Firearms Safety -- 10 Rules of Safe Gun Handling

1. Always Keep The Muzzle Pointed In A Safe Direction

This is the most basic safety rule. If everyone handled a firearm so carefully that the muzzle never pointed at something they didn't intend to shoot, there would be virtually no firearms accidents. It's as simple as that, and it's up to you.

Never point your gun at anything you do not intend to shoot. This is particularly important when loading or unloading a firearm. In the event of an accidental discharge, no injury can occur as long as the muzzle is pointing in a safe direction.

A safe direction means a direction in which a bullet cannot possibly strike anyone, taking into account possible ricochets and the fact that bullets can penetrate walls and ceilings. The safe direction may be "up" on some occasions or "down" on others, but never at anyone or anything not intended as a target. Even when "dry firing" with an unloaded gun, you should never point the gun at an unsafe target.

Make it a habit to know exactly where the muzzle of your gun is pointing at all times, and be sure that you are in control of the direction in which the muzzle is pointing, even if you fall or stumble. This is your responsibility, and only you can control it.

2. Firearms Should Be Unloaded When Not Actually In Use

Firearms should be loaded only when you are in the field or on the target range or shooting area, ready to shoot. When not in use, firearms and ammunition should be secured in a safe place, separate from each other. It is your responsibility to prevent children and unauthorized adults from gaining access to firearms or ammunition.

Unload your gun as soon as you are finished. A loaded gun has no place in or near a car, truck or building. Unload your gun immediately when you have finished shooting, well before you bring it into a car, camp or home.

Whenever you handle a firearm or hand it to someone, always open the action immediately, and visually check the chamber, receiver and magazine to be certain they do not contain any ammunition. Always keep actions open when not in use. Never assume a gun is unloaded and check for yourself! This is considered a mark of an experienced gun handler!

Never cross a fence, climb a tree or perform any awkward action with a loaded gun. While in the field, there will be times when common sense and the basic rules of firearms safety will require you to unload your gun for maximum safety. Never pull or push a loaded firearm toward yourself or another person. There is never any excuse to carry a loaded gun in a scabbard, a holster not being worn or a gun case. When in doubt, unload your gun!

3. Don't Rely On Your Gun's "Safety"

Treat every gun as though it can fire at any time. The "safety" on any gun is a mechanical device which, like any such device, can become inoperable at the worst possible time. Besides, by mistake, the safety may be "off" when you think it is "on." The safety serves as a supplement to proper gun handling but cannot possibly serve as a substitute for common sense. You should never handle a gun carelessly and assume that the gun won't fire just because the "safety is on."

Never touch the trigger on a firearm until you actually intend to shoot. Keep your fingers away from the trigger while loading or unloading. Never pull the trigger on any firearm with the safety on the "safe" position or anywhere in between "safe" and "fire." It is possible that the gun can fire at any time, or even later when you release the safety, without your ever touching the trigger again.

Never place the safety in between positions, since half-safe is unsafe. Keep the safety "on" until you are absolutely ready to fire.

Regardless of the position of the safety, any blow or jar strong enough to actuate the firing mechanism of a gun can cause it to fire. This can happen even if the trigger is not touched, such as when a gun is dropped. Never rest a loaded gun against any object because there is always the possibility that it will be jarred or slide from its position and fall with sufficient force to discharge. The only time you can be absolutely certain that a gun cannot fire is when the action is open and it is completely empty. Again, never rely on your gun's safety. You and the safe gun handling procedures you have learned are your gun's primary safeties.

4. Be Sure Of Your Target And What's Beyond It

No one can call a shot back. Once a gun fires, you have given up all control over where the shot will go or what it will strike. Don't shoot unless you know exactly what your shot is going to strike. Be sure that your bullet will not injure anyone or anything beyond your target. Firing at a movement or a noise without being absolutely certain of what you are shooting at constitutes disregard for the safety of others. No target is so important that you cannot take the time before you pull the trigger to be absolutely certain of your target and where your shot will stop.

Be aware that even a 22 short bullet can travel over 11/4 miles and a high velocity cartridge, such as a 30-06, can send its bullet more than 3 miles. Shotgun pellets can travel 500 yards, and shotgun slugs have a range of over half a mile.

You should keep in mind how far a bullet will travel if it misses your intended target or ricochets in another direction.

