Slow down to go fast

If you want to shoot faster, you’re going to need to slow down.

Read on. It will make sense.

When we tell students to go faster, they make everything go faster. It’s understandable they do this, but it’s not necessarily the way to go.

For example, we teach students a proper 4-step draw. Look at the following diagram (be in awe of my drawing skills!):

In a proper 4-step draw, gun starts on the hip in the holster at point A. Gun is withdrawn from the holster and brought up to point B, then pressed out to point C. We teach this, the students perform it just fine… when there’s no time pressure. But when we put the under time pressure, the 4-step draw goes out the window and the students make a “bowling” motion, flinging the gun out from A to C.

It makes sense to do this. We’ve been taught all our lives that the shortest distance between two point is a straight line, and certainly it’s less distance from A to C than from A to B to C. And chances are it does take less time to move the gun from point A to point C than to go from A to B to C. But let’s step back a moment.

When you are trying to shoot fast, exactly what are you trying to accomplish? If the goal is to make the gun go bang as quickly as possible, that’s one thing. But usually, we aren’t out to just make noise. We’re trying to be as quick as possible at getting an acceptable hit. We want the time between the “go” signal and the bullet making a hole in the target is as small a time as possible. So to accomplish this, we need to move slowly through point B.

In order to shoot and get an acceptable hit, there are a lot of things that have to happen: the gun needs to be oriented towards the target; your eyes need to pick up the front sight and align the sights for a proper sight picture; your finger needs to work the trigger smoothly to make the shot break without disturbing the sight picture; grip, stance, breathing… there are lots of things that occur. When you go bowling (from A to C), these events tend to happen serially: gun gets thrown out there, you have to take a moment to let the gun steady itself because it shook when your arms hit full extension, your eyes have to hunt to find the front sight, you work to line up your eye with the sights with the target, then you put your finger on the trigger and press. Lots of things, and if they happen in series, that’s a lot of time consumed.

We cannot eliminate the need to perform many of these steps, so what can we do to reduce time consumed? Perform some of these tasks simultaneously. So for instance, you can put your finger on the trigger and start pressing the trigger as the gun is being brought up to the target. But… doesn’t that sound unsafe? It can be, if you’re bowling, because where is that muzzle lined up while you’re pressing? And what if the gun goes bang before the gun was properly aligned on target? Yeah, it was faster, but it was hardly accurate.

What if we move from A to B to C? Once the gun is at point B, the muzzle will be roughly aligned with the target. You start to press the gun out to point C and your finger can start to take up the trigger slack. In your peripheral vision you’ll start to pick up the front sight. And lo, yes, performing all these steps simultaneously will save on time and allow you to “shoot faster”.

Here’s a fantastic example:

That’s Mike Brook shooting the F.A.S.T. Drill in 4.92 seconds. A sub-5 second time on the drill is excellent and difficult to achieve. Does it seem like he’s shooting fast? No, but only because of how the drill starts: 7 yards, 2 shots on a 3″x5″ index card… small target, and you have to slow down. But look at Mike’s presentation. He gets the gun quickly out of the holster, moves from A to B, then from B to C he’s moving slowly so his eyes can find the sights, the sights can be aligned, and he can press off the first shot accurately.

Mike had to slow down to go fast.

Note that the exact speed at which YOU will move will be different. Don’t get hung up on the particular speed someone else is moving at, because you will move at a different speed. You want to move at the speed which enables you to get acceptable hits: as accurate as YOU can, as fast as YOU can. If you wish to improve your speed and/or accuracy, read this article.

I’ve been working on this myself. It’s not about moving everything quickly, it’s about what it takes to make the shot in the best possible time. In order to do that, you may need to slow some things down, like pressing the gun out a little slower, pressing the trigger a little slower. But note, some things may need to go faster, like how quickly you get your hand to the gun and the gun out of the holster and to point B. Everything can’t just move at 100 MPH… you have to vary things, and know what needs to go fast and what needs to go slow, so that ultimately you can go fast.

9 thoughts on “Slow down to go fast

  1. Mostly agree strongly…

    Small disagreement – I don’t like Mike’s example (though I realize that the exaggeration he displays is useful for the point you’re making). He could take a half second off that drill pretty simply… Here’s why and how (and, yes, we teach the same thing for competition shooting – for the exact same reasons!)…

    He needs to speed up his draw from B to C, and let the “corner” round out just a bit. Given enough practice (and it doesn’t take that much), the gun will arrive aligned and pretty much exactly where you want it to be on target. This presentation should be exactly the same regardless of the difficulty of the target. That’s everything from first motion to the gun to press out and taking up the slack. (note, he should be doing this quickly – not fast…). The difference in engaging targets of different difficulty should only begin at that point – precise sight alignment (which is dependent on the target) and trigger press.

    You could argue that a faster press out would mean he’d spend more time trying to align the sights once he gets there… Maybe… However, the time required to do so is typically measured in hundredths of a second (not tenths), and in my experience is very negligible compared to the time gained in getting the gun out there more quickly (which is measured in tenths). This is primarily because a solid and practiced shooting platform will result in the gun arriving in gross alignment at that faster speed all on it’s own (by gross alignment, I mean the front sight will be in the notch, and the gun will roughly be pointed into the target – perhaps not exactly where you’d like it, but fairly close).

    I would be happy to demonstrate the differences on the range someday 🙂

    Of course, someone could also say “well, that won’t work for someone who doesn’t practice…”… and that’s a self defeating argument, isn’t it? 😀

    • Excellent contribution. Thank you.

      Exactly why Mike is “that slow” on the present (from B to C) I’m not sure… I don’t know the guy. But, like you said, the video is useful towards making the point that people need to move from A to B to C (not A to C), AND to show that we need to move at different speeds, that sometimes slowing some motions down is necessary so we can overall speed up and get faster hits (which is ultimately what it’s about). So, it’s there to make a point.

      So… perhaps this is fodder for your own blog! An addendum with video to show what you mean. 🙂

  2. Never shot a FAST drill in any rig 🙂 In an Open rig, it’s kind of pointless, as you generally run an Open gun with a deactivated slide stop – so no slide lock reload. But, it shouldn’t be a problem to beat Sevigny’s time on it with an Open gun, if I had to guess… (although not by much – Dave’s time is pretty sharp…)

    • I dunno about it being pointless, it would be fun to see the difference between your open rig and your production rig.

      Maybe you can talk John into shooting USPSA again.

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  4. Fast drill is done at 7 yards. Not 10.

    Most of my fairly competent practiced shooters can do it well. Close to 5

    Speed in context….a drill ..or a bad guy moving..

    Alot of people confuse a draw from a to c as bowling…when it is not…and it’s not to c…its slightly back allowing for the last few inches to pick up sights…how much time do you need on the sights?

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