Permission to Miss

21-Apr-12 – 13:13 by ToddG

About a decade ago, I received some incredibly insightful advice from my friend  Erik Lund (now a member of FN’s successful 3-gun competition team): if you want to get fast, sometimes you have to go so fast that you miss.

Like many folks, that was a foreign and perhaps even hostile concept. Miss? You mean, like, on purpose? What about every bullet has a lawyer attached to it or you can’t miss fast enough to win and all that stuff? I’d spent the first ten years of my shooting career being taught that every miss was a personal failure. A miss meant you’d done something wrong, something you would work hard to fix so it never happened again. Misses were evil.

Nonetheless, when a guy like Erik — who is both a career law enforcement officer and an IPSC Grandmaster — offers you free shooting advice, you should at least give it some thought and maybe a little time on the range. Staple up a target, shoot too fast, miss, roll your eyes at the stupidity of it all and call it a day. Right?

Except it didn’t work out that way. What I learned that day literally changed the way I’ve practiced, competed, and taught ever since.

When you push yourself just past the edge of the envelope — cue Kenny Loggins — you’re literally driving the gun faster than you know how. If you concentrate, pay attention to the gun and what you’re doing, you’ll find yourself seeing the sights faster. You’ll feel the trigger faster. Essentially, your eyes and your brain will catch up to the speed of the gun.

Obviously, we cannot just ignore accuracy altogether. Accuracy is the foundation of all shooting, and even when we want to get faster we need to do it within the context of hitting our target. But just like exaggerating accuracy at the expense of speed to improve marksmanship, truly building speed for speed’s sake means letting ourselves accept less than 100% hits. In fact, learning to go fast pretty much requires we get less than 100% hits sometimes.

Just remember that “less than 100%” doesn’t mean you should ignore your hits altogether. The number I like to use both in practice and when teaching is ninety percent. If you’re shooting at a target you can easily hit 100% of the time when going at a comfortably slow pace, then when it comes time to work on building speed you should push yourself to the point where you’re getting about 90% of your hits. If instead you find yourself getting eighty… seventy… fifty… or zero percent of your hits then it’s time to stop, reset, and work on those marksmanship fundamentals some more. Ramp back up slowly until you find that 100% comfort zone. Then go just a little faster. And see where it takes you.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 9 Responses to “Permission to Miss”

  2. Nice idea! I always tried increasing the speed without compromising the accuracy. There is a progress but it is slow. Will try to follow your advice.

    By DavidK on Apr 21, 2012

  3. Thanks for the reminder, sometimes people slow down their speed or spend too much time aligning their sights to ensure 100% hits.

    By Jesus Banda on Apr 21, 2012

  4. Last week I over heard an IDPA Master suggesting the same thing. He used the round count to determine the acceptable points down (10%)

    By Balloon Goes Up on Apr 21, 2012

  5. We discovered that this weekend with the new three gun nation targets…. Only needing two hits anywhere on paper means I can go out and rip off some ugly splits…. It definitely helps you push the envelope!

    By aaron on Apr 21, 2012

  6. I have known a few good limited class shooters that switched to open for a season just to increase the speed of their footwork and target transitions. They stated the game got faster in every way. When switching back to limited there was a small adjustment to get back on the irons but their entire game improved from a speed perspective. I have never done the switch myself but I always wondered if I would benefit from shooting a season of open class. Some day maybe….

    By ErnieB on Apr 21, 2012

  7. My first year in USPSA, I was all over the place, sometimes I’d get good hits, but mostly I was dropping Charlies and Deltas. All winter I went to bullseye matches and GSSF shooting at the local indoor range. This year I know I can tell you when a shot was A zone and when it isn’t. It’s time to speed back up.

    By Brice on Apr 22, 2012

  8. I recall Brian Enos saying that his two most important drills were shooting slow-fire groups at 25yds to affirm correct sight picture and trigger pull, and a drill where you fire rounds as fast as you can into the backstop with no target, focusing only on the front sight and the feel/rhythm of the gun cycling. Basically working both ends of the Control/Abandon scale.

    By Matt L on Apr 22, 2012

  9. Like most things in life, learning happens best in… the Danger Zone.

    By MDS on Apr 25, 2012

  10. Good analysis. Recommended reading for those both new and experienced
    American Firearms Academy

    By T Russell on Apr 29, 2012

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