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Harrison's Shooting Journey


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I used to just skip over everyone's posts in this section but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Figure I'd give it a try myself.

 

Match performance Progression so far

I'd never fired a gun until Jan. 2017, started competing in USPSA shooting Production in fall of that year. Mid-2018 right when the rules got changed I had Cajun build me a Shadow 2 for CO thinking I'd dabble in it here and there, but after the first match I ran CO at, I never looked back. Sure I've dabbled with other divisions along the way, but CO is my true love I guess. 

Initially classified C in Prod, made it to B at the same all-classifier match that was my first foray into CO. Initially classified at like 58% in CO, shot the MN section match (my first major) in 2018 in CO and got 2nd place C. Hit B over the cold weather months. 2019 finished middle of the pack B class and division wise at both the MN section and A3.

 

I Made A class in the spring of 2020 and had some pretty significant progress in both skill and relative match finishes, even with CO absolutely exploding in popularity and a lot of shooters around me elevating their skill levels massively. I'm fortunate to get to shoot with some up and comers like Noah Goodrich (high Junior at CO Nats this year and HOA at MN section), Jim Krantz, and @tanfo_timmy 

 

My first 12-18 months of competition I was rabid. I shot every match I possibly could...sometimes 3 or 4 in the same week - we have over a dozen active clubs here in MN. It was absolute insanity. That started to trail off in 2019 as my soon-to-be-wife and I moved in together and got engaged, and I got a promotion at work that modified my work-life balance for a while. I'd still make the weekend matches but only rarely could swing a weeknight club match. 

 

I struggled with consistency and focus in both 2019 and 2020 for sure, but especially this year. While my highs were never higher, my swing between my best and my worst was significant. Some days hits would go all over the place, I'd make stage execution mistakes, be slow moving, enter positions not ready to shoot, all that jazz. Other days I'd come out on fire then progressively get worse over the course of the day... or sometimes just get worse all at once and just suck the rest of the day. And still other days I'd get out there and just crush it, everything would click and I'd be really thrilled with my performance...and wonder how in the world I could be capable of that when I was routinely throwing clunkers out there. 

 

I think this sums it up pretty well - 

A3 2020: 72% in CO (winner: Jason Bradley)  - Had some fun with PractiScore on the drive home, relative to Noah this would have been a 79%

MN Section 2020: 71% in CO (winner: Noah Goodrich)

Iowa Section 2020: 85% in CO (winner: Noah Goodrich)

 

Training 2017 through end of my 2020 Major Match season (mid Sept)

2017-mid 2018 I was dry firing like crazy, but I would not call it especially structured. I bought Ben's book, but didn't read the whole thing, and focused on what I enjoyed. Reloads, draws, El Prez, etc. at reasonable paces for a beginner, but nothing spectacular. I built a skill level I would characterize as "serviceable" across the board. Movement and transitions were not big in my dry fire - and I had not learned the value of honesty in dry fire.

As far as live fire goes, I *thought* I was live fire practicing, but knowing what I know now, I would say that I was just "shooting" with some draws and reloads mixed in. I had no self-awareness of what was going on, no goals, no intention, no reaction to what my body or eyes were telling me. When something went wrong, my only reaction was to get frustrated and wonder why that happened.

 

I switched to CO partway through the 2018 season and I think I maybe did 5-8 dry fire sessions of some draws and reloads to get used to the gun during the course of that season. Once 2018 outdoor was over, I started to get a little more advanced in my dry fire, doing some short to medium movement and transitions, and started to learn a bit about honesty. And then in early 2019 I just stopped. Virtually no dry fire at all. Nothing more advanced or more productive than what I'd already done on the rare occasions that it did happen. My live fire schedule also went from shooting multiple times per week at the range plus matches to 1 range visit per 1-2 weeks, lower round count, and less matches. I also switched gun platforms around this time from CZ to Walther and really did nothing to help myself adjust. 

