Subjective Trends of Top Shooters

Wow folks, has it really been a year since my last post?  Geez – I guess that’s what happens when you have a kid (he’s almost 9 months now and healthy for those who are curious).

So, what’s been going on in my shooting life since my last post?  Well, I took a class from Ben Stoeger last year – I *HIGHLY* recommend his class.  It was 2 days, ~1K rounds, and a lot of personalized instruction.  It was so long ago, but I took the “how to practice” class – I don’t remember the actual title.  Do it.  It will help your shooting.  Go to to contact him about classes.  It is very well worth your time and money.  I’ll write a detailed review later.

As far as matches… what the hell are matches?!?  Haha.  Baby has taken all of my time, so no majors this year.  In fact, I have shot exactly 2 club matches this year.  I plan to pick things back up next year for sure.

Fortunately, I still have time to get to an indoor range where I can draw and shoot quickly.  I live-fire practice at least once-a-week, and dry fire whenever I can (typically 5-15 minute sessions).

While I’ve been on the bench, I’ve tried to watch a lot of the top shooter’s videos and compare them to lower-level shooters who shot the same match.  Draw, shot-splits, and transitions are obvious places where the top shooters kill us – I’ll stay away from those.

One major difference I noted is footwork.  The bulk of the lower-level shooters (A-D) seem to sprint like football players, where the top 16 shooters sprint like tennis players.  In other words, the top shooters take many tiny steps to ensure they hit certain spots on the course whereas most other shooters take large “sprinting” steps to get “somewhere,” then take corrective steps as necessary.

Another major difference seems to be when top shooters raise the gun and begin aiming.  Lower-level shooters, like me, will run to the position, raise the gun, aim, and then break the shots.  Top shooters will run to the position *WHILE* raising the gun to get a sight picture where the target will appear, and break the shots as they stop, or while moving.  It is the same concept when leaving a position, but reverse.  Lower-level shooters will break the last shot, watch the sight come down, and then leave the position.  Top shooters will simultaneously break the shot while moving backward, only watching the sight long enough to watch it rise – once it rises, all focus goes towards movement.

There are other differences, but these differences are enough to make my point.  Let’s assume that the top GMs are only faster than us mortals by the following amounts (trust me, they are much faster than this):

  • Draw: .1
  • Splits: .05
  • Transitions: .1
  • Footwork (adjustment when reaching shooting position, etc): .1
  • Entry: .1
  • Exit: .1
  • Reload: .2 (I did not use reloading as a factor in this analysis although it is a factor that should be considered)

Now, assume a 32-round field course with 3 shooting positions.  On this course, the GMs will save 2.25s on the stage.  If you break that down per shot, then the GM saves 0.07s per shot taken.


While .07 per shot taken may not seem like a lot, over a 300 round match, that’s 21 seconds.

Next time you wonder why your times are so far behind the top guy, make assumptions about how much faster they are than you at these aspects of the game and add it up.  You’ll find that time.

How I train when life happens

The road to GM is riddled with many twists and turns.

Life was different during my first years in the sport – I had just finished grad school, was not married, no kids, no house… no nothing.  Just me, my apartment, and my trusty Sig P226.  Spending hours dry-firing was no big deal – neither was shooting 4 matches per week.

Fast forward – life happened – now I am married (quite happily I might add) and the proud father of an 8 month old boy.  The days of hanging out at my ‘home’ range on a lazy Friday or Sunday afternoon are seemingly out of reach at the moment.  I still love the sport, though, and am determined to train.

You may be reading just to read… or because you’re a friend and want to read my blog.  Thanks btw :)  However, if you’re reading because you are in the same situation, you probably want to know what I’m doing.  Before getting into it, let me frame the rest of this document with the following:  My focus is to find ways to practice that do not require a lot of TIME – specifically 30mins-1hr TOPS.

Focused Dry-Fire

Yes, yes – I know, I know.  Everyone says ‘focused’ dry-fire.  Here’s what I mean:  spend 5-10 minutes each day on 1 topic per week.  If you can, practice more… obviously.  I’ll tell you, though, that between work and trying to give my wife a short reprieve when I get home – 5-10 minutes of quiet can sometimes be hard to find.

One suggestion I’d have is to buy a dry-fire book (I’m using Ben Stoeger’s books) and track which drill you do week-to-week.

Also, be humble enough to honestly track your times.  My wife went to full term with her pregnancy, so we were on birth alert for a number of weeks before the actual birth.  For me, this meant no matches (all matches are at least 1hr drive away from home).  3 months went by before I was able to even *touch* my gear… so my first dry-fire session back was baaaaad.  Bad draw, bad grip, bad times, fumbled reloads – you name it.  It was so bad that my pride did not want me to record draw times that were consistently .2-.3 seconds slower than my last practice session (Hey, it took a long time to shave off that time).  Record it.  It’ll help you focus on what you need to do.

Any Live-Fire

How long did it take you to be able to see your front blade/dot bounce without blinking?  It took a long time for me.  This is a perishable skill!  Don’t let this skill go away if at all possible.

So, I have committed to going to an indoor shooting range once a week during my lunch hour.  These sessions can’t be very long either, so I came up with a ‘lesson plan’ of sorts.  Many drills come from Ben Stoeger’s live fire drills book.  I know that it is not stages, or run-and-gun, but it is something.

I’ve also littered my walls with targets – both lifesize, dry-fire size, and micro targets.  You never know when you’re going to get a free 5 minutes, so having all of the targets up  is handy.


Obviously, you’ll want to shoot as many matches as possible.  Be realistic when determining how many local matches and majors you can attend.  Baby came in February, and I’ve shot exactly 2 local matches to date.  I’ll get back into shooting majors in 2016.  Until then, I’ll be primarily dry firing and doing standing drills.

Define Success

One thing that helps me stay focused on practice is to have a goal.  The goal for my next major is to win my class.  That means that I need to be really focused with regard to dry-fire, plan *focused* live-fire sessions, and plan to shoot at least 1 local match per month (stretch goal).  Local match performance will be my indicator as to how my practice is going.

Set goals!  It will help you focus.  Be sure that your goals are both realistic and achievable… then go get it!

Always, ALWAYS check your gear!

This is going to be a short post – but no real embellishment is necessary to drive this point home.  If you make a change to your rig, always, Always, ALWAYS check your gear before you go to a match!!!

Before going to a local Steel Challenge match, I changed a LOT of things on my open gun.  I changed the optic mount, the optic, the position of the thumb rest, the safety, the hammer, and the trigger internals.  I function checked every single piece in dry fire and live fire – MULTIPLE TIMES…


…the adjustment set screws on my new C-More.

After zeroing the dot, I did not fully tighten the set screws on the optic.  Fast forward to my 2nd stage of the Steel Challenge match – Showdown.  First plate – *DING!*  Second (large) plate – my dot was middle dead-center of the plate and… whiff.  Follow-up shot – whiff.  I start shooting and moving the dot all over the place to try and find the hits.  Finally, I held at the 2×4 holding the plate up – *DING!*

I didn’t have my hex set, and nobody else I knew had one either.  It had to be the single most frustrating day of shooting I’ve ever had.  I was so annoyed that I decided not to waste any more ammo so I did not complete the match.

Never let it happen to you – it sucks.

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