Better shooting through observation

One of the advantages of having received professional training is that it gives you a critical eye to evaluate your own performance and find areas of improvement.  Here are two videos of a recent IDPA match, which conincidentally was the first major match I’d shot since my classifier meltdown in August.  However, thanks to access to a pair of great indoor ranges I have had the opportunity to practice my actual shooting; however other key areas of IDPA performance such as movement have gone somewhat neglected.

The first video is filmed using an iPhone 3Gs and edited in Quicktime. That’s the raw footage – no cleanups, no enhancements, and no edits to make myself look good.

The first video you can clearly see areas where I had faulty footwork; a cover call, reposition to make shots, etc are all mistakes that come from not shooting and practicing getting in and out of shooting positions quickly.  While a static range affords the opportunity to practice reloads, splits, draws, and other fundamentals, at a certain point in IDPA and USPSA competition what you’re doing with the rest of your body becomes just as important as what you’re doing with the gun. Without training, it’s impossible to self-diagnose errors in body mechanics and strategy, because you simply don’t know to look for. The second video is shot “chase camera” style – the safety officer was running a hat camera, which really gives an interesting perspective on the shooter. You can’t see footwork as well, but you can really see reloads and transitions very well.

One of the neat aspects of the 2nd video is you can really see how flat the Ruger SR9c shoots. I talk about it all the time at matches, but I’ve been extremely impressed with how easy this gun is to shoot. I’ve put over 5k rounds through the one I’m using in competition, with the only malfunctions being induced by poor ammunition. On the stages where you can see glare coming off the gun, the standard 3-dot sights were a little difficult to pick up; however for competition a switch to a fiber optic front sight would solve that problem quite handily.

Video is a tremendously useful tool to improve as a shooter. Here are my takeaways from my last match performance, presented in spaghetti western format.

The Good

  • Press outs and follow-up shots.  With the exception of one stage, I was very happy with my presentations and extremely happy with my splits.  I’ve been shooting a lot of Bill Drills in practice and that has clearly helped me run the trigger on the SR9c.  The fact that the SR9c shoots very flat doesn’t hurt, either.
  • Reloads – there weren’t very many on the clock reloads in this match, however the two that I recall off the top of my head were generally good.  My reload with retention on stage 3 was a little sloppy, but because I did it mostly while movement it didn’t hurt my time appreciably.

The Bad

  • Strong hand only shooting – I was slow when shooting strong hand only, and had a miss on the standards stage.  That was very frustrating, and shows I need to spend some more time shooting with just my strong hand on the gun.
  • Decision making: I took a couple of extra shots in places where I “knew” I had good hits on target, but went ahead and put an extra round down that did nothing to improve my scores and just cost me time.  That’s a “lack of reps” issue.

The Ugly

  • Movement – As I’ve mentioned, my footwork getting in to shooting positions was extremely sloppy.  I overran cover a couple of times, couldn’t get down in a crouch fast enough, and was generally not moving well.  The problem with movement is that I’m fast and athletic enough that I can get away with sloppy moves by going a bit faster; but I cannot keep substituting raw speed for technique.

Footwork is tremendously important.  In this instructional video, watch how much emphasis USPSA GM and current IDPA CDP Champion Bob Vogel places on footwork – the shooting in this stage is almost secondary to the movement, as that’s where you stand to gain and lose those critical fractions of a second that are the difference between 1st place and 4th place.  Costly errors like cover calls and re-adjusting my feet would easily make up a large chunk of the 7ish seconds in between me and the match winner.

If you’re in to competitive shooting, I strongly encourage you to have a friend videotape you.  The ability to see your shooting in 3rd person is a tremendous asset, as it’s the most effective way outside of professional training to diagnose and correct mistakes that you may be making with your shooting form.


  1. Great video of Vogel. As a side note, notice that he dumps a round to go to slide lock. I HATE the round dumping rule. The way that Bob shoots the stage it is very tough to call round dumping on him but it is blatantly obvious that he is dumping a round to go to slide lock. IDPA should drop this rule. To be clear, I agree with how Mr. Vogel shot this.

  2. Interesting info. Could you explain what you mean with that the SR9c “shoots flat”? Are you talking about the bullet trajectory or something else? I must have been sick the day they talked about it in gun school 😉

    1. Sure, when I say a gun “shoots flat” what I mean is that it doesn’t have a significant amount of muzzle climb in between shots. The muzzle, and thus the front sight, stay “flat” and don’t bounce around as much. Of course, any gun has recoil and the SR9c is no exception, but the amount of “flip” to the muzzle is very little when compared with other small handguns. This is partly due to the superior ergonomics of the pistol and partly the dual captive recoil spring.

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