Friday, March 20, 2015

Why Drills?

Just the other day a friend of mine asked for some advice on how to overcome throwing his first shot during sustained fire. Apparently it was a nagging and reoccurring problem.

It was a casual moment and I didn’t think much of it at the time. I’m not a coach to new shooters and certainly don’t hold myself out as one. So I simply rolled off the standard but typical answer, “Try shooting some one shot drills.”

I also elaborated that it’s useful to avoid trying to make the shot absolutely perfect. It isn’t all that helpful and generally it screws things up. And I further elaborated, he might want to start pulling the trigger just as soon as the target starts to turn without visual confirmation of even seeing the bullseye.

Three days later I had a chance to watch him clean his first Timed Fire target during a league match. … Dennis was justifiably tickled pink; he had the courage to try something new and worked at it.

I was elated to see my friend accomplish a new skill set. And later, I and several others proudly signed his cleaned target.

The entire process reminded me that very few people actually do drills or train. Most seem to be lost in the wilderness by simply practicing.

During my time on the practice range I see so many of my peers who do very little to help elevate their abilities. I don’t know if they’re adrift, never sought guidance, stuck in a rut—or at the very least—play this game for a different reason than I do. Which I’m certain many do.

At 50 yards

New shooters who train and use drills force themselves up the food chain. They acquire confidence in their new abilities and have a better self image, not to mention they’re elevating their match scores in the process.

Training and drills are good things, right?

If you’re a novice shooter here are a few of the most basic drills to get you started aside from dry firing.

1) The Classic Blank Target Drill. This drill is all about trigger control. Place a full sized target backwards in the frame at fifty yards. You shouldn’t be able to see anything on its face; no bullseye or scoring rings. Then shoot 10 slow fire shots on it for a minimum group. Simply shoot at the center of the target. What the shooter needs to do is pretend they’re dry firing, but the gun’s LOADED. Every attempt should be made to make each and every release well executed.

This drill forces you to know what your actual spread is during slow fire. Over the course of several weeks, you’ll slowly start to see an improvement in group size. Don’t look through the scope during this drill, put it away. And if for some reason you can see a pattern while shooting, never start chasing holes. You want to walk up to the target to see your results.  

Compare with a repair center ... 93-2X?

A shooter who can’t manage their group size will never do well during slow fire. As well, it forces the shooter not to chase their shots or use Kentucky-windage. It reinforces the process of good trigger control regardless what’s seen within the sight picture.

By the way, this drill is so dull and boring its mind numbing. But, it works.

2) The One Shot Drill. As mentioned above one shot drills work handily for anyone not getting their first shot off timely and accurately.

At the 25 yard line, simply set the target timer for a 2 seconds face. Your mission is to release one round into the 10-ring. It should be done leisurely but without hesitation. Be emotionally prepared on the firing line but don’t force anything.

Sounds simple enough, right? Just keep doing it until you can shoot 10 consecutive shots, one shot at a time, into the 10-ring. And if you can’t, just keep at it until you can.

Expect to fail. But once you mastered this drill not only will your sustained fire scores increase, so will your confidence while on the short line.

3) Shooting Thru the Donut Hole. Regardless whether you’re using a .22 or .45 this drill enhances your ability to quickly get up to speed on the short line.

Cutout the 10-ring from several sustained fire repair centers. Then place one on the backer at 25 yards with a corresponding hole. Yes, daylight should be seen through the target. Then go about and shoot a turning target set. Aim into the open area in either timed or rapid fire fashion.

Your goal is to try and avoid hitting the 9-ring.

Most novice shooters are quickly surprised to find out the vast majority of their shots fly right through that big gaping hole. And it does look like a big hole by simply viewing it from the firing line.

Many shooters using this drill discover their skill levels are much better than currently perceived. And it’s a confidence builder that easily translates to future matches.

Will there be an occasional failure? Sure. But the shooter’s attention should be placed on how well they performed with most shots. Shooters who use this drill sometimes get a unique epiphany. [I won’t ruin it for ya. You’ve got to find out for yourself.]

Here are some final thoughts.

One thing everybody notices about drills is—they’re excruciatingly dull. You don’t get a score, there’s generally no exhilaration from an unusually well placed shot, and there’s no real immediate feedback.

Ah, but they do help. They promote good fundamentals whether you like it or not.

If you want a full-blown drill list, download the USMC Pistol Team Workbook. It’s basically a singular path laid out for novice shooters, where it’s nothing more than one drill after the other.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Crafted Bullseye Pistol

Over the years I’ve run into new shooters who’ve desperately attempted to economize on equipment, including their first wadgun. Even I tried to do the same thing about 10 years ago when I first started out in this game.

Typically many will attempt to purchase a used pistol. In some cases things work out well, and at other times it can turn into a disaster. I’ve seen it play out both ways.  If you’d like to see how I mismanaged things with my first bullseye pistol, click here.
So if you’re a budding Master Wananbe, and if your budget only allows for a used wadgun, expect there will be a time in the not so distant future where you’ll need to step-up and commission a gun.

