Shooting – Getting the Basics Right can seriously improve your scores
- And your enjoyment!
In all forms of shooting your stance / position is vital to success. For static shooting this can be a relatively simple affair, as you simply need to replicate a static position time and time again.
In Practical Pistol shooting this is in reality no different, even though you will be starting from varying positions, different load outs, and starting options, it is vital that you still establish a consistent shooting position – which can be adapted according to local conditions. Some of the more basic issues are ensuring that your knees and elbows remain UNLOCKED. This may initially seem counter-intuitive, but a locked joint takes more muscle power to maintain than if your joints are slightly relaxed, and a stiffened stance does not offer the flexibility to maintain a consistent aim on target. The amount of ‘flex’ should be kept to a minimum to provide this flexibility, and you should find that this greatly improves your accuracy.
In Yoga “soft knees” are the norm for the standing pose; copying that approach works for shooting, too. Practising Yoga stances can be a great benefit to Practical Pistol shooters
BEFORE ANY PRACTICE WITH ANY GUN YOU MUST ENSURE THAT THE GUN IS UNLOADED AND SAFE. WITH AN AIRSOFT PISTOL IDEALLY DISCHARGE ANY GAS FROM THE MAGAZINE(S) YOU ARE USING FOR TRAINING TO ENSURE THAT THE FIRING MECHANISM CANNOT OPERATE. IF YOU ARE PRACTISING WITH OTHER PEOPLE YOU SHOULD ‘SHOW CLEAR’ TO ANOTHER PERSON WHO IS WITH YOU AND CAN CONFIRM THE UNLOADED NATURE OF THE GUN.
The basics of trigger control are to release the shot with the least effect on the gun, hence you will be instructed to squeeze the trigger rather than pull it. In this ‘squeezing’ you must ensure that the direction of travel is always consistent – and that the direction of travel MUST be in a straight line with the gun – front to rear. Even if you squeeze the trigger gently if the direction is off line you will cause the muzzle to alter direction, and even 1mm of travel at the muzzle can mean missing the main part of the target.
You can dry fire your gun occasionally safely to practice this, but if you wish to dry fire extensively fit a dry fire adapter.
To test your trigger action, cock the gun and aim at your target. As you squeeze the trigger, you should not see any movement of the gun related to your trigger finger movement through the entire process which ends with the sear breaking (as if a shot were to occur if the gun were loaded).
Once you are able to dry fire regularly with no movement of the gun, you should try the same process at the range with a loaded gun and aiming at a target. Ensure you follow the same process as you have with dry firing, to check that you can maintain a steady and consistent aim.
If necessary you can repeat the dry firing training at home to ensure you can still operate the trigger without affecting the alignment of the sights with the target.
This drill is best practiced in front of a mirror, where you will notice any small movements or deviations from your sight pattern.
Identifying What’s Wrong
(And regardless of your level there is ALWAYS something wrong)
AIPSC Shooting is a test of speed vs accuracy, therefore you are measured on two areas, points scored and time taken.
After your next training session take time to study your scores for each separate stage, and compare this to the other shooters.
I believe it is best to find someone who usually ends up a place or two above you and aim to beat them – consistently. Then choose someone who is higher again and repeat the process. Often people look at the scores of those way above them and this can be very de-motivating.
Questions to ask yourself:
Where are the people who are beating you getting ahead? The usual answer is ‘time’, because the typical thing is for people to get fixated on going fast and forget that the overall score (Hit Factor) is a combination of time taken and points scored. Before you look at the times, look at the points. It’s important to understand the relationship between the high hit factor on a stage and how many seconds a point is worth. (See also section on Hit Factor). If you can focus on becoming increasingly accurate, you can improve your times as you become more proficient and experienced, and, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. There is little point completing a stage in the fastest time if you are dropping points, or missing the target entirely.
One common misconception is that a MISS costs you 10 points – it actually costs you 15 points, as you also lose the 5 points for the A Hit.
Shooting – especially practical pistol shooting – is a physical skill. Before you can gain speed you must practice the mechanics of the skill – many many times. To be able to make a consistent grip – especially when you are drawing your gun from a holster, or picking it up from a table, takes many many practice runs. Reload drills are the same, and should be ‘dry practised’ to improve your actual performance when shooting – either in practice or in competition. There are some things you can compare with others, but we are all individuals, and actions can vary greatly. As a comparison watch people who use a knife and fork. There will be many ways of holding and using the same two implements. All of these are efficient for the individual. Your grip, stance, trigger action, reload and other skills, while being similar to others and confirming to some basic principals, will be individual to you. Learn the actions of the skill – build your ‘muscle memory’, and then add the speed until you are both skillful and fast.
