At the night shooting class I took a couple of days ago, a good number of people said that they had issues with doing many things at once with a firearm in their hand. They had problems with stashing their flashlight in a safe place, performing reloads and just keeping everything straight in their heads in a semi-stressful environment.
I’ll admit I had some issues with this as well (memo to self: a magazine with four rounds in it and a fully-loaded magazine do NOT weigh the same), but for the most part, I did pretty well.
My initial approach to this stage was to shoot eight rounds at each mini-stage within the larger course for a total 24 rounds. But what happens if, for some bizarre (and all-too-common) reason, I totally charlie-foxtrot a portion of the stage? What if it takes five or six rounds to knock down a popper rather than just one? Now I have to do a standing reload, (which kills your time) and adjust how I shoot the rest of the course accordingly.
This is what practical shooting teaches you: How to respond with a firearm in your hand when things don’t go according to plan. You can learn to shoot a 4″ bullseye at 25 yards on the public range and a training class will teach you the best way to engage targets around barricades, but practical shooting gives you the mindset you need to quickly and safely respond correctly with your firearm when things go all to pieces.
Practical shooting is a lot like golf in that it’s a mind game: It’s you and what you can do vs. how the course is laid out. The only person you’re competing with in golf is your confidence in your abilities (“175 yards to hole? I think I can carry that bunker.”). I’m finding out that knowing what I can do and planning each stage based on that knowledge are the keys to a successful run.
For instance, I shoot Production, which means I start out with 10 rounds in each magazine (and usually another in the chamber at the start) and that gaur-an-frckin-tees I’m going to reload on almost every stage I come across. That also means I’m going to have a slight edge on Single Stack and Revolver shooters who shoot only 8 rounds before they have to reload.
Let’s see how this plays out in reality. Here’s a simple USPSA stage that I built using stagebuilder.com.
Comstock scoring, 24 rounds
Now, because the stage designer (me) decided to build the stage in a way that accommodates Revolver and Single Stack shooters, it makes the job of anyone shooting Production and Limited-10 a little easier. Also, there’s no real tricks to this stage: There aren’t multiple paths to each group of targets and no real “gotcha” opportunities for missed targets and failure to engage penalties, it’s pretty much a run and gun scenario, and if you’re shooting Open and have more than 24 rounds in your pistol, a decent shooter should be able to shoot the whole stage without a reload.
Here’s how I’d run this course.
If it’s a complicated stage (this one isn’t), I’d offload the thinking part by using making a quick diagram on a Stage Analysis form before I turn in my scorecard for the stage. I’m a kinesthetic learner: I need to physically grasp a concept before I can work on it, and sitting down and drawing out a stage allows me to grasp just what is needed to accomplish my goals. It also means I print out my emails, but that’s another story…
I then plan my reload points by physically walking the course, determining how many rounds are needed for each group of targets and then miming the act of reloading my pistol in each spot I’ve chosen. The nice thing about this is that I can usually do this part of my planning without interfering the other shooters as they also go through their prep for each stage. In this case, I’d plan on one reload between each group of targets, and hopefully that’d be it.
Then, as it gets closer to my turn to shoot the stage, I start to work on what order I’ll engage the targets. This is hard to tell from a stage diagram, so it’s something that has to be done on the course itself.
When I’m in box and getting ready to shoot, my mantra is simple: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast“, and I try to visualize a good sight picture with my pistol.
And then the timer goes off, the red mist descends, my brain locks up and all this planning goes out the window. 🙂
“Know thy enemy, know thyself, and you will be invincible.”
– Sun Tzu
When I was a professional photographer, once someone found out what I did for a living, I’d usually at a party, “Say, I want to take better pictures, what kind of camera should I get?”
My answer to this was always “Well, that depends. How many rolls of film do you shoot each week?”, which would usually end that part of the conversation as the would-be photographer grapples with the concept of shooting an entire 36-shot roll of film each week, much less more than one, where it was not uncommon for me to burn through two dozen rolls of HP5+ or TMZ covering just one high school basketball game.
The point I was trying to make is that it’s not the camera that limits the photographer, it’s his or her ability to put in the time necessary to realize their vision and their desire to push their creativity that limits a photographer.
Looking back on this now, I realize my answer to the wannabe photogs was/is snarky and condescending: People want to take better pictures not to become the next Mark Seliger, they want to capture memories that are more evocative and aesthetic, something all of us share.
Which brings me to practical shooting. I’m blessed/cursed to call Rio Salado Sportsmans Club my home range. It’s loaded to the gills with USPSA Grandmasters. It’s a blessing in that each match is challenging and exciting, but each match is meant to be challenging and exciting to shooters like Rob Leatham, Vic Pickett and Matt Burkett.
This can (and does) discourage beginning shooters. Imagine cranking off the best golf drive in your life and then have Tiger Woods shoot behind you and out-drive you by 100 yards.
The upside to this, though, is that in the words of The Chairman Of The Board, if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere. And another great thing about shooting at Rio is the opportunity to participate and shoot in some 1st-class matches like the Desert Classic and Mystery 3 Gun, which bring in shooters from around the country. I get to meet some of the best shooters in the world, and the prize tables for each match can be really good.
All of this explains why I’m shooting a laid-back, easy-to-shoot steel match with friends on a regular basis rather than the more difficult but less friendly USPSA matches at Rio. I like Rio: I do all my practicing there and I’ll still shoot a USPSA match there as often as I can, but right now, it’s important that I believe I can shoot well and do so when needed, even in the toughest of competitions. My practice sessions are there for me to prepare me physically, the steel matches are there to prepare me mentally. My standard for success needs to be me and the progress I have made, not the best shooters in the world can do.