 

At the start of 2020 a friend and I decided to start doing joint dry fire sessions to help ourselves remain accountable, and provide feedback on what we were seeing in each other's performance. This was going well for a month and a half until COVID hit and the lockdowns started, followed of course by the civil unrest in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident, which happened < 10 miles from us. During quarantine we were able to get out to the outdoor range about an hour outside the city that we are members at only a few times while the closer indoor facilities were still shut down. While there I was largely blowing off steam and having fun. As such I would again characterize this as virtually no practice. 

 

Given my relative lack of effort across the board, I was extremely confused when I got better in 2019 and my max skills got so much better in 2020. I think the lack of consistency makes sense in this context. 

 

Since the 2020 season

So my takeaway from 2020 aside from "I keep getting better while doing nothing, imagine how much better I could be if I put in literally any effort at all" was that a few people I knew who were of relatively similar skill levels to me a year or so ago took massive leaps forward and were now competitive Masters at majors. They did it through hard work, training, and commitment. I started reading Ben's Match Mentality and the first chapter made me take a step back and evaluate things. Did I want to be just a guy who shoots for fun, or did I truly want to go somewhere in this sport? I don't know that I have the desire to be a national champion - not yet at least - because I don't know if I have the right combination of talent, desire, time, and money to do so. But I do know that I want to be competitive for good placement at any match I go to, and that is certainly attainable. I'm 31 and while I've always been more of the IT nerd than athlete, this sport lets you compete at a high level without needing the athleticism.

 

So now that I knew what I wanted out of the sport, the next logical step was to seek instruction from a trusted trainer who could diagnose at least some of my many many issues and help me with formulating a training plan. My aforementioned dry fire partner and I had a day of private instruction from Ben. The good news is we had a lot of common issues, and were fairly unremarkable. To me that means that we have the ability but not the skills yet, and this isn't a lost cause, which was very important for me to hear because I struggle with self-esteem and often felt like I was never going to amount to anything in this sport, that there must be something wrong with me. 

 

I'd say more than the training plan and more than the list of areas we suck at, the biggest takeaway from the training with Ben was learning how to be aware and understand what is going on with our guns and our bodies at all times, and how to use that in concert with the patterns we see on the targets to diagnose issues. Other takeaways - 

  • My grip is atrocious, way too tense in my whole body, firing hand, shoulders, not tense enough in my support hand. 
  • I was staring at my dot constantly
  • I had a binary view of sight pictures. Either I was shooting with massive over confirmation or I was shooting with reckless disregard for where I wanted the bullet to go. Either way I actually really only had a defined aiming point on poppers, and even those I'd characterize as barely having one.
  • Position entry and exit...well...time to start over.
  • I have a tendency to over- or under-swing the gun and just break the shot during a transition. 

 

We are training together minimum once per week. Our current training plan is heavy on live fire as we are working on rebuilding our grip and trigger control at speed from the ground up first, before we move on to some of the other stuff later. We're doing TONS of doubles, MXAD, that sort of stuff. I have seen a ton of progress in the last 8 weeks - I'm able to rip off splits I never dreamed of before, I am inching ever closer to consistently keeping the dot in the window at all times, and most of all when something goes wrong I can tell you exactly what it was in the moment. Shot calling is way better - no more surprise deltas or mikes. 

 

Training myself to aim at a specific point while remaining target focused has been fascinating. I haven't shot without my dot taped over since about a half hour into the training with Ben. It's starting to become natural and the combination is resulting in much better hits. 

 

I'm extremely motivated to get better. I'm still struggling to get into a rhythm on dry fire though, so it's been 85% live fire for me. Trying to change that before the new year. 

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the results look like once things get moving again soon. So I will find a way to get that dry fire ramped up and work on useful skills. 

 

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Progress last few weeks

 

For the most part, I'm doing well, but when I get inconsistent, I'm doing so the same couple of ways - occasional tensing of my firing hand, occasional weak support hand grip, and occasional whole body tension. Almost all of my non-alphas are in one of these buckets, and I get occasional trigger freeze from the tensing issues.

I think I've resolved an earlier issue I had that I characterize as "I acknowledge there is a trigger but do not acknowledge the direction it should be pulled". I was pulling shots all over, charlies deltas Mike's you name it once I pushed speed. Just a little bit of conscious thought fixed that one in a session or two.

