Posts Tagged ‘Shooting Training and Techniques’

Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Difficult Match Conditions

Feet don’t fail me now!

Bring, buy or borrow a second set of footwear suited to conditions “other” than your primary set of boots or shoes. I am a boot guy and bring an aggressive tread rated for mud, grass, sand and a second set that offer good traction on rocks and hard, dry surfaces. Having two sets of footwear is a good idea if only to have one set drying out while you wear the second. Your feet are your wheels, keeping them well shod improves your ability to get out-of-the-gate and into position.

The Last Match: What to do When your Season is Over

XD(M) 5.25 004

XD(M) 5.25 004

Hopefully you’ve been following the Shooter’s Log all season and keeping up with Down Zero TV as we’ve traveled from one end of the country to the other, shooting some of the best matches in the nation. Even more importantly, I hope you’ve been shooting your own matches, working hard to improve yourself as a shooter and having a great match season as well. But now it’s October, and in two-thirds of the country that means match season is winding down. I just finished up my last match of the year, the Indiana State IDPA Championship. One of the most important parts of my shooting season starts right now though – the off-season. The down time. Sure, I’ll get a club match in here and there during the winter, but I won’t shoot another major match until February, and the 2012 season won’t really kick off until May. But it’s important to have an off-season checklist, a breakdown of things that you need to do once the last shot is fired. Here’s my off-season checklist for Q4 of 2011.

  • Gear maintenance: It’s been a long season, and now is the perfect opportunity to tear down all my gear and make sure it’s in good shape. Some stuff won’t get used again for a while, so that will get cleaned and prepped for storage.
  • Personal maintenance: If you travel to a lot of matches, odds are you’re tired, you haven’t been eating right, and you’ve probably not been getting enough exercise. For me, with the travel season over, it’s time to look to my personal well-being as well as the well-being of my gear.
  • Create a training plan: Athletes in every other sport train in the off-season. Whether it’s physical conditioning, hitting the batting cages, or watching film, the off-season is the time to look back and assess your performance and identify areas for improvement for the next season.
  • Set goals for the next season: With the creation of a good off-season training plan, you need to set goals to accomplish for the next shooting season. Do you want to improve your classification? Win a major match? Assess your weaknesses, find out what you want to improve on, and create a training plan to reach that goal.

Through the next month, I’ll be posting my off-season training plan, which includes shooting drills and physical training drills. I’m a big believer in treating the shooting sports like any other athlete treats their sport, which means that there is more to winning than just shooting well.

Preparing for IDPA Part 3: What Not to Do

In the past two posts, we’ve talked a lot about how to prepare for IDPA matches in terms of checking your gear and how to set up a practice session.  Today is probably the most important post of the three, because it covers the crash landings of IDPA preparation.  The first big crash landing is one of mine, which is the tendency to obsess.  So, here’s the first tip:

  • Don’t over think it

IDPA is a game.  And it’s actually a very simple game.  There are a ton of variables in IDPA, and the only ones you can control are you shooting and your gear.  Once those are set, worrying about anything else won’t really benefit you, so just let it go and focus on practicing for the match.  Speaking of practice, here’s tip number 2:

  • Don’t over practice

It is entirely possible to push yourself too hard in practice and not have anything left in the tank for the actual match!  Don’t do that.  If your practice sessions reach a point where you’re frustrated and tired, stop.  Find something fun to do like watch Top Shot reruns on Netflix or make the cat chase a laser pointer around the room.  Practicing until you’re frustrated enough to throw the gun across the room won’t help.  And with practice in mind, here’s tip 3:

  • Don’t try to learn something new in a week

I fire my first shot at the IDPA World Championship on Friday of next week.  That’s just a week away, and I’m certainly not going to learn any new skills in that time.  But that’s a trap that a lot of shooters fall in of trying to learn some new super-seekrit ninja trick just before the match.  Especially if that new skill involves changing something that you’re already pretty good at.  And finally, the last crash landing:

  • Don’t take it so seriously you don’t have fun

Shooting matches is part of my job.  Whether it’s a club match or a major match, it’s something that I’m responsible for doing and obligated to multiple parties to do well.  But even with that, it’s still fun.  The day that I stop having fun at matches is the day I hang it all up and take up hang-gliding or shark baiting or some other dangerous hobby.  Yes, competing is serious and a challenge, but it’s also supposed to be fun.  If you’re not having fun when you’re shooting, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

If you liked our IDPA Prep posts, head over to Cheaper than Dirt to pick up your IDPA essentials!

