My, this year has just disappeared on me and I can hardly believe that in a matter of hours it will be 2015. Didn’t we just get to 2014? As usual this is the time of the year where we reflect back over the last 12 months to see how we measured up to the goals we set last year, review which goals we accomplished, pontificate on the goals we didn’t meet, as well as set the goals we’ll strive for over the next 12 months. So let’s kick this thing off by looking back a year ago and seeing what goals I set for the 2014 shooting year and how much progress I made towards meeting them.
Year End Goal Review
- I moved to Open. Although I had the desire to move to Open, I didn’t actually think it would happen this season, being that it is dang expensive to play at this level, and I was having a ton of fun in Production. I had two tricked out Production Glock G34’s, a great load for them, and lots of spare parts and knowledge on the entire system. So why switch? In a nutshell, it was a bit of an experiment to see if I could glean more visual information and learn to move faster throughout the stages. I did elaborate on the rationale for the move in my post, Open For New Skills in case you want to read about all of the details. And why switch now, in the middle of the season? Well, that’s just my ADD shining through.
- Perhaps the biggest goal I set for myself, and didn’t quite meet, was earning my A card in USPSA Production. I did however get pretty darn close, 72.73 percent, and if I had continued to pursue it, I’m confident I would have gotten my A card in 2014. The last Production classifier I shot was in September, so realistically (and perhaps optimistically?) I would have had plenty of time to get it. I was shooting pretty strong percentages there at the end before I jumped ship over to Open as mentioned above.
- I wanted to get more coaching and training this year to help accelerate my ascension towards GM and as far as meeting this goal goes, I knocked it out of the park. Since I was the primary party responsible for setting up some USPSA classes for our local shooters, I had the opportunity to train with some of the best instructors and competitors in the world. I was lucky enough to receive a Dry fire Tune Up and participate in two classes with Steve Anderson as well as a class with Ben Stoeger. The skills I learned from these classes where simply transformative and a total game changer for me. I couldn’t recommend getting some formal training scheduled any higher to supercharge your game.
- I wanted to participate in some major matches and see how I functioned under the pressure, as well as see what an area match was like. My son’s birth happened to coincide with the Area 1 match, so I wasn’t able to compete in that match, but I did however make our local sectional match which was run very professionally and was probably closer to an Area match than a local match. It was the first time I’ve ever had to shoot a chrono stage and have my gear inspected. I’ve always played by the rules when it comes to the Division regulations and power factors, but it was a little unnerving when you’re under the microscope and you’re hoping that you didn’t miss some little detail or realize that your chronograph isn’t accurate. I’m happy to report that everything was just fine and there were no surprises. On a side note about the pressure of a major match, I really didn’t have any issues with it since for whatever reason I’ve never really been affected by pressure. When the timer starts I just sort of go into match mode where I am laser focused and any conscious thought is absent. Paradoxically, this is one place being ADD serves me well since one of the byproducts of ADD is hyper-focus.
- Accuracy being a fundamental tenant of shooting is always a good thing to improve upon. I wanted to be able to engage any target that could be conceived, no matter if it was small, distant, enclosed with no-shoot targets, or any combination of things that I might encounter, and do so without any uncertainty. To that end, accuracy practice has been a part of my training regiment and has paid huge dividends in matches. Being able to knock out mini-popper in front of no-shoot targets at speed, even at distance, is one of those things that win or lose stages. In fact, the last match I shot had the USPSA Classifier, CM 03-10 Area 5 Standards, and most of the people zero’d the stage. Not to sound boastful, merely trying to demonstrate the results of so much accuracy practice, I won the stage which was extremely accuracy centric. Now I’m not so crazy to think that I have mastered accuracy by any stretch of the imagination, and this is a skill that I will continue to focus on and hone my capabilities during every practice session.
- I rarely shoot IDPA, but I do love competitive shooting in just about every form. And while IDPA is not as dear to my heart as USPSA, I really do enjoy it when the opportunity arises to compete in a local IDPA match. One of my goals for last year was to shoot an IDPA classifier and make Expert. I finally had the opportunity arise to shoot the classifier and I handily made Expert.
So looking back at last year’s goal, I’m pretty happy overall with what I was able to accomplish given the amount of time I had to devote to practice and if I were to think of the most significant things I learned or did to improve my shooting, I’d have to say it would be all of the dryfire practice, focus on the mental game, and moving to Open. For almost six months I dryfired for close to an hour a day. The amount of improvement I experience over the last year can be mostly contributed to all of the dryfire. Not that it wasn’t without it’s challenges, since I didn’t get nearly the amount of live fire sprinkled in between dryfire sessions I had a introduced some pretty big training scars. I had to learn how to dryfire properly so I didn’t create more issues while in live fire. But overall, it is the best training you can do and it’s free.
If you’ve taken a class from Steve Anderson or listened to his podcast you no doubt have heard about the mental component of shooting ad nauseam. Learning how to properly visualize a stage and burn in that program so as to be shooting subconsciously is a pretty amazing thing. I just call every shot while shooting the stage while on cruse control, only judging if a shot was acceptable or not acceptable. If the shot was deemed not acceptable, a follow up shot is delivered instantaneously. And the most amazing thing about this process is that it happens at a speed that would not be possible if conscious thought was involved, fractions of a second.
