Not really, but I wanted an excuse to use a Flogging Molly song as a post title. I shot an IDPA classifier yesterday, and going in to the classifier match I was feeling pretty good. I had posted consecutive runs on the classifier in practice that were under 90 seconds aggregate time, so to be honest I figured that I had SSP Master in the bag.
Holy cow was I wrong. I seriously had one of the worst days on the range that I’ve since I figured out what the bumpy thing on the end of the slide is for. If I look back on bad performances, this ranks right up there with with a match against the Naval Academy in 2001 where I had a U2 song stuck in my head and couldn’t do anything but shoot 8’s on a Free Pistol match. Back to the IDPA classifier – there are days when you’re in the zone, days where you can find the zone, and days like yesterday where I swear my front sight had a cloaking device on it. Some people call it “chasing the zone”, it’s where you’re pushing yourself to find your groove and your performance envelope, but the harder you push the less natural everything is. That’s where I was at yesterday.
So the question is, as frustrating as those days are, how do we as shooters and athletes deal with sub-par performances like that? The obvious answer is “practice”, but practice what? This of course is where honesty in self-diagnosis comes in to play. It would be easy for me to say that I screwed up on the first two stages and go practice something easy to make myself feel better – but the real truth is that while those stages weren’t as good as I can shoot, I didn’t really shoot myself in the foot until stage 3. The 20 yard stage was a complete disaster, I was 32 points down at 20 yards, and while my raw times were plenty fast, I quite simply couldn’t find and center the front sight. My times on Stage 1 and 2 would have been good enough to get me SSP Master if I had shot the 3rd stage to the best of my ability. Guess what? I didn’t.
That’s why personal honesty is important. I don’t like shooting at 20 yards. It’s not as fun as 10 and 7, I don’t get to go as fast, the shots are more technical, and it’s basically a combo of things I don’t enjoy (except for reloads with retention, which I’ve gotten REALLY good at). And so the problem is that I could based on my performance justify practicing stage 1 and 2 a lot because they’re easier and more fun. But that wouldn’t be honest. It’s important to practice the things we’re bad at, and for me what really hurt was stage 3. So that will be the focus of my practice until the next classifier I shoot.
Here are some tips on practicing for stage 3 of the IDPA classifier.
- Shoot the entire classifier from 20 yards. Try it! You’ll have an awful score, but if you can make a head box shot on command at 20 yards, you’re in good shape.
- 10 shot a-zone drill. At 20 yards, on the clock draw and fire a single round in to the -0 zone of the IDPA target. Holster, then draw and fire 2 rounds in to the -0 zone. Holster, then draw and fire 3, then finally holster and draw and fire 4 rounds at the -0 zone. The goal of this drill is to get all your hits in the -0. If you miss on any of the strings and throw a shot, go back to the beginning of the drill. If you can get -0 on all 10 shots without worrying about the time, try to set time limits for yourself.
Just those two drills will help with the 20 yard stage of the classifier and in fact will help your performance over all. At the ’09 Bianchi Cup, one of the veteran shooters there told me that “if you can hit X’s at 50 yards, you can hit anything” – that’s a true statement. Practicing at long ranges makes you faster and more accurate on closer in shots. Which is why I’ll be cursing Stage 3 for a couple of weeks to come.