Well assuming this is advice for people new to shooting USPSA who want to be doing better.
The frist thing you want to do is stop doing stupid stuff that isn't shooting. Make sure youre gear runs without malfunction. This means fix anything that isn't working right. Keep it clean enough it doesn't jam (which frankly isn't that often), get your ammo laoded to the right length if you are reloading, and make sure you practice operating the gun correctly, such as fully seating mags, drawing from your holster without getting hung up on anything (correlary is tuck in your shirt and accept you have a beer gut and everyone knows it anyway), that you orient your mags consistantly and make sure they are all loaded when starting a stage.
Second thing is stop thinking about how to shoot a stage when you are on the timer. Learn to analyze stages and make a plan ahead of time. This is a real skill, and without any improvement in your spped or accuracy, you can pick up several seconds per stage here. My advice on this is to start out skipping the conga line. Find the stage description, check the number and type of targets, then go find them from outside the free fire zone. THEN do the conga line. If you are new, forget shooitng on the move. Pick where you are taking your shots from and get your marks (like stage marks for a play), and move from mark to mark. Ideally when picking them, you should just be shooting everything you can see at each mark (not always possible, but mostly). That should get you started.
Third is stop rushing easy shots. Easy shots are NOT an opportunity to tray and go blazing fast and get Cs and Ds. Easy shots are where you make absolutely sure you get As and spend less time to do that than other places. If you have three wide open targets three feet awa, it takes you an extra .25 seconds to get all As. THat one 20 yard target that woudl take you 3 seconds to get two As, but 2 seconds to get a C and D is the place to screw up going fast.
Fourth. Stop burying your gun in ports. First, it's a tactically bad habit as you don't knwo what/who is back there to grab something in the real world. Second, it slows you down getting in and out. Also, and this is less intuitive, it may actually limit how many targets you can engage form the port, and how easy it is to do so. Being that fott and a half closer at best doesn't make the shot noticably easier, so stop doing it.
That's actually a lot to work on, but you will see huge improvements doing these things if you aren't already. Picking up 6 or 7 points and shavig 5 seconds off your stage time will move you up more than you think.
And one last thing to START doing: be consistent. Especially at B class or lower, there is a fair ammount of reward to consistent performance from stage to stage with regards to where you finish at the end of the day.
Just as an example of consistency. At the big local match we have each month, I was 38th the last two months overall, and 12th in production. For July, I'm 25th overall and 6th in production. My best stage finish didn't get over 4th place in July where I had finished 1st or second production on some stages in May and June. But stage to stage in July I was shooting consistently and within my abilities. I moved from 52% of the top overall shooter to 60% and From 55% of the top production shooter to 74%.
Swingers are shot best at the end of the arc, where they stop and start back the other way.
If your splits are quick enough, I take the first shot on the target as its coming to a stop, sligltly leading it (aiming at the forward edge of the A zone) and the second shot as its momentarily paused.
Dissappearing targets are much the same way, once you see both sides of the A zone, fire at will, Its very much a confidence thing, and these types of targets are best shot when you are at the point where you are able to call your shots, cause looking at a dissapearing target for bullet holes is a huge waste of time.
I myself shoot drop turners when I see and hear the "chunk" of the mechanism, as it drops and faces you.
In all, these targets really give you more time than you think. Bring a watch with a chrono, and see how long a target stays in a shootable position. -Chances are, youll have plenty of time to meka 2 accurate shots on the paper, even if you have .4 second splits.
Load your gun to capacity unless the course states other wise. I know this is a rule but I see it several times a season where we are on a limited vickers stage requiring 6 shots. People only load 6 rounds into the gun. The problem comes when they have a misfire, jam, or some othe bad JuJu, then they must take the misses. If You load up then have a problem you at least get to clear the malf and can finish the COF.
I'm fairly new at IDPA.. but this year started to really work at it. Here are few very basic things that are important in addition to other great posts here.
Stick with a single gun you are confident in and trust. This has been difficult for me as I really enjoy shooting different guns... however very subtle changes can really throw you off. For example- I have decided to work with my M&P .40 for competition. However today I wanted to try my S&W 1911... well I was almost embarassed at how bad I did. Yeah-- on one excersize we all stood at 100ft and tried to hit 8 head shots freestyle. Once I managed to get all 8 in the head (one string was 3 as well)! But I was terrible at other strings/exercises... I was surprised at just how foreign the 1911 felt since I had been using my M&P so much.
