As some may or may not know, I am a competitive guy. I know, I know, shocking.
That competitiveness carried over to shooting pistols. I enjoy going to the range, but there is only so much fun to be had punching holes in paper.
I have competed in Static Steel, USPSA and Knockdown Steel.
Static Steel is what it sounds like. You stay in one location, and shoot at X number of steel targets. You are timed. You reload between sets, so there is no reloading on the clock. You get 5 runs at each set up (stage), and your best 4 count. There are a number of stages in a match, somewhere between 4 and 6 or so. Your aggregate time determines your standings at the end of a match.
Knockdown Steel is similar, except you get one run at each stage. Normally there are 25-50 targets per stage, and besides just hitting them, you actually have to knock them down. You do reload on the clock in this discipline. Again, your aggregate time for all stages determines your standing at the end of the match.
Finally, USPSA is a shooting game that incorporates accuracy, speed and movement. There will be X number of paper targets per stage, and you will have to reload, move between shooting positions, and figure out the best way to shoot a given stage. Each target must be hit twice, and there are different point based on locations on the target. There may also be steel targets, which would only have to be shot once. The best way is the way that allows you to make the most accurate shots, in the least period of time. Your score is based on points scored divided by time taken.
I do OK in these games. Nothing great, nothing awful, but I do enjoy them. My issue is that I was not improving very much from competition to competition. My accuracy was improving, but my speeds were not really getting much better.
I am a big believer in training for any activity, especially any competitive activity.
Two weeks ago, or so, there was a thread on NJ Gun Forums, re: how to get better at these games. The usual responses came back including:
- Shoot faster. (No kidding, but how?)
- Dry Fire. (OK, what specific tings should I practice in dry fire?)
- Play the game more. (Great way to spend a lot of time, money and ammo getting better at being bad)
- Take a class with Aaron at DVC. (ooooo. Something useful. A local guy who teaches specifically to the games I am competing in. Sounds good.)
Signing up for the class was straightforward. The website was easy to navigate, and asked for pertinent information.
My class was scheduled from 11:00 AM Sunday to 3:00 PM Sunday and was one on one training. Aaron does not do group classes, so he can give each student individual attention. He will instruct 2 or 3 people who want to train together, however.
Aaron showed up on time, and we got underway. We spent some time going over the WRITTEN SYLLABUS he had prepared. He was well prepared and the syllabus was specifically geared towards me, from the Q&A on his site.
Aaron is a very good shooter. He competes at high level events. He is also very personable, and an EXCELLENT trainer. The class was not a cookie cutter class. For each portion of the class, he ascertained my ability level and taught to that level. We spent more time on the areas I needed most help with and less time on areas where I was solid. He did, however, have pointers, lessons and tips for each area related to these shooting games.
The first thing we did was set up a USPSA style shooting stage. Aaron asked me to shoot the stage, and I did. My time for the stage was 13.88 seconds. I hit 13 Alphas (best shot you can make) and 3 Charlies (2nd best shot you can make). I felt like I ran the stage well. I did not mess it up in any way, so I was satisfied with how it went.
Aaron told me he has his students run a stage as the first thing, so he can ascertain their abilities, not just their accuracy.
We then went into the teaching portion.
We covered the following:
- Basics (Grip, Stance, sight picture)
- Calling Shots
- Follow Up
- Shooting on the move
- Stage Planning
He taught me how to improve my speed while slowing down. Crazy, right? But choosing where to act quickly and where to act slowly can make dramatic improvements in overall times. He actually sped up my times on some exercises by slowing down my shooting and my movement, but with an aggregate faster time.
At the end of the class, we went back and shot the stage from the beginning of the class, to see if the lessons helped. This is where he imparted some last minute suggestions on how to run a stage for the fastest time.
Let me set the scene:
- I had been shooting and getting instruction for the last 4 hours (it was actually past 3PM at this point, Aaron was not rushing me to get done in the allotted time.)
- I was concentrating on my mechanics, and thinking about what I was doing, as opposed to just doing. I obviously had not yet incorporated all the training into my lizard brain yet.
- I was tired and sweaty and had not yet eaten.
I set up at the beginning of the stage. Aaron gave the range commands and the buzzer went off.
I shot the stage using my new knowledge, mechanics and thought process.
After it was done, Aaron asked me how it felt. I replied that it was probably slower than my morning shoot.
I had completed the stage in 10.89 Seconds with 16 Alphas (best hits). Remember, I was concentrating on doing this correctly, and thinking about my mechanics. Once the new mechanics and planning are in my lizard brain, this will be faster.
So my USPSA score would have been 5.3314 for the first run I did and the last run would have been a 7.3462. As you can see, that is a dramatic improvement.
I can not say enough good things about the entire experience. I am in training to be a motorcycle instructor, and I have taken lots of classes. I appreciate a good instructor. Aaron is one of the best I have encountered. The pace was excellent, the instruction spot on and the improvements in my game were immediate.
So yeah, money WELL SPENT.
I will be going back after I have incorporated the training I have received into my game. I feel that I am vastly improved.