5. Use Correct Ammunition

You must assume the serious responsibility of using only the correct ammunition for your firearm. Read and heed all warnings, including those that appear in the gun's instruction manual and on the ammunition boxes.

Using improper or incorrect ammunition can destroy a gun and cause serious personal injury. It only takes one cartridge of improper caliber or gauge to wreck your gun, and only a second to check each one as you load it. Be absolutely certain that the ammunition you are using matches the specifications that are contained within the gun's instruction manual and the manufacturer's markings on the firearm.

Firearms are designed, manufactured and proof tested to standards based upon those of factory loaded ammunition. Hand loaded or reloaded ammunition deviating from pressures generated by factory loads or from component recommendations specified in reputable hand loading manuals can be dangerous, and can cause severe damage to guns and serious injury to the shooter. Do not use improper reloads or ammunition made of unknown components.

Ammunition that has become very wet or has been submerged in water should be discarded in a safe manner. Do not spray oil or solvents on ammunition or place ammunition in excessively lubricated firearms. Poor ignition, unsatisfactory performance or damage to your firearm and harm to yourself or others could result from using such ammunition.

Form the habit of examining every cartridge you put into your gun. Never use damaged or substandard ammunition and the money you save is not worth the risk of possible injury or a ruined gun.

6. If Your Gun Fails To Fire When The Trigger Is Pulled, Handle With Care!

Occasionally, a cartridge may not fire when the trigger is pulled. If this occurs, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Keep your face away from the breech. Then, carefully open the action, unload the firearm and dispose of the cartridge in a safe way.

Any time there is a cartridge in the chamber, your gun is loaded and ready to fire even if you've tried to shoot and it did not go off. It could go off at any time, so you must always remember Rule #1 and watch that muzzle!

Discharging firearms in poorly ventilated areas, cleaning firearms or handling ammunition may result in exposure to lead and other substances known to cause birth defects, reproductive harm and other serious physical injury. Have adequate ventilation at all times. Wash hands thoroughly after exposure.

7. Always Wear Eye And Ear Protection When Shooting

All shooters should wear protective shooting glasses and some form of hearing protectors while shooting. Exposure to shooting noise can damage hearing, and adequate vision protection is essential. Shooting glasses guard against twigs, falling shot, clay target chips and the rare ruptured case or firearm malfunction. Wearing eye protection when disassembling and cleaning any gun will also help prevent the possibility of springs, spring tension parts, solvents or other agents from contacting your eyes. There is a wide variety of eye and ear protectors available. No target shooter, or hunter should ever be without them.

Most rules of shooting safety are intended to protect you and others around you, but this rule is for your protection alone. Furthermore, having your hearing and eyes protected will make your shooting easier and will help improve your enjoyment of the shooting sports.

8. Be Sure The Barrel Is Clear Of Obstructions Before Shooting

Before you load your firearm, open the action and be certain that no ammunition is in the chamber or magazine. Be sure the barrel is clear of any obstruction. Even a small bit of mud, snow, excess lubricating oil or grease in the bore can cause dangerously increased pressures, causing the barrel to bulge or even burst on firing, which can cause injury to the shooter and bystanders. Make it a habit to clean the bore and check for obstructions with a cleaning rod immediately before you shoot it. If the noise or recoil on firing seems weak or doesn't seem quite "right," cease firing immediately and be sure to check that no obstruction or projectile has become lodged in the barrel.

Placing a smaller gauge or caliber cartridge into a gun (such as a 20-gauge shell in a 12-gauge shotgun) can result in the smaller cartridge falling into the barrel and acting as a bore obstruction when a cartridge of proper size is fired. This can cause a burst barrel or worse. This is really a case where "haste makes waste." You can easily avoid this type of accident by paying close attention to each cartridge you insert into your firearm.

9. Don't Alter Or Modify Your Gun, And Have Guns Serviced Regularly

Firearms are complicated mechanisms that are designed by experts to function properly in their original condition. Any alteration or change made to a firearm after manufacture can make the gun dangerous and will usually void any factory warranties. Do not jeopardize your safety or the safety of others by altering the trigger, safety or other mechanism of any firearm or allowing unqualified persons to repair or modify a gun. You'll usually ruin an expensive gun. Don't do it!

Your gun is a mechanical device that will not last forever and is subject to wear. As such, it requires periodic inspection, adjustment and service. Check with the manufacturer of your firearm for recommended servicing.

