Never mistake activity for achievement.”—John Wooden, arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time.

I’ve been spending the summer trying to get the level of my pistol shooting from heartrending to poor, and have been reminded of a couple of truths along the way. That 10 percent of you who actually practice their shooting, take heed:

1. As Coach Wooden says, it will not do you any good to go out and fire a whole case of shells unless one of two things happens: a) You finish by shooting better or b) you finish knowing why you’re not shooting better. A pile of empty casings on the ground, by itself, means only that you are deafer and more broke than you were when you started.

2. Unless you are a true expert, it’s almost impossible to diagnose yourself. I’ve had the help of a friend who is a real expert, and he has spotted a couple of things I could be doing differently and/or better.

3. Progress is not linear. You do not get better at a steady rate. There are times when you will feel like you’re beating your head against the wall, and then, for no apparent reason, you break through to a new level.

4. Sometimes, you do have to burn ammo. I just ordered 2,000 rounds of Speer.22 LR Pistol Match from Midway Shooters Supply to replace the 2,000 I’ve burned up over the past several months.

5. As Dirty Harry Callahan said, “A man has to know his limitations.” Eventually, no matter how hard and how smart you work, you will reach the point where you can go no further. That’s fine. You can have just as much fun as a B-Class trap shooter as you can in AA Class.