“What you see is what you’re going to shoot.”
– Steve Anderson.
While that quote is meant to apply to sight picture and accuracy at a match, it can also apply to the “tactical” world as well. Is knowing FOR CERTAIN that your sights were on target a good thing in a defensive shooting situation, especially if you (God forbid) have to go to trial?
I’d say so.
So tell me again how competition shooting is going to get you killed on the streets.
Had a fun little night-time training session with Jeff and Robyn from Step By Step Training last week. I learned a lot about my gear (memo to self: Get night sights for the Shield, STAT!), and talked with them about a bit about what drives their passions.
Me? I’m a gamer, with trainer tendencies. I’m concerned about my personal protection, but I’ve decided my path to mastery (or at least not-suckery) goes through learning to shoot for shoot’s sake.
Going back and looking at that match video from earlier this month, nothing there, by itself, is “tactically unsound”. Most (if not all) of what we can “tactical training” has to do with NOT shooting a gun. Getting a smooth draw, quick reload and fast, accurate hits is something at applies to training range and pistol match alike.
So why some people think that “competition will get you killed on the streets” is something I’ll never know.
One is to share your exploits with your friends and family.
Another is prove to yourself just how dang good you are (or think you are…).
Thirdly, to show where you need improvement.
This post is about that last item.
Here’s two of the stages at nice little practical match at Louland Gun Range just south and east of Naples. I reminds me a lot of the Tuesday Night Steel match at Rio, except one of the stages (as you’ll see) uses paper targets.
Lessons Learned from Stage Three
- Holy cow, is my draw ever slow! I don’t need a shot timer to measure it, I need a sundial!
- REALLY like my movement out of that first position. I’m on the move less that 0.2 seconds after the BANG. I set up in the box leaning slightly to the right, which allowed me to push off and start moving to the next position with no wasted motion.
- My splits are long here (0.6 seconds) but I’m getting my hits, and there is no difference between the split times in-between shots on the same target and shots on a new target. Cool.
- That is not a reload, so much as an interpretative dance about reloads. Based on my many, many times running an El Pres, I know I can do it better and faster.
Lessons Learned from Stage Two
- Again, the painfully slow draw. Something needs to change there, and soon.
- I drop a missed shot on a popper on the second array, which goofs up my stage plan…
- … but I recover for some turn’n’burn rapid fire on that stationary target. I’m happy with my speed and hits there.
- Speaking of speed and hits, after I send another miss downrange, my splits on those last two targets are very good (for me) and again, there is no time difference between shots on the same target and shots on a new target.
So all in all, there is areas where I need improvement, and areas where my improvement has paid off. I’m not going to beat Rob Leatham, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be better.
Oh yeah, and it’s pretty scenic down here in the Sunshine State.
Why is no one promoting indoor shooting matches? There’s a few indoor IDPA clubs out there, but there is a serious disconnect between the glitz and glam of the Smith & Wesson Indoor Nationals and setting up an IDPA match at Frank N Bubba’s Indoor Shooting Emporium.
NSSF Rimfire Challenge and Scholastic Steel are supposed to be “feeder” sports into the larger world of practical shooting, but because they shoot steel, they are pretty much a no-go indoors,. This leaves indoor shooters with IDPA and outlaw practical pistol as the models for the indoor matches, which are ok, (but not ideal) for people starting out in practical shooting.And even then, the IDPA Classifier requires 60+ feet of range space to run, something that is not to be found on most indoor ranges.
How hard would it be for Steel Challenge, et al, to publish a slightly revised version of their match rules that is suitable for a 10 yard indoor range? Instead of shooting steel, why not shoot hanging, self-sealing plastic targets that jump when hit? It won’t be the ping! of a well-placed steel hit, but it be instant feedback, which is the point of shooting steel versus paper.
Consider this: Outdoor shooting ranges are getting hassled from the neighbors about noise and safety, and with “guntry” clubs on the upsurge, where is the future of the practical shooting: On an expansive outdoor public range with four+ pistol bays, or indoors, after-hours at luxury gun club? So why is there one (COUNT IT!) one major match (two if you count the BUG Gun Nationals) that even acknowledge the existence of indoor ranges?
I’ve done more thinking about shooting and where I want to grow as a shooter/competitor in the last three weeks than I have done the previous three years. The interwebz are full of people talking about how to become a GM, but there is precious little about how to become B Class or IDPA Expert.
The fact is, if you cure your trigger jerk and stay awake during a stage, you can make C Class. However, B Class and above requires effort, both physical and mental, and that means a) discipline and b) awareness. When I lived in Arizona, I never was able to see where I actually was in the grand scheme of practical shooting because on any given day, I’d be shooting with Rob Leatham or Kelly Neal or Sara Dunivin or Angus Hobdell or another other top-ranked shooter.
It’s hard to get a grasp of your own abilities (or lack thereof) in such a rarified environment: You don’t know how good you really are because even when you shoot your very best, you’re on the tail end of the match results. C Class is supposed to contain the top 40% to 60% of the shooters in USPSA, but it doesn’t feel like that if you’re competing with the top 10% (or better) all the time.
Three things, however, have re-ignited my passion for improving my skill at the shooting sports.
- Having the chance to step back and become the local hot shot at the top of the leaderboard for any given match has given me the chance to put what I’ve learned in context with the sport as a whole. Being C Class in a world where almost everyone is A Class or above means you suck. Being C Class in a world of D Class (or worse) shooters means you’re the top gun.
