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I've been shooting guns for as long as I can remember, and for the longest time I had a pretty high opinion of my own skills with a firearm. I thought I knew everything there was to know about shooting. Boy, was I wrong. After a couple of friendly sessions with a mate who shoots competitively, I realized just how much I had to learn.

If you want to develop any sort of proficiency with a gun, you can't go it alone. You need lessons, and the best place to get these is shooting school. With the help of a proper instructor you'll improve rapidly, and learn the tricks and techniques that will have you shooting straight and true.

It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or have some experience with a gun. But before you walk into the first shooting school you find, there's a few things to consider before you start.

Determine your objective

Before you sign up for any lessons it's important to understand what you're trying to achieve. Are you learning a new firearm, or are there certain skills you'd like to develop? Be honest with yourself. In my opinion, everyone could benefit from basic shooting drills, but for me, stress shooting training is a lot more fun. Ultimately though, you need to understand what you're trying to learn before you sign up to any class, as you need to ensure it'll teach you what you want to know.

Pick a goal to master

Within the training that you're doing, I find myself much more motivated when I can see my progress towards a specific goal. Whether this is a faster transition between weapons, greater accuracy at a distance, or even a faster reload time. Pick one, and make sure that this will be covered in the curriculum of the course. That way, you know there will be ample time, opportunity and one-on-one training with the instructor so you will improve.

Don't go in blind

Of course, I'd only ever recommend a training facility that has come recommended, so get online and do your research. See what other shooters are saying about the quality of instruction, the safety procedures, and ask around. Maybe one of your friends has trained there before and they can give you a first-hand insight into what the classes are like. More importantly, ask them about what they learned and ensure it lines up with the skills you're looking to improve.

Research your instructor

It seems silly, but many people hesitate when it comes to asking a potential instructor about their background. In my experience, there is no need to worry, and most instructors will be happy to run through their qualifications and long list of merits with you. The trouble is, the more experience an instructor has, the more in-demand their courses will be. Increasing both the cost, and the available slots in their courses. But that's not the most important part. Experience doesn't always align with the ability to teach, so spend time researching your instructor too. I'd even recommend hiring them for a single session to get a feel for their style, and teaching methods, before investing hundreds of dollars in a course. That way, you know they'll be a perfect fit.

Bring the right gear

Once you've signed up for a class ensure you read the requirements. Without fail, there's almost always one guy who turns up on the day without the proper safety gear. Heck, one time a guy turned up without his rifle. He assumed it'd be provided, and was too shy to actually ask. Big mistake, as he missed the first class and was playing catch up over the rest of the lessons. Most good schools will tell you exactly what to bring to shooting school, so make sure you understand what's needed and if something is unclear simply ask.

Remember to keep practicing

Repetition is key when it comes to developing good shooting form, and if you're going to invest in lessons ensure you're also investing in regular practice sessions too. So grab some targets and make it a point to get to the range on your own time. I'd also recommend getting to every class. I understand scheduling conflicts occur, but it's very difficult to learn if you're skipping classes and aren't following a proper training schedule. So do your practice exercises, take the time to drill every element into your brain, and you'll quickly see the improvements.

Be willing to change schools

As your skills develop and you need to learn more, it may come time to change schools. The trick to finding a good shooting school is to ensure you're comfortable with the instructor, they understand your abilities and training needs, and there's scope for continual learning over time. Without these, you're going to hit a plateau, and it's then you need to be willing to change.

My first shooting school gave me a good handle of the basics, but over time I quickly mastered everything their instructors could teach. They didn't have the facilities or resources to provide more advanced courses, like stress testing or running students through real-life scenarios. So, I had to change. It's important you not only find a good school, but you're constantly reassessing if the classes and lessons you're spending money on are a worthy investment. If they're not, then change.

Choosing the right shooting school comes down to a number of factors, but most importantly is the question of what you'll learn. Before signing up anywhere, ensure you'll be getting the training you need, in a safe environment with a highly experienced instructor. That's how you'll progress.

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