When I'm teaching friends about shooting, I strongly recommend that they keep a journal to document the journey. Sure, journaling can be tedious and sometimes it's hard to see why it might be helpful. But a journal is not only to keep a history of the past but to plan for the future. Have you ever gotten to the range and just gone completely blank on what you needed to practice? So you end up just kind of shooting at a target without feeling like you have accomplished anything. A journal can help with that. A good shooting journal will assist with keeping track of goals and drills, as well as providing a look back at just how far you've come as a shooter.
Goals - I read a quote recently that if you don’t track progress, there will be none. This is as true for shooting as for any type of goal in life. Even if you just set some short term goals, as long as you can measure them, you’ll find yourself making progress if you work towards those goals. Without getting into the meat and potatoes of setting goals, they should be measureable. “I want to shoot better,” is not a good goal. “I want to hit 90% of my shots in an 8” circle,” is better. Use your journal to write down your shooting goals, which will in turn, help you organize your range time.
Drills – A Google search of “handgun drills” will uncover many for you to choose from. Jot down some of your favorites to avoid that range time mental block we all seem to experience from time to time. The drills will be right there in your journal. Just select a few and get to work (or fun!).
Round Count – Firearms have parts that will wear over time, just like your vehicle. But, your vehicle has an odometer and maintenance is performed in accordance with mileage. Your firearm doesn’t have an odometer or any way to tell you just how much you’ve used it. With each of my firearms, I keep track of how many rounds I have shot. That way, I have a visual of just when it might getting to be time to replace some parts before I start to experience malfunctions. It’s also pretty surprising how many rounds you actually shoot.
Equipment Maintenance/Replacements – Make a note of when you change your sights, or your springs or your barrel. These changes may make a subtle difference in your shooting and will help you troubleshoot if issues begin. You can either track the issues to the equipment change or be able to rule that out as the cause. A good idea is to note when you cleaned your firearm. The recommended cleaning schedule is every 200 rounds. It’s amazing how fast you can get to 200 rounds. Sometimes that’s a single range trip.
Mental Game – Much of shooting, like golf or other sports, is mental. So you should track your mental game. Is your practice feeling a bit off? Make some notes about that. Are you distracted by a busy life and it’s affecting your shooting? Jot that down. Was the practice great and you were feeling awesome? Especially note that! Take note of what’s right about your mental game and what needs improving.
Practice Summary – If you outline your practice in line with your goals, then journal about the practice, over time you’ll have a tidy practice summary. You can look back and see how long it’s been since you’ve practiced shooting with only your non-dominant hand.
Types of Journals
So what type of journal do you need? The answer is easy. Use the journal that works for you. Overall, I’d recommend having a journal that fits in your range bag. I like to journal about my shooting while still at the range. It’s amazing how much time affects perception if too much passes between shooting and journaling. A journal can be a small notebook such as this with just some quick notes in it. It’s cheap and convenient but no less valuable.
Some shooters like to include graphs, types of ammunition, weather or just everything to include doodles. Those shooters will need a journal that can accomodate that. Some journals more resemble scrapbooks with mementos and pictures included. One friend that I work with regularly uses Evernote to keep her journal electronically. While we’re at the range, she takes pictures of her target on her phone, notes the drills used and then adds to it when she’s done. It’s so convenient and takes up no extra room in her shooting bag. There are also some apps, such as Shooters Diary, that allow you to keep an electronic journal. Another positive of the electronic version is that you always have it with you, even if you're not at the range. So, in short, if you’re a person focused on convenience, choose a journal that aligns with that. If you would like something more elaborate, choose that. Choose what you will use and enjoy!
Sometimes the hardest part of trying something new is taking the first step. Journaling about your shooting journey doesn’t have to be complex. But months and years down the road, you’ll be glad you made the decision to start a shooting journal. You can look back and see your progress and see just how much you have improved over time. Or you can use it to keep track of your shooting goals and see where you need to set new ones. Journaling is never a waste of time and can often save you time by helping your organize your range time.
Bonus: To get you started, I’ve put together ten drills FREE that you can use in your journal. These are formatted to fit on Avery Label 5163, so you can print them, peel them off and then stick them in your journal, so they’re handy. Or just print the whole sheet and use it that way!
Download your BASIC TEN DRILLS HERE!