 

We spent our practice 2 weeks ago mostly focused on doubles. I don't have an issue passing both accuracy and speed inside of 10 yards or speed at 10, but that was the first time I was able to pass the accuracy requirement at 10 yards. Honestly I'm pushing the speed as hard as I can at that range and if I dialed it back just a hair I'd still be consistently ripping .18/.19's and all alphas, but I feel like I don't have a middle gear. I only have super fast (.14-17) and backed off a lot (.22 or slower). This impacts both my pass rate for 10 yard doubles and my first few attempts at 15 yards.

 

This past week my training partner and another buddy of ours who joined us for this one had been struggling with flinging shots all over during doubles plus inconsistent splits. I think it was impacting their confidence some so things would get worse, not better, as the previous practices progressed. Therefore I decided we would do a modified Practical Accuracy at 7 and 10 yards. I had them do a couple of mags more or less normal, using a non-USPSA target we get for free from our range. It's a paper silhouette with scoring rings, and more or less anything inside of the 6 ring would be an Alpha on a USPSA target. I had them get a perfect sight picture and finger on the trigger not quite staging it but close, and break it at the beep. We did this for like 2 mags each. Then I had them do the same thing except let the gun return, get a stable, even over-confirmed sight picture, and break a 2nd shot. 

 

Results from this were informative to say the least. Training partner was not able to consistently hit inside the 8 ring even with the single shot, and his 2nd shots were all over the place. I think he needs to work on trigger control a lot right now because he is just not able to consistently work it without impacting accuracy. I think it's also impacting his speed consistency on Doubles because whatever he's doing is causing him to not be able to be consistent at speed. Our buddy was able to hit 9's and 10's consistently on the first shot but his 2nd shot would dip like crazy. This kind of backs up what we see in matches that he's dipping the gun any time there's a follow up shot. For my attempts I came away more confident as I definitely had a tight grouping across the board. All 9's and 10's on the single shot and a big ragged hole inside the 8 ring for the 2 shot version at 10 yards.

 

We wrapped with 2 sets of doubles. I had a few trigger freezes but these were due to getting used to a new trigger I put in that changed the trigger position. Accuracy was great except for 1 string where I dropped a few charlies due to my support hand taking an uncommanded siesta. 

 

 

 

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  • 2 months later...

I've been struggling a lot with too much tension lately. I honestly believe that this is in large part because of the amount of personal and work stress I've been under - we're trying to plan our wedding, and courtesy of the COVID situation we've basically had to re-plan and re-budget everything twice, only to end up (for now) back to a slightly downsized version of our original plan, venue, etc.

 

When I'm not bringing baggage to the range with me, or when I successfully beat that back in my head and focus, things are going really well. I have been able to pass 15 yard doubles a few times, although I struggle to find an acceptable middle gear where I can do that at like a .18-.19 split. I've passed it with .17 and below for the whole 6 strings though. It's interesting to see how the (intentional) amount of tension in my firing and support hands have to change past 10 yards. 

 

I know my trigger press has been inconsistent so I worked some trigger control at speed and practical accuracy in some recent practice sessions. Paid dividends almost immediately, but I need to burn in the good habits more. 

 

A few days ago I practiced with my friend Tim and he brought some of the Action Target 556 training lab targets to work on transitions, which is a HUGE gap for me. It's been hard to train that indoors as my range has been busy. If it's dead I have enough leeway that I can run two targets across two lanes as long as I'm maintaining a safe angle relative to the side walls. This helped me work that in a structured format without needing two lanes, although it's a short transition. I tried it at what I would have done in a match and saw all my issues show up on paper right away. Slowed down massively until I could hit the accuracy I needed in terms of drag on/off, over or under swinging the gun, etc., and leading with my eyes. Ramped up from there. Probably 200 rounds later I was transitioning at least as fast as I do in a match, but the hits were markedly improved since I was doing the rest of the process right not just the time. I want to work hard on this the next several weeks.

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