Tracking improvement

Quantifiable improvement is my favorite kind of improvement. I like to be able to see what that improvement is and track why it has occurred. Part of my past frustration has been an inability to track concrete progress in my shooting, until this week.

Most of the recommendations I have received in the past have involved starting a notebook and doing everything with a timer then tracking my times. I have two problems with this, the first of which is that I lose notebooks. The second is that my training is so accuracy focused and my ability level so novice that I’m not yet at the point where I spend a lot of time with a shot timer practicing live fire.

I had a really good day at the range on Wednesday. I was able to land some nice 20 yard shots, hit over 40 on both my Dot Torture drills and run my fastest FAST drill (haha) yet. This really pushed me to find a way to track my progress, so with the help of Caleb and another shooting buddy of mine I was able to put together three spreadsheets:

The first tracks my shooting in general. Date, gun, ammo, number of shots, number of malfunctions, and the drill run. This way I can see which guns work best with what ammo, when I was running what drill and how many shots total I’ve put through each firearm.

My second spreadsheet is a very simple sheet designed to monitor my times with the FAST drill. It has the date, the gun, the ammo (things I consider it important to track at all times given that I will shoot differently with different firearms and ammunition types) and my time on the FAST drill.

The final spreadsheet came from a friend and is specifically designed for Dot Torture. I edited it a little to add the gun and ammo, but it includes the date and tracks my hits on each dot as well as my overall score. This allows me to track which dots I am occasionally throwing shots on and which ones consistently require improvement.

It’s important to track your progress, however you choose to do it. It not only shows you what you need to work on but also can act as a confidence booster. It’s great to see proof that you’re getting better rather than just assuming all this practice ought to be doing something.


  1. Morning Shelly,

    Forgive me for asking a noob question but how are you tracking your time? With both hands on your gun ( most of the time ) do you have a 3rd hand with a stop watch and pen/paper? :p


    1. Generally people use a shot timer, such as this

      (I tried to find a cheaperthandirt link to a shot timer and failed).

      You can also get an iphone app that works similarly.

      These devices have a microphone that detects the sounds of your gunshots and measures the time between them. You can also set them to beep at a start time and a “par” time for your drills, so you can see how long it is taking you to finish.

      They’re standard equipment at most time-based shooting events, but I don’t know why anyone outside those shooting sports would have ever heard of them.

    2. Serious shooters use an electronic shot timer. It gives a starting “beep”, and then “hears” the shots and records the time(s).

    3. It looks like everyone else has this fairly well covered. I use either a shot timer (we have one te floats around HQ I pilfer at times) or, lacking that, the Surefire app for my iPhone. I prefer the actual timer since it is more accurate than the Surefire app.

  2. For the FAST tracking, I’d suggest tracking each of the discrete times (draw, split on 3×5, reload, and three splits on 8″) plus your hits and then letting the spreadsheet do the math. This lets you track a lot of individual data points and can help focus your training on the skills that need improvement most.

    1. Thanks Todd. I would really like to do that and have been able to to some extent, my problem is that about 50% of the time I’m shooting there’s someone in the booth next to me and there’s no viable way for the timer to only pick up my hits or for me to discern my fired shots from those around me.

      1. SR: “no viable way for the timer to only pick up my hits”

        In the training world, the technical term for that is “totally sucks.” If you can get your hands on a CE Pocket Pro II, I’ve found it to be the most capable indoors. I shoot at a busy rifle-friendly indoor range 90% of the time and with the right settings the PP2 has worked out very well.

  3. It’s not perfect, but have you ever heard of RangeLog? I use it to record all the stuff you’re talking about. You can save the drills you do regularly and log your times and hits and misses, etc. It can be a little bit glitchy sometimes, but overall I’ve found it to be very convenient. You can even export your data in different forms, and see cool stuff like a pie chart of how much you’ve used each of your guns.

    1. I have heard of rangelog and think it’s a great idea. Personally, I struggle with the interface especially since I update everything directly from the range using my iPhone. I find it easier to use Google Docs but if rangelog has worked for you, that’s great!

      1. Yeah, they could definitely streamline the interface to make entries quicker. I think they’ve got an iPhone/Android app for it but I haven’t used it yet. My range is outdoors, so I’ve just been hurriedly jotting some notes onto a piece of paper out in the cold and log it when I get home. When the weather warms up, I’ll be checking out that app, though.

  4. Wow lots of information! Thanks for the replies. As I am NOT a competitive shooter, but would enjoy it, I really have no idea about a lot of things that are tied into it.

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