2017 was an especially great year for me as a shooter and looking back, there were a few pivotal moments that I can attribute to my successes. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to compete in the 2017 CZ Iron Sight Nationals, and although I wasn’t close to winning a place on the podium, I learned more in those few days than I had all year. I came back from Nationals reinvigorated and hungry for growth. I took the time to analyze my performance and developed a training program to specifically address my weaknesses. Although this seems obvious, this was a major breakthrough for me and my performance has improved at a much greater rate than ever before.
In the past I’d grab a book off the shelf, flip through it, and find a drill or two that looked like fun and work on it with no real goal in mind other than trying to “get better.” Often I’d work on the same set of drills and not bother recording the times let alone have a par time I was trying to beat. So it was back to the drawing board to figure out how to train effectively. After many hours of video analysis I had a pretty good idea of what I did well, and where my weaknesses were. It would have been easy to say that I needed to improve everything, but that would have paralyzed my training program, and wouldn’t provide any path for improvement. It was time to create a prescriptive training program.
Where To Start
At the time I was developing my training program I was barely out of B class, and had been stuck in A class for quite some time. In my local matches I often placed right along a few of the Master class shooters which was an indicator that my core classification skills were not in alignment with field stage skills. That being said, I decided to double down on the basics like drawing, reloading, transitions, etc. The timing was actually perfect since I had just moved from the Sig P320 to the Walther PPQ Q5 Match. I spent an inordinate amount of time resetting all assumptions and developed a new grip which is the foundation that all other skills are based upon. From there I developed my new draw, reloads, transitions, and how to properly drive the new Q5. I rebuilt all of my gun handling skills from the ground up in dry fire and confirmed their efficacy in live fire. Gun handling and basic USPSA classification skills became Section One of my new training program, using Steve Anderson’s book, Refinement and Repetition. Forcing myself to push harder to meet a specific goal for a specific drill was a small but important detail that produced results.
Outside of the aforementioned issues with my core gun handling skills, reviewing my match videos showed a lack of movement as well as gross losses of time entering and exiting shooting positions. Like I did with my gun handling skills, it was time to hit the reset button on my stage movement, to tear it down build it back up with the proper techniques. For this segment, Section Two of my training program, I broke things down even further and looked for drills in these two categories; Shooting on the Move, and Entries/Exits.
I had a copy of Steve Anderson’s book, Get to Work, that he gave me a couple of years ago and after I started flipping through it I realized that I hadn’t read it yet. It was just perfect for what I needed to practice, all about efficient movement.
Both Sections of my training program were covered extensively in various training books I have purchased, so I just created a reference system to align which drills I wanted to practice for each Section as well as other drills I discovered on YouTube that I thought would be beneficial.
I also decided that I would video myself training whenever possible to ensure I was performing the drills as efficiently as possible and compare it with videos of the “Super Squad” members for any little thing I could do to improve.
My new training methodology and program coalesced within a very short time after shooting Nationals, and unlike my previous unstructured training in the past, the results were almost immediate. It has been very exciting to work this new process and see tangible improvement by the end of the practice session, and more importantly, in the next match. From the time I shot Nationals, got back and found a Walther Q5 Match, created my training program, and started working the program, it was probably 2 months or so until I made Master. It’s a bit of a bitter pill to discover that I’ve been doing it wrong for a very long time, but it’s equally satisfying to see with some forethought, planning, and hard work, it is possible to make great strides in a very short time.
Another attribute of this training program is that the basic workflow is adaptable and adjustable. For example, during the last match I made a couple of mistakes that kept me from winning Production, so I identified my errors by analyzing my match video, created a few drills to isolate and improve those particular errors, then worked on them in dry fire then live fire. By the end of my live fire session, I had improved those skills to the point where they wouldn’t be an issue again. The cycle was very quick and effective.
Although this system is relatively simple, I won’t lie and say it has been easy. It’s taken quite a bit of energy to build my training program, to tear down my shooting foundation and start over from the beginning. It’s taken a massive amount of dry fire and time and ammunition. I have bloodied my grips repeatedly, and destroyed my hands to the point that my fingerprints no longer unlock my iPhone. But the analysis and isolation of my training program is paying great dividends, worth every second. I no longer show up to the range without a training plan for the day. I have all of the drills planned out for each training session and all of the materials needed ready before I leave the house. Same goes for my dry fire. Depending on where I am with my master plan and how the last training session went, I will work on specific items that need improvement and make adjustments along the way.
Putting It All Together
In an effort to simplify my journey and give you a plan you can use to improve your shooting, I would suggest using following steps to build your own, unique training plan.
Analyze – Watch your videos, analyze your match results.
Identify – What are you doing poorly/well?
Goal Set – What do you want to accomplish?
Isolate – Create drills to improve each of the skills that need work.
Verify – Are the drills working? Are you meeting your goals?
Reset – Time to start the cycle over.