Shooting practice

When I went out to KR Training this past Saturday for teaching, I made sure to go out extra early. Had to get things set up and prepped for classes, and I knew if I timed it right I’d give myself a fair chunk of time to do some of my own shooting practice.

After my last live-fire practice, my big decision was: slow down. My general guide is to be accurate first, fast second. This I know, have known, and is always the case, but the pressure of the line always winds up being on going faster and not being the last guy to shoot. It’s just how you get swept up in things. I’m making the conscious effort to not do that. And so when I shoot, slow down.

So to that end, I thought a good cold diagnostic would be shoot “the Farnam Drill”, at least, as I understood it to be. I’ve read so many variations on it, so here’s what I did:

  • IDPA target, only shots in the ‘-0’ zone count. (I’ve read some that say 8.5″x11″ piece of paper)
  • 7-8 yards. I just paced it off and that’s about where I was. (I’ve read 7 yards, 10 yards, 8 meters)
  • 1 round in the chamber (most agree on this)
  • load magazine with 5 live and 1 dummy round (randomly). (I’ve read some with 4 live rounds; I’ve read some that get specific about where the dummy should be, i.e. not on top, not on bottom; I say let it be wherever because you never know where a failure might be, and if you look at the magazine before you seat it well… you’re just cheating yourself.)
  • spare mag with at least 3 live rounds in it
  • shot timer

then on the buzzer:

  • drawing from concealment (I’ve seen some that don’t specify concealment/retention)
  • shoot until you hit the dummy round
  • clear the malfunction (tap, rack, bang)
  • keep shooting until the magazine is empty (slide lock)
  • reload (generally a slide lock “speed” reload, i.e. no retention of the mag)
  • shoot 3 more (I’ve seen some say to only shoot 2 more, so then the 3rd becomes the setup for running the drill again)

I also make sure to move at every non-shooting portion. Draw? move. Clear malfunction? move. Reload? move. It’s just a large side-step, but it’s still moving while doing “not-shooting” actions. Most write-ups I’ve seen of the drill do not discuss movement one way or the other.

Performance? Well, I’ve seen various numbers as well for what performance should be. I’ve seen students should be able to shoot it in 18.25 seconds. I’ve seen that students should be able to do it in 15 seconds. I’ve seen it said that instructors should be able to do it in 12 seconds. But then, how much of a standard can this be with so much variation in procedure? I mean, if you load the mag with 4 live rounds and shoot 2 after the reload vs. 5 live and 3 after, those additional 2 rounds will consume more time. So…. well…. that’s why it’s just hard to compare this across the board. Regardless of minutia, it’s a great drill that incorporates a great many parts of defensive pistol shooting. It provides a good measure of ability and performance. While I cannot compare so much to others, I can at least compare to myself.

My first run, “cold from the car”, all I knew was I told myself to go slow. I had to clean it, timer be damned. Go too slow, be certain of every shot, and just ensure a clean run. That I did, and ran it in 12.63 seconds. It felt glacially slow to me.

I opted to run it again, speeding up a bit. 11.10 seconds.

Then I changed course. See, I was going to just run that drill twice to get a feel on things then move to other stuff. But I decided to keep running the drill over and over and from it take what I could regarding my speed vs. my accuracy. How fast could I push myself before things fell apart? So I kept running the drill over and over, pushing myself faster every time. A couple times I pushed myself to a level that I felt was certainly “too fast” and I really didn’t care if I did miss because the goal was to find the point of “too fast”. I shot it in 8.56, but with 4 holes just outside the ‘-0’ ring, that was obviously too fast. Interestingly, I did shoot it in 8.84 clean. When I thought about the two runs, what was different? What I saw… or rather, didn’t see. On the 8.84 run I may not have seen perfect “target shooting” sight pictures, but I saw enough and was clearly seeing enough, brain was processing “yeah, that’s good (enough)”. On the 8.56, my brain wasn’t as “there” as the other run; I recall my eyes were just taking in noise, and it was akin to just “blazing away” at the target. Was the speed of shooting really any different? I’m not sure; I wish I had looked at the shot-to-shot times because that would be more telling, because maybe I was blazing away, or maybe I had greater time differences during the reloads or some such? I didn’t look. *sigh*  But I did note that even on the 8.84 run I had fumbled a bit, but still got a decent time. I recall Tom Givens shooting this drill (or whatever his flavor of it was) in about 8.5 seconds, so hey… I can live with this.

Averaging out the strings, I generally shot it in about 10-ish seconds. I’ll analyze in a bit.

After doing this drill a bunch, I decided to do a basic thing from the IDPA Classifier: Mozambique. I stood at 7 yards and fired. All 3 rounds must be acceptable hits. Shot from concealment, par time of 3 seconds. This was not only to nod towards my desire that the first string of the IDPA Classifier is something I should be able to clean on demand, but it was also some time to work on my concealment draw.

Finally, I ran the 3 Seconds or Less drill. That’s another drill that I should be able to do, cold, on demand, and clean every time. Only ran it once, but did clean it.

Analysis

I must remember to forget the timer and focus on accuracy. Even if that means I’m last in the match, if I can show “no points down” I’ll be happy about that. If that means in classes I’m the last guy, fine, because I’ll have no tape on my target. Accuracy is my focus, even if I’m slower.

But on that token, I must keep pushing myself on speed because I have to know where my limit is, and if I’ve improved.

One thing certainly is what I see. Those two 8-second runs were quite different in terms of the visual information gathered and processed, and I have to remember what I saw, and didn’t see. And I’m probably due for a refresh from the Enos book.

The other is “other stuff”. My concealment draws were consistently around 1.7 seconds. Not bad, but certainly room for improvement. But that said, I’m not sure that’s the best place to focus my time. I don’t think it’s so much speed getting the gun out of the holster as it is on my presentation. It’ll go back to the visuals. I need to get on the trigger sooner, allowing the shot to break when I have a “good enough” sight picture. I know I’m waiting a little too long, for more visual feedback than I actually need. Just gotta get on it sooner and allow the shot to break when I have the good enough picture, not after I have it.

It’s even visuals with split times. I actually didn’t look at my splits, but I know I’m going slower than my eyes and brains need.

Plus, reloads. I got caught in my concealment garment too much or had other little fumbles.

But I think the biggest help is my mindset: accuracy is final.

Still, while keeping the mindset is appropriate, if there’s anything to specifically work on it’s “see what I need to see, and ONLY what I NEED to see”.

One thought on “Shooting practice

  1. Pingback: The Farnam Drill | Stuff From Hsoi

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