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. 🙂