In simple terms, if you’re actually determined to compete, you’ll need equipment that can perform much better than you. Because if your equipment is substandard you’ll never know your real potential; your shooting flaws will always be masked by the hidden failings of your equipment.
In such a situation, how would you ever know that you were out-shooting the gun? As well, you’ll more than likely screw-up your training plans and in the process ingrain bad habits. 

Stock guns don’t work for us. Typically a decent production pistol might group 6 to 12 inches at 50 yards.  Having a spread like this, it would take a miracle for a high level Expert to score 80 or better at the long line. Good results and scores are just not gonna happen—ever. If you want to put yourself in a box and become frustrated over a long period of time, a stock gun is the solution. 
All new shooters should be looking for a 1911 that prints at least a 2 inch group at 50 yards.
I should also point out that most (but not all) precision 1911 production pistols leave a lot to be desired. For most newbies the lure here is simply availability. They’re either on the shelf somewhere or only a few months away for delivery.
It’s not uncommon for one well known manufacturer to offer a 1&1/2 inch guarantee for an additional fee.  After 10,000 or so rounds, these pistols become infamously inaccurate.  Remember this about most precision production pistols: Just because a pistol is fitted extremely tight doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fitted properly. A properly fitted wadgun will wear over time but it will take a prolonged period of time before those actions transform into poor accuracy. Tight for the sake of being tight doesn’t get people a lot of mileage. Proper fitting by the smith’s skillful anticipation of normal wear is worth its weight in gold.
Do these production guns look pretty? Sure they do, but that’s more about the marketing department’s demands to provide implied or perceived quality. Just because something looks nice doesn’t necessarily translate into functional quality.
I’ve used such guns in the past. For years I wondered why they routinely needed to be sent back to the manufacturer after one and a half seasons of shooting; due to their ability to spray rounds just about everywhere.  Heck, all of these guns appeared to be tight in lockup when they were returned for service work.
One of the other important factors about a pistol that arrives from a dedicated bullseye smith is its shootability. That’s the pistol’s ease of operation. Granted, “shootablility” is an extremely idiosyncratic and subjective term.
For one moment think of a production house or local smith crafting a pistol with high quality parts. They fit them within the time limits available to them and by limited technical parameters. Generally these guns are not given the care or detail required, especially when we’re referring to the firing group as a whole.      
Did the smith actually parallel the trigger slots and then lap them? Were the bow and its tracks treated in a similar manner?  Did they even bother to actually fit the base of the strut? I could go on at great length about the required minutia to craft a sliding-on-wet-glass trigger pull. The truth is production firms and local smiths are either unknowing or unwilling to apply the required and necessary efforts.
Let’s dispel one more myth. Please don’t think you can pick up a Springfield or Rock Island Armory 1911 and have it refitted to be a competitive bullseye gun. First off, most reputable smiths won’t do it. Their reasons are basically twofold: It takes far more labor simply to manage an existing frame and slide rather than using high quality oversized parts; that pistol will never be truly fitted because it didn’t have a pristine beginning. And assuming it’s been welded-up, that pistol will likely have a short lifespan making the smith concerned about dealing with unwanted product returns. 

And let’s not forget about all those remaining original parts that are going to be (and should be) thrown into the trash.

Reworking a stock pistol has no cost benefits for either the smith or shooter in such a scenario. Although, there are individuals out there who will gladly pander to potential customers.
So what’s a newbie to do?

Well, money is always a legitimate concern. If you’re able, plan on purchasing the best that you can. By my last count there are only seven real smiths capable of crafting true bullseye pistols, and two of them aren’t taking any more orders.
Should you find yourself with limited resources buy a used wadgun with pedigree. And then have a bailout plan or consider your first purchase to be future trade fodder. That way, at least you’ll ease or avoid the feeling of buyer’s remorse.   
Do most of us buy-up at one time or another? Sure. Just be aware that it’s part of the game.
But you’ll perform better and advance faster with high quality equipment.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Korth PRS

About two years ago at a local gun show, I had my first face to face encounter with a Korth pistol.  It wasn’t new, but a lightly used 6 inch Combat revolver. None the less, there it sat, staring at me with its legendary beauty, radiating its assumed and proud flawlessness from the vendor’s table. Every so often someone else would ogle it, and their body language telegraphed an extreme sense of awe and wonderment. 

