I spent Gun Appreciation Day in a competition shooting class with Steve Anderson and 7 other local USPSA shooters. This is the second class I've taken with Steve, and this session was just as informative as the first, if not more so. I went into the first class essentially new to dry fire and the techniques being taught. This time, I was well-practiced in the Anderson drills and was able to use the class to get more tweaks and pick up on things I missed the first time. I was also hoping for confirmation (or not) of the benefits of my many hours of practice. It was an exceptionally fun day since almost the entire class was comprised of folks I shoot with regularly, so there was a lot of good-natured ribbing thrown in. I also expect that we will all be watching each other in the future to make sure everyone is sticking to their practice commitments.
The day was cold, around 34° when we started, and it probably didn't hit 50° at the warmest. But once you start shooting, who notices? We started out with everyone running a field course to get a baseline of our skills. It represented a cold run on the first stage of a match. Steve recorded notes on everything we did; our mental preparations, our execution of our plan, (and if we had one) and how accurate we shot, etc. My own plan feel apart and I didn't run that stage well. But, I learned a lot in those 18 seconds.
We moved on to the shot calling drills. This is a drill I want to do more on my own. You fire 5 shots at the target and then immediately turn around (without peaking at your target) and mark the location of your hits, in order, on a target behind you. It's harder than it sounds! The point is that you should be able to score your stage as soon as you finish shooting, before you look at the targets.
Then it was on to the dry fire tuneup portion of the day. I have been practicing the drills in the Anderson book regularly and I was excited to run them in class to confirm that I had been doing them right, and to get any needed refinements from Steve. I was very pleased to be able to show that practice does indeed work. Steve gave me some tips on my turn and draw that I had been struggling with. I picked up a number of other refinements as well that I will now go back and practice.
We eventually moved to the live fire portion of the day. I had specific goals in mind for this too. The class was mainly focused on classifier skills so I was excited to see how the dry fire translated to live fire. One of the exercises we did was to draw and put 2 shots in the A zone from 7 yards. 1.17 seconds was my time on that. Not world class but I was very pleased. Later we shot 2 shots each on three targets. My time was 2.35 seconds, with the first shot from draw at .99 second, and a score of 5 A's and 1 C. What was most satisfying was that my split and transition cadence was pretty consistent and equal across the six shots. These results really inspire me to stay devoted to my practice schedule.
Of course, there were things I didn't do as well as I hoped, but each time it was a learning experience. I'm currently (re)reading "With Winning in Mind: The Mental Management System" by Lanny Bassham. One of the points he makes in his book is to not focus on the negative. In fact, he says to not even record a poor performance in your journal. (or blog, ed.) Steve Anderson gave us the same admonition to not focus on failures. As such as I've already forgotten most things that I didn't do well. :-)
Finally we ran the field course again. My goal was to call my shots this time. I completed it a little slower than I did in the morning, but had much better accuracy. If I hadn't had to make a couple extra shots on the steel, the times of the two runs would have been closer. (I blame the fading light.) We ended the day in the dark; the last couple shooters finished by the light of car headlights.
It was a great day and I am very happy I decided to take the class again. Of course, we did a lot I don't mention here. If you want the full story, take the class. If you want to shoot better in competition, take the class. Even though it was ostensibly the same class I did in November, Steve adjusts for both the current skill level of the students and specific skills we desired, or needed, to focus on. Everyone in the class was concerned about ammunition availability in the current political environment. At the end of the day, I ended up putting a mere 117 rounds down range. That proves that you can get in a great practice and see instant improvement without going through boxes and boxes of ammo. It's all in how smart you practice. After this weekend, I have a many takeaways I can use to make better use of both my dry fire and range practice sessions.
Soon the USPSA season will begin in our area. I'm looking forward to more opportunities to put these new skills to use. Even though I can get to a range fairly often, there is little opportunity to shoot full USPSA-style field courses. This weekend's class gave me some exciting confirmation that I'm working in the right direction.
Now back to the dry fire dojo...