Another thing that really helps and I need to do more of- practice your draw and other movements in front of a mirror. This is particularly important for the draw IMOH. With an EMPTY gun at home there are lots of things you can do... practice transitioning from target to target- seeing the sight picture while dry firing. Remember to triple check that the gun is empty.
Practice drawing and getting the gun on target asap... for short range shooting you should be able to draw and as the muzzle approaches the target the gun should go bang. Get on your front sight as soon as possible and start prepping the trigger once the muzzle is moving towards the target.
Give a good thought to taking extra shots. Even when I'm not confident that I've got a couple good shots on target... I often lose time looking and then taking another shot only to find out I got 3 down 1s... the extra shot didn't help and just added time.
I'm lucky that I shoot with some great shooters (Experts- in IDPA) and here's one I always think of- and is great advice to new and experienced shooters alike. "Smooth is fast and fast is smooth!"
Best advice of all: Have fun, keep a positive attitude, and always think of ways you could have done something better the next time... and keep coming! In my best COFs... I can always mentally think of something I "should" be able to improve upon.
Delete the double tap concept from your shooting memory. A double tap consists of TWO shots with only ONE sight picture. I've missed really closed targets for just double-tapping at them. You need to see your front sight for every shot fired. Depending on the difficulty of the shot, you'll need different type of front sight FOCUS. Brian Enos in his book "Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals" has a great explanantion of this concept.
Shoot alphas as fast as you can, SAFELY. Fast misses just sound good to the peanut gallery. If you're consistently shooting Alpha-Delta or worst Alpha-Mike, you're probably going too fast for your current skills.
DRY FIRE: Make handling your firearm second nature. There's a great book also on structured dry fire practice. See below
Educate yourself. Watch shooting videos and read shooting books. There's a lot of material out there the help you elevate your shooting skills. Already mentioned the Brian Enos book. Other sources are:
Matt Burkett Videos
Jerry Barnhart Videos (a bit old but still very good material)
Saul Kirsch book: "Thinking Practical Shooting"
Steve Anderson: "Refinement and Repetition: Dryfire drills for dramatic improvement"
Last, but not least: ask a lot of questions. In my brief experience in practical shooting competition (about 10 years) I've found that most shooters will always be willing to help and answer questions.
(I pasted this in from material I wrote some time ago for the new book. And please don't ask when it'll be done. A few of the topics from the sentence below are "stand alone" topics from other work, but you'll figure it out.)
A set gathers things together, in this case – your training, clear intent (the totality of your plan), capacity, confidence, trust, determination, decisiveness, and conscious attention.
This is probably the most difficult thing I have ever tried to explain.
The set is a state of mental alertness or mental awareness that allows all of the topics mentioned above to express themselves.
The more and more I shoot and rehearse for stages, the more and more attention I direct toward the actual state of mind that I’m going to have, the actual way I am going to feel, not only as I start the stage, but as I move throughout the stage. I direct more attention to that matter than I do the actual visualization of the mechanics of the stage itself. To me that set, that state of mind, is what actually allows those things to be carried out. How am I going to feel the seeing?
I visualize what I am going to do, but don’t dwell on it near as long as I used to. The bottom time is the set; it’s what allows everything to be expressed. It allows you to be able to fluidly shift your focus to every area that is needed to get the job done in the best fashion, but it is not a focus on that, per se. It’s a focus on clarity.
Different people may feel that clarity in different places, although I think you’ll normally feel it in one of two places, either the forehead or stomach areas. I feel it in the center of my forehead, about an inch above my eyes. I can produce that feeling in my forehead that instantly stops the entire thought process and turns my attention so highly onto attention itself that there is no room for thought. Some people feel it in their stomach in an area two or three inches below the navel.
It takes an extreme amount of attention to maintain that state. As soon as your attention slips from maintaining it, you will find thoughts are back and your internal dialogue is rolling, controlling, and limiting you.
The set is an aware monitoring of your mental and physical state. It is critical because, if you start from an aware, attentive state, in which your muscles are set just right to do the job at hand - perfectly, with no extra effort – then, by monitoring and maintaining your attention, you ensure you never go "up," thereby losing your "center." The set is a method to maintain your center throughout the stage and throughout the match. If you start out tense or rushing, it is very difficult to return yourself to a centered position while you are shooting. It is extremely difficult to do that; I have done it now and then, but it’s much easier to start from the proper frame of mind and then, by monitoring that, ensure that your mind doesn’t go anywhere else, ensure that you don’t create tension by unconsciously trying too hard.