It looked like a work of art and was awesomely unique. By the way, the vendor wouldn’t let me handle it.
It’s difficult to be detached and impartial about anything that extremely expensive. There are those of us who are fans of Rolex, Bentley and Leica. It’s easy to assume Korth’s product line reigns in the same pantheon of other ultra-high quality consumer items.    
For me, it’s little more than a fantasy firearm. Not once did the thought of reaching for my credit card ever enter my mind; regardless of the fact none of them have a credit limit adequate enough to purchase one. Although like many illusory gunsthey really do existsuch as Holland & Holland express rifles or Fabbri double barrel shotguns.
Could you shoot Distinguished Revolver with a Korth Combat? As a production gun it’s legal but not very practical.
At the end of 2013, Korth announced their interpretation of the classic 1911 with massive modifications called the PRS.  I highly doubt John M. Browning would recognize his pistol with the possible exception of its general profile. After waiting many years, Korth finally rolled out a large bore semiauto based on Browning’s 1911 frame (sort of).  It’s intended to be a precision type pistol as opposed to a defensive or battle platform.
The heart of Korth's pistol is twofold: a fixed barrel and delayed roller locking system. Actually I don’t know from an engineering standpoint which came first, the fixed barrel or the locking system? Since “form follows function,” I’m guessing the locking system had to be crafted to accommodate the use of a fixed barrel.
For decades the search for an ultra-accurate large bore pistol, such as a .45ACP, was centered on the belief that a fixed barrel system would eliminate the problems of repeatability with moving barrel systems. The so called “tilting barrel” method appears to be a thing of the past for Korth. And over the years a lot of companies looked for similar solutions including Kimber, Hogue, and even our friend Ed Masaki. All of which is predicated upon the yet to be validated belief that a fixed barrel system will always be more accurate.
The roller delayed locking system is a mechanical technique that has commonly been applied in recoil based machine guns. And as such, typically they produce more felt recoil. So, there’s been a little give and take with its design. Although, one would guess that feeding reliability might be enhanced by using such a method.
The finish and fit of this gun is impressive. But once you understand Korth’s pricing policy I don’t know of anyone who would expect anything less. A brief glance at their webpage generally lists all their guns as POR.
Here’s the deal with pricing: They’re incredibly expensive, much like a Swiss watch. From others who have had direct contact with the company, pricing might range from a starting point of about $4000, and then quickly rise to about $15,000 depending on barrel length and requested amenities.

For the most part, it doesn’t appear that Korth has much in the way of idle inventory. Order one up and expect to wait four to six months before delivery. Consider them being made to order.
 

Please be aware even though Korth is technically a modern German manufacturer, a sizable amount of their delivered products are semi-custom crafted. The PRS shown above comes in barrel lengths of 4, 5 and 6 inch. And the 6 inch model is capable of mounting a modern optic for precision type shooting.  
Knowing Korth’s reputation, and given enough money, I wouldn’t be at all surprised they would gladly extend the front mounting rail (which is attached directly to the barrel) much further back over the slide, simply for the sake of balance.

For those of you who are familiar with Cabot Guns* and their Bullseye Model, be apprised these two companies wade into the same potential customer base. They don’t sell guns per se; they sell lavish artifacts with implied inspiration to a unique few who can afford the price without blinking.
To quote the immortal Sam Spade: “It’s the, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”
 
 
Here's a Korth YouTube link for the PRS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHTcfTG9A-k


* The Cabot Bullseye Model is a limited production item not listed in their catalog, although alluded to in their press releases.  This model is reserved solely for members of the Cabot Pistol Team and a limited number of existing clients.
 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Repost: Calling Your Shots

Not long ago, a reader mentioned in one of my comment areas the process of “calling your shots.” And it dawned on me, since I’ve been writing this blog over the past three years I’ve not once mentioned it in any of my prior posts.

Shot calling is considered by many instructors as an advanced skill. Most of us do it without much thought, and as a consequence, do it poorly. As an acquired skill it’s extremely important to developing shooters. Knowing where it lands by reading the sight picture provides the shooter with immediate feedback about how well he’s performing and where he’s scoring. And there are other benefits.

1) Knowing when a slow fire shot is properly released and reading its appropriate response, provides fodder for the subconscious to ingrain a good shot process. And in doing so, hopefully a good shot can be replicated redundantly in the future.

2) Obtaining an accurate and immediate visual response from a poor sustained fire shot allows the shooter to abort during a sustained fire string and start over.

3) And if there’s a classic failure in any one of the fundamentals which you haven’t yet detected, a proper interpretation of the sight’s response may give you clues about what need’s your immediate attention during a match or live practice.

To start the process one would review their current dry fire drills. Generally, all shooters at one time or another will detect errors with their grip or trigger control. Obviously this is the foundation for any type of shot calling. Special attention should be applied to the time just prior to the hammer strike, when the hammer strikes and the moment immediately there after during the follow through period. Knowing what causes a jerked, heeled, milked or snatched shot—during dry fire—generally applies to live fire as well.

Although, during live firing training there are two basic drills that will help most shooters to become more attuned to the shot calling process.

