For the past 5 months, FIVE MONTHS, my reliable old doublestack washing machine has been out of commission.
I’ve been lugging my laundry to various friends’ houses and laundromats to get it done, wasting time staring at walls, playing way too much Candy Crush and generally figuring out a way to either get it fixed or buy a new machine.
I spent several Saturday afternoons trying to find the source of the problem. All I knew was that in the middle of a cycle back in May, the machine just started making a horrible grinding noise and stopped all together. It HAD to be a bad water pump or thrown transmission or broken something-or-other that I knew nothing about.
To be honest, I thought that I had forgotten about a stray rifle or pistol round in a pants pocket and that it had gummed up the insides. Since the machine is wedged in a small closet, the thought of lugging it out to disassemble it did not appeal to me. So there it sat. Not getting any better, not getting any worse, and certainly not getting looked at by a technician.
So here I am today, editing video and glancing at me ever growing laundry bag, just waiting for the next trip to the laundromat.
I turned and faced the machine, determined to fix this bad boy. I fired up YouTube and started watching everything I could about “horrible grinding noises” in washing machines. I took every conceivable panel off of the frame and kept trying to find the source of the noise.
Back right. Back right. that’s all I could do to pinpoint it. The noise was coming from the back right of the machine.
Grabbing the Surefire X300Ultra off of my M&P (don’t judge), I started giving the machine the colonoscopy it deserved. For some reason the noise kept coming from the water feed in the wall. And this is where I had my “OH SHIT” moment. I noticed that the valve was not fully open.
One quick flick and the noise, the stress, and the pride of being a man all disappeared.
You see, I store my storm door panels between the washer and the wall, against this valve. It was back in May that I took the panels out to move them to a better location. Apparently, I grazed the valve and unknowingly started this issue.
So what in holy Hell does this have to do with training?
A lot of us go to the range, determined to get better…to fix our shooting problems. We get new sights, new triggers, slide serrations, RMRs, new slings, new optics, rails, eyepro, earpro, footwear, Rock Tape, clothing with birds on it, and everything else that can be classified as a piece of shooting sports gear. We got to more and more expensive and complex training with top tier instructors hoping they find that small thing we are doing wrong that will fix everything that is bad. We do this in the hopes that it will fix all that ails us, when in reality our biggest issues are the fundamental problems of stupidity, overcomplication, and lack of awareness: the same things that kept me from fixing the damned machine.
In my last few range sessions, I’ve been getting back to basics. Sight alignment, sight picture, calling my shots, stance, grip….all the fundamentals of marksmanship. I’ve been taking a lot of beginner and Intro level classes to get forced fundamental trigger time under the eye of an instructor. And I have been humbled. And I have improved greatly.
I have stripped down all my cool guy gear, removed everything that, in MY view, is unnecessary to the task at hand, and am focusing on me. Not the guy next to me. Not the instructor. Me. I am rebuilding myself in the hopes of becoming a better long term shooter. I’ve changed a lot of old bad habits by dissecting every part of my process and finding better, more efficient ways to shoot. Not all of this has come to me by divine power, but under the instruction of some folks that have taught me to think for myself and self-diagnose.
You see, my shooting is just like the broken washing machine. I’ve been spending months thinking it was some minute piece of the machinery that was causing huge problems. In fact, I just forgot to spend time checking the simple stuff. Now that I’m doing that, the fixes are coming quickly.
Before you go spending all sorts of money on gear, guns, and “next best thing” training, perform a simple self assessment and determine where you REALLY need to improve. If it has anything to do with accuracy, my bet is that it ain’t the gun…it’s that stupid fucking valve you’ve looked at 1000 times but forgot to check.
Matt Stagliano is a photographer first, and firearms / outdoors enthusiast second. His work has appeared in countless magazines and online outlets such as RECOIL, SKILLSET, Guns & Ammo, Concealment, Breach Bang Clear, Ammoland, and others. He spends most of his time running Stonetree Creative, a full service portrait studio in Maine when he is not on assignment as Firelance Media. Learn more about Stonetree online or follow him on Instagram (@stonetreecreative). On Facebook here.