There is no substitute for practice.
Even the most skilled athlete still has to practice. Professional Golfers spend as much if not more time on practice rounds than in competition. You must be willing to spend time practising at home, as well as taking whatever time you can in Club practice sessions, in order to develop these skills and make small but significant improvements.
Patience, being honest with yourself, and willing to try and adapt are also key to success.
Attitude is a key factor. If you are content with ‘plinking’ and just want to shoot for enjoyment, regardless of your score, then that is admirable and totally fine for you.
If you want to progress, you need to get excited about shooting, whether it is a club practice or more serious competition. Whilst waiting your turn to shoot you should feel nervouse – and maybe even both excited and a little fear about the stage you are shooting. This will not show on experienced participants, but it will be there nonetheless.
The ‘red mist’ will descend as you start the stage, which causes even the most experienced to fail to engage targets, or make basic errors. This is where your training will help, as your developed skills take you through the process and guide your actions.
Everybody’s been there or will be there someday. When you least expect it, usually at a major match, your gun will break. This is particularly relevant in AIPSC Shooting, as Airsoft Guns have much more complex internals than Firearms, and therefore are more susceptible to parts breaking.
It will probably break after running flawlessly in practice for months. Guns can be fixed and even losing the points from a full stage can be overcome when the gun is up and running again. Carry simple spares with you – or shoot with someone who has the spares – and the skills to conduct on range repairs.
If you can afford to get a backup gun this will help, and can be a very wise investment for the serious – or even semi-serious – shooter. Having an identical spare you can call upon when needed can save your days shooting. This may seem like an extravagant option, but if you are away at a shoot where you have paid for fuel, maybe accommodation and entrance fees, having a back up makes great sense.
The bad news about fixing gun problems is that it always costs money. Fortunately, though AIPSC is an equipment intensive sport, it is not an expensive sport compared to some other shooting disciplines. There will usually be someone in your team or group who has the skills to repair most things. In AIPSC it is necessary to squeeze every ounce of maximum performance from your gun, and as such they are more likely to falter at times. Like most things – take cars for example – even F1 Cars break at the most inopportune moment. The more highly tuned a piece of equipment it, the better it performs, but the more likely it is to fail as it is running right on the edge.
As you start to become aware of more wider aspects of your sport, you will see results that are published from other areas. The vast majority of shooters will have a very wide variation in their percentages. Those that win their classes are almost always the people who do the following:
- the gun runs on every stage
- fire a minimum of makeup/extra shots
- no misses, no-shoots, or procedurals
- figures out an efficient plan to run each stage and sticks to it
For most people, control and consistency is much harder than going faster. It is easy to race through a stage, ignoring the scores obtained in search of the fastest time. If you take this option, no matter how fast you go, someone will beat you, often with a slower time, but much better accuracy and consistency.
AIPSC Shooting is made up of Short, Medium and Long Stages:
- Short – No More than 12 shots minimum
- Medium – No more than 24 shots minimum
- Long – No more than 32 shots minimum
There is a rule of thumb that says ACCURACY is more important than SPEED in SHORT stages, equal in MEDIUM stages and less important that SPEED in Long Stages. While this has some merit if you look at the Time vs Score HIT FACTOR, you still need a high level of accuracy in all stages to achieve a good score.
In practice you should shoot no differently than you do in a match. Of course you may be trying something different, adjusting your technique or trying a new option, but in terms of equipment set up, stance, breathing routine and approach, there is little point in practising one way and competing in a different way. Shoot at your best pace, focusing on your technique and accuracy, and the times will fall naturally.
Under the increased pressure of a competition, your muscle memory and training will then allow you to perform as you have trained yourself to do in practice. You can never win a competition in the first few shots of a match, but you can easily lose one.
Even if you are only shooting for fun, it will be much more satisfying if you do well and enjoy the satisfaction of achieving your best possible scores.
This information is never going to be fully comprehensive, nor will it provide all the answers you need.
These notes are aimed at giving you tips and ideas from my 45 years of competitive shooting.
I hope this information helps you, even in some very small way.
Personally, I am constantly learning new things. I listen all the time for hints and tips and watch others as they shoot in case they have found something new I haven’t previously considered. I will occasionally try some of these new ideas in my own routines if I see it working for someone else. I only make permanent alterations if I can prove in practice that the change will make an improvement to my performance. The vast majority of these potential changes are discarded, but every now and again one adds a little value, so I keep alert for new ideas.
Above all, enjoy your shooting, make the most of every opportunity, never be afraid to ask questions, and try to analyse what works for YOU, then make it your own.