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

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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 http://remtek.com/arms/walther/model/p99/

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.