You may have heard the term “muscle memory” used in shooting terminology or in a class or shooting course that you have attended. Most people have at least a basic understanding of this term, but let me take a “shot” at simplifying what muscle memory really is and why it’s important when it comes to shooting. Muscle memory is consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition.
When we were very small little humans, most of us learned how to walk. We “learned” walking by literally thinking about placing one little foot in front of the other while balancing our upper body, even using our arms as if on a tightrope, to get from point A to point B so we didn’t have to crawl everywhere! The act of using these motor skills repeatedly, over and over resulted in most of us being able to “master” the art of walking. Mastery of any skill is simply being able to successfully perform the task 90% of the time, every time you try. Mastery is not perfection. If it was, we would never trip on that sidewalk crack, “miss” that step on a staircase while walking, or have an occasional “flyer” outside of that 10 ring.
When we practice shooting related tasks like loading magazines, operating slides, bolts and mechanical safeties, acquiring sight alignment and picture, and trigger press, we are practicing both gross and fine motor skills. The more we perform these motor skills, the more we exercise our muscle memory and the closer we will get to mastery of these skills. It will take some people longer than others and things like physical and cognitive impairments will add to the challenge of mastering some of these skills. When you can start to “feel” these tasks when doing them repetitively, even with your eyes closed or off-handed, you are on your way to mastery of the skill and full development of muscle memory.
Until next time…
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