The first will require assistance from a friend. At the range a shooter would go through their normal shot plan and on a slow fire basis without a scope or other aid, shoot a shot, make a call to its location, then verbally call out the round’s printed location on the target to their friend. The shooter’s friend, who is out of view, would mark an identical type target located on the bench where the shooter had called the shot. Then the assistant would scope the actual shot, verify its location and mark its location using a different color pen. One pen color for the called shot, and a different one for the shot’s actual location. Ideally all of the shots called and their separate verified locations should be numbered in sequential order.

During this exercise I’d initially limit the number of shots printed on the target to around five. This is an attempt at keeping the last few shots fresh in the shooter’s mind. More than likely there’ll be ten different marks on the bench target, and it becomes difficult trying to remember what went where with large numbers of notations. After only a few shots, the shooter would compare his called shots with the actual scoring target by going down range.

A similar drill can be accomplished alone. A shooter would do the same drill as noted above but would leave his scope secured in the box. He would shoot the shot, call the shot, and then mark its called location on an identical type target residing on the bench. Later, he would go forward and compare the two targets. This drill is best left to more advanced shooters; there’s no opportunity for feedback from another person who more than likely has been watching your routine and release.

A fresh-off-the-boat novice shooter might be able to call (within one scoring ring) one out of seven or eight shots. Sharpshooters and Marksmen might be able to get a 40% to 60% percent success rate with Experts hovering around 70%.

The initial problem with shot calling usually happens because of the human element of mental timing. Visually, many shooters will embed that moment of the sight picture when they made their commitment to pull the trigger, as their called location. But the ideal image for a good call will come from the immediate follow through period. It’s not uncommon for shooters to fall into a “that’s where I want it” visual snapshot while going after the shot. And then have the subconscious erroneously validate the old ‘want it’ image as the point of impact. It’s the image during the follow through response that gives the most accurate call.

Remember, while using an optical sight you want to see the dot leap straight back at you, regardless where it’s pointed. And for open sights, it’s where you last saw the front post. The gun may or may not be aimed or pointed where you wanted but both confirm proper application of the fundamentals.

One of the initial and most common epiphanies many shooters have during these drills is they become much more aware of the break down in their fundamentals. So, when you use one of these drills you get double bonus points: the ability to call better; and hopefully increased attention to the basics.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Future of Bullseye


I recently shot a 900 .22 indoor match. I’ve been attending this particular event for about to ten years. Heck, it was the first match I ever attended. And one of the things that make this event so endearing to me, it’s always held on Super Bowl Sunday. For ten years I’ve been shooting this thing in the morning and then returning home to my family in the late afternoon to watch the game.
It reminds me that matches are an opportunity to renew old friendships, tell war stories and simply enjoy the comradery of other shooters. One of the issues that I learned quickly about this sport is matches are for the most part social events. People come together for various reasons.

Sure we compete. For most, matches are somewhat like the gathering of a clan.
I’d like to hopefully think our sport is currently in a process of transformation. We should see ourselves as having an opportunity to make good and positive changes with the sport that many of us hold so dear. For the past month or so I’ve attempted to encourage the community, at different venues, to hold out hope that there are those willing to work and strive for positive changes.
Let’s put the word “change” into perspective.
Regardless how you slice it, be it positive or negative, change is unsettling for most people. For those of us who have spent many decades being active practitioners of this sport, a return to the 1950s, 60s and 70s is impossible. Since we compete collectively (much like a clan), future changes that we’ll be required to embrace will feel foreign.
Although I’m holding out that whatever these changes may be, they should embrace the traditional skills and values we cherish. I have no idea where this road will take us. Be assured the respect and reverence that many of us hold close to our hearts should not be violated or molested. There is value in tradition and it should never be compromised. I don’t believe the “game” itself needs to be remodeled; the administration of it may be another story.
There are two things I’d like to impress upon the community:

·         As competitors we need to be vocal about what we’d like to accomplish, but it must be constructive. Whining, bitching and bloviating about how things are dysfunctional isn’t going to achieve anything.  There’s an old saying, “It’s easy to throw rocks.” It’s quite different to offer a constructive alternative.
So, if you see a post on the Bullseye List or the Bullseye L Forum—participate. Let people know what you think.  

·         If new ideas and functional changes are advanced, it may require that you too will be asked to help implement them. It’s your sport, and don’t think for a minute that manna will simply fall from heaven. The promotion of our sport and its related duties cannot fall solely on the back of the NRA. The NRA may be our sanctioning organization, they do collect money from all of us, but without having a real partnership with them our community will never truly advance worthwhile changes. 

I’m thrilled about our future. Our sport’s prospects are abundant with potential solutions, and hopefully we’ll enhance an already great sport.
For those of you who are regular readers, I’m sorry this post was political in nature. Typically I avoid using this blog as soapbox. But in a recent email I was reminded there are vast numbers of bullseye shooters who never look at the Bullseye-L or Forum; they’re probably the largest single group of BE shooters that exist, and they matter too.