10. Learn The Mechanical And Handling Characteristics Of The Firearm You Are Using

Not all firearms are the same. The method of carrying and handling firearms varies in accordance with the mechanical characteristics of each gun. Since guns can be so different, never handle any firearm without first having thoroughly familiarized yourself with the particular type of firearm you are using, the safe gun handling rules for loading, unloading, carrying and handling that firearm, and the rules of safe gun handling in general.

For example, many handgun manufacturers recommend that their handguns always be carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber. This is particularly true for older single-action revolvers, but applies equally to some double-action revolvers or semiautomatic pistols. You should always read and refer to the instruction manual you received with your gun, or if you have misplaced the manual, simply contact the manufacturer for a free copy.

Having a gun in your possession is a full-time job. You cannot guess; you cannot forget. You must know how to use, handle and store your firearm safely. Do not use any firearm without having a complete understanding of its particular characteristics and safe use. There is no such thing as a foolproof gun.

Safety and the 4 laws of gun control

Firearms saftey is a matter of personal responsibility. The shooter is always responsible for his actions and safe gun handling. Safety violations, as defined by the USPSA/IPSC rule book, swiftly lead to disqualification from the day's competition.

The following are the basic principles of safe gun handling:

The Four Basic Rules of Firearms Safety*

1. All guns are always loaded.
Treat every gun as if it was loaded, at all times, no matter what. Think and BELIEVE every time the gun is handled, it could fire.

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
Be conscious of the direction your muzzle is pointed at all times. This includes at yourself, any other person, animal, or property unless you are either intending to or do not care about destroying or killing that person/object. NEVER handle a gun behind other people or bend over with a gun in your hand on a shooting range.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are aligned with the target.
Pay attention to what you are doing while handling a firearm. DO NOT let your finger contact the trigger until the gun is on target.

4. Be sure of your target and its surroundings.
Pay attention to what is going on around your target. YOU are responsible for the terminal resting place of the bullet, intentionally fired or not, no matter what happened.

Target Tips

Target Tip #1 - Saving money while patching 

Here's a nifty way to save some targets, and money when patching. Whenever you're applying patches to a target where the bullet hole is very close to the scoring line, try keeping the patch off the scoring line itself. A little care in this area can get a lot more patches on a target, as well as save some time and costs in replacing targets. Often, the scoring lines get covered up fairly quickly, and the target becomes more difficult to score. 

Target Tip #2 - When cutting targets 

Whenever you find the need to cut a target, please always use black masking tape, or paint to replace the non-scoring border of the cut target. This way you'll eliminate any potential scoring problems. 

Target Tip #3 - More about cutting targets 

If you have to cut a target, it's always easier to find a specific area or corner on the target to cut from. The "shoulder" or a corner on a target usually make a good reference point as shown from points "A" to "B" 

This method shown in this particular drawing also leaves a fair portion of the "A" Zone for scoring. 

Target Tip #4 - No Shoots 

A handy way to make sure that a match doesn't get delayed while patchers hunt for white patches, is to staple a sheet of white patches onto the back of the target stand that's holding a No-Shoot target. Just be careful to make certain the sheet of white patches isn't visible from the front of the target stand. 

Target Tip# 5 - Target Stands 

In many cases, targets are fixed to wooden uprights or cross-members. It is recommended that whenever possible, the uprights that the targets are attached to should be cut back so that they do not extend past the top of the target. This results in a much improved visual presentation. 

Practice Strategies

One of the most challenging things about the sport of IPSC shooting is getting better at it. The learning curve tends to take place in a vacuum (more or less) and so it tends to be a very individual experience. This presents a problem of course because it becomes an almost overwhelming obstacle for entry-level shooters to make steady, predictable advancement up through the classification ranks. Many of these shooters tend to drop out of the game after only a couple of years since they're not seeing any real improvement, and the effort involved in individually re-inventing the wheel seems too great for the benefit derived.

The information is definitely out there to be had, but the bad news is that IPSC is not a quick learn no matter how you look at it. The skills we use in this sport are many and complex. Much like the skills acquired in a martial art; even with a full time teacher it can take years to become proficient in this game. The trouble is, there are no full time teachers and the skills that work in competition are constantly evolving as equipment technologies advance and athletes strive to improve. It's hard to keep up, and the sport is very unforgiving. The timer doesn't lie and the difference between first and fifth place can be a fraction of a second.

