|Here are some basic thoughts and ideas that might help you
improve your IPSC shooting, refocus your training, or enjoy competition more.
Basically there are two areas to look at: points and time. After your next
match sit down and look at your scores.
Where are the people who are beating you getting ahead? The easy answer is
"time", because the typical thing is for people to get fixated on
going fast and forget that the scoring has two components. Before you look at
the times, look at the points. It's important to understand the relationship
between the high hit factor on a stage and how many seconds a point is worth.
very common for the high hit factor at a match to be in the 7-12 range. No
matter what the high factor is, one over that factor is how many seconds one
point is worth. In other words, if the high factor is a 7, one point is worth
1/7 of a second; for a 12 factor stage, one point is worth 1/12 of a second.
A lot of people don't understand that a miss doesn't cost you 10 points -- it
costs you 15, because you aren't getting the 5 points for that missing A. That
means on a 10 factor stage, where each point is worth 1/10 of a second, a miss
is equal to 1.5 seconds. That means if you can make up that miss in less than
1.5 seconds your factor will be higher than if you leave it. This also means
that in certain cases you are better off to leave a small steel plate after
engaging it once or twice, than taking up 10 seconds banging away at it.
Obviously you can't do that if the whole course is small steel plates, but there
are times when taking the miss is better than eating a lot of time.
If you have a jam after firing one shot at the last target on a stage,
you have already engaged the target. If it takes you longer than 2 seconds to
clear the jam or reload, you are probably better off stopping and taking the
Here's a key to mastering any physical skill: before you try to perform the
skill at any significant speed you need to spend some quality time getting the
form right. There are a million subtle details in your grip, stance, reload, and
target acquisition. Part of learning to go faster is to break down what you are
doing and analyze it. Compare your form to someone else's, preferably someone
who is a lot better than you are. When you practice, concentrate on smooth,
relaxed motion, and correctness of form. You are far better off with a 1.4
second reload, for example, than a tense, jerky reload that is 1.0 second one of
ten times, 1.8 most of the time, and two of ten times you botch the load
There is no substitute for diligent practice. The hard truth is that unless
you are willing to spend some time dry firing or on the range, you won't see any
dramatic improvements in speed. Worse than that, it really takes 3-4 sessions a
week to show significant improvement. Otherwise you are only maintaining or
inching forward. If you can spend 10 minutes a day dry firing you will probably
be better off than making one trip to the range and shooting 500 rounds in one
session. Of course, there is also no substitute for going to the range and
setting up field courses and shooting a lot, but as you'll see, you might come
to believe that how you practice is as important as how much you practice.
is the most important factor.
First and foremost, you should
be excited about shooting the match, and waiting your turn to shoot a
stage should be like standing in line for your favorite roller
coaster. The electric jolt that should hit you as the start buzzer
goes off is what makes IPSC so much fun. Think back to the first few
IPSC matches that you shot. You didn't know much about the scoring
rules or how to game a stage, but if you are like most competitors you
had a great time, because it gave you an adrenaline rush. The day
after the match no one but you, and maybe a few friends will remember
how you did on stage 5. If it stops being fun, take a break and
For most people, IPSC stops
being fun because of frustration with gun problems, erratic
performance, or burnout from ending up being match director, course
designer and head RO at too many matches. All of those things can be
Everybody's been there, or will be there someday. When you least expect it,
usually at a match, your gun will break. It will probably break after running
flawlessly in practice for months. If this happens, remember that there is
always another match. Find a gunsmith that you trust, and who can repair your
gun in a timely fashion, especially during match season. If you can afford it,
get a backup gun. If you intend to shoot more than 3 major matches each year, a
backup gun is a wise investment. If the main gun breaks the day before the
match, having an identical spare that you can pull out of the safe and use is a
wonderful thing. Unfortunately, IPSC is an equipment intensive sport, and
keeping the guns running is a big part of it. For some shooters tinkering with
the guns, and trying to squeeze every ounce of maximum performance from them, is
almost more fun than shooting them!
Those that win their classes are almost always the people who do the
following: the gun runs on every stage, they shoot 90% or better of the possible
points on every stage, fire a minimum of top up shots, get no misses, no-shoots,
or procedurals and they figure out an efficient plan to run each stage and stick
For most people, meeting these goals is much harder than learning to go
faster, but eventually no matter how fast you go if you fail to meet these goals
on match day, someone will beat you -- maybe someone who is a lot slower.
Most stages at matches these days have a high hit factor in the 7-12 range,
which means that shooting a miss is like taking an extra 1-2 seconds. The
difference between an 85% run and a 70% run, for example, are usually one miss
and a couple of D's.
When you practice, shoot as if every run is the last stage of a match,
and all you have to do is shoot your speed and get all the hits to win the
match. If you allow yourself to get D's in practice, you will get misses and
no-shoots on match day. Under stress, you will do what you have trained yourself
to do. It is the first 50 rounds that you fire in a practice session that
reflect what you will do on match day, not the last 50.
Here's where attitude comes back into the picture. The way I see it there are
two basic attitudes on match day: Fun and Serious. If you are in
"Serious" mode, you spend some time before the match chamber checking
match ammo, cleaning magazines, and generally doing everything you can to make
your gun work.
Long barrelled pistol
The night before the match you eat healthy food and get a good night's
sleep. You get up early enough that you are awake and alert by your first stage,
and you stretch and warm up your muscles before it is your turn to shoot. You
look at the stages and put together a plan on how you intend to shoot the stage,
and you have run through it in your mind enough times that you can turn your
back on the props and describe to someone else, in detail, exactly what you are
going to do. The more detail you have in your mental plan, the less you have to
think when the buzzer goes off. At each stage, you tell yourself: This is going
to be the best stage of the match - because you are excited to be there and you
intend to shoot 100% of your potential. If you allow yourself to be intimidated
by a course of fire you have already lost!
yourself shooting the stage perfectly. No matter what it takes, I will get the
hits. - you will pay attention to your dot or your sights, and do your best to
call every shot as it breaks. If you see your sights move off the target as you
shoot, fire a top up before your gun leaves the target. Calling your misses and
not having to go back to targets, or leaving misses and no-shoots, is a major
problem for most shooters. In order to achieve this you have to teach yourself
to stop blinking as the gun goes off.
ready to shoot right now. - because you could be the first shooter in your
squad. Because you have taken the time before you walked up to the stage to
prepare yourself and your equipment, and because IPSC is so much fun that you
can't wait to do some shooting!
other option is to get into "Fun" mode, where you go have fun the night before
the match, and throw your stuff in the car the morning of the match and hope
that your gun is clean, that you have enough ammo to shoot the match, and that
you have magazines. If you go in this mode, don't get upset when things go
wrong. After all, you didn't make the effort to prepare for a "serious" match.
If you go in "Fun" mode you have already decided that whatever your score is -
good or bad - is secondary to the activity of shooting and socializing.
hard and trying to achieve your personal best is a great thing, and when you
succeed it is extremely rewarding -- but unless you keep things in perspective
you can easily get on the road to burnout when things get tough.
If you get serious, eventually you will get to a point where you are facing
burnout. This is true whether you are shooting 2000 rounds a week trying to make
Master class, or running your local club single-handedly, or both at the same
time. The best solution is to take a break, or change something. Switch from
Limited to Open, or vice versa.
If you are one of the backbone workers of your club, travel to another club
where you are only expected to be a shooter, and not a match director. It may be
sacrilege to say it, but you could (gasp) just skip the match completely and go
see a movie or sleep in.