The weekend of April 13th-14th, I drove down to lovely Eastern Nebraska to attend Automatic Accuracy’s USPSA class, hosted by the Eastern Nebraska Practical shooters. The class instructors were Matt Mink and Ben Stoeger, both USPSA Grandmasters with a considerable amount of experience under their collective belts.
The class was focused on developing skills that are directly applicable to competition shooting. The class structure was broken down over two days, with day 1 focusing on drills and evaluation, and day 2 consisting of a “mini-match” and review that would test those skills and identify errors. For me, this class was an attempt to shake the winter rust off because Single Stack Nationals in May as well break through the plateau I’ve been sitting on since late 2011.
Day 1 was a mixed bag for me personally, because while I was able to solve the issue I’d been having with target transitions and getting on the trigger quickly, I also discovered that my reload was, shall we say “totally hosed.” After spending some time working on it, Ben was able to diagnose that the issue was me taking my eyes off the reload once the mag was 95% seated in the gun. This would result in about 25% of my reloads getting botched as I’d lose the visual of the gun before fully seating the mag. This created a feedback loop where I started obsessing about my reloads, causing me to tense up and botch more reloads. Reviewing the footage from the mini-match on the second day, I nailed every single reload that I wasn’t thinking about, and botched every reload that I did think “it’s time to reload now.” The fix for the reload issue is lots and lots of off the clock dry fire to train myself to keep my eyes on seating the mag until the job is done, and then only worry about finding the target again when the mag is fully seated.
Day 2 of the class consisted of a mini-match, which was a little bit hampered by the massive windstorm that spent most of the day snapping targets off their stands and ripping down prop walls. Ben and Matt provided feedback to the shooters during the mini-match, as well as asking questions about why we chose to shoot a stage a certain way. After the mini-match, we broke down into two groups, working on movement drills with Ben and stage breakdown and planning with Matt.
From a competition shooting point of view, the stage breakdown with Matt was the most valuable part of the class for me. My stage plans can frequently be categorized as “all or nothing” and often include huge, unnecessary gambles. Matt walked through several ways to break down stages into their components, especially the difficult memory stages that always give me fits. I actually really want to go shoot a match now and try it out.
I could really sum of the value of the class for me in 3 bullet points:
- I need to fix my reload
- I’m not bad at the part of competition where I’m actually shooting my gun
- I need to “run it ’till the wheels come off” in training, because I’m overly cautious
Now, here’s where the AAR gets interesting. I wouldn’t recommend the class for everyone. I would absolutely recommend it if you’re somewhere in that A-C skill level trying to crack through to the next classification; but I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner and I wouldn’t recommend it for a GM trying to crack the top 16. For me, it was an excellent class and like the classes I’ve taken in the past has pointed out several key areas that I can work on to get off this tabletop.