When the Going Gets Tough…

28-Nov-12 – 15:08 by ToddG

… the tough, so the saying goes, go cyclic.

At last night’s KSTG match at the NRA, we saw this happen frequently on two stages: 3 and 4.

Stage 3 was unusual in that we utilized the NRA Range’s outstanding programmable target system. You had a regular KSTG target (IDPA target with a 3×5 card in the head box) at seven yards and needed to draw from concealment, fire five to the body and one to the head. Instead of doing it on the clock like most stages, it was run as a PAR. And you got to choose your PAR. The target would turn and face for as long as you wanted, but that was your time on the stage. So if you gave yourself 10 seconds, it didn’t matter if you were done shooting in two; you chose ten seconds as your PAR and that was your time for the stage. The concept clearly stressed some people out because many folks emptied their guns (eleven rounds in most cases, per the rules) in the time they allotted and still had plenty of time left over… usually without getting all their hits. It was very reminiscent of how some shooters approach the Rogers Shooting School challenge at first. Since they are no longer just shooting at their own pace but instead are forced to perform within a time limit, they blow the doors off and hope the bullets will fly where they want. The median time selected was 6 seconds (with a range of 3.0 to 25.0). Thirty two shooters dropped a total of 52 points; only thirteen shot it clean.

Stage 4 was far more straightforward. You shot a couple of targets around the left side of cover, a couple of targets around the right side of cover, and then three more targets on the move. All of the targets were wide open (unobscured, not moving, at shoulder height). Shooters began about 10yd from the on the move targets but were allowed to get as close as 7yd. After carefully engaging the targets from cover, almost a dozen people literally went cyclic and emptied multiple magazines of unaimed fire into those three pieces of cardboard on the move. Many of them still managed to avoid getting any A-zone hits on one or more, resulting in additional penalties. It was a simple matter of being a little out of their comfort zone at the end of the match and, essentially, abandoning technique in favor of frustration and hope. Most of them got more frustration than hope out of the deal.

We all make mistakes. We all find ourselves up against problems that are outside our comfort zone. Competition — and shooting in general — wouldn’t be a lot of fun otherwise. But as I tell students all the time, once you make your first mistake it’s time to slow down and pay more attention, rather than the more instinctive approach to throw caution to the wind and go nitrous. Odds are you made that first mistake because you were going faster than you could do things right. Speeding up probably isn’t the solution.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG


  1. 12 Responses to “When the Going Gets Tough…”

  2. There are 2 old sayings that illustrate theses points…

    1st don’t go throwing good money after bad… meaning if you make a mistake, don’t make another trying to make up for it.

    2nd on a motorcycle, when you get in trouble give it gas, 90% of the time the issue will resolve itself, the other 10% it will bring it to a quick conclusion… unfortunately with guns it is just the opposite.

    By Ron Larimer on Nov 28, 2012

  3. Have these shooters who are totally screwing the pooch shot any competition other than KSTG before? Having some idea how long a simple string takes you to shoot is pretty basic. Take what you know you can shoot it in, add a little padding, and then shoot at your natural pace. The FAST or string 1-3 of the IDPA classifier are both good places to start figuring the time from.

    Shooting 3 targets on the some at 7-10 yards is also a pretty basic task. It’s not like you have to move very fast or the sights suddenly fall off. Total collapse under the mild pressure of competition should only happen to people who haven’t competed or seriously trained before.

    By Jeff on Nov 28, 2012

  4. funny and interesting, and from my experience very common. When I’m teaching IPSC courses and steel targets get introduced, people always speed up on them, blasting away, reloading, blasting away some more until out of pure luck they hit one. I tell them that if they’d just slowed down, taken their time and watched their front sight, they would have hit it sooner. I even tell people if they are having a hard time getting the hit, to slow right down and do a deliberate Trigger Reset Drill on the plate. And that while it’s a slow way to do it, it’s much faster than blasting away for 3 or 4 seconds or more.

    By Rob E on Nov 28, 2012

  5. It sounds similar to what you see in shootings (e.g. dashcam videos) where it often becomes a largely unaimed magdump by both parties before the bob and weave.

    Sorry I missed it; sounds like an educational night.

    By Arclight on Nov 28, 2012

  6. I’ve seen this (simialar issues) occure on our range, generally with new coppers. We get someone who is a great shot, super tight groups from varying ranges/distances, etc… then make them shoot from different postions, maybe run a little, change the amount of ammo in their gun, make specific high value hits (head, etc..) rather than traditional center mass/bullseye, and most notably make then shoot against a clock (given time alotments for given stages), and there groups really widen out. some to the point they are off paper. guys let the time (specifically) get in their head.

