After my 4th or 5th match as a new shooter in Limited, this transition to new equipment is pretty dang cool and I'm starting to get the hang of it!
Despite it being the middle of February, the weather yesterday was just about perfect - 50-60 degrees, just enough clouds to keep the glare down, and no wind (a miracle at that range).
Likewise, the shooting went reasonably well. As an as-yet unclassified shooter in Limited (I'm close to making B in Production) I was able to eke out two 2nd place stage finishes which helped offset two bad stages and secure 4th overall out of 13 Limited shooters yesterday.
I definitely learned a few things yesterday, both about my gear and about myself as a shooter.
The equipment should be a straightforward fix - I effectively need my STI fitted a little better to my hands and I need to find the best mag release for me. It's reliable, for the most part, and extremely accurate when I do my job.
As for my mind... that's gonna take a bit more work. I can break it down into two categories - (1) learning how to quickly tea a stage and develop a plan and (2) being able to recover when I fail to execute my plan or run into an equipment issue.
I was reading recently on another gun blogger's site that there is a unique value in adding competition to training for defensive handgun shooting. I don't always agree with this writer but, in this case, he was spot-on.
The combination of safe stress (nobody's shooting back), planning, problem-solving, and the ability to improvise when things go all pear-shaped can only help, and never hurt, the avid shooter or someone who carries for personal protection.
I was trained to keep thinking, keep working, and keep fighting, even if you run into a problem. In a USPSA match, freezing when you have even a minor problem will destroy your overall score. Freezing in a gunfight, well... that could have MUCH more severe consequences.
Yesterday, I shot a stage completely off-plan starting with round 3 (out of 28), grabbed a reload when I didn't need to, and ran the gun dry by the time I recovered. While I could (and should) have taken about a second to regroup mentally, I drove on... leading to two more mistakes that would turn what should have been a 3rd-4th place run into an 11th place debacle. Positives from that run? I made sure to get my hits once I got my crap repackaged. Negative - I ran out of ammo on the last target.
BIG lesson number 2 - Don't Freak Out, There's a way through every stage!
Yup... It happened. I stepped into bay 5 yesterday and simply said "holy s#!t." I was staring down two lanes of targets a mile long on each side and immediately tried to figure out how to get through the 20 rounds I'd need to get through what looked like an attack of the walking dead!
After looking long and hard at the stage I found a way to break it up, keep pressing forward, and engage the brand-new swingers that were freaking us out. Then... the shooter order was called out and I was up first. Damn. Yep, that was my "reset button."
When the start buzzer went off I just let 'er rip and broke from what was actually a very good strategy. I just stood there, dumbfounded by the 10+ targets all staring back at me, and started shooting down one row and up the next. It forced me into a standing reload, staying right inside a "fatal funnel" and broke my concentration enough to smack a no-shoot at the end. Fortunately, driving on saved the stage for me and I'd somehow managed to salvage 7th. Apparently I wasn't the only one who blanked!
All told, yesterday's match was a success. I shot very well (for me) when it came together and I was able to drive on through a number of mental flubs and a couple mechanical hiccups - neither of which are rare in our sport. I would turn in one of my best-ever classifiers, which will be very helpful in pushing through "C" and joining a much smaller group of highly-skilled shooters.
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