First Shot Importance, Last Shot Follow Through and Danger Targets

First Shot Importance, Last Shot Follow Through and Danger Targets

Posted by Dwight Stearns on 16th Feb 2018

Ok folks, as you can see from the title, we are going to cover quite a bit today.


A few years ago I wrote up my secrets of steel shooting tips. In those tips, I wrote that if you never miss a target, you are shooting too slowly. What I meant by this is a shooter needs to push the speed and as long as they don't go overboard, their time will be faster than slowing down to the point they don't miss. The shooter can "absorb" a miss now and then. Later in my "secrets" it appears I contradicted myself by writing that a steel shooter should, if possible, always hit their first target. So why the contradiction?

Always hitting the first target is important because that first shot sets up the following shots. Many times if one misses the first shot they will also miss the second target. That second shot is missed for two reasons. First, the subconscious knows the amount the body has to index to get to the next target. If you are off on the first target that index must change which must be done consciously. The conscious mind is much slower to respond than the subconscious. The second reason is when one misses the first target, the mind is now distracted knowing they will have to make that shot up. Now all misses create that distraction but many times the first target is the farthest away from the stop plate. This means the shooter is further distracted trying to decide when they will make that follow-up shot. Do they do it immediately, after the second target or do they shoot it immediately before the stop plate. These are conscious thoughts that slow the shooter.


I like to describe the plate one shoots immediately before the stop plate as a danger target. The closer that target is to the stop plate determines the level of danger. The reason I call them a danger target is, (especially when that plate is right next to the stop plate), if that target is missed, the shooter many times is already firing at the stop plate when they realize the previous shot was a miss. This earns them the 2 or 3 second penalty. To successfully navigate the danger target, shooters must consciously call that shot. I like to tell shooters to see that shot. For some the answer is to slightly hesitate on that danger target shot, maybe an extra tenth of a second or so, call that shot and then attack the stop plate. For others the solution is to do as I stated above, consciously see that shot, call it good, then again attack that stop plate.


We have all been guilty of this scenario. Shoot a great run and come to the stop plate, fire that shot and lower the gun only to realize that shot was a miss. Now we have to re-present the gun and fire another shot to end the run. So much for the great run. That follow-up shot will probably take 1.5 seconds or more. Another of my secrets of steel shooting is to only stop when you are finished. Had we stayed on target until we verify the hit or miss, that follow-up shot can be made in about a half second. So stay on that stop plate till you see the impact. Then lower the gun. In practice, over-exaggerate that action of staying on the stop long after you see the hit. I say give it a two count before you lower the gun.