Shooting is about cycles and there are a variety of cycles; the cycle of practice, the cycle of competition, the cycle of the score and the cycle of trust. All of these cycles are interconnected, but there’s no doubt the cycle we’re all interested in is the cycle to raise the score.
What does it take to raise your score? Most would say practice, practice and more practice, but there’s more to it than just practice alone. Competition shooting is all-encompassing. It’s an encompassment of your physical ability, mental mastery, emotional control and trust in your equipment.
When you step up to the line, trust is the key and that trust is two-fold. The first is trust in yourself, in your ability to make the shot and execute it exactly the same way every time. Practice builds that self-trust. The second part is trusting your equipment; trust in your gun and your ammunition. Trusting your gun to move the way you want it to, to complete the entire cycle of executing the shot from when you first see the target down the barrel, to pulling the trigger, to the shot firing and finally seeing the target break. That’s trust in your gun. Then there’s trust in your ammunition. Trusting in its performance to have the same velocity and the same pattern you’ve trained yourself to shoot with. That’s where reloading comes in. Reloading is part of the cycle of shooting.
I’ve written about this topic before. It’s when I first learned to reload that I found out about the cycles of competition shooting. I would reload spent hulls, then go out to the range the next day, drop them in my gun, pull the trigger, watch the target break, keep the empty hull, reload it again that evening and start the cycle all over again. Reloading those hulls brings all the cycles together. How so? Shooting at the practice range is not the only form of good practice. When I would reload, I was also thinking about my game and my performance. Reloading brings you into the entire shooting process. Now, I’m not advocating some deep, Zen-like philosophy. We all know that mental toughness is 90% of the competition game and ultimately, learning to control your mental game will raise your score.
I know your objections. Reloading is not practice, it’s not breaking targets. It’s not, but neither is goal setting, mental imagery or working out to build stamina. However, each one of those is part of the cycle of competition shooting.
Reloading builds trust. Trust in your ammunition and confidence in your performance. You know your ammunition will perform because you built the load. You may ask, don’t you get that from factory ammo? You’re supposed to and most of the time you do, but buying boxes of ammunition from the local sporting goods store doesn’t build trust or force you to work on your mental game.
I’m an avid proponent of using reloads for practice. Factory ammunition is for actual competition, not for practice when you’re working on your game and concentrating on one of the many cycles that are part of the game. All through my competitive career I reloaded, even after I had an ammunition sponsor. Why? Because reloading is part of a cycle and as each cycle is intertwined with each other, I found the cycles got stronger as long as they remained connected. You can’t do one cycle and not the other. Besides, do you really want to add shopping to your cycles?