Shooting Tips

Success is not by chance... It is a planned event....

Match Preparation

• Success in competition is never an accident. It is a prepared for event!
• You should do all you can to insure you best performance will come through in competition. Sportsmen who are not professional are often guilty of being lazy in their preparation for competition, and they do not get the consistent good performance they HOPE for. Don’t HOPE – make it happen!!!
• Your goal should be to ALWAYS shoot well in the big matches. To the best of your current ability.
• Every little small thing you do well in preparation adds a little to the chance of having a great performance. There is no ONE THING that makes or breaks your success. It’s the little things together. So treat them all equally importantly.

The month before your big match

• Try to find out all you can about the match. What kind of shooting can you expect, distances, types of stages, size of shooting bays will tell you about distance and movement. This will enable you to train more effectively, and will also give you a mental edge, as you will feel better prepared.
• Try to increase you ammo count in practice, to sharpen your subconscious skills. Do a lot of dry firing if you cant get to the range enough.
• Do a lot of mental rehearsal. Think often about your competition. Always in a very positive way. Always see yourself doing very well in your match, reaching your goals.
• Try to find out all you can about the match location, the range, the weather, the facilities on the range, what gear you will need. This is particularly important if you have never been there before.
• Make all your travel bookings. Choose a hotel close to the range, so as not to have to rush or worry about traffic in the mornings. The match hotel is a good choice, as they will have many shooters there, and so will usually offer an early breakfast.
• Make sure you do all your gear changes and gun repairs long in advance. Don’t leave changing parts to the last minute.

The week before your big match

• You should not train harder the week before. Some even say train less. You do not want to be burned out, or tired of shooting before the match. You should have a “hunger” for shooting.
• Do more mental rehearsal – see yourself doing very well. “Daydream” often about achieving your goal.
• Your gear should be working perfectly. Leave nothing to chance. Most malfunctions are the shooters own fault, and can usually be traced to bad preparation. If you are going to make a major cleaning, stripping the gun down – do that with a few more practices to go.
• Zero your sights. You should try to do it in the same kind of light conditions you will shoot in competition.
• Prepare you ammo and chrono it. If possible, with the same kind of chrono to be used in the match. When you chrono – take from your ammo sample rounds, every 50 or so, and chrono these, so you can see a trend. As a rule – never be closer to the limit than 5 points. Or even 8. Be familiar with your load/powder, and know how it will react in altitude and temperature changes.
• Travel to the match with enough time to rest a little before competition. Take into account jet-lag if need be.
• Get your sleep cycle in order, if you are a “late to bed late to rise” person, you will want to try and change that before your match. Otherwise getting up at 5am may really hurt your performance.

The day before your big match

• Make sure you spend some time on the range the day before. So you are familiar with it, and get a “feel” for the place. More critical if you have never been there before. This way you know for sure how to find it, and will not be stressed about this the next day. We fear the unknown. The more you know about the range/match, the less anxiety will set in.
• Of course you want to spend some time studying the stages. Use your match book to decide which stages you want to watch shot (in the pre-match). As you may not have time to watch them during the match. When you go to watch stages, takes your match book, a stop watch and a pen. Make notes! As you may not remember after looking at 16 stages or more.
• Take care of registration! Make sure you are entered correctly, and you know which squad you are on, and where you start. The next day you want to go directly to your stage.
• Try to see the squad list, so you can see who you shoot with, and also to know the order of shooting – and can you expect to be up first on the first stage.
• Make sure you have all you need the day before. Food, drink, chair, rain/sun protection. Leave nothing to buy the morning of competition.
• Have a good dinner, and get to bed early enough, so you get enough sleep even if you need to rise very early, as you usually do in IPSC competitions.

The morning of your big match

• Make sure you are up early enough. It takes our body 2.5-3 hours to be fully awake for activity, like what we need in IPSC shooting! You want to have a good performance of the first stage – you need to be fully awake.
• Have a good breakfast – but eat early enough, 1.5 hours before the first stage – especially if that stage requires lots of running.
• Go for a walk/jog or stretch – do some warm up exercises.
• Dry fire – just to get the feel of the gun. Practice perhaps special start positions.
• Pack you bags – and use a check list if need be. Take more than you need in food/drink and ammo. You can always leave it in the car - but at least it’s on the range.
• Leave for the range early enough – so that you don’t need to be worried about traffic, or feel rushed. You want to feel relaxed.
• Don’t worry about feeling “butterflies” and stress building up. Say to yourself “this tension I am feelings is good. I need this for my best performance – and I know how to keep it under control.
• Be positive, and show confidence. Feel like a winner – feel like you are shooting great – even though you have not even started.

