Find Your Speed – The Three Keys

Have you ever shot a stage only to wonder how in the world your local master beat you by four seconds? You shot the stage as good as you possibly could have, and have been working a bunch in your dry fire and practice sessions. Where could that time be? How is it possible for them to beat you by that much? A second or so, maybe. But this guy beat you by four seconds! Was it a timer malfunction? Maye the timer didn’t pick up the time right? Not! You got beat soundly, and in this article, I am going to try to teach you how to look for the time you lost.

In this article, keep in mind that I am referring to any kind of shooting where speed and accuracy are both important. The first step of the process is obvious in that you have to be able to hit the target. If you can’t, then learn how to do that first. How accurate will depend on what you are trying to do. Generally speaking, this article is geared toward the practical shooting sports (I.D.P.A. and U.S.P.S.A) but the principles apply to any other shooting endeavor where both speed and are desired. My goal is to teach you how to think about finding speed in a simple manner that you can apply in your practice sessions.

So where is “speed” in terms of shooting a stage at a match, or possibly in a dynamic self-defense situation? The answer is actually pretty simple if you break it down. There are three things you can attempt to do faster:

  1. Shoot the gun faster. This includes getting it ready to shoot in cases where a manipulation like a reload or malfunction occurs, but generally speaking, I am referring to aiming faster, gripping better, and pulling the trigger faster.
  2. Move the gun faster. This might include moving it on to target from the holster, or from target to target in a stage. This skill is oftentimes called “transitioning” in the shooting sports.
  3. Move your body faster and prepare to shoot sooner. This includes moving faster from position to position, as well as the dismount and remount of the firearm.

I’d like to give you a few tips on each of these, but most importantly remind you that you can improve each of the three areas if you focus on them. Most shooters go to the range with zero plan, and leave with that same amount of improvement. While I have several training programs that offer each drill you need to follow, if you are reading this and want to do your own thing, consider breaking down your practice sessions into a focus on one of the three things. Let me give you some suggestions for each and tell you how I personally approach them. Keep in mind that these are competitive oriented, but you can do the same for a defensive shooting goal.

Shoot the gun faster. In this session I am focusing on recoil management, sight management, and trigger management. In my practice, I am also setting up targets at different distance so I can repetitively practice shooting each one faster. Here is a sample practice routine:

  • Focus: Grip Management, Trigger Management and Sight Verification on three separate targets.
  • Guideline: All manipulations done as fast as you can (like the draw). Shooting practice should be to fire as fast as you can get 95% 0 or A hits. Pay attention to the grip mechanics, trigger management and what is needed on sight verification to accomplish the hits at various distances.
  • Set up: Three targets (IDPA or USPSA) about 2 yards apart (L-R) at distances of 5, 10 and 20 yards.
  • Draw and fire two shots on the 5 yard target. Repeat 10-20 times
  • Draw and fire two shots on the 10 yard target. Repeat 10-20 times
  • Draw and fire two shots on the 20 yard target. Repeat 10-20 times
  • Draw and mix it up in random order on all three targets (6 shots total). Never repeat the same pattern.
  • Summary: In this example, you are building the ability to fire two shots as quickly as possible on an easy, medium and hard difficulty target. Then you are practicing the skill of changing gears between them instantaneously in your random order string. You will learn exactly what is needed on the trigger management and sight verification for each target, and program yourself to execute those skills on demand. This practice routine might seem simple, yet if you dive deep, it is not. This is where real learning (to shoot) occurs.

Move the fun faster. In this session I am focusing on moving the gun from target to target as fast as possible.

  • Focus: Transitions between targets separated by various distances.
  • Guideline: Take a critical look at your stance. If it is not wide and athletic, you will not be able to move the gun as fast. Drive the gun as hard as you can using the opposite side foot to start your motion.
  • Set up: Three targets (IDPA or USPSA) at a distance of 7 yards away with 3 yards between T1 and T2 and 5 yards between T2 and T3 (so if you measure between T1 and T3 it would measure 8 yards).
  • Draw and fire two shots on T1 then T2. Repeat 10-20 times
  • Draw and fire two shots on T1 then T3. Repeat 10-20 times
  • Draw and fire two shots on T2 then T1. Repeat 10-20 times
  • Draw and fire two shots on T3 then T1. Repeat 10-20 times
  • Draw and mix it up in random order on all three targets (6 shots total). Never repeat the same pattern.
  • Summary: In this example, you are building the ability to drive the gun both left to right and right to left between short and medium distances. You are learning to drive and stop the gun as fast as possible, stabilize, and shoot. Mix it up and use the head zone as a possible target as well, not just the body shots.

Move your body faster and prepare to shoot sooner. In this session the focus in on mastering short and long movement including the gun dismount and remount.

  • Focus: Movement between shooting positions of various distances.
  • Guideline: This is not just about running between positions, but rather learning when to separate the hands, how to exit a position and the proper gun position between targets. Learn these skills as a full member.
  • Set up A: Three targets (IDPA or USPSA) at a distance of 7 yards away with 3 yards between T1 and T2 and 5 yards between T2 and T3 (so if you measure between T1 and T3 it would measure 8 yards).
  • Set up B: Three shooting positions or boxes in front of each target ( from left to right they will be P1, P2, and P3).
  • Draw and fire two shots on T1 from P1 then move to P2 and fire two on T2. Repeat 10 times in each direction. (short movement, both hands stay on the gun)
  • Draw and fire two shots on T1 from P1 then move to P3 and fire two on T3 Repeat 10 times in each direction. (long movement, hands separate from the gun)
  • Now repeat the movement but instead of moving left to right, move right to left.
  • Summary: In this example, you are building the ability to move short and long distances both left to right and right to left. The breakdown and remount of the gun must be done correctly, but are beyond the scope of this short article. The key considerations are how to move using a solid breakdown and remount the gun early before you are in the next position.

These practice routines are just suggestions, and you must keep in mind the technical skills have to be understood to work them in practice. But if you understand technique and what to work on, the process of channeling your practice into one of the three areas where you can find speed will help refine and simplify your sessions. Remember, less is more so if you simplify your range sessions that will help you focus on the “chunks” of each skill you are trying to improve upon.

New to shooting or have questions about the technique? I can help. Jump on the homepage and look at ONLINE resources including the membership areas. I suggest the American Competitive Shooter Society if you really want to dig deep and follow a systematic program. Most members absolutely love the content and dramatically improve.

Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.

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