Training logbooks: how to track your performance



Photo courtesy Peter Burlingame

by Peter Burlingame

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been examining gear that will improve your shooting. To increase performance, you need to keep track of that performance. What skills are you working on? How is your accuracy? How fast are you shooting? What problem areas do you have?  Are you making progress, or are you stuck on a plateau?

This is where your training logbook comes into play. I recommend a notebook that is small enough to fit in your pocket, with a sturdy cover to stand up to the wear and tear of constant use on the range. The ‘Rite in the Rain’ series of notebooks is a good choice, as are the hard cover journals like those by Moleskine. The key is to have a book that you can always have with you on the range so you can quickly access it and jot down notes.

Adults have short memories. The average adult learner forgets half of what he learns in 24 hours and after a week, will only retain about 20% of that information. If you don’t write it down, you will forget it.

I’ve attended many classes over the years, filled with great information. And I’ve lost a lot of that information because I didn’t write it down. Even waiting a few hours to write down the day’s events will cause you to forget information that you want to retain. Now I always have a small notebook and pen in my pocket. After each drill I write down what we did, anything important that the instructor said, my performance, and any thoughts on it. Jotting some quick notes will jog my memory later and let me write it out in more detail later. The act of recalling and writing things down will also make them more permanent in your memory. Then, in the evening, I can take my scribbled notes and write them out fully, being reminded of the important points of the day’s training.

Photo courtesy Peter Burlingame

What should go into your logbook? Pretty much everything you do that is training related. Date, time, weather conditions, instructor and class name, what skills you worked on, notes on accuracy and speed, problems with, or adjustments to, your equipment, how many rounds your fired, and anything else noteworthy that may be useful later.

The 10 minutes that you spent on dry fire practice or the 40 draw strokes from your new holster last night constitute training, even though you weren’t on the range, and belong in the training log book. Some people will write down any training related books or magazine articles that they read, or videos that they watch.

“If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen”, is a legal standard that those of us in the training community are well familiar with. Keeping a record of your training can help you legally, should your training ever be called into question. If you are involved in a defensive shooting and you are asked about what type of training that you’ve had or how often you’ve practiced, your word on the matter will not be enough. Documentation like training certificates and records such as logbooks will be required to back up what you say.

Another legal standard related to training records is that you will be judged by what a reasonable and prudent person would have done, under the same circumstances, knowing what your knew, at that time.  Your training logbook can become discoverable evidence to your level of training, and a record of what you knew, at any particular time. Having documentation that you watched a video or read an article about the “Tueller Drill”* will help your legal defense if you are ever in a position where you needed to protect yourself against an attacker armed with a contact weapons and the assailant started the confrontation  a couple of dozen feet away from your.

It is rewarding to review your logbook and see the progress that you have made. Reliving the classes that you have attended by reading your journal entries is not only good for refreshing the information, but it is enjoyable to relive the experience. The satisfaction that comes from watching the gains that you have made far outweighs the slight cost of the pen and paper and the time and effort to commit your training to paper.

Disciplina remuneror fidelis!

*The Tueller Drill, named after its inventor, Dennis Tueller, demonstrates that an attacker armed with a contact weapon such as a knife or club, can run 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds, which is approximately the same amount of time it takes a trained person to draw a pistol and fire one shot.

Peter Burlingame is the founder of The Self Defense Initiative, a 25 year old training school based in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Peter is a contributing member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. His articles have been published in the FBI’s National Associates’ magazine, “The Firearms Instructor” and “Survival Quarterly.” You may contact him at Videos at


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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