Speaking of speed, the move to the Open division has already yielding speed increases for me. Although I’ve only been able to shoot a few matches with my Open gun, I am definitely seeing the types of speed increases that prompted the division change in the first place. As expected, shooting while moving has been turbo charged since I am always target focused and the red dot of doom is always just lingering in my visual path, at least if I’m doing my part correctly. But the biggest and somewhat unexpected speed increase has been from being able to shoot sooner. Since the dot is just about always available, I am able to start engaging targets as soon as possible, which sounds obvious enough and not like a tactic that is reserved for Open shooters. For me, I am able to begin engaging targets as soon as I cross a fault line, or the instant I pass a vision barrier I can start breaking shots. Reviewing video from my Open matches I see seconds being shaved from stages as I move into a new position from a full sprint and start laying waste to poppers before I have even slowed down to clear out everything from that location. That is one of those skills that dawned on me somewhat recently while watching video of the Super Squad at Nationals. Those guys are amazing to watch and seeing them execute the shooting cycle as soon as their sights pass over a target is pretty inspiring. So for me at least, I’m learning some skills that I hope will now be available to my shooting repertoire regardless of what division I’m shooting. What a kick in the pants! I know that my primary rationale of shooting Open is to improve my overall skill set, but wow, is sure is a ton of fun.
While putting together my shooting stats data (see image below) the biggest thing I noticed was that although my shots fired total was similar to previous years, the gear was significantly different than previous years. Most of my shots fired, roughly 74%, were though my Production Glock G34’s and 16% of shots fired were through my new Open STI, leaving only 10% of shots fired going to the occasional rifle or 3 Gun match. This is mainly due to my commitment to USPSA. I only have so many cycles to dedicate towards competition and my time is more limited than ever, so as much as I miss competing in some of the other disciplines, I really had to thing about my priorities and progressing in USPSA is where I want to improve the most, so that’s what I spend my time training, and those are the matches I attend. It does however pain me to see my “new” long range precision rifle collecting dust in the safe which I saved for years to get, and never use. One day…
A couple other noteworthy things about this year’s status is that there was no .22 shooting as in previous years, and the gear has changed significantly. You might thing the lack of .22 shooting is due to the gross lack of rimfire availability, but in reality, when I got a chance to train, I rolled with my actual gear since I happen to have more ammo than time these days. And as far as gear, as much as I really loved my M&P’s, the Glocks simply displaced all of them except the M&P .22 pistol. The rest of them were sold for lead.
If you have been following me for any amount of time you might have seen that I set out to build the Ultimate USPSA Production Glock and shortly after I built the New Ultimate USPSA Production Glock that had some significant changes in the trigger/striker system as well as the move to the Taran Tactical sights. I love the pistol. So much so that it made it even more difficult to move to Open.
Other gear changes were pretty minor. I standardized on CR Speed magazine pouches everywhere they were legal to use. I moved to the AA belt from the CR Speed belts I’ve been using since they are a bit wider and stuff stays put, although I still use the thicker CR Speed internal belt, even with the AA outer belt. I just seem to like that combination the best.
Looking Forward – 2015
Now that the calendar show 2015 at the top, I needed to think back over last year’s goals, think about what I want to complete this year, and align my new goals, gear, and training regimen to meet my needs this season. So what do I want to accomplish this year? What challenges do I have that may interfere with my goals? What gear and consumables will I need to reach my goals? How do I need to train, etc. Normally I’d start out by stating my goals and moving from there, but one significant difference this year is that my challenges need to be stated to so as to set realistic goals that hinge on my capabilities. Sure I’d like to make GM in Open and Production this year, but I simply don’t have the resources to do it.
The biggest challenges I face this year are centered around my physical capabilities and the amount of time I can devote to shooting. We all struggle with the time element, especially us with children, and we just reset the counter 6 months ago with our second child, so it’s even tougher than before to carve out time to train or shoot a match. Even finding time to dryfire has been impossible lately! But the most significant detriment to my shooting this year is that I’m about to undergo a major surgery that will most likely have me sidelined for the next six months. Yep, that’s not a typo, half the damn year I’ll be unable to participate in sports, at least at a competitive level. At least that’s what the surgeon is telling me. So with that in mind, what’s realistic for me to accomplish in 2015?
- To not lose ground. Not being able to shoot for six months is sure to take it’s toll on my performance so anything I can do to try to slow the decay will not only keep me from moving backwards, but once I’m back in action will allow my training time to go towards learning new skills and making improvements towards new goals.
- I want an A card in USPSA. I don’t really care if it’s in Production or in Open, but I want to an A or two on my card. Most likely it’ll be in Open, but hard to say right now.
- Improve accuracy. I know that’s vague and it’s hard to quantify that statement, but it’s something that always has room for improvement.
- Improve fundamentals. Again, vague, but I have had some challenges around trigger control and recoil control that seems like is a byproduct of lots of dryfire and very little live fire training. This needs to be fixed and a plan to do so integrated into my future training plans.
- Speaking of training plans, I need to develop one. I haven’t made the most of my training, dry or live, because I haven’t taken the time to assess my current skills and tailored my drills to bolster my weaknesses. Once that’s done, I need to schedule it, dry and live.
- Shoot an Area match.
- Take a class. If time and resources allow, I’d like to get Steve Anderson back out for his Advanced class this summer.
- Get faster. Faster static skills like draws, reloads, etc. Faster moving skills like shooting while moving and shooting the instant I enter a new position. Faster splits and transitions.
So with that, I think I’m all set to get things going for the 2015 shooting season and hopefully will be back to shooting much sooner than expected. I’ll probably be able to shoot Speed Steel much sooner since I don’t have to move and might even be able to do it with crutches. We’ll see.
And without further adieu, here are my actual shots fired stats from 2014. Sorry it took so long to get to it.