Years ago somebody gave me the advice that I shoot plenty fast enough, I just needed to focus on my sights more in order to get my hits. Whenever I was shooting I always felt like I was not shooting fast enough. For some reason in the back of my head, if I wasn’t slightly out of control I wasn’t shooting fast. The feeling that I had inside was a rushed and panic feeling. Typically, I would have my sights lined up on the first shot and then as a string of fire progressed I would have more of a target focus than a sight focus. I was just trying to pull the trigger as fast as I thought I should be instead of actually looking at the sight(s). For some reason, my subconscious kept telling me I had to transition my eyes before I saw the sight of the gun on the target. The truth is, I’ve battled the same sensation every time I get up to the shooting box. For some reason, it’s taking a very long time to burn this into my subconscious to keep a focus on the sight as I transition the gun from target to target. Albeit, my pursuit to be better fuels this behavior.
At the 2019 world speed shooting championships in Talladega Alabama I arrived at what is arguably the fastest stage in all steel challenge; Smoke and Hope. As I have written about before, I wanted to make sure I got a 85 to 90% of my shooting capability run first. I saw the sight on every single target and it was a 1.68 second run. Being able to see the sight on every single target as I squeezed the trigger gave me a lot of confidence. Second string I knew that I could pull the trigger just a little bit faster and push my same picture just a little bit faster. The next couple runs were in the low 1.5s and 1.4s. And then on the last one I decided to shoot at 100% of what my capability is and I landed at 1.42 and I saw the sight on every single target. This lead to a new World Record and the fastest time of the 635 entries on this stage.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of self-analysis and testing when it comes to shooting. It is very seldom when I take my eye off of the sight when I’m pulling the trigger that it is any faster than seeing the sight on every single target. 99.9% of the time, seeing the sight on the target as I pull the trigger is faster. During a recent practice session on roundabout it was .15 seconds on average faster per string to actually see the sight. A lot of people say slow is smooth. I completely disagree, slow is just slow. What you’re focusing on when you’re shooting is what is important.
The Foster Effect is the reckless and undisciplined shooting without a proper sight focus I struggle with every single day at the range. Over the course of time, while shooting as well as training others, I have found that I’m not in unfamiliar territory. It may seem as though this concept is a matter of the chicken or the egg; it is not. It is a matter of cause and effect. My lack of sight focus when I need to have it is the cause, the effect is the sense of panic manifested by my desire to unrealistically surpass my current shooting capability. We all need to take solace in the fact if you do have a proper same picture you’ll end up shooting faster. Admittedly, there is the rare occasion you hit a ‘one for one’ string ‘point shooting’ a stage. Unfortunately, there’s no pill to take to fix this. As in changing any other behavior, while at the range we need to consciously work on our sight focus and burn this into our subconscious. This way, the next time we’re at a major match and the pressure is on, we rely back on the perfect sight focus we have engrained in our subconscious through thousands of rounds of practice.
When you are practicing in the off-season, don’t just burn rounds down range without a goal. Have a plan when you practice and write down you want to get out of the session. My goal is always to shoot a personal best on a stage so when I am at my next match I can replicate the results. If you shoot a blazing run in practice, this is merely a hint of your capability, but should not be expected at your next match because you have not yet put in the time and effort to make it repeatable.
Happy Holidays and see you out on the range soon!
2 thoughts on “It’s a struggle every day at the range…The Foster Effect”
Excellent information that speaks to my issues of not being able to see the sight because Im not looking at it. Great job Steve!
Hi Steve, you are spot on with this article. It is exactly what I am struggling with and frankly may be part of the reason I haven’t broken through to the next level yet.
At this very moment I am sitting in a hotel room in Volusia county Florida. Today I shot the Ultimate Steel Challenge match. Our mutual friend Jeff J. was on my squad. I would shoot a 90% of capability string and be ready to ramp it up. Sometimes Id connect and sometimes Id have make up shots. Jeff started preaching “be boring”. meaning to stay at what he perceived to be my 5 for 5 match speed. At first I heard what he was saying but I told myself I didn’t enter the match to come in second and kept doing it my way. You know Jeff. Lets just say he was persistent. He kept saying “Terry, Be boring” “Terry, Be boring” I was having a good match for my skill level but after a couple of strings with make up shots on Roundabout and with Jeff determined to help me I decided to give his way a try. Go 5 for 5 at 90% and be boring.
What he saw and I eventually realized was that I was trying to shoot beyond the skills I have at this moment in time. I am in training mode when I should be in match mode during a… duh… MATCH. This is the way Ive been approaching most of the matches Ive competed in.
To tie this story back into your article the cause is my trying to shoot the 100% times I can shoot 50% of the time. The effect is adding make up shots and time to my match scores. By trying to shoot too fast Id loose my dot and start pulling the trigger when I expected or more accurately hoped Id be on target. The result was either Id get lucky and connect or more often than not would end up with a string time higher, sometimes much higher, than I am capable of obtaining at 90%.
Ive been struggling with this forever so I decided to give Jeff’s “be boring“ philosophy a try. I started going 5 for 5 and then my desire to go faster would kick in and sure enough Id add a makeup shot or three. Back off the throttle just a little and went right back to 5 for 5 again. To my surprise my times were better and more consistent.
I still push myself. We all do. But Jeff’s point and maybe yours as well is that 5 for 5 by setting the correct natch pace and gluing my eye to my dot may just be exactly the advice Ive needed.
Very timely article, even if you did write it 2 months ago!
Two Gun Terry