The good news for those who are truly hooked is that there are some strategies that can seriously shorten the earning curve. I've seen dedicated people advance from zero to "A" class or better in a year or two, so it is definitely possible.

Here then are a few ideas that can help you improve more rapidly: Ask questions. "What was your thinking there?" or, "How did you do that?" and the always helpful, "How are you going to solve this and why?" are questions that will gain you a lot of mileage. And these questions are not just for the top ranking shooters. You can learn from anyone, and the more information you have ? the more points of view you can analyze - the greater your overall understanding. I've often seen "C" or even "D" class shooters make stage decisions that I would not have considered that turn out to be very good solutions. I immediately steal these ideas and put them in my mental stage bank.

Video tape yourself and everyone you think has any skill set that you could adapt to your own needs. On your VCR, analyze the tape in the slow and stop motion functions. You're looking for chances to clean up paths of action, define and reduce movements to the bare minimum needed to do the job, and tidy up your form. Make note of what works well and what doesn't, and why. Keep a notebook. This notebook will contain every piece of valid information you acquire. There is no way you will remember every thing you see so it's best to write it down. Also, all of your practice drill times and scores should be recorded and analyzed. Come to know what your par (average cold) times are for any given shooting skill at any given distance.

Practice pre-timing out your stages and practice drills in minute detail. That is: write down before you shoot how much time you think it will take you to shoot a stage and break it down shot to shot. Total up all of your splits for an overall stage estimate. Now shoot the stage and see how close you came on your estimate. If you can, (You can do it in practice but not a match) run through the splits on the timer and write them down in a column next to your estimate. You now have a valuable comparison tool that you can use to dissect your performance in minute detail. Eventually, you will be able to dope out to within a second or so how long a stage will take you to shoot within your pars. Knowing this going into a stage is a great confidence builder since all of the guesswork and uncertainty is gone. You can just shoot, unfettered by non-productive emotional turmoil and second-guessing. You'll find that confidence really calms the nerves.

Experiment. Be creative, and check your results. Know for example what is the fastest way for you personally to engage a bank of targets. Is it left to right or right to left? Are there exceptions? How fast can you reload? How about reloading while crouching to a low port? How long to cover five yards and set up on a barricade target? Check everything and know your pars.

Practice the hard stuff. The stuff you don't like to do is the stuff that will bite you on the butt in a match if you can't do it on demand. Try to eliminate, minimize, or work around your weaknesses.

Learn to draw smoothly. Forget about speed for now, just work on technique. Don't rush. Remember that the whole stage is keyed to the draw. If you fumble the draw chances are you'll spend the rest of the stage trying to make up the lost time and accumulating errors on top of errors. Learn to draw from any position too, since you know that there will be awkward starting positions in the matches.

Always include shooting a couple of groups for accuracy in your practice sessions. Shoot all the way out to fifty yards if you can get the range. If not, use smaller targets to simulate distance. Accuracy counts and you can't miss fast enough to win. Also, don't allow yourself to over practice. Set a realistic practice goal for yourself on any given day and stick to your plan. Limit your round count. Once you start making too many mistakes or losing your focus you're just wasting ammunition and practicing errors. These errors are what your sub-conscious mind will remember if they're the last things you practice. I suggest you try to quit on a high note, always wanting more. Stay hungry as they say.

Dry fire like crazy! It's cheap and believe it or not, IPSC is not mostly about shooting; it's about moving. A typical thirty round stage shot in say, twenty seconds may involve five or six seconds of actual shooting. The rest of the time is spent getting to the shooting. Moving should be practiced mostly exclusive of ammunition and merely confirmed at the range in practice. You can set up drills and stages in your basement and practice them just as you would with live ammo. Always work against the timer though or you'll learn very little of value. You might as well just watch TV.

Try and get a hold of any video instructional tapes or books/articles and study them. Barnhart's tape are excellent resources, as is Brian Enos's book, "Practical Shooting: Beyond fundamentals". Even books on other sports like golf or martial arts can teach a lot about the mental game and physical awareness. Bruce Lee's " The Tao of Jeet Kune Do" comes to mind.