Note: If you're one of the many who do not avail themselves to the Bullseye L Forum, use this link for a little bit of context.  http://www.bullseyeforum.net/t3656-new-competitors-committee

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Part 2 of 2: The Ever Elusive Shooter’s Notebook

In my prior post, the process of managing a notebook or diary—is to say the least—labor intensive. There’s no magic, there’s no fireworks, and there’s no insights hidden by mystical shamans except for two things: Goals and a commitment to the diary’s maintenance.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Then look around at your shooting friends and ask them where’s theirs. This tool is typically absent from most shooters, except for the most elite. Although, shooters who practice bullseye casually, there’s probably no real reason to even have one.  But if you’re inclined to meet your near and long term goals going without one can be problematic.
As a reminder, the bulk of what’s useful or gives these things their horsepower was actually noted in Part 1. It’s all about the goal(s).

For the rest of what’s required, let’s look at the following items to help craft a roadmap for your shooting future.  
Photo provided by Accuracy Tech




Technical Baselines  

Before getting started, for some, it might make sense to review the not too distant past. A shooter needs to know where he is right now before determining how far they’re committed to go in the future.
A rule of thumb would be to review your shooting performance for at least the past six months (longer is better). Pull up those old scores from past matches and start to determine where your technical skill level really is during a specific course of fire. And you’ll need to do this for like-to-like match formats. In other words, don’t assume that if you can routinely shoot a 282 NMC with a .22, and that it will or should average throughout an entire 900 point event.  

As an example, I’ve seen gallery shooters apply their average NMC scores or their 600 point scores, and then extrapolate them to a 900 event. And for some reason that average rarely plays out as expected.
By looking back you’ll get a feel for where you are now. There will be stages that are better than others from a scoring standpoint. And there will be those stages that are so poorly executed it becomes easy to identify those weak spots.
It’s not about an emotional negative. It’s about identifying with great precision what areas need concentrated effort.
If you methodically review your past performances all kinds of things come to light. You might be someone who doesn’t start well in a match but comes on strong after warming up. Some shooters tail off at the backend because they don’t have the physical stamina to complete the course. And most of us at many points during a match have what I would call “technical” problems (i.e.: jerking the trigger, milking the trigger late in the match, over gripping during rapid fire, poor first shot during sustained fire, etc.).
It’s for you to identify the things that are holding you back.
Get out the calculator and compare your past scores against your nearest attainable goal, and it reveals what level you’ll need to perform at in the near future.
 

Performance History and Analysis

Going forward, it’s an excellent idea to record the values of each target shot throughout a match.  There’s lots of information to be gleamed later when you’re not shooting. What I typically do is take a photo of my score card with my smartphone because it all there and I don’t have to disrupt my concentration during a match. And it’s easy enough to transcribe later.
It’s generally a good idea to make notes after you’re done shooting.
There will be some targets that were shot exceptionally well and others not so well; let’s call them the extremes.  I’ll collect them and take them home or make an immediate note in my diary about what went right or wrong. Then later I’ll make notes about those items to understand and ingrain a good habit, or start looking for solutions to correct bad ones.
This is where most of your insights need to be documented. Whether it’s a dry and matter of fact observation or that floor-stomping epiphany, feel free to craft your thoughts in detail.   
This is about the only way you’ll be able to recognize redundant errors and calculate how much they affect your match scores. Whatever you do, don’t rely on your distant memory from a week ago, it’s extremely unreliable.
Over time, don’t be surprised that this type of data collection might appear to be the bulk of your diary. Charting your performance by using graphs by gun and type of matches, will provide a visual validation where you’re going.  All of this is the necessary data you can’t avoid. Generally your performance history, skill baseline and performance analysis appear to be interwoven, and it is. But they still must be dealt with individually.  
 
Training Methods and Commitments

Here’s the area where novice shooters over concentrate.
I’m not suggesting this area isn’t important. Although, most shooters visualize this is where all the work is. In some respect that’s true. Having new guidance by knowing what you’re currently capable of and where you’re going, it now becomes much easier and more efficient applying new skill solutions.
Novice shooters generally assume that by practicing they’ll get somewhere. History tells us that most do little more than not backslide using this approach.

Knowing where you need to concentrate you training allows you the productivity of zeroing in on the specific required labor that has to be applied. So, when searching for a training solution be diligent about what drills meet your needs.
There’s a drill for every problem. A simple Google search will deliver more than you can shake a stick at. And this gives you talking points where you can approach more knowledgeable shooters for their training insights.  

The final part is when a new training plan is crafted, and its most element is, writing down your new commitments. Without applying a known or measurable amount of labor, and then later a performance review, you’ll never know what will be required of you to meet your nearest goal. You’ll need to weigh the price of labor, money and time that you’ll need to pay before making a training commitment.
And this section of your diary where you're constantly amending and always evolving that shot plan. The plan will develop with you as you mature into a more skilled shooter.


Equipment/Misc.

