills envelop that much further out.


If you are not failing, you’re not training. If you can run a drill and easily meet your par times every time and it’s well within your comfort zone, then you need to change your target difficulty. Either move it further away, make it smaller, decrease your par time, introduce movement, or increase the penalty for a miss.


It must be challenging for you, but it must also be an attainable goal. Fail quickly. Try not to make that same mistake next time and don’t let it drag you down. Try not to dwell on the failure itself or become emotionally attached to it. Quickly recover and move on.


Every round fired teaches a valuable lesson. Immediately after a shooting process error, self-diagnose by asking yourself “What went wrong on that one? Did I change my visual focus? Did I let up on my mental focus gas pedal? Did I move the muzzle or change my grip during the press? These are the priceless learning kernels (nuggets) that can be used to increase your shooting performance. What did it teach you? What parts went right that you will do again and what parts went wrong and how would you fix it next time? Allow the lesson to teach you.

Mental Recovery

Part of failing is to recover mentally. One training day on a firing range with friends out in the sunny Arizona desert, following a rare but astonishingly good run that I had, Master Shooting Instructor Rob Leatham looked over at me and said with a devilish smirk; “Your accomplishments mean absolutely nothing to me!” We all laughed out loud, but also understood what was equally implied – failure is your best teacher.

The bottom line is that no matter how well you did or what errors you made, that shot is now over. In the words of Japan’s greatest swordsman Miyamoto Musashi; “Do not keep your mind on where you hit. Bring your mind back to the present.” It’s all about what you can do right now. What you do right now is precisely what defines your shooting performance.

Part of failing is to recover mentally.

If you want to increase your skill, the masters recommend you start failing more in training, find your limitations, expand your comfort zone, and increase your personal understanding of the shooting process.

When you make a mistake, you are offered a valuable training opportunity. One that can increase your comfort zone, teach you how to make smaller and less-frequent errors, and allow you to take home as many nuggets as you can process. All of which will improve your on-demand shooting performance. If you genuinely want to be a better shooter, you owe it to yourself to fail more often.