If possible, look for some formal class instruction. The IPSC Gods in the U.S. often offer courses and if you've got the bucks they can teach you a lot. Some of the top shooters here in Canada/Ontario also offer instruction. The price is better and the material covered is generally the same. Mike Auger and Pat Harrison have both been offering courses of late that I understand have gone quite well, and I will also likely run a course or two if demand is sufficient. I have done so in the past. You might find that the slightly higher hourly cost of one-on-one coaching gets you farther on a cost-benefit basis, since class instruction tends default to the lowest skill set in the group. Also, since classes tend to cover huge blocks of information in a short period of time it's difficult to really retain more than about ten or fifteen percent of what you learn. But it's up to the individual to pick the best approach. Keep in mind also that most top shooters will be happy to offer a few tips gratis at the range if you ask nicely. Just remember that they are also there to compete or practice so their focus may be fairly narrow. Feel free to ask but try not to be intrusive. No hitting, slapping or biting to get attention either.

There's a lot more that I could include here but I think Bud would likely kill me if I did since the Sit-Rep will end up costing ten bucks each to mail out.

The most important thing is to stay with it and be patient. The time will pass anyway so acquire your skills one at a time if you must and eventually you'll know everything. Ha! Remember that it's a game and it's supposed to be fun.

See you at the matches.

Rob Elliott

What do you see when you shoot?

Some one once asked Jerry Barnhart, after a very fast string, what he saw when he shot? He answered, "I saw what I needed to see". A simple answer to a complex question, but what do you see? I suspect that many IPSC shooters don't know what they are seeing or don't see all that they should and that accounts for many unexplained misses. You could also be seeing more than you need for that particular shot and this is why you may be slower than you would like.

Mystery Miss

You must see something for every shot but what you see will vary with the difficulty and distance. Whether you shoot a dot sight or iron sights you must see the sight (dot) lift in recoil on the target, for the spot where it starts to lift is where the bullet will impact. It is possible to see your sight on the target and you pull the trigger, but because you do not actually see the sight (dot) lift from the spot where the bullet will hit, you have already started looking towards the next target and of course your hands make the gun follow your eyes and now you have pulled the barrel enough so that by the time the trigger falls and the bullet exits the barrel it is no longer on the target. You have a mystery miss. Not really a mystery at all so no one believes you when you say it's a double.

The dot advantage

Simply put a dot sight's beauty is that you can usually just focus on the target and bring the dot (which stays always focused) to the spot you want to hit. This is much less work than shifting focus back and forth as with iron sights and if you are older it may be near impossible to shoot iron sights fast as your eyes are just not up to the task. In order to eliminate this difficult task many matches are now set up with the targets close enough so that you will not have to bother with the drudgery of shifting focus, this is too bad as many people simply do not know what it takes to hit a far target at speed.

What you need to see at: 25 to 50 meters

Although you seldom use this in today's 5 meter matches it should be at least known to you in case you go to a real match somewhere it handy to know. For iron sights you must see the target sharply then change your focus so that you see the front sight in sharp focus with the rear sight also well defined (the target will be fuzzy) and concentrate on prepping the trigger ( by removing all the pre-travel on the trigger) and then smoothly pulling the trigger straight back with the tip of your finger. With a dot everything is the same but you can just focus on the target and hold the dot on it. See the dot or sight lift.

What you need to see at: 15 to 20 meter partials

You will need to see the target in sharp focus as before, in order to know where exactly to shoot at it, and then shift you focus to a sharply defined front sight with the outline of the rear sight in some focus,( the target will be slightly out of focus but defined enough to confirm you are aimed at the right spot) prep the trigger and press through. For a dot simply focus on the spot on the target you want to hit, bring the dot to it then prep the trigger and press through. See the dot or sight lift.


What you need to see at: 15 meter full or 10 meter partials, plates

Note that the A zone is about the same size as a plate so you will need to focus on the target then shift to a focus on the sight so both the target and sight are about the same sharpness ( the harder the shot the sharper you must see the front sight) with an outline of the rear sight, press the trigger through with the tip of your finger. For dots simply focus on the target, bring the dot to it, and press the trigger through with the tip of your finger. See the dot or sight lift off the target. When shooting steel targets with my dot sight racegun I look to see the bullet impact on the face of the steel plate to confirm my hit, this is not as fast as just seeing the dot lift but it guarantees a hit, and this is where a lot of mystery misses take place.

