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GunBugBit

Bob's Range Diary

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I've been shooting 3 kinds of matches since April 30, 2015. My signature has links to my records for those matches.

Now five months into this, I will start documenting things here.

I keep detailed records of all matches, and I write notes about things I observe and experience. I find those useful to review from time to time. I won't go to that level of detail on the thread.

What I've learned so far with regards to shooting better can be distilled into these basic points:

  1. How the gun is held is very important. On this topic, I looked to material from Miculek, Leatham, Enos, Jarrett, and a few others. When I started to get what they say, and apply it in matches, a certain amount of improvement came about.
  2. Stance is important. I will talk about my personal stance more later but for now I'll say it is toward what Max Michel teaches. I haven't attended a class of his, but have read what he teaches, and I think it has helped me.
  3. Economy of movement will be a lifelong study. People have pointed things out to me that I didn't know I was doing. Video-recording my dry fire drills has helped me see where I waste motion. I'll expand my usage of such tools in the future, to include video-recording my match stages, getting more formal coaching, etc.
  4. Snappy movement between targets might be the single easiest thing to do with the biggest impact on stage times. Just don't start to move to the next target before trigger press.
  5. Shortening the time from start signal to first shot didn't require a faster draw (although I do also want a faster draw). I keep working on near-automatic sight alignment as I push my arms out and push my thumb-butts together. I keep my eyes on the spot I'm going to engage as I draw, and the goal is to have aligned sights appear almost without effort on that spot. It's happening more consistently as I drill and employ it in matches.
  6. Keeping the gun up during reloads and movement seems obvious but I had to learn the habit.
  7. Relaxed eyes can focus better than squinted, tense eyes. This is one of my more recent and impactful lessons.
  8. Physical exercise, good rest and good nutrition give a real boost to shooting performance.

That's all for now. More thoughts and progress updates later.

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One thing I'm learning is to use time more efficiently when engaging a clump of targets where steel and cardboard are together in close proximity.

Instead of engaging a steel popper and waiting for it to fall, I'll call a shot on a steel target and immediately put shots on cardboard, then back to steel if any remain standing, repeat until done. This is a better use of time than just standing there waiting for the steel to move.

This is highly obvious to experienced competitors. But as a newer guy I get excited when I find myself doing these things with good results.

I employed this technique on "Twist And Shout" at yesterday's match. In the middle part of the stage, I shot steel-paper-paper-steel-paper-paper-steel, etc., until I had cleaned up that cluster of targets.

The targets on the left and right required putting a popper down to turn a paper target, and I caught on that a stationary paper target should be engaged while the falling popper is activating the turning target, and then it will be time to engage the turning target.

This was one of the first times a slightly fancy stage went even better than I had visualized. I was 3rd out of 14 single stack shooters on that stage. My speed was 3rd best and my raw points were 4th best among those of us who had no penalties. I think I was near my personal sweet spot of speed+accuracy. More A's would have been nice, and more speed would have been nice, but I don't think my current skill set allows for a much better score.

My experience on this stage was one of a few during this match where I found I was able to quickly understand why other shooters do things in certain sequences, whereas two months ago, I was too overwhelmed to relax and calmly observe and understand.

The classifier was Down The Middle, a very straightforward stage. My last 3 USPSA matches, I've shot the classifier 3rd out of 6 stages so that I am warmed up but not tired. This is a good way to go, so far. I was determined to shoot this stage accurately if nothing else. My time of 7.07 seconds for the 8 shots -- all A hits -- is not fast, but is my second best classifier score so far.

In general, this fourth USPSA match for me was the first one I can say I really enjoyed. The first three were intimidating.

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I put in a couple of structured live fire practice sessions recently. I'm doing simple drills and logging the times, not necessarily to pursue super speed but just to quantitatively mark where my proficiency currently is.

I don't want to fall into the trap of neglecting dry fire just because I'm doing live fire practice. Dry fire will be even more meaningful with more live fire, and of course I can also mix some dry fire into the live fire sessions.

My shooting at the club's practice matches is getting steadily better. It's also a great time.

An especially great time was had at yesterday's Steel Challenge. I squadded with fine gentlemen named Dominic, Tony and Brian -- all four of us Army or Marine veterans. Attendance was low so it was almost like we had the whole range to ourselves.

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SCSA isn't updated with my club's last Steel Challenge match, but according to the club's data, my classification aggregate improved from 137.04 down to 121.31. Not far from B class now.

I shot this latest match with slightly softer .45 reloads versus factory loads I used for the other matches. I had a few malfunctions but most of those did not impact things overall because they only happened on one string per stage, except for Speed Option where getting a best stage time was thwarted by two malfy strings in a row.