    To be fair, it’s not only new guys, but seems to be most pronounced with them…

    like you’ve pointed out many, many times, this shooting thing takes practice. regular/constant practice. In generally speaking about the OIS’s I’m familiar with, the guys who train/shoot regularly, and actually develop good subconscious shooting habits fair better and shoot lest rounds. The folks who only shoot at mando training, and have not developed good instictive shooting habits blast away more rounds….

    anyway, you illustrate good points…

    By LCSO264 on Nov 29, 2012

  7. “Odds are you made that first mistake because you were going faster than you could do things right. Speeding up probably isn’t the solution.”

    That’s very similar to what my dad would say to me on the golf course. After finding myself in the woods, lining up an improbable shot to try to reach in regulation, he’d often say, “you hit a lousy shot to get into this mess, what makes you think you’re going to hit a perfect one now that you’re here?”

    By Nate on Nov 29, 2012

  8. I remember that from bowling-pin shoots — people would start shooting faster to try to clear the last deadwood instead of slowing down and making the one good shot they needed.

    Blam. Blam. Blam. Blam.Balm. Blamblamblamblamblam…..

    By lyford on Nov 29, 2012

  9. Happens in racing, too. Nothing makes you more likely to spin out later on the course than messing up an earlier corner.

    You can’t make up lost time. You can only lose more of it.

    By ford.304 on Nov 29, 2012

  10. First time I did Simunitions I told myself go slow, concentrate on that front sight. Bad guy appeared…..emptied gun as fast as I could……not a lot of hits.

    By steve b on Nov 29, 2012

  11. So I perhaps have a different perspective on this to some degree. For sure, there were plenty of folks that just went cyclic as a means of making up for dropped shots. But in the turning target stage, the time limit was fixed and there was no benefit to stopping early, and no penalty for additional rounds downrange (in fact, upside for some shooters of potentially making up -1’s and -3’s with additional down zero hits). So this actually encouraged rapid engagement, especially once the first six rounds were on target. I saw quite a few folks adopt this approach, where they engaged the first six carefully and sped up to drop more rounds down before the target turned.

    I chose to treat the stage as a NSR, and simply engaged with as many rounds as “needed” until the target “reacted” and the threat was no longer present.

    One the SOM stage, I concur that some folks did try to make up with speed what was lacking in accuracy. However, the stage also encouraged those who may have been more conservative behind cover to really open up the throttle. Being exposed to multiple hostiles gives strong incentive to service these more rapidly, and return to anchor the targets if still potentially a threat once all have been engaged. While I don’t hold much for IDPA sequences, taking a few extra seconds to place remaining rounds on (still standing) targets when one is left after a movement standing near a wall with no other cover around seems quite prudent as a solution to the tactical problem. I think you may have seen a very different result from some folks had these been reactive targets.

    I still greatly enjoy the matches. However, match design does play a factor in the findings that surface. Unlike some commentators may suggest, it is not always lack of training that creates a result – rather, it is when the optimal “gamer” response conflicts with the ways that folks were taught to solve a threat problem. After all, how many times has the concept of firing to create dynamic cover when nothing else is at hand been taught? Especially when those shots were still hits, just -1 or -3…, and while less than ideal from a terminal ballistics standpoint still not something that creates liability that one would see with a miss. (Not saying every shooter didn’t miss… but full mikes are a different question, and happened to a smaller subset – as far as I saw – than less than A zone, perfect round count engagement.)

    By abu fitna on Nov 29, 2012

  12. About 5 years back I switched from a Lotsahots to a revolver, for no particular reason other than I’m a wheelgun junkie and I had a new 625 to play with.

    Usually, out of about 120 shooters at the local IPSC match there were only two us, sometimes 3, who couldn’t count past 6 (or 8).

    Took a couple of matches and several practice sessions to re-link the brain to the new reload cycle, and even Jerry M can’t get 12 rounds downrange as fast as someone running a G17 or M&P. Turns out ” number of rounds sent downrange” isn’t as important a data point as “number of rounds in the right place on the target.” Who knew?

    Running a 6-shooter very sternly reinforces using the front sight – you don’t have any shots to waste – and thinking one’s way through a stage. I now alternate between a Lotsashots and the 625, and when I start thinking a few more trigger presses will solve the problem I know it’s time to go back to the 625 for a match and practice session or two.

    By Alien on Dec 3, 2012

  13. lol It is a single shot bolt aoticn.When Peter rolled over I was quite thankful of that as I was facing the muzzle.I did not think that he would need me to prop him up.He did great with the .22 and was much more stable with the 30-06.

    By Marleyy on Dec 6, 2012

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