Roadmap

“Run a stage once, and then look at the components of the stage that are giving us trouble. The sport requires the same stuff over and over and over again. All you have to do is identify what those elements are, and then practice them in isolation.”

Steve Anderson

In general, I don’t like comparing myself to other people, because it’s a no-win situation. Someone else will ALWAYS be better than you at something: There is no such thing as a master of everything.

But.

I think I’m pretty good at analyzing where my issues with practical shooting lie, what I lack is having a higher standard to measure myself against. I need to start recording the runs of the A Class shooters (and better) in my squads to see where they are picking up the seconds on a stage compared to my performance. In order to be better, I need to learn from my betters.

Little by little, bit by bit.

This is why people read Brian Enos, for little tidbits of information like this.

But no matter how you do it, the most important thing is that there is no lateral gun movement. You want your body pivoting into your holster and you want to have the gun lifting straight up out of the holster and then going on a straight line to the target. Your hip is just essentially pivoting around that straight line. The gun is always moving in a straight line to the target.

Brian EnosI’ve shot my share of El Prez’s, and I never once thought of the drill in that way. That tip is so simple and so logical, and now that I think about it, so bloody obvious. I’m finding that “Beyond Fundamentals” doesn’t have that “One Weird Trick To Becoming A Better USPSA Shooter” moment, but rather it contains a treasure troves of little nuggets that combine to form one big ol’ shining gold bar of practical shooting wisdom.

Now that I’ve (mostly) cured my trigger jerk, I can start to work on the jerk behind the trigger, and that’s where this book is really helping me see what’s next, where I have to go to get better and what my ultimate goal really is.

I’m not in it to win matches, because as others who do so are finding out, such things are a vain pursuit that is ultimately self-defeating because, as the cliché goes, you can’t win them all.

Clichés don’t get to become clichés unless they’re true.

Rather, I’m defining my goal in terms of what I can do at any given moment, at any given match and look for a consistency in my scores. And yes, I do have a “winning” goal in mind: I’d like to place 1st in “A” Class Production in a major match (Area championship or the like) before the ol’ bod gives out and my skills decline.

Quest for A Class, here I come.

Getting paid for what you know.

make_readyI had an idea while listening Ben and Luke talk about Apprentice/Journeyman/Master shooters during this week’s Triangle Tactical podcast. Would people pay to have their match performance reviewed/critiqued by a GM level shooter?

Imagine this: You and five other people pay $25 each to shoot on a squad with Rob Leatham or Shannon Smith or Mike Seeklander. Each stage would be filmed from both the shooter’s point of view and another camera. You’d get advice on stage strategy before and during the match, then a group debrief to go over the video a day or so later. As an added bonus, for $100 more there could be an hour long, one-on-one debrief where the match is dissected in detail. That’d put between $150 and $850 in the pocket of the shooter for two to eight hours work. Not bad.

If you’re a GM shooter, the trick would be, of course, to make sure that you provided valuable feedback back to your customers, something that is difficult if you don’t know how you provide feedback to yourself..

Match Report: USPSA at SWFPS

Had a chance to shoot an actual, honest-to-goodness USPSA match over the weekend, my first since October of last year. The match was held at the Southwest Florida Practical Shooters range up in Ft. Myers, about an hour away from my house (man, I miss the days of having 3 good ranges within an hour’s drive…). The range itself is a nice little gun club, with 5 bays, a 200 yard rifle range and stand for shotgun.

And man, it felt good to shoot some actual honest-to-goodness USPSA again!

The stages were nicely designed and the competition pretty decent, with two Master-Class Open shooters on my squad. I had been working a bit on my draw and my moving while reloading before the match, so I was curious to see what effect that would have on my times. In addition to this, I’ve been digging into Beyond Fundamentals quite a lot recently (having just re-bought it in Kindle Edition so I don’t lose the durn thing again), and I was interested in seeing what effect that would have on my shooting.