As with many things, the best way to describe what something is, is to describe what it’s not. The set contains no feeling of effort or trying whatsoever. It is a very calm, very deliberate, very matter of fact mode of operation.
The set that you are feeling, is not only so much a feeling of awareness as it is a feeling of the whole attention level; the feeling of your mind and the feeling in your body. It is like a somatic, total body sensation of how you feel when you’re shooting. That feeling, that body feel, is learned in practice; the set is the feeling you have that encompasses all the feelings you have in your grip, arms, stomach, legs, mind, eyes and state of attention. It encompasses all those things into one body feeling. That total feeling is a lot easier to remember without using words than it is to try to think of a list of technical descriptions. When under pressure, no matter how big the strain is, the feeling of the set will not desert you like technical thoughts will. Thoughts are always a little behind the action. If you’re thinking your way through an act, you’ll notice your actions are "sticky."
I’ve had this experience many times and have talked to other shooters who also have had it, that upon completion of an extremely successful course of fire, you cannot remember what thoughts you had. It’s a natural tendency to want to think back and know what you did or what you were thinking to control such a good performance, but it’s that lack of thoughts that produces that lack of memory.
The lack of memory is the result of being in the set. By putting yourself in the most favorable condition to allow the ultimate expression of your capacity, that condition has very little to do with thought, so there is very little memory associated with it. So the bottom line really isn’t a bottom line; it’s that your attention always has to be attentive. It can never park itself in one place or get comfortable in one place, because that will only last for so long before the trick wears off.
The desire to remember what we were thinking as we were performing impeccably, when in fact there is nothing to remember, imposes a sense of uncertainty or fear in the mind. Enter trust. Through experience, we must learn to trust that if we maintain a state of conscious awareness and simply witness what is actually happening, the aforementioned topics will manifest themselves to your capacity.
A way that might help get into the whole feel of the set I’m describing would be if you were holding your pistol out in front of you and everything about your postition felt the most perfect, relaxed and neutral as possible, then direct your mind to absorb your body’s feeling. Feel that set of how you’re holding right there. That total body feel also includes your mental feel, the feel of "relaxed and hard" or of "moving quickly but not in a hurry," "matter of fact," whatever means the most to you. No words! The attention necessary to hold that feeling does not allow words to surface.
The set allows your intent to be expressed at it’s highest, most complete level. The memory of the feeling is so total that it cannot be broken down. As soon as you try to categorize any particular part of it, you make it so complex that you destroy any hope of spontaneously creating it in the present.
You can see how your will functions while performing actions in your everyday life; it’s subtle and it’s hidden, but it’s always there. If you’re alert to it, your will is directing your action simply by your intent or your desire to do that action in the most efficient manner necessary. In its natural state, your will asserts itself very spontaneously. When you drop you wallet, you reach and pick it up. If a that moment you are "present," the chances of not picking it up are slim. (Nor would have dropped it in the first place.) If you’re thinking random thoughts when you reach to pick it up, you may pick it up and drop it again. If you’re reaching for a doorknob, for example, and your hand slips off before the door opens, if you’re attentive to your thoughts you may notice you were somewhere else, your internal dialogue was running.
(By "will" I mean your desire backed by conviction, determination, and decisiveness.)
There are times to trust your subconscious. If you have to think about your shot call, it can slow you down on fast stages. Be willing to trust that you broke the shots with a good sight picture and be willing to leave that target in the past and focus on the next.
Be willing to push yourself in local matches. You'll find that you will push yourself too far and you will score poorly. But you learn where that line is. In a big match, you are better able to function on the high performance side of that line by not pushing too far, but pushing far enough.
I've had a busy year and my shooting suffered, but I decided to get my head back in the game. I'm not near my peak by any stretch going back to basics helps. The first thing you can experiment with is "the trick of day", pick a facet of your shooting (lets say your grip or your sight picture or maybe your movement) and FOCUS on it for a whole match maybe experimenting with a new technique, ignoring everything else. Not only does that allow you to improve on that facet, it takes pressure of the rest of the things you do and allows them to just flow, better then you might expect. Its wiered but it works.
The second thing I've been doing the last couple of matches has been to shoot each stage with the same goal in mind: Get your hits, don't rush the shooting. Shoot slow do everything else fast. its been working out well.
Solution: Keep a natural and relaxed shooting position as much as possible- from the start and throughout the stage.
