Training for Match Mode – Part 1

Before we delve into this subject I want to make it clear that what I am about to say is specific to competition and is something I been experimenting with and developing; and, it is based on Steve Anderson’s Match Mode, Speed Mode and Accuracy Mode concept. I offer this as food for thought and something you might want to experiment with.

Live fire training is a necessity for competitors. While dry fire practice is a great way to increase certain skills, you still need to feel the recoil of the gun. You need to hear the noise and you need to see the smoke. You can’t learn to mitigate the urge to blink and flinch in dry fire. You can’t learn how to watch the sights lift and settle in dry fire. Live fire training is a necessity for all competitors that care about improvement.

I put out an article recently discussing the concept of comparing your skill development to yourself through trending. I followed that up with two articles with a variety of drills to help you to increase your shooting ability. But what about trending ourselves on larger drills or mini-stages? We could perform a baseline run with the timer and then repeat the drill over and over. As long as you repeat the drill setup exactly every time and change nothing, then it is feasible. But let’s be realistic; the time trending on small drills works because the setup is repeatable. Once you get to drills larger than the El Presidente’ your trending is at the mercy of your accuracy with a tape measure, the sun, shadows cast on the target, ground elevation and even the ambient temperature.

But there is another issue at play. When we are practicing for time there is a tendency to go all out. This is actually a good thing and is what Steve Anderson calls Speed Mode. This is important because it allows the shooter to know what if feels like to “go fast”. But it has a humongous drawback – the tendency to train yourself to always go all out. In a match you should be shooting at the level you feel most comfortable and most consistent, you should level, not rushing and trying.   On bigger drills what is needed is a way to trend our improvement while also ensuring we are not rushing or “trying” to do more than our skill allows.

If trending time alone is less than practical on larger drills what are we to do? We score the drill, the same way we do in a match. We still use a timer but the only thing that is important is the start beep and the final number.   But let’s delve deeper and look at why this is important.

As noted above, Match Mode is a term that also comes from USPSA GM Steve Anderson and it makes total sense. If we want consistency in our match performance we need a method to train that consistency. When we score a drill and compute Hit Factor we are balancing speed and accuracy – exactly like in a match. We can take the hit factor data and see how we would have performed in a match.

Remember, in a match we should only shoot when the sights “tell” us the shot will be scored well. When we try to go faster we get poor shots, missing and a gaggle of no-shoots with holes in them. Trying to exceed our current level in a match is foolish.

Example: imagine we have two USPSA Metric targets in close proximity to each other that are 10 yards away from the shooter. Then we have a shooters box 10 yards to the right with two Metric targets 7 yards from the box. The shooter must engage the first targets then move to the shooter box and engage the second set of targets. It is fair to say that the first run people make will be the slowest, but using the method of tracking that is a good thing. After the run, score the targets and compute the hit factor.

If you are unfamiliar with Hit Factor you will find a really good article by Travis Tomasie here.

Hit Factor = Points Per Second

What does that mean?

Simply put, Hit Factor = Points / Time


Now run the same drill 6-8 times. If you are like most people you will have one run that stands out from the rest – the YouTube run. For our purposes this run, your fastest run, is the stage winner. Now use the remaining hit factors (minus the fastest time) to calculate your average score. Comparing your average score to that one your fastest run you can see how far off your average is to absolute best.

Using this method we can trend the development of our match mode without having to mimic the same drill each time. Neither the raw time, nor the drill is important. The difference between the best run and your average is the key data point. With time you should see your average is closer to your peak run. The closer the average is to the best run the closer you are to performing at your peak level consistently.

I will stop here – for now. In Part 2 we will explore a couple of other benefits of this method and a way I have been able to equalize and bring our best and worst runs closer together.

Consistency – It Matters!


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