Are Standards Just a way of Cheating Ourselves?

Are Standards Just a way of Cheating Ourselves?

October 06, 2021

Originally Published 05MAR2018

Standards exist to measure one’s proficiency. Technically, a standard is a set of rules that one must adhere to. The standard is either met, or it is not. In that vein, repeatedly practicing a standard drill does not mark true skill level. It marks one’s ability to meet a very narrow set of parameters. The core element of these standards is that if a shooter has attained a certain level of proficiency, he will be ably to call upon the few skills in his vast library of skills to pass the standard. When reality hits us, the standard has been published long before a student has attempted to pass it. The shortcut that we, as humans, will do is to only practice that tiny sliver of skills to maximize our ability to meet the standard. At no point is there a motivator to even begin to amass a large library of skills, we already know which ones will be needed. The problem is, in our shooting world, the standard being tested is just a small representation of a larger skillset one is assumed to have.
Precision Skills on display

Sometimes we perform this standard to show others that we meet the required skill level. The assumption on their part is all of the unused skills for that standard are at a similar level. However, shooters often game the system by focusing only on the ones they know they will be tested on. Now they are selling a false bill of goods. I see no reason why a student should know the specifics of a standard they will be performing beforehand. Sure, tell them that we are going to be doing some testing with pistols on Wednesday. Bring a guns, bullets and rig to wear it. And here’s the most important thing to bring...all the skills you have. Now, of the three-hundred thousand things a dude can do with a pistol in his hand, we can select a few and test him on those with a much better sense of his overall proficiency level.  We certainly don’t have time to test him on all of them on Wednesday, so this will give us a coarse picture of where he is and then we can decide if he is suited for whatever task we are testing him for, or to if he warrants making it to a further round of testing where we add more and more skills to the required tests.

What about when we are testing ourselves? I hope you all record your results when you practice the things you learned at training. This is how we measure our progress. If we learn some techniques at training, we should be practicing them. At some point we will test ourselves and measure that to prior results. Over time, this tells us if our practice regimen is working. Whether we pass or fail the published standard, it can be used as a yardstick.

However, if we know we’re going to time our El Pres the first weekend of every month, what to stop us from only practicing the 3 things an El pres measures? This is exactly why I can make a novice shooter an IDPA master class shooter in a weekend. He will lock up last place in every match he goes to because matches test an array of skills, but I can make him real good at the few needed for the classifier in a relatively short period of time. We might run the actual standard at the very beginning and at the beginning of day two to measure progress, but with the published requirements well known, it would be a cakewalk to pass it by the end of a quality 16 hours of instruction in doing so.
That's not quite an El Pres homie.

There are professional schools that train people to pass the Navy qual. Every block of instruction is focused around getting a student to pass it. When it’s over they are pretty damn good at a tiny number of things, and they often easily pass the qual. But is that a true measure of how overall proficient they are?

Wouldn’t  it make more sense to have a catalog of standards that are randomly chosen on our test date? Standards that test a wide variety of shooting skills. We go to the range 4 times a month (I picked that randomly). We practice the things we wrote down before we left the house. A few hours later, before we leave. We bust out one of those standards and perform it to our ability. We record that. That is our yardstick.

With a vast array of standards, we could easily choose a random one weekly so that in a moderate amount of range visits, we are back to ones we’ve already done and can track our progress. Assuming there are published requirement for pass/fail for these standards, we can even compare ourselves to those. If a student can pass that standard, cold, on-demand, with no advanced time to prep for those specific circumstances, then we can finally assume that he has a proficiency level equal to what we are asking him to perform on any given standard.

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