Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Getting Better: some tools that helped

I was talking recently with the home p's about shooting, improving, and what's made the most difference in getting to the goals. There have been a few things that changed things for the better for me, and I don't think I'd be as good as I am (and make no mistake, I still suck. A lot) if not for a few different tools. Some just got me out of my own way, some make things easier to do, and some were helpful in changing my way of thinking and practicing. Since I'm in need of something to write about, I decided I'd throw a list out there and maybe it can help one of my two readers.

The first big improvement for me was switching to a 9mm, which cut my ammo costs, which meant that I could shoot more for the same amount of money. .45 has gotten almost obscene in cost, and it's kept me from shooting it much. I considered classifying with it a couple weeks ago, but decided against it because I realized I was unlikely to compete with it anytime soon. If you can afford to shoot the .45, more power to you; I envy you because I just can't swing it. Granted, ya gotta shoot whatever you can get these days, and I'm thankful I didn't get rid of my .40. Luckily, I was pointed to Glocks early on, and I moved to them from a 1911, so I was already familiar with a short stroke trigger. If I was still shooting my old Taurus PT99 (the gun rags said it was a good gun, and I've learned since that gun rags are generally more miss than hit) or the SnW 4006 that I had for a short while (traded it at a profit for my first 1911) moving to a striker fired gun would have been another quantum leap. They're so much easier to shoot that I wonder why DA/SA trigger mechanisms still exist...and that people buy them.

In addition to shooting more, getting duty quality support gear helped me a TON. Quality gear stands up to constant use. Most of my stuff is Safariland, which is engineered, designed and built for duty use. That stuff lasts for YEARS. I just have to fight my lack of ability now, and not my gear being sub-par or failing while I'm using it. The great thing is that good gear pays for itself in a relatively short time, and the difference in price between minimum level gear and top quality stuff isn't that much. There's about a ten dollar difference between the SERPA and the Safariland ALS, and the ALS is a proven performer that will last longer than your shooting career in most cases. But beyond the durability is a general improvement in design and build quality. Your gear will do what it's supposed to do, rather than not quite being right, such as holding your mags at a weird angle or something along those lines. It's a worthwhile investment, but not dirt cheap, so do your due diligence and research and make sure you're buying quality. It's always about best value, not lowest price.

In terms of the improvement of my actual skills, the thing that made the biggest difference was getting a timer. I have a PACT Club Timer, which does quite a bit of stuff and is a very good value. Competition Electronics Pocket Pro II and the CED 7000 from Competitive Edge Dynamics are also timers I've got varying degrees of experience with. I think my favorite is the CE Pocket Pro II, for ease of use and programing, as well as having a very loud, easy to hear buzzer. A close second goes to the Club Timer, which is not quite so flexible, but does a lot for a reasonable price. If you have a smart phone, the Surefire timer app is probably still available. It was supposed to be a short term availability, but was still out there last time I looked. It works pretty well, and for the price of Free.99, ya can't really go wrong. The downsides are that the buzzer isn't anywhere near as loud and sensitivity can be a problem if you're not shooting alone. The timer don't lie, though. When you think something is working, the timer allows you to test it and prove whether it really is or not. Its caused me to refine my technique by things being proven better by the timer.

Electronic ear pro makes training easier, especially if you're getting professional instruction. If you can't swing electronic muffs, which have quite a wide range of prices (and quality, obviously) then there are ear plugs like the Surefire EP7's that I blogged about a while back that allow low intensity sound through while blocking high pressure sounds like gunshots. I prefer the Peltor Comtacs that I've been running for several years for classes and for when it's cold. The EP7's are quite a bit more comfortable when wearing glasses that aren't flush with your temples.

The last major area of improvement I found is also one that saves money: shooting rounds that matter. How? By shooting "standards". Most of these are designed around 50 to 100 rounds, some less, but all are tests of various skills. The beauty of shooting standards is that you have a quantifiable level to which you can compare your skills. I wish the standards were all published in one place, but there's a pretty good reason why they're not. I sent Mike Pannone a message through the Bookface to inquire if he'd ever considered doing a book of standards in the same form factor as his Glock handbook and the M16/M4 Handbook (both of which are very much worth the investment). He said he had considered it, but that it would be put on the net shortly after release which would make publishing it a waste of time and money. As it is, the standards are out there, and you'll just have to seek them out. Start with the 10-8 Standards, the Hackathorn Standards, and Kyle Defoor's 500 Point Aggregate. That's not necessarily his drill, but he was the one who exposed me to it, through YouTube and then through shooting them with Matt E, who was in Defoor's class about a year ago. Wish I'd gone.

I want to also mention shooting competitively as a method to improvement. There are a couple reasons to shoot competition: first, it gives you a gauge to see where you stand against other competitors, and secondly it puts a little stress on the shooter that is hard to replicate on the range alone. It can also put you in touch with other shooters, and percentages say that some of them will be able to help you. Percentages also say that you'll want to stay away from some of them, but that number is usually very small. If you've never shot a match, go try it. There are lots of gun games, so it's gonna be hard to find something that doesn't appeal to anybody that really wants to shoot. If you don't care for it, at least you gave it an honest shake. Try another game or don't compete, but by all means, give it a chance.

Those are some of the things that have helped me, and I recommend them to shooters looking to improve. This applies to both new shooters and veterans, but these things made a big difference to me. The only single thing that makes a bigger difference is getting professional training. Get trained!

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