The ever-inflating round count

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

I’m really excited for the class, I hear the round count is going to be 3,000 rounds, and the instructor said it’s all “high-intensity shooting.”

In our ever crowded training and competition community, one of the ways that instructors and match officials are demonstrating value to potential students and attendees is with high round counts. It makes sense if you look at it from a weekend warrior point of view. Whether you’re a competition shooter or a training junky, if you’re going to fly/drive a long distance, pop for a hotel and food while you’re there, you probably want to shoot more than a couple hundred rounds. I knew that when I was first starting out, I was obsesses with round count as an indicator of quality.

cougar magnum (300x225)

If you showed up at a lot of classes these days with a revolver, people would look at you like you’re some kind of masochist, and in many ways you would be. But as round counts continue to balloon in training classes and matches, we should stop and ask ourselves a serious question – what am I getting for all these bullets?

Let’s look at training classes first, and then matches. In a training class, there is an expectation that you’ll shoot more bullets than you would in a solo practice session. I’ve taken classes that had round counts as low as 200, and as high as 2,000. In that time, I discovered that there is absolutely zero correlation between the number of rounds I fire and how much I learn. I’ve had major breakthroughs in 1,000 round classes, and I’ve had major shooting revelations in 250 round training sessions. A much better indicator of how much I will or won’t learn is the student/instructor ratio. If I’m in a class of 25 dudes and there’s one instructor, it doesn’t matter how many rounds I shoot, I won’t learn as much as if I’m in a class of 5 people with one instructor. Face time with the trainer is a lot more important than hosing bullets into the berm. Unfortunately, hosing bullets into the berm is what many “high intensity” training classes consist of. If I ever wanted to make a bunch of money, I’d grow a beard (check) and start Foxtrot Action Group Training and hold 2-day, 3,000 round classes that consist largely of yelling “CONTACT” and doing Bill Drills into targets from 3-5 yards because it’s “realistic.” Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many or how few rounds you shoot during a training class. If the instructor(s) are good and on their game, you’ll learn something. Quality of instruction is a lot more important than round count.

But what about major matches? This is actually a more complicated question, because again, shooters who travel to a major match want to feel like they did something over the weekend. I once flew 5 hours one way to a major, and shot less than 150 rounds. I’ve shot major matches where the round count was 350+ rounds. My opinion is that round count is a lot less important than good stage design. Now, this is where things get subjective, because different people like different sorts of stages. I like tough, technical stages that create shooting challenges that force me to push my marksmanship skills. I don’t particularly like hoser stages, and I don’t like memory stages either. But stages with 25 yard partials? Yes please. I realize that a lot of that is personal taste, and there are plenty of people who like hoser stages. Heck, I even enjoy the occasional hoser stages, sometimes it’s nice to just blast away and not really aim the gun. Although I don’t know anyone who particularly enjoys memory stages, but I would imagine there’s someone who does.

However, matches are different from training classes. Because each division competes only against the other guns in the division, there’s no equipment advantage. It’s not like going to a 3,000 round training class with an M&P Shield and having to constantly reload while the guys carrying Glock 17s with weapon lights and 33 round mags are blazing away. At a match, every other shooter in your division is similarly disadvantaged. That makes stage design incredibly important. It’s entirely possible to have a great, high round count match, if the stage design is good. Similarly, it’s possible to have a great, limited round count match…if the stage design is good.

A discussion what makes good stage design is beyond the scope of this post; and in fact will be something I address later in the week. However, as I come to the final conclusion, I want to re-focus on the point. Round count shouldn’t be used as an indicator of quality. Having a high round count simply for the sake of having a high round count doesn’t make a match or a class good. The opposite is also true: a high round count doesn’t mean a match or a class is bad. In classes, the quality of the instructor and the curriculum will determine the class value. At a match, it’s all about stage design. Good stage design will make or break a match.

20 thoughts on “The ever-inflating round count”

  1. Glad to see you talk about this. I started thinking about this last year when I noticed round count going up and thinking about how much the ammo would cost. Some two day courses were shooting so much, it cost more for ammo than the class. Now, I look for small classes with reasonable round estimates. And it made me think about training goals. Nothing like an ammo shortage to make you focus your training.

  2. I’d pay more attention to class size and instructor:student ratio than round count.

    Because ultimately, without the personal instruction, all that crazy high round count does is cement potentially bad habits and worsen fatigue.