Almost 9 seconds shaved off of my previous best on the Accelerator stage, more than 4 seconds better on Roundabout, more than 3 seconds better on Smoke & Hope, fractional improvements in Showdown and Outer Limits.

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I had a very bad club practice match last night. I wasn't prepared for how cold it was (by Phoenix standards) and I hadn't eaten properly. Still, it was a fun Halloween-themed match and I'm glad I stayed to shoot every stage.

We have switched over to using Nooks to run PractiScore and so far it's working pretty well. Gannon has done a wonderful job getting most of us on board with it.

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I've had a couple of bad matches lately after a multi-week run of my best shooting so far, but am having more fun than ever. I can make little excuses for the performance hiccups, but there's no need for that because I allow myself highs and lows, knowing I'll have them, so I don't get upset about the lows.

I felt as good about yesterday's USPSA match experience as any so far, but my scores were poor. I got a couple of compliments about smoothness and appearing confident, but it didn't show up on the score sheets.

One possible explanation is that I was a bit too relaxed. I wouldn't say I had a casual attitude, because I want to do well and I take safety and competence seriously. I just think that my overall mental and physical relaxation were spilling over into a tendency to break shots that did not yet have acceptable sight pictures.

In my mind, I was thinking thoughts like, "Great, I'm executing my plan, it's a good plan, not doing anything I didn't plan to do, I feel sure on my feet, my gun handling seems crisp, I'm solidly seating my mags on all of my reloads, I'm remembering everything I told myself to remember, wonderful, nice, I'm having a nice time, it's a nice day, I'm happy..."

Stuff like that.

Things feeling smooth during a stage and being very happy does not necessarily translate to good shooting.

Summary: I shot like crap but I was happy.

Next up: I'll shoot well and be happy.

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My December Steel Challenge match was not an improvement over previous matches, but I'm very happy I shot the match. I had a chance to practice a couple of the stages after I shot the 8 stages for score and most competitors had left. I reinforced a few fundamentals during that practice and now I will embark on a program of increased dry-fire and live-fire practice in preparation for the January 3rd USPSA all-classifier match.

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Placed 36th overall in a field of 110 USPSA shooters, 6th out of 15 single stack shooters, in last Sunday's all-classifier match at Ben Avery.

This match will not get me to the B class but it will provide a better base for my average such that B will come in the not too distant future.

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I've been quite devoted to dry fire practice since around Christmas, up to right now, and I have no intention of backsliding. The more I do it, the more I like it and need it as part of my day. I surprised myself these last two days with regard to more consistently beating some par times I've established as my baselines for certain drills. I'm not declaring any lofty heights I'll be hitting soon, nor am I limiting myself. The good Lord did not bless me with unusually high talent for shooting, nor did he severely limit me. I'm having so much fun finding out what I can do with what I have.

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I'm sticking with a consistent dry fire program. I acquired the 3 Ben Stoeger books and 2 DVDs and find this material to be very good.

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Shot some sub-2-second Bill Drills last weekend, my first ever. The first attempt of that session yielded 2.08s with all As. This was after months of competition, dry-fire practice, live-fire practice, watching and talking to shooters who can do it, gathering information, thinking, experimenting, etc.

Edited by GunBugBit

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A couple of notes on the Bill Drill -- my C hits, when I get them, tend to happen on the first shot or two. I will keep working on not rushing the first shot after the draw but not wasting any time either. I proved to myself that if I don't rush the first shots after the draw and get that acceptable sight picture and then shoot the 6 shots with my specific works-for-me technique, I'm consistent at staying in the A zone.

I naturally fall into a 0.18s split rhythm. So with 1.1s between start signal and first shot, and the 0.18s splits, I can get the 2.0s. If the draw beats 1.1s and/or some of the splits are better than 0.18s, then I get below 2 seconds. I was surprised how little effort was required when everything finally fell into place -- it can actually be done in a relaxed way but the support hand does need to be quite firm. This never would have happened if I hadn't been pushing to go faster. Some of my club buddies believe they'll naturally get faster just by shooting matches. I feel this is probably not the case. I'll go the route of regular, frequent dry-fire and structured live-fire practice.

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Have missed a few matches in recent weeks, finally got out there again last night.

Stage 2 went well for me, #1 in SS, despite a reload that was not seated and needed a fresh mag off the belt. Pushed the speed a bit and it was good.

Stage 3 was also a SS win, despite one penalty. Speed not pushed, just settled into a rhythm, was focused on hitting the small poppers at around 15 yards.

The other stages went OK except for Stage 1, where we shoot from inside the wooden building. The loudness rattles me slightly and I need to remember to double up the ear pro in there.

