10 October 2008

How to shoot better, Part 1

Posted this on one of our local shooting forums today and thought I'd also share it here, in an attempt to make the world a better place....

I've tried to explain to other folks before and thought that posting some concepts here for discussion would be helpful.

So, to kick off the discussion, I'll start with this thought:

Things I wish I'd learned earlier in my shooting career.

I. Calling the shot.

I've been calling the shot for the last year or two. I really, really wish I'd focused more on doing this 5-10 years ago. It would have saved me a LOT of grief!!

For those not familiar with the term, calling the shot means knowing, with certainty, where the bullet went the instant you broke the shot.

I preach time and time again that shooting well in a match is not about shooting FAST. It's about being efficient. Remove things from the way you shoot a stage that are not necessary and you're left with the fastest way that YOU can run the stage. Watch Robbie Leatham shoot - the guy can barely walk without limping or gimping his way across the stage - but because he has NO wasted movement, his times continue to be competitive and at or near the top of the heap.

Calling the shot is just another way of being efficient. You lose a significant amout of time trying to either watch the target when you shoot to look for the bullet holes, or leaving a position and having to go back for that last piece of annoying steel you thought you'd hit. At a recent practice, we had a shooter who was clearly losing at least a half a second per shooting position watching the target to confirm his hits. 1/2 a second X 4 shooting position = 2 seconds that he would have lost on that drill, if it were a stage in a match. 2 seconds per stage on a 6 stage match = 12 seconds....

How many of us have lost a match by time a LOT closer than 12 seconds??

I was once taught that we should engage an array of targets with a uniform cadence - which was clearly a step ahead of double tapping the targets. However, the better way to engage an array is target by target and to pull the trigger as fast as you can see the front sight and call the shot on each target as it's presented. If you're shooting an array on cadence, and the targets are all presented with varying degrees of difficulty, then you are always going to be shooting some targets too fast and other targets too slow, which is a great way to tank a stage. Now, if the targets are all in a line, and all wide open, then by all means there should be a clear cadence at play, but how many times in a match are we presented with that kind of challenge?? (It goes without saying that your transitions between targets should be as fast as you can possibly do it without over-running the A zone/down Zero zone of each target...)

So, how do you learn to call the shot, you ask??

Here are a couple of drills I have found useful.

Bill Drills, triple 6's and all you can get. (You can search online for a description of each drill. If you can't find it, let me know....)

Each of these 3 drills will have you shooting as rapidly as you can call the shot on a single target for multiple shots. If you haven't yet learned to call your shot, you'll get plenty of time to watch the slide cycle back and forth on these extended shooting episodes. The goal on each of these drills is not to just waste ammo into the berm. WATCH the front sight closely. Watch it lift out of the notch in the rear sight and watch it settle back down in the notch. With practice, you CAN do it!

The day before a big match, I like to go to the range and blow through a couple hundred rounds or so, and will always include several of these drills, making sure my eyes are focused on the front sight - and an added benefit of the drills are that you will get in the groove of the timing of your gun and your match ammo as well.

To be completely honest, I do not call my shots 100% of the time. Probably the best match I've shot this year has been the Texas Limited. I probably called my shot on every shot; short of 3-5 shots - and each of those were D zone hits... On matches where my focus is not so in tune, then of course that number is not anywhere near that high.

So, learn to call your shot, it'll help you speed up your stage times without doing a single thing faster or changing anything else about the way you shoot.
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