Wyatt Earp at age 75.
Like a lot of people, I became acquainted with Wyatt Earp through the movie Tombstone. Now, I know it’s not the most accurate, historically, but I will say that Kurt Russell’s portrayal captivated me. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that.
Since watching the movie I have learned a lot more about Earp. One of the things that I noted was that he survived quite a few gun fights, and survived to quite an old age. My take is that this was due in no small part to his shooting style, which was not the norm of the day, from what I gather. The impression I get is that the average shooter was more “spray and pray,” while Earp was in the Hickock mold of “slow and steady.”
This post is about how I moved from “spray and pray” to “slow and steady.” Thank you, Mr. Earp.
I have been competing in pistol matches for about 20 years now. When I first started competing, I admit, I got into some bad habits. I found that, because of the way scoring was done, and the people I was shooting against, that my shooting speed determined how well I did, more than accuracy. So, I shot fast, and didn’t worry so much about score.
I won some matches.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never fast. But I was faster than those I shot against, who had come up in the Bullseye school, so they pretty much stood in one place, shot targets, then moved to another place. I, on the other hand, learned to shoot on the move, which really improved my times, and thus not my final scores. And I learned to reload on the move.
Over the years, as I look back, I see that I adopted the “spray and pray” style. I went just about as fast as I could, and as long as I didn’t miss too many targets (and my standard for “too many” was very loose) I felt I was doing okay. Yes, I saw that my scores were getting worse, and my classifications were getting lower. But I was ingrained in my style.
Now, time and age have taken toll, and my lumbering has been reduced even more. At last, due in part to writing this blog, and having it in my face, I decided to try to improve. I had to find a way to shoot better.
I finally realized that I could not miss fast enough to win. I had to do something.
I decided to adopt Wyatt Earp’s style, and shoot for accuracy, and not for speed. And the journey began.
So, how do I improve my score? After all, scores in just about all the shooting sports are measured in time units. Meaning, in the end, my score is a time. So, telling myself that I was going to improve my scores, no matter the time, was somewhat confusing on a lot of levels.
But, how are the targets themselves scored? Let’s look.
Here is the GSSF target, the standard NRA D-1. Note that if you shoot outside the A or B ring, you have penalty time added to your score. Shooting C’s is no big deal, but a miss can ruin your day.
The same thing applies to USPSA
On USPSA you get points for hits in A, B, C, and D areas, and that is divided by your time. Note that the penalty for a miss is twice the maximum points on the target, or minus 10 points.
So, what I found is that poor shooting – D ring or worse, misses – killed my scores, no matter how well I shot.
I could therefore improve my score – my shooting time – by hitting the center of the target.
So, I changed my style. It took practice, and it wasn’t over night. I had to get used to aiming and getting a good sight picture before releasing the shot. For a lot of people this is no issue, but for me, it took some learning.
You see, part of what happened as I grew older, shooting for speed without much care for accuracy, was that my eyes were getting older, to the point where I could not focus on the front sight. Now, to a “spray and pray” shooter that didn’t matter much, as I was shooting as soon as I had any sight picture at all. This led to a lot of misses.
But a couple of years ago I decided to change that, by getting some contact lenses that let me see the front sight. Now, I had to learn how to shoot again, the right way, and it has taken me a little while to learn how to get a good sight picture before releasing the shot.
It has taken a lot of dry firing to teach myself to do that. A lot. And a lot of slow fire practice. And a lot of slow transitions.
The results have been impressive, to me any way. The first milestone came this spring when I shot my first clean match – one with no misses at all. Then came a match this summer where I actually shot a perfect stage – I knocked down four steel targets with one shot each, and shot all the paper targets in the Alpha zone. I was almost giddy.
Yes, there are those who will point to all Alphas and say that I am not shooting fast enough. Right now, that’s okay. I will learn to speed up, but not right away.
I still shoot on the move, and my scores are showing the improvement. I suspect that my Classifier scores will help me move up to C class in the next revision.
Since then, I have repeated the No Mikes performance in each match, most recently in the GSSF Glock Annual Shoot at Conyers, GA, last month. This GSSF match turned out to be the best GSSF performance of my life. I’ve been shooting GSSF for 18 years, and this was the best.
So now, I think of Wyatt, and I “take my time” and shoot for score.
Now, to lose weight, and get faster. Who knows where I can head next.