Here’s video of stages five and six.

First impressions: I’m quite happy with my movement: I’m setting up nicely for ports and  moving in and out of shooting positions quite well, sometimes TOO well, because I left a popper standing (a popper that fell in calibration, of course. Sonuva&@#$!….). Stage strategy is good, as is adjusting between the difficulty of the targets, for the most part. I still need to work on focus with my long shots, but other than that, I can see progress. Maybe not the progress I want at the speed I want, but progress nevertheless.

Update: Looking at the scores, I came in second in Production on stage six.

Out of two Production shooters in the match.

I was beaten by an A class shooter who ran it two seconds faster than me with 6 more points. The good news is, I know where I can pick up those two seconds (moving out of shooting positions faster) and where I can pick up the six points (better hits on closer targets).

Cool.

All In The Family

If you’re a member of a shooting club, eventually you’re going to run into shooting-club politics. The bullseye people think the practical shooters are a bunch of unsafe yahoos, the F-Class shooters want the long range on the same day that the 3 Gunners want it, and NOBODY can figure out those freaks that shoot smallbore silhouette.

One of the shooters last week wore a “SW Florida Marksman of the Year 2014″ t-shirt to the match. Now I have no idea how he got that shirt, but it got me thinking: What if clubs held a “Top Shot” competition of sorts that put shooters of all the disciplines at the club against each other? What if the bullseye guys had to (gasp!) move with a gun in their hands? What if the 3 Gunners did some 5 stand? What if the precision rifle shooters shot silhouette?

The divisions themselves would supply all the firearms for their stages and the points would be equally weighted between each so you’d have to put in a good showing at everything to be crowned “King of the Hill”, (and it would work better if there were cash and prizes on the line), but I’m thinking it would be a way to get people out on the range and trying new stuff.

New New Year’s Shootey Goals

Didn’t really do to good with goals I set last year (what else is new?), and I partly blame the tremendous upheaval our family went through in 2014, but those same upheavals gave me the tools with which to make those goals this year.

Lemme ‘splain.

I had the goal last year of making B Class Production and IDPA Sharpshooter. My plan to achieve that was to shoot more matches, something that moving across the country (twice!) interrupted.

In the words of Tony Stark, “Not a great plan.” Shooting a match did not give me more insight into how I needed to improve my shooting: I had reached a plateau, and I didn’t know it. All that shooting was making me one HECK of a C Class shooter, but nothing more than that.

Having a shooting hiatus imposed on me due to the changes in my life gave me time to pause and reflect on where I was as a shooter and made me realize that what I needed was more matches, but more off-line practice.

So that’s my resolution for 2015: A combination of shooting analysis, dry-fire practice, drills and matches designed to boost my skill with a handgun to where I can shoot Sharpshooter in IPDA and B Class in Production. My goals are not the finish line of the new classifications, my goal is the process.

My other goals (and again, they are process-orented) is get sufficient DOPE on my rifle out to at least 500 yards and to switch my 3 Gun shotshell system from the California Competition Works holders I currently use to a Taccom Duaload system, because gamer.

Gun-wise, I’d love to get a pistol-caliber AR carbine or similar, however, the CZ Scorpion and CMR-30 are calling out to me with a clear, strong siren’s call, and a 1911 set up for Single-Stack is still on my wishlist.

Happy New Year, everyone, and may all your Mikes be on no-penalty disappearing targets.

File Under Zen, Moment Of.

zen

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.

  1. 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. :D
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Stay tuned.

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.

Out Of Season.

Stage Rifle

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. 

Quote of the Day, 10/07 Edition

rp_Rob_Leatham_image.gif“Anyone who undertakes any kind of serious (competition) training program is going to find themselves as the local hot-shot, unless you live in Arizona.” 

- Steve Anderson

Having gone from the über-competitive realms of Phoenix Rod and Gun and Rio Salado to the more laid-back reaches of central Missouri, I can DEFINITELY sympathize.