Use Your Sights…

…except for when you don’t have to. In marksmanship classes and training, we constantly preach to use your sights, because aiming at the target is the way to get accurate hits.  But in practical shooting, you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns where the sights actually slow you down on your way to getting fast hits on a target.

Using the sights or not?

For example, take a look at the image on the left – obviously you can’t tell whether or not I’m using the sights on the gun because you can’t see my eyes. And you couldn’t tell my looking at the target either, because the round that just exited the gun was a down zero hit. This goes back to the practical shooting adage of “see what you need to see”, which to un-zen it means you see exactly as much of a sight picture as you need to get the hit. In the case of the situation at left, I didn’t need a sight picture at all to hit a wide open paper target three yards away, so I just extended the gun and pressed the trigger and sent a round of Federal .45 ACP into the down zero.

That hardest part about it however is learning to shift gears – shooting with a minimal sight picture at 3 yards and then going to a proper sight picture to hit a steel plate at 15 yards on the same stage. To get used to this, I’ll set up a simple drill that I can do on a single lane range using a standard IDPA practice target. Take a 3×5 index card, and cut it in half. Paste the two halves on opposite sides of the IDPA target, those are now T1 and T2. The “Down Zero” of the IDPA target is T3. On the start signal, draw and fire two shots at T1, two shots at T2, and two shots at T3. The trick is to be able to accelerate when shooting a “T3″, because it’s a large 8 inch circle and you won’t need the kind of sight interface to hit it that you will need to hit the half-index cards. You don’t even need the IDPA target, really – the whole drill can be done with a paper plate and the index card. I usually shoot it at 5 yards, because at that distance I need to use my sights to hit the half-index cards, but not to hit the down zero.

Use this practice drill to get used to switching your focal length from the sights to the target. You can also mix it up and shoot the big target first, or second to change the pace. But most importantly, head out to the range and give it a shot!

Ultimate zombie combo

Last week, Ruger announced the launch of the new Ruger 77/357, which is a bolt action rifle chambered in .357 Magnum.  I got to thinking about this gun, and despite the fact that it only has a 5 round magazine, when paired with a revolver also chambered in .357 Magnum such as the Smith & Wesson 686 you have yourself an almost perfect “zombie combo”, or more accurately you’ve got a great rifle/pistol combination for the woods.

BVAC .357 Magnum 158 grain JHP

The Ruger 77/357 has all the desirable aspects of a great “bug out rifle” – it’s light, coming in at only 5.5 pounds, can readily accept modern optics (and would probably be a pretty sweet pairing with an Aimpoint), and it’s chambered in what is one of the most versatile handgun cartridges in existence.  .357 Magnum is available in pressures from mild cowboy action loads at 1000 FPS with all lead bullets all the way up to 200 grain bear-killing hardcast bullets at ungodly velocities.  However, for a good “general use” round it’s hard to beat a 158 grain JHP, like this one from BVAC.  The BVAC .357 Magnum 158 grain JHP is cruising at around 1200 FPS from a pistol, which means from a rifle you should see a velocity increase of around 100-200 FPS at the muzzle.  That’s plenty of bullet to deal with many of the 4 legged dangers you might encounter during a rural bug out situation, and of course the .357 is well proven as a fight stopping projectile for two-legged danger.