What you need to see at: full targets 6 to 10 meters

Now we are up to warp drive speed but don't crash you still need to see the spot you want to hit on the targets in good sharp focus and index on that, you must see at least the outline of your front sight ( or your dot) on the spot you are going to hit, press or slap the trigger straight back and see either your sight (dot) lift or the holes appear in the target or both ( yes you can easily see the dot on the target and the holes appearing) BUT you must see one of these or you may be missing ( or shooting a noshoot) A proper grip on the pistol and a good index is imperative as you will be shooting by feel with just a visual confirmation. You must dry fire with visual sight alignment to learn this, or practice with a watergun.

What you need to see at: full targets 3 to 6 meters (typical Ontario match)

Hyper-warp drive where finger speed determines the outcome, BUT you still need to see something. Look at the spot you want to hit (a sharper focus guarantees better hits but you must at least see the part of the target you want to hit), index to that spot, press or slap the trigger as fast as possible see the holes appear, index in the next target. If you are shooting a dot sight it is probably just in the way, so try to ignore it or look over it and just use your index to align with the targets. This is commonly referred to as point shooting. Again good grip and index is required, try pointing you gun (dryfire) with you eyes closed then open them, if the dot (sight) is on the spot you are pointing at you are good to go, if not find the dot ( sight), see how it feels in your hands, try again.

Next time, Target Acquisition, or how to look at something different with each eye.

By Michael Auger

Reloads, On The Move | intercambio manual de visitas gratis

Warm-up Drill #5 - Reloads (on the move):

The biggest problem I have found in practicing moving reloads is that I am constantly having to clean my mags. If your range is like mine, sandy at best and mucky at worst, the process can get old real fast. Even, if you have the luxury of a concrete floor, your mag feed lips can get banged up pretty quick.

Try the following warm-up drill to reinforce prepping the trigger and practicing your reloads. You will also find that you will get a good work out!

Position two full targets 10 yards ahead and about 5-7 yards apart. The "X" represents the start/end positions, and the "T" represents the targets:

                                               T1 T2

                                               X1 X2

Start by loading your pistol as you normally would at the "load and make ready command". Now comes the hard part, remove your mag from your pistol and insert it into your first mag pouch. Now you are ready for the warm-up drill, i.e. chamber loaded only, safety on and pistol holstered! I know that this sounds strange but try it.

Facing down range at position X1, draw your pistol and prep the trigger (i.e. take up the slack only) while aiming at target T1. Now from position X1, run to position X2 while performing a reload. As always while running or reloading, keep your finger OUT of the trigger and watch your 90 degree break. When coming into position X2, fire 2 shots into the second target T2 (A's) and stop. [Note: if while prepping, you have over prepped and fired a round, just remember to index your finger along the slide and rack the pistol after your reload.].


Remove your mag and reinsert it back into the first mag position. Now you are ready to do the drill again, from position X2 to X1. Keep repeating this drill, going back and forth. Within a short period of time, you will have practiced moving reloads without having to clean one mag! After about 10 minutes of this, try moving one of the positions forward to practice reloads while moving forward. Another variation of this drill would be to place a port or doorway in the second position. If at all possible, try to replicate what you see in a match, i.e. running left to right, right to left, low ports, shooting around a barricade, etc. Continue this drill by reloading from your second mag pouch, from your third mag pouch, etc.

Now that you are warmed up, try doing the reloads the regular way. This time fire 2 shots into the first target from the first position, perform a reload and fire 2 shots into your second target in the second position. Ideally this drill is performed with the assistance of your shooting buddy, with timer in hand! Check the timer for the split between your 2nd and 3rd shots - this will be your reload time. Do the same drill without the mag change, and compare times. Your ultimate goal is to be as fast with the mag change as without!!

I hope that you find this warm up drill useful.

Shoot fast A's and above all shoot safely.

Steve Russell


How Should I Shoot This?

How Should I Shoot This?  or.......... fine tuning a stage plan.
by Michael Auger

The challenge of a freestyle course of fire is to figure out the best way to shoot it, the fun comes from developing a creative plan that allows you to shoot to the best of your ability.

In Canada freestyle is the norm and gradually a set of techniques has been established. Most of these methods work just as well on box design stages as well.

I have tried to put them in order of importance and generally the first rules take precedence over the later ones but you have to be judge according to your ability.

Some of these guidelines may seem to be contradictory and like all rules they are made to be bent but I have found (as recently as the 96 US Open Nationals) that anytime I break one or more of these I end up regretting it. Yes you can be too gamey. As you get more match experience you will find which methods suit you best. You may even come up with a plan that is better than the big dogs used.