  3. Don’t forget to have them yell “OUT!!” and “IN!!” every time they start and finish a reload.

  4. It would seem to me tha this would also apply to personal practice as well. There’s a lot of folks on the net bragging up how many rounds they shoot a year that probably still couldn’t shoot a B-class classifier to save their lives. The cause of this seems to me that they do not know how to efficiently use their ammo in practice. I know after I got some good advice on how to practice, I started seeing some real gains in my drills.

  5. “Foxtrot Action Group Training” (i.e. FAG Training). Anti-gunners LOVE to use stuff like this to bash us gun owners. Good job on giving them material. You should know better.

    1. Dude, the title of the website is “Gun Nuts”, which started life as a slur used by anti-gunners against. Take a chill pill, bro.

      1. Bro, if I were hosting a popular gun blog, was a sponsored shooter, representing GunUp, etc – I certainly wouldn’t be posting anything that could be considered homophobic, racist, etc. But hey, that’s just me. Maybe I’m just more responsible than you.

        For those of us working for “the man”, a clever comment like that would get us fired from our job. And the slur “gun nut” is not even close to being as offensive as “fag”. You wouldn’t dare call someone a fag to their face and not expect to get into a confrontation.

        1. You seem to almost enjoy or worse, embrace the “restrictions”.

          Stick a frikin pin a balloon once in awhile!

          It’s one thing to get a reprimand (for at least business sake) to refrain from certain, un profitable language, I get it.

          But to be fired outright for non socially-engineered/approved expression is crass. Find a new job or find a new life or both.

          Folks, we gotta get over this sht.

    2. I agree. Caleb, in one phrase, has probably just destroyed 200+ years of the Second Amendment. It also made my dog throw up and I think one of the tires on my car is a little low on air. All Caleb’s fault. I’m going to buy a lottery ticket and if I don’t win this week, Caleb, it’s because of your little Foxtrot joke, you evil bastard!

  6. Caleb — Agree 100% with your premiss regarding classes. One interesting thing I’ve noted as ammo supplies have become scarce is that *serious* students are looking for more efficient (read: lower round count) classes while gun fantasy camp types continue to think that 1,500 is better than 1,200 rounds in a weekend but 2,000 is better than both!

  7. There are those that attend training simply to have fun running drills they can’t run shooting slow fire chained down in a stall at the local indoor range, and there are those that attend training with more sophisticated goals. It’s the difference between those that want the thrill of speed by riding a roller coaster or doing a tandem skydive, and those who want to drive the car/boat/motorcycle or jump solo. Some never progress past the “tourist” phase, some start down the serious path from day one, but many start as tourists and migrate to the serious path after the novelty of the amusement park wears off and they want a bigger challenge.

    1. Caleb,
      I was not going to mention your beard but since you brought it up – it looks good and you don’t look 15 anymore! Boom! Sorry man, I could not resist. If anyone wants to be educated on acronyms – Foxtrot Action Group Training would be FAGT not FAG training, so either Caleb doesn’t know how to tell a joke or others need acronym training. I could see a benefit of high round count classes- shortening reload time, and doing a ton of presentations. Quality over quantity. Good post. KT

  8. I planned on shooting 500 rounds a week this summer for training (not because I needed to shoot that many, but just for budgeting purposes). That went right out the window. Dry fire, Dry fire, Dry fire. I have the ammo, I’m just not spending it until I know I can buy more without feeding the kids Ramen for a month.

    P.S. I’ve got a bunch of crab grass growing in my lawn, I’m sure it’s Caleb’s new training company’s fault.

  9. Nice post. There is so much that this applies to.

    A local series of 2, one-day classes by my house by a trainer I know are pretty darned cheap, but the round count it just under 1,000. While I have not taken the classes, my assessment is that the return for the ammo investment is not worth it.

    My very first USPSA match included a stage with the local round count exception that was something like 14-18 targets, 3-rounds each. Some as close as 24″. Seriously? Then, the following Outlaw 3-gun side match had the same for the AR and pistol portion. What did I learn from a 3rd round in each target? Nothing! Somewhat turned me away from USPSA.

    For me, the other thing that hurts is “no reloads”. I found a class by a nationally known, well-respected trainer with a reasonable round count, reasonable price, with little travel, but no reloads. In our current state of affairs it isn’t worth it to me to pay the difference between factory and reloads for the class. Maybe once things settle down further. I get the reason, it happened in a local class last weekend, but just as ToddG handles students who can’t pass his first proficiency class, I think the same should apply there.

    happy shooting, dv

  10. Round count is (in my humble open-minded and culturally sensitive opinion) secondary to course design and the instructor’s ability to present information to the students. I also prefer to work with smaller groups, because it allows me to spend more time working with each student. Course design is critical. If the training plan is weak, the results will be less than satisfactory more often than not.

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