I honestly think that pairing a .357 bolt gun with a revolver makes more sense as a bug out gun combo for 99% of the popular than an AR15 pattern rifle and a hi-cap 9mm.  I like that you only have to carry one kind of ammo, the revolver isn’t dependent on magazines to keep it in action, and while the bolt gun does feed from magazines in an emergency it can be used as a single shot rifle if you lose the magazines.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have an AR and a Glock with 400 mags for each gun, but if you’re on a limited budget, it makes more sense to me to drop $650 on the new Ruger 77/357 and another $460 on a Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum than it does to go out and spend the money on an AR and whatever other pistol you need.  .357 ammo is relatively cheap, with lead practice ammo running about the same as .40 S&W and less than 5.56 ammo.  A bolt gun in .357 and a good revolver in the same chambering will solve 99% of the situations I can imagine getting myself into during a short term survival emergency!

Virginia State IDPA Championship – a teaser

I’ll have the full match footage uploaded to YouTube this week, but since I’m typing this from the Dulles Airport, today I’m just tossing up a single stage video. This is stage 7 from the match. The procedure was simple: start seated in the chair, move to the door, open with your strong hand, draw and engage the four visible targets from cover with two rounds each. Then retreat and engage the remaining targets on the move while retreating with two rounds each. I decided to do a tactical reload after the first array specifically because I had screwed up my reload on an earlier stage and only fired one round at a target. By tactical loading, I had more than enough bullets to finish the COF (course of fire) without having to do a 1-reload-1 drill on any targets.

Stage Score: 15.70(-3). This was one of my best stages of the day on my way to a 4th Place finish overall in CDP (Custom Defensive Pistol)! Another match, and another Top 10 finish for Team Cheaper Than Dirt!

USPSA Classifier breakdown: CM99-42 Fast’n Furious

Unlike IDPA, which uses a fixed 90 round course of fire as the classifier, USPSA uses a rotating array of classifier stages.  Usually one classifier stage will be inserted in every club match, and a shooter needs to shoot a minimum of four classifiers in one division to achieve a USPSA classification.  From time to time, clubs will hold special “classifier matches” where the bulk of the stages will be classifiers, which allows shooters who are unclassified to quickly get classified.

Classifier stages themselves are broken down into “skill tests”, and while shooting a classifier well doesn’t mean that you can shoot a 32 round field course well, it does mean that your shooting fundamentals (such as sight picture, trigger control, etc) are generally solid.  Most classifiers will also test your ability to reload, which is imperative for pretty much every division except Open and Limited.  To help with that, we’re going to break down CM99-42 Fast’n Furious.


Fast’n Furious is a very simple classifier stage that can cause a lot of problems for shooters.  Right off the bat, the shooter is faced with a choice – start on the weak hand side of the barricade, or the strong hand side?  I personally choose to start on the weak hand side of the barricade.  While this slows down my draw slightly, it speeds up the reload as it’s much faster for me to reload as I move back to my strong side.  So for decision number 1, I recommend starting on the weak-hand side.

Decision number 2 is “Steel or paper first?”  Once you’ve picked which side to start and finish on, you have to decide whether or not you’re going to shoot the poppers or the paper targets first.  For Revolver and Single Stack shooters, the choice is clear cut: steel first.  If you’re running a revolver, you cannot afford a miss here, but in the off chance that you do it’s better to engage the steel first so that you’ve got enough rounds to get them down.  In a perfect world though, you don’t miss the steel and shoot exactly six rounds on each side.  Production/L10 shooters (and of course Limited and Open) could shoot either first – if I was running L10 I’d draw and shoot the paper first, because I can get a faster presentation on a paper target than I can on the steel popper.  So decision number 2: which targets first is steel for SS/Revo, and paper first for everyone else.

Once you make your decisions on how to shoot it, all that’s left is execution.  The critical parts of this classifier are 1) not missing the steel, 2) sticking your reload, and 3) getting good first shots on your draw and after your reload.  If you can do all that, you’ll post a great score!

Accurately Using A Double Action Trigger

The gun industry has continued to meet consumer demand by producing an immense number of small pocket sized handguns. As concealed carry has grown in legality (and popularity) the demand for these little heaters has also increased dramatically. Smith & Wesson’s Bodyguard line, Ruger’s LCP and LCR, and Kel-Tec’s popular P3AT line all have small pocket sized pistols, and all of these little numbers have triggers that are double action only.