This can have a marvelous effect on your self-image.
- On a related note, taking a breather in the action has given me time to think about where I am and where I want to be, and more importantly, what I need to do get there.
- I’ve been playing around with a Sig Sauer light/laser combo on my P07 (more on that later). Having a laser on my dry-fire gun has significantly increased my passion for dry-fire practice, as it gives direct 1-1 feedback on how my muzzle is moving (or not) during the trigger pull.
When I first started this blog, it was called “The Quest for C Class” because that’s what my shooting goal was at the time. I’ve made that goal (and then some), but the quest continues.
Update: As I said on Facebook, one thing that popped up right way while doing dry-fire with a laser is how the gun moves during one-handed shooting. I’m finding that if I add a little more bend to my elbow and curl my thumb down a bit more compared to where they are with a conventional, thumbs-foreward grip, the gun moves MUCH less during the trigger pull, making for faster and more accurate shots.
Once you get beyond curing your trigger jerk and taming the red mist that pops up once the buzzer goes off, you’ll hear words like “balance of speed of precision” or “let the target determine the shot” being bandied about in competitive shooting.
That’s nice, but what does that REALLY means in terms of raw numbers? Creating a balance point is easier if there is a goal to strive towards, some kind of hard target to aim towards? (pun intended)
Enter this post at Modern Service Weapons:
I was recently surprised by the insight of a Facebook post on the topic of balancing speed and accuracy in training. Not surprisingly, however, was that it came from my buddy, Shin Tanaka. A USPSA Limited Class Grand Master, gifted machinist, 1911 gunsmith, and contributor to Recoil Magazine, Shin is about as well rounded as they come. His post caught my attention as it quantifies a method of balancing your speed and accuracy when it comes to training. According to his post, using USPSA scoring zones, he uses the point system in USPSA to measure whether or not he is being too conservative or pushing his limits. So assuming 5 points for A zone, 4 points for BC zone, and 3 points for D, and 0 points for a no shoot or miss, Shin uses a percentage score to determine whether or not he is pushing his limits. 93-97% of max score is the goal. Above 97% means you need to push the speed harder, and 93% means you need to dial back the speed.
Ok, chances are it’s not Shin’s idea and this concept of 95% points available was originally written down on a parchment in a monastery somewhere near Higley, Arizona by an acolyte of Saint Enos The First, but it’s new to ME, and it’s something I can use right now to judge when to hit the gas pedal and when to take my time.
“90% of the sport is mental, and the other half is physical.”
– Yogi Berra
Thinking a little more about this post on the mental game of the shooting sports:
- I’m fairly happy that I aimed for middle of the pack in my last major match. Based on my level of training and practice, I thought that a reasonable goal for the match was to place in the middle of the pack in Tac Limited, and doggone it if that wasn’t where I placed.
What this tells me: I have a reasonable grasp of my ability and what I can do on any given day, which helps me set training and match goals.
- I’ve used my scores in the El Presidente drill as a way to track my progress in performing the basic skills of practical/tactical shooting, namely, target recognition, draw, follow-up shot speed, transition speed from target to target and fast reloads. My best score on this drill has plateaued as of late, but what’s interesting is that my bad times are now MUCH better than they were two years.
What this tells me: I’m still not as fast and accurate as I’d like to be right, but I’m also more consistent and not so prone to bonehead mistakes.
Yes, I stole the title from new favorite political podcast.
Even though my musical tastes lean more towards The Ramones and The Smiths than they do to Van Halen, I’m really enjoying Steve Anderson’s “That Shooting Show” podcast. Wednesday’s episode was particularly good, talking about how your perception of yourself as a shooter affects how you shoot.
I can dig it.
I had convinced myself that I was a bad wingshooter with my 930SPX, but yet sonuvagun if I didn’t nail every single flying clay at my last 3 gun match.
I had convinced myself I was a “C” class shooter, but I’m on the cusp of breaking into “B” Class right now because, well, I think that’s where I am.
I went into the Area 3 Multigun Championship with the goal of placing in the middle of Tac Limited, and sonuvagun if I didn’t do exactly that.
To quote The Pixies, where is my mind? Two things.
1. Longer-ranged shots with my competition AR. I struggle with hitting 200 yard LaRues. Heck, I struggle with 100 yard plates. That needs to change, and the struggle ends now
2. Longer-range pistol shots. I’d be IDPA Sharpshooter if I were better at those. That needs to change.
But enough about me. Give Steve’s podcast a listen, especially if you’re interested in the mental game of the shooting sports.
I’m experiencing something new out here in the Midwest: An “off season” for practical shooting. In Arizona, you can shoot a match pretty much every day of the week (and twice on Sundays), but here in a small town in Missouri, where snow is lightly falling down as I type this, there is definitely a prime season for shooting and a not-prime season.
And that not-prime season is now, so I’m spending my time dry-firing, working on stopping and starting my movement, and tweaking my equipment load-out for next year.
It’s a bit different, because it gives me time to think and reflect on my goals and what I’m going to do accomplish them. There wasn’t really that breathing space in Arizona, because we’d go from Western States to Superstition to stupidly hot shooting weather (but still shooting weather) to Area 2 to SHOT…
… rinse, lather, repeat.
But having a breather is new to me, and I like it. The trick is going to be spending my time working on my skills these next few months and not just wasting them away playing Combat Mission: Normandy.