Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

by Braxton Taylor

It’s very easy to fall into a rut with the shooting sports. We go to the same ranges. We shoot the same matches with the same gun. Because we crave positive reinforcement, we tend to shoot the drills we’re good at, over and over again. This can lead to stagnation and complacency. We’re comfortable inside our bubbles, and we’re good at shooting (at least as far as we know). Why should we change?

The fact is, though, that growth and improvement rarely, if ever, happen inside the bubble of stagnation, so if you’ve reached a plateau or aren’t really sure how good you really are, it may be time to break out of your shell and try something new. 

In the past few weeks, I’ve had two opportunities to do exactly that. The first was The Complete Combatant’s “Pistol Essentials and Beyond,” taught by Brian Hill. (Full disclosure: Brian’s spouse, Shelley, is a regular contributor to Shooting Illustrated). Brian’s background is a combination of law enforcement work as a deputy sheriff in Georgia and an extensive career in the martial arts, including owning and operating his own gym. A two-day pistol class focused on personal defense is normally right inside my comfort zone, as I have hundreds of hours in that sort of class. However, aside from Brian and myself, this class was 100-percent women. This is a reversal of every class I’ve either been in or taught, where women make up a minority of the attendees. I got to see what life was like on the other side of the fence, and some things were the same, and some were definitely not. 

The purpose of a instructor is to correct errors and build up shooters. We forget that sometimes.

The structure of Brian’s class was pretty much identical to every other class I’ve taken, with 13 students (including me) lined up on the firing line for each course of fire. There were different levels of experience on the firing line. Some of the ladies there were excellent shots, making perfect scores of the drills and tests we shot. Some were in a pistol class for the first time, and Brian handled this difference in ability in a safe and supportive manner. 

Which brings me to one of the biggest differences between this class and other classes I’ve been in, namely, how the students interacted with each other. For the most part, the majority male environment has led to some absolutely epic bouts of trash-talking and oneupmanship when someone drops an errant shot. This is usually done in good fun, and we guys see it as a way to let that poor soul there is room (often ample room) for improvement. 

The women in this class, however, didn’t do anything like that. They were all supportive of each other and created a positive learning environment where rapid improvement was possible and indeed actually happened. Part of this is due to Brian’s coaching style, which stresses such things, but I’ve never seen it happen to this extent in classes where guys made up the majority of students. Was I in my comfort zone? Sorta. Did learning occur? Very much yes. 

WAY outside of my comfort zone.

The second opportunity came the next week, where I went to a three day industry event with Hornady ammunition and Burris Optics, hunting coyotes on the windswept prairies of eastern Wyoming. 

I am not a hunter. I am much more comfortable in the worlds of personal defense and practical pistol competition. As a teen, I spent a few Sunday afternoons popping off gophers in the fields of my relatives farms in western Canada and will harvest a feral hog about once a year or so, but that’s about it. This event, though, was built 100-percent around coyote hunting during the day, using Burris’s new Veracity PH and Eliminator 6 opticss. At night, we’d continue to hunt coyotes using the latest in thermal optics from Burris. The firearms we used to accomplish this task were a combination of bolt-action rifles and AR-15s, all chambered in Hornady’s new 22 ARC round, which was designed with this sort of thing in mind.

Once again, I was out of my comfort zone. I’ve shot long-range precision rifle competitions before, and am no stranger to engaging long range targets with an AR-15, Engaging coyotes, who run and duck and dodge and show up and disappear at a moment’s notice? That’s a different thing, especially since I live in Florida, and this was done in locale not known for its balmy winter weather. Fortunately for me, there were experienced predator hunters along on the hunt who helped me stumble my way through the hunt, and our experienced guides called in enough coyotes to give me a real shot at collecting my first coyote. 

Did I accomplish this task? No. I had a 125-yard shot on a coyote who was standing still at the base of our stand, but I set the crosshairs over the head of that particular coyote, so when I pulled the trigger, ol’ Wile E. lived to run a little while longer. It wasn’t the fault of the optics, as the laser rangefinder in the Eliminator 6 called out the correct range and set up the reticle perfectly to make the shot. 22 ARC is a terrific cartridge, pushing out a 62-grain bullet at 3,000 fps or more, and running straight as an arrow out beyond 250 yards. So why did I miss?

What it boils down is, I missed the shot because of me. At a precision rifle match, if I miss the first shot, there’s usually an opportunity to send a makeup shot downrange. The coyote I shot at and missed, however, scampered away unscathed, and any follow-up shot was an iffy proposition at best. Lesson learned: The first shot is always the most important shot. If you’re not set up properly to take that shot, you’re probably going to fail. 

Which brings these experiences full circle, as it’s the first shot which matters the most in a defensive encounter and on a hunting trip, and I needed to get out of my comfort zone to truly understand that concept. 

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