“Practice and muscle memory”
Remember when you were a kid and you were learning to ride a bike? Or think back to the time you were learning to do anything new for the first time. What was the one thing that you were constantly told? Practice, practice, practice. Over time and after hours of repetitive practice that thing or that movement became second nature to you. You did not have to think about it anymore. It just kind of happened as long as you continued to practice it. Sure, if you stopped practicing you you could still be successful at it, but as time went by it became less and less natural.
The old expression, “just like riding a bike,” is often used to describe something that comes second nature and is easy to do. It implies that we know everything about an activity and can pick up right where we left off. When it comes to shooting a handgun, this could not be further from the truth. Yes, you might remember the mechanics and the safety rules of shooting, but the actual activity of shooting will be a different story.
As you learn to shoot, you develop muscle memory that corresponds to your trigger press, grip, stance, and sight picture. You train your muscles to react to recoil and to respond accordingly when you draw and re-holster your firearm—especially when under stress. Learning to control your breathing and calm yourself is very hard to do if you have not shot your firearm in a few years.
I see it all the time. Guys show up to my class and tell me how good they are (or more correctly how good they once were). They tell me about their military or LE service and all about their years of experience when it comes to handguns, and then I see them shoot. You can tell that they have not shot a handgun for years let alone actually held one in just as long. Do not get me wrong they probably were very efficient at shooting in years past, but their negligence now shows.
I know people who have taken a class and then never fired another round from their concealed carry weapon even though they faithfully carry it every day. I am not asking, in fact, I am actually begging you. Please go to the range once a month, shoot 10, 20, or 30 rounds. Anything is better than nothing. Take a refresher class. Do something. You are carrying a firearm to protect you and your loved ones and that is great. But just carrying one around as some kind of totem does not actually do anything—being able to efficiently use it does.