Adrian Alan
Performance on Demand Shooting

One of frequent problems I see with inexperienced shooters is they always shoot at the same speed. Usually, it’s really fast. They shoot as fast at the 25 yard line as they do at the 7, despite the fact that they can’t hit their target at that speed. When I use the word “inexperienced” I don’t necessarily mean “new.” I see this problem with some of the police officers I train – many of whom have carried a gun five, ten or even 15 years. It’s especially prevalent on department qualifications. An officer will only use a fraction of their allotted time on a string of fire, but throw multiple rounds outside of the desired scoring area.

When you point this out, some shooters will claim they are shooting as fast as they can because that’s “realistic” and it’s what they’d do “on the street.” Whether this is an excuse for poor shooting or a misguided approach to training, is irrelevant. I’ll never criticize a shooter for leaving time on the clock if they are making good hits, but the target doesn’t lie – the holes in the paper tell the truth. Many “qualifications” score peripheral hits at longer ranges the same as they would a center mass hit. With our state qualification in Wisconsin, an arm hit at 25 yards scores the same as a center mass hit. If we’re going to argue what’s “realistic” or not – should a shooter really be scored the same for a peripheral hit as a center mass hit, even at longer ranges?

Understanding how long it takes you to perform a certain task is critical to your development as a shooter. Do you know how long (in seconds) it takes you to draw and make a center mass hit on a target from 7 yards? How long it takes you to perform a slide lock reload, shot to shot, from the same distance? How fast can you fire five rounds from five yards into an 8″ circle? The officers who leave “time on the clock” usually don’t know the answer to these questions. They muddle through their draw or their reload, not knowing how much time they have left – and then rush to get off the required number of rounds before time expires.

Training with a shot timer isn’t just for “gamers.” We subscribe to a performance-based training philosophy, which means we aren’t looking for our students to meet some arbitrary standard – we want all of our students to improve relative to their current level. But this doesn’t mean we aren’t checking the numbers and setting goals. You’ll see us running shot timers at every single one of our classes. Even though this can slow down the class at times, we believe it is critical to helping our students improve and track their performance. The simple truth is if you don’t know how fast you can draw, reload or shoot, you can’t reliably track your progression as a shooter. You’ll only gather this information by shooting with a timer.

The speed you shoot depends on two things: distance to target and target size. Distance and size can often be thought of as the same thing  – targets farther away simply appear smaller. It’s simply a matter of perspective. Often times when shooting at longer distances, we see marked improvement in the ability of students to hit their targets when the task is framed in this light. Your sights are your speedometer. You may have heard an instructor telling you to “slow down” when you’re missing a target repeatedly. It’s not necessarily a matter of “slowing down” – what’s usually happening is you aren’t seeing everything you need to see to ensure an accurate hit. Instead of saying “slow down,” we like to tell shooters to “see your sights.” Usually it only takes a couple extra tenths of a second to take in the information provided by the sights and make a good trigger press. Weapon handling, follow through and the other processes should not “slow down” regardless of distance to target.

Shooting fast is fun, and we all look like world-champions at five yards. Speed is an important factor in a gunfight, but shooters must learn to adjust their speed in relation to changing conditions and target variables. Misses don’t win gunfights, regardless of how fast they are. More on this below in the American Gunfighter Episode “Making Noise”…