It’s always exciting to see new shooters at matches. Usually they show significant improvement over the first few matches. I attribute this to a large improvement in macro fundamentals. The first few matches or practice sessions it’s easy to work on things like a stable stance, acceptable grip and trigger control. As the shooter progresses the improvements start to diminish. Some more quickly than others. For me, this is where the real learning begins.
I think our approach to training must be structured and analytical. It’s very easy for a shooter of any skill level to slip into the mindlessly running drills phase. Ask new shooters what drills they are shooting and they can quickly tell you. When you ask them why it’s likely you’ll get the deer in headlights stare. The problem is this causes the shooter to lose focus in training. How do we know what and how to train? First you have to set some quantitative goals. It might be to shoot 70% of your local GM or something as narrow as shooting a 2.5 second bill drill. Then you have to asses your performance and find out what needs to be improved.
This bring us to identifying our weaknesses. Some are more evident than others. It might be easy to know your draw is all screwed up if you never feel comfortable establishing a grip and the RO breaks out a sundial. It might be less evident if you are just dropping one or two more C’s or D’s than necessary. There are a few things that can really help you identify these weak points. Other shooters watching, Match Results, watching videos or just natural awareness. Once you identify your weaknesses you will then have to prioritize them.
Setting priorities will help keep you focused by not trying to fix too many things at once. No matter how good we are, there is always something that can be improved. I don’t necessarily believe your method to prioritize is as important as ensuring you set some kind of priority. A good method if you are a competition shooter is looking to see what is costing you the most in time or points. A slow draw in a steel challenge match is much more detrimental than a slow draw in USPSA since you will probably draw 25 times in one still match compared to 5 in a USPSA match. Shooting controlled pairs might be higher priority for USPSA. If you are a defensive shooter it could be a toss up.
Once your priorities are set you will then need to identify the solution. Recently I was having a hard time holding my hits on followup shots at matches. A/C seemed to follow me everywhere and was costing me big points. I decided accuracy was the problem so it was time to go back to fundamentals. Looking through a few drills I decided dot torture was the drill to use. At first I ran it without a timer just to focus on relaxing and getting good hits. I only ran it 2 times as written and then shot controlled pairs at each row of dots focusing on the follow up shot. While running this drill I noticed my sights were not tracking well and I was really muscling the gun back on target. After trying a few different variations in grip pressure I came to the conclusion I was over gripping the pistol and pulling it low left for each shot. From this analysis I was able to modify my grip and went home to practice in dry fire. I spent the next four weeks only dry firing the dot torture drill and reinforcing it with live fire. In live fire I only shot around 100 rounds per session and recorded the results from my shot timer. The next match I moved from 12 place in production to 2nd place.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of just running random drills. We’ve all done it. It’s also easy to become overwhelmed trying to fix too many things at once. Keep a log of your performance. Include your match results, priorities and training to ensure it’s all nested and I promise results will come.