Improving one’s capabilities within a skill set takes practice, repetition, and patience.
Within the shooting sports, progress of your shooting skills can be measured in a number of ways: accuracy, consistency, and speed.
It's easy to measure, just look at your paper targets, or listen for the sound of lead hitting steel.
Although more difficult to track, consistency becomes apparent as inconsistencies appear. For instance, your targets may vary substantially from set to set, or you may not reliably achieving a certain smoothness of motion (for instance, occasionally dropping a magazine while attempting to reload). These would be signs that you need to focus on smooth motion and consistency.
Theoretically easy to measure; all you have to ask is ‘How long did that take.’ Unfortunately, to really track improvement, you will need a more accurate way to measure speed instead of counting 1-1000, 2-1000, 3-000 in your head while firing.
Enter the shot timer.
A professional shot timer, showing a draw and fire of 1.11 seconds, and follow up shots with split times of .19 and .20 seconds each. This specific break down allows you to focus on which areas you need to improve upon.
The timers are designed to register to concussive blast of a firearm’s discharge.
Each shot’s specific time is recorded, along with an overall time for that specific string of shots. A pistol shooting drill might consist of drawing and firing 2 round at a target, reloading, and firing 2 more rounds. The times would be able to tell you how long it took to draw and fire, how long each follow-up shot took, as well as how long the reload took. Seeing your movements recorded down to 100th of a second gets you thinking about where you can shave off time from your drills and skills. This examination of your motions leads to reducing wasted motion, ensuring that equipment is logically placed, and practicing smoothness of movement as opposed to rushed speed. All of these are important developments for the shooter looking to push themselves to the next level.
Shot timers are also useful for dry fire practice.
The timer can be set with a par time, like a stop watch. For instance, you can set the timer to beep after 2.5 seconds have elapsed, and then you can race the timer to see if you can consistently reload your pistol in that time. Or set the time to 1 second and attempt go from a low-ready position to on-target before the time elapses. This is a great training tool that can be used safely in your own home for a fraction of the cost of shooting. There are a number of shot timer apps available for download that can be used for this dry fire training. I do not recommend the smartphone app timers for live fire shooting, as I have not found them to be as accurate as a real shot timer.
As they say, ‘What gets measured gets managed.’
Stay smart and shoot safe!
Comment below with what you do to improve your shooting speed.