Do the least possible
If you do more than the minimum that is absolutely necessary to shoot the stage it will take longer. Try to move directly from the start position to get to the shooting, without any excess movement. If you can shoot without moving all the way into a door or port you will be saving steps. Don't stick your gun into ports, you just waste time moving it back out (and you may get a jam from rubbing against the props as well). Try to shoot from as few shooting positions as possible as it takes time to set up from each start and stop. Take the shortest route from position to position, every step you save is time saved. You can take this strategy as far as you can, it always works.

Closer is better
If you have to go by some targets during the course of fire and have a choice of where to shoot them, it is almost always faster, (a lot faster), and you will get better hits if you shoot them as close as possible even to the point of almost putting your muzzle right on the target. Sometimes, (actually, often) it may be faster to get closer to the targets even if you aren't required to, especially if the targets are partials. A few steps makes a big difference.

Don't gamble big for a small gain
Lots of times there will be opportunities to save time by taking a chance such as skipping a reload, running the gun dry, shooting a target from a difficult position or in between tight no shoots...make sure you gain enough to make it worth while. Most stages will factor between 5 and 7 points per second ( hit factor) so any gamble that could cost 10 or 15 points in penalties better save at least 1 1/2 to 2 seconds minimum. Skipping a reload and saving 1/2 a second and then doing a standing reload because you had to pick up a miss costs you a lot more. A miss on a difficult partial target shot when you could have moved a few feet to shoot the whole target costs 15 match points instead of saving 1/2 a second etc.

Shoot slower, move faster
This is as much a skill as a stage strategy but I find if I put it in my plan to shoot a little slower and try for A's and then plan to move in a much more aggressive manner it works out faster with better hits. When it's time to run, then plan to RUN full stride but watch the muzzle direction. Only shoot as fast as you can still score a minimum 90 to 95% of the available points.

Smooth is fast
If you watch top shooters they appear to move slowly but the times are deceptively quick this is because they are so smooth. They have learned to remove all extraneous motion and jerkiness. When you come into a shooting position plan to be smooth, know where you will put your feet so that you will be in position ready to see your first target and all the others you will shoot from this position. If you make your last step a large one it will settle you into place. As you plant your foot you should have your gun up and start to push out towards the target, complete the push out a smooth motion as your other foot lands in place. Practice this motion so it will be smooth when you actually shoot.

Be ready to shoot
A big time waster is to go into a shooting position and not find the first target you are going to shoot immediately. When planning your stage strategy be sure to note some point on the port, or near the shooting position you can use as a reference so you can line up on the targets as you enter the shooting position. i.e. if the target you are going to shoot can't be seen, pick knot hole,(or something), on the outside of the barrier that you can see so you will be able to have your gun in the right spot when you do get to the port.

If you can see the first target as you come up you should be able to line up on it so you can shoot as you come into the shooting position, if it's close enough you can probably hit it before or as you step in to stop.

Don't sit when you can stand
A lot of people will remain seated to shoot targets at a first position, if you are going to shoot more than one shot, then stand to shoot . You can shoot faster with better balance standing and you'll be ready to move. If you are picking up your gun, pick it up with the weak hand flipping it up into your strong hand grip while you stand up. If the first target is close, shoot it while you stand up. The same applies to all other weird start positions such as kneeling or lying down, if you are going to be running to a next position get up to shoot even if only to one knee. If there is more than one way to get up try them all before you decide which one you'll use.

You should be able to shoot to the direction you plan to move, or in the direction that makes it easier for you to get moving, and as you get more skilled target order will be less important, yet there will be times when you will be faced with targets at various distances or difficulty. I still find I can aquire the difficult target almost as fast, and when I shoot towards, and end with the easy target, I can speed up and still get good hits even to the point of starting to move while engaging the last target. ( set up 3 or 4 targets going from 5 to 15 yards away and try shooting near to far, and far to near and time it)

The inverse of this rule is true for some speed shoots where if you have a full or very easy target close to you it can be faster to shoot it first as you can almost point shoot the first shot picking up your sights or dot just as you fire.

When you will be engaging targets from, or going into an awkward position it's usually best to shoot the easy target first as you settle into a more stable stance.

When faced with multiple targets in a vertical layout I like to shoot from the bottom up as I can see over the gun better than below it. For square or circular target arrays I try to shoot in a C, starting at the bottom again, going to the side and then up and around in a smooth path.