Shooting on the Move

This is an advanced skill, but one that can save you time on a stage, and offer you solutions the others may not have. Usually you can save time by shooting while moving in the direction the stage requires.

Do not shoot on the move if you cannot reach the required accuracy! There is little point in moving to save a little time, if this will cost you points. You have to be able to shoot A’s on the available targets while moving – or you should not attempt to shoot on the move. Points always come first!
The key to shooting well on the move is learning to keep the gun’s sights stable on the targets as you advance. This can be improved by:

• Bending your knees. Keep your center of gravity low. Do not lean forward at your waist, but at the knees.
• Taking small “rolling” steps. Heel to toe, heel to toe as you move. Keep your feet pointing straight forward, not out to the sides.

Bringing the gun much closer to your eyes than you usually would. This will greatly improve its stability.

PRACTICE! Dry fire; move in all directions while watching your sight on a target. Using a laser pointer connected to your gun can teach you a lot.

On tough shots while moving, try to break the shot just before your foot comes down for a step. That will be the most stable time.

Be aware of the ground surface. On rough ground shooting on the move becomes harder, and must sometimes be avoided.

Fast shooting while moving is not possible. You have to accept slower splits, to give you time to watch the sight longer as it moves over the target.

Don’t insist on shooting while moving just because you can. Analyze the stage wisely, and decide whether to shoot on the move or not. You always pay in speed and accuracy when shooting on the move – and this should be done only if you are well practiced, and can gain by moving in a particular direction as you shoot.

Target Transitions

This is also a key to cutting time off a stage, as we acquire multiple targets during a stage.

To move efficiently to the next target, you have to see where you are driving the gun. It is therefore vital that your eyes travel before the gun, and guide it to where it needs to settle.

But – it is also crucial to maintain the triangular of the head, shoulders and arms through to the grip. Do not flex this at all in the swing, for it will cost you accuracy and control.

Only in very extreme swings should you consider bringing the gun in to you. This can save time when the swing is 120 degrees or more.

The swing has to come from the knees and hips. So in extreme swings, the knees need to bend more.

You should know the sequence of targets you are going to shoot – and practice that motion with your hands a few times. This is not to replace your visual input – but it does help to make the motion smoother. “Muscle memory” can be a powerful tool at high speeds.

Always remember: You are not aiming at the entire, big, brown target – you are aiming only at the A zone! And some say – at the center of the A zone!

You have to see what you need to see, and that is not the same on each type of target. Sometimes you need to see nothing, other times, you need to see the A itself. More difficult targets require seeing the sights perfectly, and even smaller targets may require a perfect follow through.

SEE WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE! NO LESS, NO MORE.

Pay attention that you are able to shoot equally well from left to right and right to left. This sometimes takes practice, as we all have our favorite side. But, if you ignore this, it will limit your options on a stage.

Be aware that when you shoot right-handed only, it is usually better to shoot from right to left, with the recoil. Go the other way when shooting left-handed.

Your front sight/red dot is your speedometer. It tells you how fast you can shoot your next shot. Make sure you see your sight before each shot.

Recognize what type of target you are about to shoot. Decide in advance what you want to see on that target when you shoot it. Then – see that in your visualization

When you come to the end of a stage, you should know where all your shots went. Be critical about your visual input. This will enable you to maintain a high lever of control.

Guidelines to quality practice

We have all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”. Well, that simply is not true. Practice does not make perfect – it makes permanent. Whatever you do will be improved by practice. If you practice shooting badly, you will get better at shooting badly. If you practice shooting without taking care to be accurate, don’t expect anything else in competition.

Here are the guidelines I consider crucial to quality practice.

Be a goal setter

Set your goals and plan your training schedule accordingly.

Keep in mind that the goal of an individual practice session is not the session itself. Sure, you can enjoy your shooting, but if you’re aiming to participate in competitions, an individual practice session is rather about improving your skills than having fun on the range.

A specific goal helps to keep you motivated and on track with your training. If you are unfamiliar with setting goals and building a training schedule, read up on this topic. There is plenty of good information out there.

Plan your practice content in advance.