This section is more of a convenience than anything else. It's where you collect information that you can get your hands on quickly during a match.
As an example, I have notes about which way I need to turn my sight adjustments for 6 different guns and their impacts at 25 and 50 yards. Sometimes I list the windage and sight adjustments for different types of lighting conditions. I have notes on sub-6 aiming areas for different guns. And in some sections I have notes about how certain ammunition loads react under extreme cold or hot conditions. Heck, there are even telephone numbers and addresses for several different gunsmiths.
What I list in here are items that might be useful at a moment’s notice. It’s stuff you just can’t afford to forget and you always know where it is.  
 

When you dare to visualize those new goals for your shooting career, it’s acceptable to make them extraordinary and unlike yourself. Use these tools to take a chance and shape a different future for yourself. But always know where you’ve been and where you’re going.




Use these links to get started:


http://www.targetshooting.ca/reframerize.cfm?redirect=http://www.targetshooting.ca/training.htm

http://www.accuracy-tech.com/data-books/

http://guns.ie/WTSCShootingDiary_1.1.pdf
 

Friday, January 09, 2015

Part 1 of 2: The Ever Elusive Shooter’s Notebook

At the end of last year I had several posts that alluded to shooting diaries. You know, they’re the things we all know we need but few of us actually have.

Even during the most productive of times, shooting notebooks can transmute into ephemeral phantoms. Their lifespan is much like an unearthly spirit, where material insights become easily recognized only to have their valuable essence slip away by the fog of time.

Mundane and laborious, notebooks require constant vigilance and updating.  To be effective they demand perpetual tune-ups.
So, what are the rewards?

A shooter will immediately know what they’ve learned, where they’re deficient, how they’re trending (hopefully progressing) and what new training strategies may be required of them. Think of having a diary as a tool that will unlock your shooting potential.

All of us know people in the sport who have achieved a certain level of competency and then stopped progressing—for years. Without knowing where you’ve been, and by having little direction where one is going, most shooters without a plan will simply maturate at their base level.
Over the years I’ve routinely mentioned that few people know what to put in a notebook. And there’s a reason for this pervasive dilemma. Most coaches don’t want to pollute their students or mentally throw them under the bus.  

Since notebooks or diaries are such a personal thing, they must all start with a goal or a set of goals. It’s the basic foundation of all shooting diaries. When a coach or instructor encourages their student on this subject, they have no desire to suggest any specific goals. Their assumption is they’ll falsely implant one, and more than likely it’ll be one of theirs and not yours.  Their goals, whether well intentioned or not, will not evoke the same emotional investment or desire as your own.

As mentioned above, it all starts with your goals as the foundation for everything else you’ll put in the diary. Much like a coach, I don’t want to be accused of unintentionally steering shooters into something that’s “not them. “ It takes a little soul searching, reflection and ultimately a strong desire to actually get to your desired destination.    
The process of making a goal commitment is generally the reason why most shooters don’t craft a diary. It’s where the train becomes derailed. Goal setting is so simple but it’s an activity that eludes most people even in their daily lives.
Search yourself and be realistic about what you want to accomplish. I’m 57, and if I decided to embrace my proposed ultimate goal to become a National Champion—then somebody out there please, start the laugh-track now. If I was 30 odd years younger with a massive trust fund, it might be a reasonable item to work towards.
After applying a weighty dose of reality, then the heavy lifting comes into play by setting smaller benchmarks to verify you’re progressing towards your goal. This might be something as basic as learning how to consistently shoot slow fire in the low to mid-90s, attainment of a Distinguished badge, perhaps being your local club’s match champion, or attaining 2600 Club membership. Start with small steps in the beginning and work your way up the skill ladder. It’s that old adage of moving a tree by chopping it into manageable pieces.
Whatever those smaller steps are, you must emotionally own them. They must be accomplished one at a time. And they must be written down. 

Michael Hyatt has written an excellent post about the importance of writing down one’s goals. It’s titled, The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting. http://michaelhyatt.com/goal-setting.html  Take my word for it, it’s worth reading, pithy and not complicated.
Simply be realistic about where you want to arrive. Then identify those smaller mile-markers that are clearly along its path.  Without identifying realistic goals, all the other items most people struggle with about what to put in their diary becomes secondary.
Everyone needs a map to get from point A to point B. What your coach never told you was it’s up to you to craft the map by yourself before taking the first real step. The single biggest hurdle in crafting a useful and productive diary is to know where you want to go, and what price you’re willing to pay to make it happen.
In Part 2, I’ll try to offer some insights about how to: determine technical baselines, record performance history, do performance analysis, develop basic training plans, develop commitments for your goals and physical fitness.

Friday, January 02, 2015

2015 CMP Rule Changes

Last Tuesday, December 30th, the CMP revealed some elements of their new rules dealing with service pistol competitions. For those of you who are return readers, this may sound like old news. For many, it is. Unfortunately there are other readers who don’t subscribe to the Bullseye List or Bullseye-L Forum.

