Safety and Training

Keeping Your Eyes on the Target: The Importance of Setting Shooting Goals

Picture shows a young woman holding a pistol to a target.

You are probably thinking that as a writer I fill my mornings with shooting guns at the shooting range, while my afternoons are spent spreading powder residue all over my laptop keys at Starbucks. The fact is I spend quite a bit of time updating and maintaining old blog posts. Frequently, I come across articles that make me chuckle—and sometimes cringe—because I was so wet behind the ears. In many ways, I still am. There is still so much to learn. But, I’m getting there. Every range trip is a small step toward my end goal. To see improvements in our shooting ability we all need to set goals.

Goals can be small—getting to the post office before noon to mail a check—or big, like climbing to the top of Mount Everest. Whether a goal is big or small, usually a reward follows after each goal is accomplished—such as praise from the boss or a boost of self-confidence. In fact, psychologists have found that setting, achieving and working towards goals makes us happier people. Goals keep us on track, organized and focused. Are not all these skills needed to be a proficient shooter? To hit what you are aiming for you must properly align your sights (on track), remember the proper grip, breathing and stance (organized), and most importantly, be safe (focused). All while keeping your eyes on the target. This is what I mean when I say, “keep your eyes on the target”—set a goal and then do what it takes to reach it. All successful competitive shooters set attainable goals. Without them, they would not be winners. Setting goals not only improves your shooting, optimizes range time-saving you time and money, but also builds self-confidence.

Picture shows a young woman holding a pistol to a target.
Whatever your goal is, training specifically for that goal every time you are at the range gets you a step closer to mastering that skill. (Original picture courtesy of Oleg Volk.)

I know how hard it can be to achieve a goal. How many times have you awaken on New Year’s Day to say, “This year is the year I’m losing 20 pounds,” but never actually make it to the gym or commit to cleaning out in the closets in March, but the closest you come is to throwing away a few pairs of socks with holes in them? We women wear many hats throughout the day—wife, mother, boss, entrepreneur, daughter, chef, event coordinator, chauffeur and maid, to name a few—that is seems nearly impossible to find time to sit down and write out a goal, much less work to achieve it. Nevertheless, setting goals is fundamental to our daily lives. Without goals, we wouldn’t get anywhere.

“So, how do I start?” you ask. First, for accountability sake, write it down. Studies show that people who write their goal down are more likely to achieve it. Think about your long-term goal. For example, it is probably something along the lines of “I want to be a better shot.” That’s a good goal to have. However, it is vague and immeasurable. When setting goals, experts tell us to use the acronym S.M.A.R.T.

S- Specific

M- Measurable

A- Attainable

R- Relevant

T- Time-bound

After narrowing down a specific goal you want to meet, you will want to plan how you are going to achieve that goal. This will be a set of smaller goals. Now, here comes the big part—outlining how you are going to get there and in what time frame. Depending on your end goal, it may take a year or it may take a week. If your goal is to win a 3-Gun Competition, it will probably take you longer than if you set a goal of learning how to shoot clays. Either way, once you write out your action plan, set a date in which you want to achieve that goal. With any shooting goal, your actions to get there will most likely include how much time you will spend at the range, how many hours a week you will dry fire at home, or how many times a month you will get private instruction or take a class.

To help illustrate how to use S.M.A.R.T. let us look at one of my friend’s goals.

Two years ago, my friend set out to become a Distinguished Expert in the NRA Marksmanship Program in rimfire rifle. This is a specific goal. It is measureable, because the NRA establishes rules and scoring you must follow to qualify for each rank as you work towards Distinguished Expert. To attain the goal, she joined a local women’s shooting league and twice a year during league season, she shoots once a week toward her goal. It is relevant because shooting is something she enjoys. Though it is taking her longer than originally expected, she plans to reach her goal by year’s end —time-bound.

Whatever your goal is, training specifically for that goal every time you are at the range gets you a step closer to mastering that skill. World Championship shooter, Julie Golob reminds us, however, to always set aside time to practice our fundamentals, “Sometimes shooters focus solely on what they’re bad at, and that results in losing the ability to be good at what they’re good at.” Another important tip from Julie is to set goals according to your own ability. Challenge yourself, but do not make the goal impossible to attain it—hence the “A” in our acronym. It is important for you to stay encouraged and empowered. The last thing I would ever want you to do is give up the shooting sports. And with that, let’s commit to setting goals together. I’m going to hit the bullseye shooting with both eyes open using iron sights on a pistol.

What is your goal? How will you achieve it? Share your plan with me in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. My goal has to be to sum it up , ammo and gear . Saving for such things is not easy for some one with two kids and one on the way but it is a goal. That to me is my long term goal as for short term . I want to find a range that offers me the flexibility to move and use different plat forms . That is not going to happen . Do they not exist ? The only way this will happen is if I buy a piece of property and build my own . Man , someday I’ll get my dream . Some one needs to come out with a whole new type of shooting range that caters for just that . I’m not talking about classes either . Of course there would be a range master . Well this is going nowhere ………

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