Mistake: Fear of No-shoot and Hardcover Targets
Solution: Take the time it takes to make a precise shot- don’t think about the NS or HC, just shoot the “A”.
Mistake: Fear of Swinger Targets
Solution: Shoot at the apex of the movement- just before it changes direction- practice whenever possible.
Mistake: Not Visualizing Stages
Solution: Establish your plan- memorizing as much detail as possible and then play it in you mind like a movie several times.
Mistake: Trying to Win Stages
Solution: Forget about match placement and shoot Alphas at your natural speed.
Mistake: Analyzing Interim Results
Solution: Eliminate the desire to see or hear about them- that way they cannot bring conscious thought into future shooting.
Mistake: Trying Too Hard
Solution: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Resist this urge, practice accordingly and you won’t need to try at all.
Mistake: Allowing the Weather to Affect Your Shooting
Solution: Prepare accordingly and keep a positive attitude in the face of adversity. Continue a scheduled practice day despite bad weather.
Mistake: Lack of Visual Patience
Solution: Develop this in practice by allowing the timer to tell you when to start and do not let it control you pace. If there is not enough time for an acceptable sight picture, when will you have time for a make up shot?! “A gun in the hands of a great shooter fires itself when an acceptable sight picture is present.”
Mistake: Consciously Controlling Speed
Solution: Desire to shoot alphas and embrace “visual patience”. Let the timer worry about speed.
Mistake: Holding the Gun Low
Solution: Keep the gun high within your field of vision during movement. Also determine if it is best to keep both hands on the gun or to break you grip with the offhand for momentum. 10+ yards seems appropriate. Find out what is best for you.
Mistake: Not Picking a Spot for the Set-up
Solution: During your walkthrough stand in each position you will shoot from and then find some way of being able to locate that when you get there during your match run. Memorize where every target is and the best way to get to each of them.
Mistake: Obeying Fault Lines While Not Shooting
Solution: You can do anything you want outside them except shoot. Circumventing them while moving or reloading can gain quite an advantage.
Mistake: “Sweet Spot” Stage Plans
Solution: When considering this strategy, think about the risks vs. rewards carefully. They are most useful towards the end of the stage, when it is the last position and least likely to be overrun. Remember: movement costs time- eliminating movement may be the appropriate decision. Confidence in your ability to shoot long range accurately and quickly is key.
Mistake: Waiting for Movers to Activate
Solution: Time movers with a stopwatch whenever possible to maximize you time to shoot other targets available and not feel rushed to return to the mover. Shoot the activator as soon as possible when entering the target array.
Mistake: Poor Clothing and Footwear Choices
Solution: Make appropriate choices for the weather and range conditions. Be prepared. Remember that we do many things resembling sports where competitors’ use cleats. Good rubber type cleats can mean the difference between a sure footed run and a falling down disaster!
Mistake: Blindly Embracing a Technique
Solution: Just remember that the goal is to score as many points in the least amount of time with your VISION controlling everything. Keep things simple. Work on shooting whenever you have an acceptable sight picture. Sometimes it is better to spend less time worrying which foot should be where and just shoot!
Mistake: Not Shooting Your Own Game
Solution: Practice is the time to push your limits and to try other peoples’ techniques, not a match. Always shoot within your abilities during a match.
Mistake: Grandbagging and Sandbagging
Solution: Shoot classifiers like any other stage. Shoot Alphas at your natural speed. Resist the temptation to burn it down like some superhero. Remember, self-respect is the governing body, avoid practicing or re-shooting them frivolously.
Mistake: Major Match Mindset
Solution: Avoid the extra stigma attached to the bigger matches. Just shoot the Alphas at your natural speed and leave the worry of the scores to the stats people. Any other mindset is counterproductive. When the conscious mind receives the simple task of just shooting “A’s”, it responds very well and uses all of the subconscious skills to deliver the requested result.
Mistake: Lack of Self Analysis
Solutions: Take the time for honest self-analysis. Then turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Examples: * What are your strengths and weaknesses as a shooter?
* What can I do to improve my weaknesses?
* What skills require conscious thought to execute and with are truly subconscious?
* What types of shooting tests to I fear?
* Is my training program yielding satisfactory results?
* Am I willing to do the work required to see real improvement?
* What is the payback to me if I improve my technique?
* When am I going to begin?!
PRINCIPLES of PERFORMANCE: Refinement and Repetition 2
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