For some, I’m certain this came as unsettling news. Tradition plays a big part with our community and substantial changes generally spawn hard feelings. At the very least, it might generate skeptical caution about what’s been instituted.  
The changes for Service Pistol, as they were announced are both broad and sweeping.  It goes right to the heart of what we’ve practiced for over these past several decades. There are substantial changes as to what new firearms will be permitted in future service pistol matches (yeah, polymer pistols will be allowed), new ammo rules again, effectively loosening the equipment externals for current service pistols, and the addition of a .22 caliber distinguished badge has been approved. As well, there will now be minimum scores (Service 250, Rimfire 260) that must be achieved before receiving award points.

If you haven’t seen their announcement, use this link 
The changes are so dramatic, that I know a number of ol’ timers who are going to tell me the CMP is cheapening the game again. Many of us can remember when the CMP changed course and allowed reloaded ammo thus ending their mandate for using commercially manufactured products. At that time, the reaction from previously distinguished shooters would have led to you to believe the apocalypse was about to crest over the horizon.
Sure, things were different back-in-the-day. There was a time, well within living memory, when a competitor had to accept CMP issued .45ACP hardball ammo upon their arrival on the firing line. Think about it: You never used this ammo before, it was probably surplus left over from WWII, and only the Almighty knew where it was going to print on your target for the first two or three rounds. Thereafter, everything was based upon your skill with Kentucky windage.
Back then, it was a “precision service pistol match.” The competitor had to know how to overcome certain obstacles that might be common in a fighting environment.  For over five decades, the game has been played as a “precision pistol match” that mandated the use of service “like” pistols. Obviously these two matches are very similar, but worlds apart in practical execution.    
Before the community cringes over this new development, let’s take stock of where we are.
If you’ve been involved or have noticed the most basic current events within our sport, there have been a lot of recent proposed changes from both the NRA and CMP.  “Times are a changin’,” isn’t an accurate observation. In fact, for far too long there hasn’t been much in the way of any real change for bullseye.  And that’s the problem; we’ve been doing our Thing thinking it was timeless—or static.  

What’s occurring here with the CMP is they’re fully aware that unless something is done, the game we so deeply love just might disappear.  Both the NRA and CMP know they’re living in a time where there’s been massive declining participation. Fortunately the CMP has the foresight to be proactive.
Take a quick look at what the CMP has recently instituted. The above rules changes are one. Another is their new shooting facility in Talladega, AL. And the way they do commercial business has changed too with regards to their custom shop. Their business model has changed so that they, and the rest of us, might have a future.

The days of the CMP getting their hands on vast numbers of returned vintage M-1s is coming to an end. Originally their single largest source of revenue—these US issued 80 year old battlefield implements—are almost no longer in inventory with our allies except for South Korea. Those incredibly inexpensive rifles subsidized our sport for decades. This means new sources of income as mentioned above have to be created.
As well, the CMP must meet their statutory mandate to train the public in marksmanship. And in doing so, they’re obligated to recruit new shooters.

It’s obvious to me Director Emeritus Gary Anderson, sees the present, is anticipating the future and has the grit to do something about it. Basically, what we’re seeing is the practical application of substantive leadership.
Possibly after the passage of ten years or so, we might look back and label Mr. Anderson as the person who singlehandedly saved bullseye.




Note: At the time this post was published the CMP has yet to update their rulebook. Expect to see the 2015 Rulebook released in the latter part of this January.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Greetings

Friends and fellow shooters, be advised that I will be absent over the next three weeks. Generally, I try and post on a weekly basis—and as such—sometimes it becomes a little much. Due to family, job and holiday obligations this blog will come to a standstill for the next few weeks.

Expect new posts in the early part of January.
Although, this might be a good time to remind my readers about my blog’s basic mission: to assist novice members of our sport. If by chance you’re a well skilled Expert or rated higher, your time would be better spent elsewhere. The contents within are something of a recap of my experiences, advice given to me by other creditable and skilled sources, or simply my occasional haranguing about the sport.

Most of the posts have been very personal, and at times, they’re a retelling of events that have been enlightening for me that I thought would be useful to share with others.

I’m very much aware how difficult it is to get started in our sport. I easily remember what the hurdles were for me during my entrance. And unfortunately, I’ve seen firsthand far too many newbies give up because they received little if any constructive encouragement.
In the meantime if you’re a new reader, consider perusing the Resource Links and Topic Labels on the far right side of the main page. There’s a lot of stuff there, enough for shooters with varying skill levels.
Since we’re into the final stretch towards the holiday season, I’d like to give thanks for some notable and positive changes within the sport this past year: 

                    The increasing census of new female shooters is noticeable and I hope they feel welcomed. I’m a firm believer the broader we cast our nets socially and culturally, the less we look like suspects for who-knows-what by the broader public. Diversity is a good thing for us now and our sport’s long-term future. 
 