2. I like the freestyle run-and-gun format of IPSC/USPSA more than IDPA’s shorter, more controlled stages.
3. The Desert Classic is a USPSA match, and the whole reason I’m doing this is so I don’t embarrass myself at this year’s match.
I shoot Production in USPSA, and I’m NOT a big fan of Open class, so there are few practical differences between how I shoot a USPSA match and how I shoot an IDPA match. IDPA teaches good use of cover, IPSC teaches on-your-feet thinking a little better, IMO. Both are good at providing artificial stress, which is the reason why I got into this.
This is not to say that IDPA isn’t worthwhile or I won’t ever shoot it ever ever. Quite the opposite. Here’s proof.
Yep, it’s another CZ, a brand-new, dead-stock P07 Duty, courtesy of Armed American Arsenal. This will soon be my new daily carry pistol and it’ll also serve as my IDPA gun. I’m putting it through it’s paces right now, and once I’ve put 500 or so rounds through it, I’ll team it up with some kind of tuckable IWB holster (still figuring out which one. If you make hybrid holsters and need a website, call me 🙂 UPDATE:I went with a Crossbreed Supertuck for the Springfield XD). Once I get that all done, the P07 will be my new my day off /after work sidearm, and because I firmly believe in “fight like you train, train like you fight”, I’ll also use it in IDPA starting next year, probably the Tuesday night matches at the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club. But that’ll wait ’til I get to where I’m going in USPSA.
Gun: I bought a CZ75 three years ago for home defence, and I had Angus Hobdell work it over so it can also be used for USPSA. He removed the magazine brake so the mags can drop free, added a competition hammer and Novak sights and did a trigger job on it.
And he made a good gun even better. It’s a heck of a shooter now, and it won’t be my gun that’ll keep me from making C Class. The gun cost me $400 at a local gun show, and I’ve got about $200 of modifications into it, so for $600 dollars I have a gun that can compete with the best of them. Not bad.
Holster:A BladeTech dropped-offset Kydex holster. I found out the hard way that lowballing your holster just doesn’t work. I started out with a Fobus paddle holster, and it had the annoying (and dangerous) habit of grabbing the pistol too hard and not letting me pull it out.
This had an adverse effect on my stage times.
The BladeTech is just top-notch, and definitely worth the price. I’ve paired it with a couple of BladeTech double mag pouches and a CR Speed belt. the whole setup cost me less than a $125 bucks, and it’s just great for USPSA Production.
Ammo: Either plain ol’ boring 115 grain Winchester White Box, or my own reloads. I have a Lee Turret press, and my 9mm round of choice is 115 grain Montana Gold FMJ’s with CCI primers and Power Pistol powder. The load is controllable and easy to shoot, but is still about 10% over minimum power factor.
Training: I can shoot fast, but I have problems shooting fact and accurately.
Actually, I have problems shooting accurately almost all the time. I’ve been jerking the trigger since I started shooting, and I’ve only recently got it under control. What I need to do now is integrate a smooth trigger press into quick transitions and a fast draw, so I’ve added pistol-training.com ‘s Dot Torture Drill into my practice. Speaking of which…
I want to shoot an El Presidente or a similar USPSA classifier drill each month to get ready for my next attempt to break into C Class, and the Hackathorn defensive drill will help me train myself for any real-world encounters, which is, after all, the reason why I got into this in the first place.
Competition: I want to compete in at least one club match each month, ideally a steel match (either at Rio on Tuesdays or Phoenix Rod and Gun on Thursdays) and the 3 gun match at Rio. While these aren’t USPSA matches, it’s the competition that I need right now. I’ll mix in a USPSA match every once in a while, but I need to get into the rhythm of competition and keep honing my skills. Shooting is a perishable skill, and it’d be better for me to compete in an 80 round run and gun steel match once a month than not compete at all.
Deadline: November 10, 2010. I want to be in C Class for the Rio Desert Classic, which means that I’ll actually need to be ready to go a month before that, as typically, Rio puts on an all-classifier match to accommodate people who want to shoot the classic in a new class or with a new gun.
A few years ago, after a pair of brutal home invasions in the Phoenix area, my wife and I decided that we needed to improve the protection of our home and family. We installed a burglar alarm, and I bought a pistol for home defence.
I decided on a CZ75 after trying all the 9mm pistols at Caswell’s Indoor Range. I tried Glocks, S&W’s, Springfields and my groups were the tightest with the CZ, so I went to a gun show the next week and bought a pre-B CZ75 from a dealer there for $400.
Then I went to get training. I took the NRA FIrst Steps class at Rio and learned about something called “Practical Pistol”, and it looked like a good way to get myself used to using a handgun in a semi-stressfful environment.
This intrigued me, as I knew I was good enough to shoot well at a static target on a firing range, but I also knew that wasn’t any guarantee that I’d be able to shoot well when the lives of my loved ones depended on it, and USPSA looked like a good way to learn how to shoot fast and accurately as fast as possible.
So I gave it a try. And I liked it. A lot. I shot about once every other month, and I got to the point where I became a “D” Class shooter. Better than the lower 2% of shooters out there, but there’s lot of shooters better than me.
Classification Bracket Percentages
Grand Master – 95 to 100% Master – 85 to 94.9% A – 75 to 84.9% B – 60 to 74.9% C – 40 to 59.9% D – 2 to 40%
That’s got to change. And that’s what this blog is about.