Edited by GunBugBit

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Had a good practice match last night, my third win of the Single Stack division, amongst a greater number of wins over those in my class and below, so per the club's informal classification system, I should ascend to the club's highest class of "Master." This has little meaning to anyone outside the club. Some of our club Masters are also USPSA Masters but not in all cases. You can't make "GM" by shooting the club's matches, but if you are a USPSA GM, then the club shows your class as such.

Probably the area of greatest improvement for me is in avoiding mental lapses. I can think much better on my feet than I could months ago. This is from nothing more than shooting the six matches per month and taking careful note when I have a lapse and being conscious about avoiding them in the future.

I have a better idea of how fast I can go on various target arrays based on distance, target type, etc. I feel less bad about a couple of penalties based on shooting a hair faster than I should, versus penalties based on mental lapses or some other kind of botched execution like not seating a mag on a reload, which I really hate. I need to tighten up consistent accuracy within the pace I currently use. Slowing down is not the answer because I've shown I can shoot accurately at the current pace most of the time. Most times it works out well, but as my energy was fading last night, I had a combined mike/no-shoot. I blame not putting enough energy into my support hand grip -- I just failed to tell myself to "use that grip" -- much needed to shoot straight at the speed I like to go. Continued smart practice will improve this.

My raw skills are measurably above where they were months ago, but my ability to quickly form a stage plan, and ability to execute the plan without goofs, are much better.

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My latest USPSA match: not good, even though the practice match 3 days prior was good. I should have been dry firing a lot more in the days leading up to that match.

You can get to new levels of sharpness but then you have to keep working if you want to maintain those levels. It's like anything. You can get better, but you can backslide if you don't continue doing the things that made you better.

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According to the scores my club posted, today's Steel Challenge match will get me into 'B' class. I'll be excited when I see it posted on the SCSA classification page.

Since my first Steel Challenge match in July 2015, I've taken 65.12 seconds off of the rank aggregate score and 46.36 seconds off of the classification aggregate score.

I did a lot of dry fire in preparation for today's match. The result was no blazing fast time on any one string because I was only shooting what I saw. but my consistency was better.

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My club made me an 'M' within their informal classification system, right around the same time I made 'B' in Steel Challenge. The dry fire work has certainly helped. A short-term goal is to be one of the better single stackers at the club's USPSA matches and of course to get a higher classification. I know I'm capable of shooting 'B' and even 'A' level classifier scores but I have to go out there and get them on record. Continued practice and more matches will take care of it.

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I've been able to stick to a discipline of daily dry fire and find that I like it more as I do it more. The benefits definitely show up at matches. I now do things that I once would have considered fast, but now see as normal. Last night's dry fire, some of which I was doing without any particular sense of pushing, included draws and reloads that surprised me in perceived quickness and fluidity. To check if I was just feeling fast or actually was fast (for me), I did some Four Aces and modified El Prez drills (they could be called Blake-Reload drills), and sure enough, the consistency and fluidity were there and I was handily beating the par times while seeing good solid A's. The par times I had established seemed pretty aggressive to me weeks ago; now I'm adjusting them to challenge me further.

I'm not stopping on this plateau, instead I'm eager to do more and push more and see where it takes me. I'm not placing any limitations on myself, but not harboring grandiose delusions, either.

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I was able to get new all-time best scores on 5 stages in yesterday's Steel Challenge, and all of those improvements were in the 6 classification stages. My best shooting was on Roundabout, Smoke & Hope, and Showdown, and even my first stage (Pendulum), with no warm-up draws, was my best yet. Now 20 seconds of improvement are needed to get to 'A'. I know I can get better scores on Pendulum and Five To Go by simply missing less, but will have to shave off time all around. I'm feeling very confident I can do it, based on how I shoot when in my zone. I can get into that zone more often and for longer periods, so the practice is definitely showing up in match results.

We had enough wind during the first hour of the match that the targets were falling over. Phoenix is not a super windy place but yesterday was an exception.

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The next match I shoot will be at the beginning of year two of my competition "career."

Over this last weekend, I was consistently beating previously established dry fire par times on the Four Aces drill, by a lot. A couple of months ago, I set my par time at 4 seconds and couldn't always beat it due to botched reloads. Then more recently, with more consistency in the reloads, I found I could beat 3 seconds quite handily. I decided to push the par time down as low as 2.4 for close-range targets, and was beating that, too.

I'll keep practicing at these speeds and occasionally work to push my gun handling speeds further, and see what happens at the matches.

Edited by GunBugBit

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Goals:

  • Do more cardio and resistance training.
  • Shoot as many matches as I can.
  • Make USPSA 'A' and Steel Challenge 'A' by mid-2017, or earlier.
  • Dry fire more.
  • Video-record more drills.

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