                    From July to the present, the issue of electronic targets put our community into a tizzy. Although the underlining cause—the root of the problem—has more to do with our sport’s declining participation than anything else. Declining participation is a truly systemic hindrance; the issue of electronic targets is nothing more than its symptom.  …I’d like to thank Dennis Willing for addressing all of us the day before Thanksgiving Day with his post on the Bullseye-L Forum. Dennis rightfully pointed out there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to recruitment. I’m certain many of us will disagree about which methods might be the most productive. And I’m thankful that the process of a two-way dialog with the Competitions Division has begun on this subject.
 
                    I’d like to thank Brian Zins and the other members of the Rules Committee for advancing an official name change to our sport. The name Precision Pistol might not sound like a dramatic change, but it does provide us with a starting point for rebranding. Rebranding will provide a foundation for future marketing and promotional opportunities; something that’s been sorely lacking for decades.
 
                    And as the year comes near its end, I’ve noticed .22 ammo is starting to become available. It’s not at the price that I’d like to pay, but there are signs its starting to trickle out in our direction. Hopefully by next summer we’ll see availability and pricing become more stabilized.  The funny thing about .22 ammo it’s become commoditized much like gold or industrial chemicals.
 

For the items I’ve noted above, we should be grateful.  They should be seen as new opportunities for our future, and I hope they aren’t squandered. New opportunities, whatever they are, require real effort to effect change.
I’d like to wish you all, no matter where you are, a joyous and memorable holiday.
 
 

Friday, December 12, 2014

What’s the Deal with Your Scores?

Most of us who shoot competitively gradually improve over time. Although, almost all of us really don’t recognize that we’re moving forward, standing still—or for even that matter—backsliding with our shooting goals. If we’re that attuned to those types of minuscule movements, it sucks the life out of all the fun.

I highly doubt your memory is much better than mine. As we reflect on our scores many times it’s interpreted through the rosy haze of a biased or selective memory. It’s simply way too easy to remember those really nifty good scores, and then minimize the impact of the poor ones. Typically, people recall their scores at a much higher average than what they really are.   
Over the years, many instructors have told us to get a shooting notebook or diary. For the most part, this is when the wheels come off. Almost no one instructs students what they need to put into these things. Then later on, a shooter might actually be scoring their real average, only to be needlessly frustrated by assuming their average is much higher than it actually is.   

The illusion of having a higher average provides the shooter with a warped foundation. He needs to know where he’s truly at to formulate a training program for future personal growth.


Possibly one of the handiest things to place in your notebook is a running chart of your scores. Not the gross scores from match aggregates, but the scores of individual targets by gun and event (.22 SF, CF TF, 45 RF and so on). For Bullseye, there’s no need to do all 15 stages at one time. Although, I would suggest you start with events that give you the most trouble first.  
By charting your scores you’ll have the advantage of knowing when there is a change in trend. You should be able to make notes about the things you did well, and things you didn’t. Since failures are typically redundant this will be an opportunity to look for solutions.  
The most difficult part of this exercise is running to Staples and purchasing graph paper for your notebook. The rest is easy and takes very little time.
I’m going to suggest when you craft a new chart, start by vertically numbering the left-hand column of the graph paper from 100 at the top to 70 at the bottom. Then make the dispersion points (shot target scores) horizontally at least 18 points wide. Every time you complete a target, enter its score by penciling in a dot to its corresponding value along the adjacent vertical line. Then after several inputs, connect the dots.
Sometimes, a visual chart can just scream at you. Their insights being almost self-evident. 
For things to play out properly all targets shot for each gun and its related event must be recorded. Having incomplete data will only skew your results.  From here on out it’ll be easy to calculate an average and plot trend lines.  
At the bottom of the chart leave room for basic notes about individual targets, because this is where the real horse power begins.
I know several of my friends who manage this on Excel spreadsheets. And I’m under the impression many of them do little more than record their values, and then plot their trends. I presume doing this creates a massive lost opportunity. Generally so much time passes from match to computer keyboard, the fog of time sets in and they’re unable to recall what happened with each individual target. They’re just generating stats without getting any real information out of it.
While you’re still at the match or possible later in the day, make notes about those targets that were above normal or below your expectations. More than likely many poorly shot targets had similar or redundant failures (i.e. vertical stringing, healing or whatever); then the search for appropriate corrective drills or training programs can begin.
It’s all too common for a shooter to know what their breakdowns are. What they generally don’t know is how frequent they are and how much they loose from it in overall points. Don’t be surprised when you begin to chart and note these aberrations, you’ll be taken back by their frequency and severity.
As well, it’s good to make notes when things played out better than expected. Writing down your thoughts about how good timing or minimized movement (or anything else for that matter) played a positive role. This will only ingrain good habits any good shooter would want to repeat with ease.