This long heavy trigger is compact, simple and reliable, but it can be difficult for many people to operate accurately. The long pull and heavy trigger weight, relative to a single action trigger, makes negligent discharges less likely by users unfamiliar with the stress of a combat scenario and decreases the chance of an accidental discharge from a foreign object hanging on the trigger when the pistol is carried in a pocket or purse. But these same traits that make the action safe and reliable can make actually firing the handgun more difficult unless the user has practiced with the firearm extensively. The additional force required to pull the trigger can drop the nose of the pistol or otherwise cause the shooter to lose a proper sight picture.

To quickly and accurately use a double action trigger, you first need a proper grip on the handgun and the correct interaction between your finger and the trigger. Without getting into the specifics of a proper handgun grip, your trigger finger should rest on the trigger with only the pad of your fingertip touching the trigger.

Most people who have had at least a minimal amount of training in handgun use are familiar with the phrase “front sight, press.” This of course refers to the action of acquiring a proper sight picture and then smoothly pressing (not pulling) the trigger to the rear. Rather than pulling the trigger with your first joint as one might do when gesturing “come here” with a single finger, with only the pad of your finger contacting the trigger press it straight back. As you press the trigger, focus on keeping a consistent force and speed throughout the press.

Some people say that the first joint of the finger should be used instead of the pad of the finger tip on a heavy double action trigger, but this can cause problems with accuracy. Because of the long arc of a double action trigger, your finger will slide down the trigger face as it is pulled. When using the finger pad, this is not a problem, but if you are using the first joint of the finger tip to press the trigger the motion needed to keep your finger joint in constant contact with the trigger face can cause the pistol to twist. This does not mean that it is wrong to use the first joint of the finger on a double action trigger- don’t misunderstand. In general using the pad is much more accurate, faster and smoother. But heavy triggers and double action triggers with a long arc can be easier to operate using the finger joint. Using the first joint gives you additional leverage that helps operate heavy triggers without dropping the front sight. If you choose to use the first finger joint as opposed to the pad of your finger tip, take care not to “milk” the trigger. Milking or grasping the trigger occurs when using the joint of the finger causes the finger to contact the frame of the gun or allows the entire hand to curl with the trigger finger as part of the motion. For this reason, it is better to learn to use the pad of your finger and, if the trigger pull is too heavy, lighten the trigger or use a different pistol with better ergonomics or a lighter trigger pull.

Pistol manufacturer MasterPiece Arms recently redesigned the trigger of their Protector line of pocket pistols to make it easier to pull and reduce friction as the shooter’s finger slides down the trigger face. This new “Rev B” trigger provides a much smoother and more comfortable controlled trigger pull.

Just as important as the trigger press is the trigger return and reset. Again, maintaining a smooth and consistent speed and pressure on the trigger is important. Think of the trigger return as your follow through. A good trigger return allows you to setup your next shot quickly and accurately.

Coin balanced on the front sightProperly done, a double action trigger pull will not move the front sights at all. The best method I’ve found to practice using a double action trigger involves balancing a coin on the front sight while pulling the trigger. The goal is to be able to pull the trigger through the full range of motion until the hammer drops (or the pin fires) without dropping the coin. The larger the coin, the more difficult it is to balance it properly. With most front sights it’s fairly easy to balance a dime or penny on the top. Nickels and quarters are more difficult, but as you get better with your double action trigger control you can move to a larger coin.

It doesn’t take much practice to get smooth and consistent when using a double action trigger. If you are unable to work the trigger using the pad of your finger tip, you can use the first joint for better leverage, but be aware that this can have a detrimental effect on accuracy and can build bad habits.

Red dummy bullet

Dry-Fire Training at Home

I recently shot a local IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) match. I did OK but noticed a couple of problems that slowed me down significantly—namely, quickly and smoothly drawing from the holster and pressing forward to the target.

… On the Trail to becoming a Riflemen

The trail begins one step at a time–each one finding surer footing through the confidence of mastering another marksmanship fundamental.  Finding the trail and following it through requires personal perseverance and the committed help of fellow riflemen.  It requires the kind of instruction and coaching offered by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA).