Jeff Gonzales Training Range at Austin
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By Jeff Gonzales

What have you done to earn it today? It’s a straightforward question focusing on what have you done to better yourself, your position or your lot in life. That also extends, of course to your shooting skills. 

The Forging Process

The concept and desire for continual improvement was instilled into my very being early in my military career by amazing mentors who urged me to earn my Trident every day. I learned that I have to choose to improve…that excellence doesn’t happen by accident.

While I was welcomed into the community by my peers, that didn’t mean the work was over. In fact, it was just beginning. I have carried this philosophy with me to this day. Each and every day I reflect on what I’ve done to earn my Trident.

Now that I’m out of uniform, that ethos will never die. Getting to where I am today was no accident. It wasn’t easy, but it is was simple; put in the hard work — and lots of it — because hard work pays off.

Knowledge, Body & Skills

How can you adopt this philosophy for yourself? Again the answer is simple. The effort required is far from easy, though.

I break things down into three categories; knowledge, body and skills. Every day I work to make improvements in at least one if not all of these areas. This pursuit of excellence is about consistency and forming good habits.

I wasn’t always a book reader. I’ve come to appreciate the value of continuous education through reading and research. Sometimes it’s in the area of my profession, but not always.

I’m also a big fan of puzzles particularly those requiring the use of logic. They’re frequently the most challenging, but also provide the greatest feedback and relate to my profession in a big way.

Stronger, Faster and Meaner

The best investment you can make is in getting yourself stronger and more physically fit. Take the time to educate yourself about the right routines and techniques to get the most out of your workout time. Then, to see real gains you have to get outside your comfort zone. That can be a double-edge sword, though, because that’s where you can find yourself getting injured.

I take a broad approach to physical fitness and training. Of particular importance is injury prevention. I don’t do myself or my family much good if I’m injured and can’t perform or work.

I’ve learned that warming up, activating my body and priming my CNS for a workout is as important as the workout itself. My mobility game has come a long way and while I have long way to go, I’m happy with the results. I can see them on a daily basis.

No matter who you are or what your physical capabilities may be, fitness is not only important, but required for a good living. Getting old isn’t for the weak.

The Pursuit of Excellence

When it comes to improving my skills, that effort doesn’t just apply to those I use in my job. It’s about all the things in my life. It’s a never-ending pursuit of improvement. This ties into working toward peak fitness so I can continue to push myself in all areas.

It doesn’t matter what you do to improve your skills — one day it could be ten minutes of draw and dry fire practice at home, another it could be live fire training at the range — you want to do something that’s going to have a positive effect on your performance every day. 

Finding a good training partner and working together to push each other can be a huge help in getting yourself motivated and pushing yourself to the next level. I’ve been lucky to have some amazing friends and training partners over the years. I’ve found it almost a necessity in order to get to get to the level I want to be.

Life isn’t easy. It’s not fair and it’s frequently not pretty. But that is no excuse not to work to improve your life, in big and small ways, every day. Get at it now.

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” – Aristotle


Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at


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  1. Lmao. Most on this board will just buy a new gun and consider their skill improved. I doubt this article gets many reads. Even though I like Jeff and most of his philosophies as a trainer.

    • Agreed that it won’t get many reads. I tried but after 4 paragraphs of *absolutely nothing useful* I decided I have better things to do.

    • I’m sorry man, I considered mine earned by lunch. I think it’s actually be a crime to eat enchiladas without beer in Texas, and I eat enchiladas every day.

      • OK, now I’ve got a beer. 5:26, not a record but not bad.

        Yes, I earned a beer by lunch but I like to save the points for later. That said it is a sin to eat enchiladas without beer, even outside of TX.

        • It is a sin to eat enchiladas, period. Tacos are where it’s at, amigo. P.S. ‘If I owned Texas and Hell I would rent out Texas and live in Hell’ – General William Tecumseh Sherman.

  2. I agree with all of the above article. I don’t have to be a tactical genius…I just have to be a better shooter than the Tango shooting at me. 30

  3. Pretty sure any training issues you have can be solved by more push ups, and more time in the front leaning rest.

    There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way.

  4. I’m not all that involved with training. I just did my first USPSA match a week ago…focusing on moving and shooting. I’ll go back though.

    Fitness has been important to me, so I’m in good shape.

  5. I’m old. Broken and poorly healed parts. Broken bones that were never set. Injuries that were never medically treated. Can walk with a significant limp on my good days.

    Just how ‘in shape’ do you expect me to get?

    I practice shooting. First shot in a 8 inch target at 15 yards, every time. Situational awareness tells me when it is time to unass a location. I ain’t about to borrow trouble. Got enough of my own.

      • Well, Guinness is basically a light beer,but a case would destroy my stomach for days. I could probably put down a case of Negra Modelo (my go to session here in SoCal,where your choice is Mexico or some craft hop bomb), but I’d be one gassy mofo.

  6. “The best investment you can make is in getting yourself stronger and more physically fit. Take the time to educate yourself about the right routines and techniques to get the most out of your workout time. ”

    This right here, I am tired of seeing “tactical” fat asses in the gun community and America in general. Our obesity rate is an embarrassment and revolts me. You need to be faster than someone 20 pounds lighter than you and stronger than someone 20 pounds heavier than you.

    • Until you are old and disease puts you in a world of hurt. Range time is the ONLY way to keep even a dull edge on your skills. Insulting someones size without knowledge is as bad as ASSuming YOU are going to be the fastest AND most accurate. I’d rather be .5 sec slower but 100% on target… Cause the dirtbags going down. Maybe alone, maybe not, but I’ve been here a looong time.

  7. Jeff, Thank you for sharing your philosophy. All the points you make are important that everyone should follow to become highly proficient with defensive sporting arms. The crowd that just keeps perfecting their Spray patterns will never attain the level you’re speaking about, nor understand. There are no magic quick read bullets if you forgive the pun. One has to be ready at their best and properly practice or they won’t survive. The link about the training facility you work at looks impressive. Next time I’m back home in Texas I’ll drop by to improve my skills because my current state of California is doing everything to eliminate the 2nd amendment here. I won’t even go into how bad it’s getting here except that meaningful training facilities have pretty much have moved out of state. I hope to see you when I’m around. Thanks again.

  8. This former Navy Seal is what America is all about ! Jeff Gonzales is an
    American winner ! I believe all Americans, especially young people should take this
    wonderful message and live it !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Rich Evans

  9. Sorry, some of us working stiffs work all day. We don’t have the time to do all these wonderful things that others dream up. Yes, I shoot at a range on occasion, but it isn’t an obsession. As far as physically fit, everyone doesn’t love exercise. No, I am not overweight at all, but I have tried the fitness routine and find it incredibly boring.


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