I Want the Truth!

Yes… I can handle the truth… and so can you. What I’m talking about is honesty and integrity in your practice. Over the years, folks have described a couple habits they have in practice that have the potential to build bad shooting techniques. You should be aware of these things, and avoid them (or understand their proper use, and use them judiciously).

These things are – practicing solely on steel targets, and not taping A-zone hits.

I’m all about efficient practice. I hate being on the range all day just to get off a very few rounds. I like to get in, hammer out a solid practice, and get back out in the minimal time required to do the things I need to get done. However, being… shall we say… “overly efficient” has it draw backs, and being “overly efficient” in the name of being cheap and/or lazy, well… let’s say you’re just asking for it, there…

The thing is, the quickest and most efficient way to improve is to be brutally honest with yourself about your performance, be it in practice or in a match. A necessary ingredient for this regimen is the ability to accurately score each drill you shoot. Not guess at the score, not score from memory based on your shot calling. See the hits on the target when you’re not in the middle of the drill. Anything less than that, and you stand a large chance of just fooling yourself.

One of the ways folks attempt to be more efficient in their practice is to drag out a number of steel plates (or non-falling poppers), and set up their practice arrays solely (or mostly) using these steel targets. There’s nothing to reset, that way. What could be more efficient? For some folks, this is the entirety of their practice regime. The problem? Shooting at all steel targets has a way of making you extremely lazy about calling your shots on those targets. After all, you can score your hits by ear, right? You’re not walking down and painting those plates after every run, are you? After a short period of time, it’s impossible to tell where the bullet is striking the plate, so even if you are accurately calling every shot, you have no feedback on the target to confirm it for you. So, you start listening… and then you stop calling shots… and then you get wicked sloppy when you shoot steel in a match… Not to mention that you have no current practice on paper targets with their scoring zones, etc.

Speaking of paper targets, the second way folks have described trying to be more efficient (though, when I ask them a little closer about it, it turns out their just cheap and lazy) is to not paste their hits in the A-zone of paper targets. Of course, they never miss the target, right? Ever? How many of you call your shots perfectly, especially when you’re pushing on speed, trying to increase the rate at which you see, etc? Unless you tape your holes across the whole target, you leave yourself a large grey area where misses suddenly become A-zone hits – a worst case assumption. I can’t think of anything that could lead to worse dishonesty in practice (other than blatantly lying yourself about results). You really need to know for certain when you’re not putting hits on the target, without question or compromise.

There’s another feature that paper targets have that you’re denying yourself, here, as well. When you call your shots on a target and then observe where your hits landed on those targets, you’re providing feedback on your shot calling skills back to your brain. That data gets used to improve your shot calling, as well as to build your confidence that what you’re seeing behind the gun truly is what’s appearing on target. Being lazy or cheap in this regard simply diminishes your speed of improvement.

Hold it, what was that? Being “overly efficient” leads to less efficient practice time? Yeah, you heard it right… You’re practicing to get better, right? Why do things that prevent that from happening?

So, how to address those things? First off, don’t practice solely on steel. It’s fine to work some all steel stuff, but don’t make that your complete regimen. Mix in paper targets. If you’re practicing Steel Challenge (where the targets are all steel to begin with), or if you’ve already dug this hole for yourself, and need to shake of the “hosing at steel” monkey, go down to the grocery store and buy some cheap, white paper plates. The typical ones are 9 inches in diameter. Perfect size for steel practice. Tack those up instead of steel targets. When they’ve taken some hits, either paste them with white pasters or tape, or just tack up another plate. You can also make other sizes or shapes of targets out of cardboard and white paint, or what have you. The image at the top of the page is 8 paper plates ranging between 15 and 25 yards. That was a rough little practice array!

Secondly, paste all your hits, all the time, and paste them frequently. Give yourself the chance to get that valuable feedback of exactly where your hits appeared on the face of the target. Pasters run roughly $3.50 per thousand, and are extremely quick to use. Considering this costs less than 2% of the cost of my ammo, I just factor it into my practice budget and have done with it. If that pittance is too much, buy masking tape. You can spray paint the tape white or black for no shoots and hardcover, or just tape those things brown, too. Masking tape is exceedingly cheap – the 1 inch wide tape is the standard. It’s not as quick to repair targets as pasters are, but you wanted cheap, right? If you really want to get crazy, you can buy pasters and a paster gun – then you’ll be pasting at a high degree of speed!

Get out there and be disgustingly honest about those hits! Stop being cheap and lazy. Use paper targets, buy some pasters, and start using ‘em. Your shooting will thank you for it. Honestly.

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/05/i-want-the-truth/


  1. Tim says:

    Great post. BTW I noticed on the ARC calendar they have a USPS Practice marked with your name. Are you filming or just running a practice session?

    1. DaveRe says:

      Tim, it’s a private practice session.

  2. Roy says:

    The paster gun rocks for lazy practicers like me. Now I paste all the time in practice. Comes in handy when the snow is blowing around the port-o-can at big matches too since you can use it with gloves on ;)

    Dave makes a great point about calling your shots. If you don’t call a shot and just say “I think it was there” (because you hadn’t pasted or you were shooting steel or whatever), you’re lying to yourself. Don’t do that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>