If the targets are scattered about try and find a smooth way to go from target to target with some kind of flow to your movement, don't just jump back and forth from this target to that.
The less you move your muzzle around the better.

Free fire zones present a similar challenge with targets on both sides of you. Try to pick a target order that allows you to be smooth, shooting targets as close as possible with the least swinging from side to side while still moving forward.

Single, and Double Action Pistols

Single, and Double Action Pistols
by Dave Bartlett

We recently had a relatively new competitor who was using a Walther P99. After the load and make ready the competitor was about to holster without decocking the pistol's striker. When the Range Officer intervened and prevented the competitor from holstering, the shooter was surprised to learn that he had just missed being disqualified (rule The individual had completed his Black Badge course and competed in other matches during 2003, all the while holstering a cocked single action with no manual safety!

While many of our Black Badge instructors and Range Officers are experts with 1911 style pistols they have limited experience with anything other than 1911s. With the rapid growth in Production Division, Range Officers are encountering a wider variety of pistol types than ever before. Production shooters have found that some RO's don't know the rules and operating principles regarding Double Action/Single Action (DA/SA) pistols. Some officials have tried to do such things as prevent competitors from manually decocking CZ-75s and requiring the application of the safety on Smith & Wesson and Beretta DA pistols.

With the Walther and the Smith & Wesson P99s, when the gun is loaded the striker is fully cocked and the trigger is in single action mode. The pistol operates like a traditional double action/single action pistol, but with a major difference. There is no slide or frame mounted safety/decocking lever. There is a flush decocking panel mounted on the top left side of the slide which must be pressed to decock the striker. There is an indicator pin which sticks out of the back of the slide when the striker is cocked (this pin has a red insert at its end, but this insert sometimes falls out). For more information on the P99 you can visit

This incident highlights the need for Black Badge instructors and Range Officers to be familiar with the operation of a wide variety of handguns. Take the time to learn how non-1911 pistols work. If a competitor is using a pistol that you aren't familiar with, take the time to have the competitor explain the pistol's functioning and controls. You don't want to be the IPSC official who let an accident occur through ignorance...

A Review of how double action pistols operate.
Many double action/single action handguns (those with a double action first shot and the hammer cocked by the slide for subsequent single action shots) have a decocking lever on the left side of the frame or slide. On some models this decocker is also a safety. Pressing down on the decocking lever will safely lower the hammer. Once lowered, the next shot may be fired with a heavy double action trigger pull that first cocks then releases the hammer or striker. Internal safeties prevent accidental discharges during the decocking procedure, no matter how forcefully the decocking lever is pressed. Range Officers will sometimes have people press the decocking lever at the "hammer down" command. If the competitor does this have them pull the trigger so that the firing pin goes forward.

Some pistols (e.g. CZ-75) on the approved Production Division list do not have a decocking lever, but in that Division all DA/SA pistols must start with the hammer down/decocked, unless in a course of fire the pistol starts unloaded. Under the supervision of a Range Officer, the competitor will use the weak hand to safely lower the hammer with the pistol pointing down range during the "load and make ready" procedure. Exactly how does one safely lower the hammer onto the firing pin?

Place your weak hand thumb between the hammer and the frame. Place your strong hand thumb firmly on the spur of the cocked hammer. While keeping the hammer controlled with the strong side thumb, pull the trigger with the strong hand index finger to release the hammer and immediately remove the finger from the trigger. Use the strong hand thumb to gently lower the hammer against the weak hand thumb. While the strong hand thumb is controlling the hammer, carefully remove the other thumb from under the hammer and slowly lower the hammer completely. If the hammer slips, it strikes your weak hand thumb instead of the firing pin. An alternative method is to firmly hold the hammer between the weak hand thumb and index finger and gently lower the hammer after pulling the trigger. A discharge during this procedure will be considered as unsafe gun handling and the competitor will be disqualified. Whichever method you prefer, practice it regularly with an unloaded pistol.

There is no requirement for a pistol with a double action first shot and a manual safety to have the safety applied at the load and make ready. The length and weight of the trigger pull is enough to consider the gun safe, as with a double action revolver.

As a competitor you have the responsibility to know how to safely operate your pistol and how the IPSC rules apply to your gun. Range officials and instructors have the responsibility of knowing how the rules apply to every type of gun used in this sport.