Everybody thinks the reward for improvement is medals, but that’s just half the story. Even if you are only “shooting for fun”, mastering the basics will allow you to move on to more complex problems. One of the things that I love about practical shooting is that there are always new things to try out. We’re not merely doing the same thing better and better. As we learn how to take care of the basics subconsciously, it allows us to use our conscious mind to tackle more complex problems under the timer: Moving into and out of positions, shooting on the move, engaging additional targets between an activator and the activated target, etcetera.
As a member of Centurion Defensive Pistol Club’s exco, the duties for our December fun shoot somehow lands on me every year. (Okay, I admit it, I enjoy the opportunity to try new things.) This year I kept it close to normal IDPA stages, but I added a lot of what I like to thing of as ‘Easter eggs’: Some interesting target configurations that can be quite rewarding to get right, but which presents itself only once a match or less.
To show us what is possible, I also invited Garrett Evans, one of the top shooters in the country, to demonstrate the stages for us.
Stage 1 was quite straight forward: shooting on the move. Not just-enough-to-satisfy-an-SO moving, but get-to-the-other-side-faster moving. Here Garrett demonstrates that you can shoot and run as fast as you like, but you’re always going to have a hard time keeping up with the shooter who can make hits while moving.
Stage 3 showed that, even with my pedestrian splits, there is time to take a couple of additional targets between activating a target and engaging it.
I often lament how playful, educational challenges are sacrificed at the altar of the equal playing field. Eliminating forced movement is a great example, and so are tight leans and difficult body positions. Sure, some positions are more challenging for some body types than others, but the better shooter eventually comes out on top in any case. Stage 4 combined moving into and out of positions with some progressively tighter leans. Foot placement was very important. Notice how Garrett makes light work of even the tightest leans.
Stage 2 was an all-steel stage. Apart from the fun of making the steel goes ting-ting-ting, it was meant to demonstrate the value of accuracy. I have learned the hard way that the less basic accuracy you have, the less aggressive you can afford to be. And the less aggressive you can be, the less fun you can have. Garrett’s accuracy is top-notch, though, and he showed us that it is possible to take even the smaller plates on the move. He was rewarded with a time 25% faster than the second fastest handgun.
The core idea behind the courses of fire (and this write-up) was to illustrate how the effort we put into practising fundamentals are rewarded by the fun it allows us to have under the timer. Everybody has a limit. Beyond the limit, you basically grind to a halt and do target shooting. Closer than the limit, you can speed up, move or focus on any other aspect rather than accuracy. The better your fundamentals, the farther you push that limit. The farther your limit, the more target arrays you encounter within your 'fun zone'.
If you look in some of the video's, you'll also see additional lines on the ground, at different distances from the targets. These allowed me to position novices close enough to the target to allow them to move and shoot (for example) while placing masters far enough from the targets to make them equally uncomfortable with moving. Distances were varied quite drastically: It basically doubled from the novices to the middle of the field, doubling again to the top of the field. One would not have said that by looking at the final results, though. Most people still placed where they normally would. I'm still not sure what to make of that, but I am quite certain that the closer targets allowed newer shooters to enjoy a part of shooting generally reserved for the more experienced.