Don’t come to the range without knowing what you plan to shoot that day. Keeping track of your performance and shooting skills answers the question, “What should I work on today?”. It is important that you train with a plan, so that you don’t always repeat the same elements and fall short on other skills.

Avoid the trap of practicing only what you are already good at. This is a very common mistake. Many shooters enjoy shooting what they are good at. This keeps them happy about their performance, and in a group session makes them look good in the eyes of their peers. So there is a tendency to keep training the “easy and fun” stuff. Speed shoots, simple stages, fast shooting. Many shooters avoid training weak hand shooting, bobbers (swingers), tough accuracy shots, difficult body positions, and so on. It is very important to train your weak points. Once you have brought your weakest skill up to strength, your overall match performance greatly improves.

The “KISS” principle: Keep It Simple and Small.

I am an advocate of practicing small drills and simple exercises with many repetitions, rather than shooting big stages. I believe you can more effectively improve a technique by repeating it many times. In addition, you can better isolate the skill you are working on by not combining it in a stage that inevitably introduces additional elements. If you are practicing reloads, there is no need to complicate it by drawing the gun from the holster – start with the gun in hand. If you are training shooting on the move, don’t add the complication of reloading in the middle of the string. Unless complication is what you are after.

Building complex stages takes time. And you need to wait your turn if you are shooting in a group. This reduces the number of repetitions you can do and makes the session ineffective.

I am not saying you should never shoot stages in practice. You should, especially if you do not participate in enough matches. You need to improve your stage analysis and shooting skills as well. But this should not take up most of your practice time. I prefer to schedule stage shooting when I have a practice partner I can compete against. I am then able to shoot stages with/against him and create a match atmosphere, which is always good practice. Be sure to keep track of the points, as well as the time, when you score stages in practice.

Keep a diary.

Keeping a shooting diary is very important. Write down any conclusions you have drawn from your session, and anything new you have learnt. Record what you did exceptionally well in order to reinforce that achievement in your self image and subconsciouis. Keep records of your times and hit factors on various standard drills. You will be able to revert back and track your progress. Keep records of your loads and chronograph testing, your gear modifications and maintenance, and so on.

Try to sit down and write your diary entry before you leave the range. If you don’t, there is a good chance you will forget to do it once you are back home. There is value attached to keeping a diary, even if you never again read what you write. The act of sitting down to review and record the practice you have just completed forces you to analyze your performance and consciously look at your shooting and any changes. This accelerates your learning curve.

How much to shoot?

There are many considerations in determining how much ammo and time to spend on each session. Of course, this depends on your budget of both. As a rule – be careful not to shoot too much. Don’t get to where you lose interest in your practice. You need to care about the quality of each shot and you may burn out and lose interest if you shoot too much. I try to shoot 300-400 rounds per practice. However, I may shorten the session and shoot less if mid-way through I feel that I am losing interest and shooting badly. On the other hand, if I am shooting really well and enjoying the practice, I may extend the session. If possible, shoot more when shooting well. When not doing well, I suggest you pack up, rather than repeat and reinforce mistakes.

Keep your practice group small.

Of course this is not always possible, but it is an advantage. I try to practice with no more than one or two additional shooters. I prefer shooting with a partner to shooting alone, as I find this helps concentration and focus. Shooting in a big group becomes more of a “social” happening, and while that is not something negative, it is not what you want when working on your skills. Many of your shooting buddies may not be as dedicated to intense quality training as you are, and that may affect the merit of your practice. In addition, a big group creates more wasted time at the range as you wait your turn to shoot.

I believe a practice should be as short as possible, while allowing you to achieve your goal. I see no reason to spend five hours a day on the range, if you can achieve the same results in two.

Choose your practice partners carefully.

One tends to raise or lower one’s level of performance according to the level around one. Nothing will speed your progress more than practicing with shooters who are much better than you. Likewise, being the best shooter in your practice group will not contribute to your advancement. Wherever possible, train with good shooters.

Only do good practice. Never practice poor shooting!

Simply put – if you rehearse a bad performance – you will get better at delivering that exact bad performance again and again. That is why the quality of your practice should be your utmost concern. When shooting steel, don’t allow yourself to keep shooting 50% hits. Unless, of course, 50% hits is what you are aiming for in a match. Slow down! Work on your concentration, and bring that percentage up. Practicing shooting badly does not make you a better shooter! Sometimes, you just can’t do anything right. On such a day you are better off running the timer for the others, and not shooting at all.