3-Gun is one of the most complex sports you can participate in. It brings to the table three different shooting experiences in one sport. Even then, it's made more complex than the sum of its parts.
Regardless of which gun's trigger you're pulling, many of the fundamentals are the same. The ability to execute on those fundamentals helps build the skills that help us become top-notch shooters.
As with any skill, you want to be able to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. See what is helping or hindering you. In this post, we'll discuss the top six things that hinder shooters in 3-Gun or any shooting sport.
These are the top six things that slow us down, that give us a longer par time on a stage. These are the dragons to be slain.
Oh, that wonderful mass of grey matter that sits between our ears! Your brain is your ally and your enemy all at the same time. In sports, often times it is our enemy.
When we competed in biathlon, we always used to say that the brain is good for only one thing when you're competing: encouragement. That's it. Gasp!
How can your brain not be useful when you need it most? It's simple: if you have to think about it, you are already slower than you should be. If you have to think about it, you are leaving yourself open to mistakes.
Thinking slows us down. Many items on this list lead back to this point.
What we do and how we do it should be muscle memory. Muscle memory is a form of procedural memory that turns certain tasks into memory through repetition. In other words, it's when you do something so many times that you don't need to think about it anymore.
This frees up brain function for other things so we don't have to concentrate on every little task:
The more you practice certain skills, the more they become muscle memory through repetition. So, practice, practice, practice! That's the tried and true path to success. (By the by, we practice using Redwolf Airsoft pistols & Tactrainer Airsoft Targets to make your practice less price- and location-intensive)
Once you've committed your skills to memory, you can run a stage without thinking. You can shut the brain off and just put the pedal to the metal, so to speak.
You'll find your best stages are the ones you don't even remember. You don't know how you shot them or how they went; you just did it and didn't have to think about it.
This is a pretty obvious reason we're slower on a stage, right? The more you miss the more time you have to spend making up shots or the more time that is added onto your overall time. The best way to remedy this is to try and analyze why you're missing.
We all miss for different reasons:
The key to improving is figuring out why you are missing. Are you causing the miss or is it an outside influence?
We'd all like to blame everything on our equipment. But, the simple fact of the matter is that most often, we are the cause of the miss. My sister and I shoot JP rifle, the highest-quality on the market, so there's no blaming anything but a solid hit on them!
Whether it's a poor execution of basic fundamentals or some type of internal factor, it's your job to figure out why you missed. Frustration and "better luck next time" won't help your root out the problem, so make an honest effort. Once we understand the why, we can figure out the how.
The why is either external or internal. Which is it? Now, once you've figured that out, you can work on fixing and bettering your skills to avoid a miss altogether. Misses happen, but don't let them happen as often.
Figure out why you're missing and get down to business fixing it.
How many of us get to a match, open up our Explorer gun cases and see that the dirt & carbon buildup is still caked on our guns from the last match?
If 3-Gun were a 4x4 sport, the dirt would be a sign we'd has some serious fun. If 3-Gun were a team sport, not cleaning our gear would be part of some superstition that helped us win the game.
In reality, we just got busy and didn't have time between matches. We went back home to the grind of everyday life and our poor guns got neglected. This is an almost completely avoidable reason for being slower on a stage.
Yes, sometimes our equipment wears down, but proper maintenance will help you avoid malfunctions altogether. Imagine match after match of no frustrating malfunctions. Pretty nice thought, huh? Now go clean your guns! (For this, we always suggest you use Otis products)
If we plan for stages, we'll be faster and more efficient. If we don't, it'll take us longer to get through them. The main reason for this (going back to #1) is we'll have to think about it in order to do it; it won't be muscle memory.
No stage will be complete muscle memory. Clever match directors have seen to that when planning and designing their stages. But, being prepared will give your brain the proper time to analyze and prepare for a match or stage.
If we are still trying to clean our guns or find where we put that extra mag, we won't be using our precious time to plan out the stage and visualize it. After all, how much did you spend on that match entry? You might as well get the most out of it.
If your guns don't fit you, you're wasting your time. Not only will you be more likely to miss, it will also take you longer to acquire the target.
Your equipment needs to fit you like a glove. For example, when I draw my STI DVC 3-Gun pistol, my hand fits the grip perfectly, and my eyes can always find the sights. If your equipment doesn't match you like that, you'll take a longer time to find your sights, your sight alignment and the target.
If you equipment isn't positioned or fit right to your body, you're more likely to miss. That's because your body is working against the mechanics of the position and likely pulling your natural point of aim off the target.
(Hint: a Hogue rifle or shotgun stock would help for a great fit!)
Efficiency and timing go hand in hand.
This plays a huge role when it comes to the equipment you have on your belt or body: magazine location, shotgun shell locations, even where/how your rifle or shotgun is slung. Each of these has a huge impact on how efficiently you reload or prepare to shoot, which ultimately affects time.
I'm not going to tell you where on your belt everything should be placed. It all depends on the type of stage you are shooting. Plus, there's definitely an element of personal preference.
I will tell you that planning out a stage also involves planning out your equipment and your belt. Being able to quickly grab a magazine or extra shot will get you through a stage quicker.
Sometimes, however the most "efficient" position for your gear might not be the best. This can be the case if you have to shoot a certain position like prone that could cause you to lose all your shotgun shells.
Or, you might have a stage where your rifle reloads are more important than your shotgun. So, maybe your extra mag is closer to grab than your shotgun shells.
Let's face it, though. We only have so much real estate, so it is important to plan it out. If you have to think about where your equipment is on your belt, that goes back to #1 with thinking slowing you down too much.
Shotgun shells are a special consideration since you're dealing with different types of ammunition, unlike your rifle or pistol. Know where you put your slugs, your bird, and your buck shot. Stages are designed to challenge your ability to adapt and adjust to different scenarios and challenges.
(Hint: Try Fiocchi's new colored and deadly accurate low recoil slugs for quick reference on your belt & solid hits!)
We don't like to focus on the negatives in sports. But figuring out your weaknesses and how they are slowing you down is an important key to going faster. Take some time to think and analyze what's slowing you down, and next thing you know, you'll be flying faster through stages!