You are a new USPSA shooter.
The results from your last match just got posted on Practiscore. Your heart is pounding out of your chest in excitement to find out how you did. You can feel your pulse in your head and your palms are sweaty.
To your disappointment, you find yourself towards the bottom of the list. The one question we all seem to ask in one fashion or another is this—where do I go from here? How do I go about getting better? How do I make the most of this rough situation? Even though I am a relatively new shooter myself in USPSA, I’d like to share some knowledge nuggets I’ve learned along my journey to becoming a better shooter.
Find a mentor.
After I attended my first-ever outlaw match (a 2-gun match), I befriended a fellow competitor who is an agent for the Department of Homeland Security. He taught me much in how I conduct live-fire drills on the range, and he is a terrific shooting partner. There are also many well-known competitors who offer classes when they are not traveling to matches. Do your research online to see which instructor fits your needs.
Incorporate dry-fire into your training regimen.
This is hands down how I have made so much progress in my couple years of competitive shooting. This is a technique where you can practice all the movements of practical shooting without actual ammo. You’ll save precious time driving to the range and money buying ammunition, all while still practicing the same movements. Through the principles of dry-firing, a shooter can practice good trigger control, reloads, sight alignment, shooting on the move, target transitions, and virtually anything else that a match might have. Ben Stoeger, Max Michel, and J.J. Racaza are all huge supporters of the training technique, and they have multiple championship wins under their belts because of it. I have dropped over half of a second off my draw time alone due to the repetitions I have done during dry-fire. 15-30 minutes per day (or as often as you can) will make a huge difference. Research Amazon or Ben Stoeger’s Pro Shop to get 1/2 scale targets and even build mini stages in your basement! Ben Stoeger’s “Champion Shooting” book recommends 5 trigger presses of dry fire for every trigger press of live-fire.
Film yourself and take notes.
It seems like everybody has a camera phone or a GoPro these days. You cannot cut any corners when you are watching yourself on film. You can identify strengths and weaknesses and focus on the things that you are weakest at. One thing that I noticed was that I was walking from shooting position to shooting position, and that was KILLING my times. I started running to each position and that made a tremendous difference. I also noticed on film since I’m left-handed, I tend to push my sights low and to the right in anticipation for recoil. I’ve been focusing on straight trigger press and letting my sights lift a little after each shot, and this has also helped my game.
Let’s face it, if you are at a match where there is a field course involved, the advantage is 9 times out of 10 going to the guy who’s in the best shape, regardless of how he shoots. He is going to be able to take shots without huffing and puffing, and if you’re breathing hard, your arms will go up and down with each breath that you take, making it more difficult to get A’s at distance or on partial targets. As a cardiac cath lab nurse, I can say that cardiovascular health is very important in your endurance and general living. Exercise can be anything from walking/jogging to circuit training to Crossfit. I personally like to weight train, run on a treadmill, and swim, since I can get resistance training without so much impact on my knees. I had reconstructive knee surgery due to a football injury back in high school, so I need to keep that in mind when I exercise. Protect your health at all costs. It will keep you shooting for years to come.
If you incorporate these 4 things into your preparation for your next match, I can guarantee that you will improve your scores. Anything worth doing well in life takes a little time and effort, and I promise it will not be wasted. Happy Shooting!!!
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