Recently I was discussing breakthroughs in shooting and training with a fellow competitor and was thinking about where I started and where I am today and what I had learned along the way. We were trying to wrap our minds around what shifts had occurred that separated us from the new guys on our squad who were, well, shooting like new guys.
There really are a myriad of lessons learned, skills, and techniques that I’ve discovered along they way and when I took pause to try to distill them to another person I can really add it up to a handfull of little epiphanies that occurred to me over the last couple of years.
Now there is the initial learning curve where you learn how to even safely operate the equipment, understand how to properly grip the system, the sight picture, and how to discharge it without disrupting the sights/optics. But soon after you get down the basics which disappear into subconscious subroutines you start seeing the important stuff and learning what it is to shoot.
So in an effort to convey some of these defining moments in my competitive shooting career I’m going to write a series on some of the breakthroughs I’ve had since I started competing, the delta between my first match a few years ago to now and hopefully, beyond. In the sport, it all adds up to shaving seconds, so through that lens, let’s get started.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as a competitive shooter, if not the most important thing is that Perception Is Not Reality. What do I mean by that? Well how long it takes you to take a well aimed shot where you see the sights aligned properly on the target and how long it takes to just blast in that general direction is almost immeasurable. Sound too good to be true? Well it’s easy to prove to yourself and to others by using a timer. The timer doesn’t lie.
Setup a stage, let’s say with at least six targets, and go through it a few times as usual noting how long it takes you to complete it as well as scoring your hits. Now run the stage again forcing yourself to shoot all A zone hits. Not just blasting but focusing on the front sight, taking the steps to guarantee you’re hitting in the A zone. I know this sounds trivial and obvious, but it takes real discipline to forget about speed and get good hits because we’re conditioned to try to go fast. You will probably find that it takes you several attempts to run the stage and do it where you actually complete it properly. It really is hard to override your programing. But once you do it you’re probably going to be shocked by the results. Your time from blasting through the stage and your time from taking well aimed shots will be about the same. Really. But your have AA’s instead of C’s and D’s.
I’ve demonstrated this to myself and quite a few others and it always amazes them when they look at the timer after the stage. I encourage you to try this yourself and I’m sure you’ll find that this is the case for you, too.
This discovery was probably the single most important lesson I’ve learned thus far and after applying it on game day, which by the way takes a lot of discipline, has really made a huge difference in my scores. Not that I’m about to dethrone Rob Leatham anytime soon, but for me this pushed me from having an excellent stage to stage excellence. This really put the old saying “you can only shoot as fast as you can see” into context.
So try it out, see for yourself, and apply it to your shooting. I hope it’ll make as much as a difference for you as it did for me.