Knocking The Rust Off

Posted by Jeff Jones on 9th Apr 2019

Sorry to be gone for so long. I forget how I enjoy writing these and will try to get back on track with them. The title has double meaning, for my articles and for shooting.

How many divisions do you shoot?

Do you shoot other disciplines?

Do you find that taking time off or not shooting a division impacts your speed?

If you’re like me, you love to shoot. I’ve focused on Steel Challenge and USPSA and there are many other disciplines you can shoot as well. Some are very complimentary, like Rimfire Challenge/Steel Challenge. Some don’t hurt, and help a little, like Steel Challenge /USPSA. I’ve always believed that shooting skill is learned and a diminishable.

How is it a learned skill?

To my knowledge, nobody ever won their very first match. I’m not talking about their first match with a new gun, I’m talking match #1. I looked back at my first USPSA match (May 2016); I was second LAST scoring 22% of the winner. My first Steel Challenge (June 2016) I shot RFPI; 21.16 on Roundabout and 16.67 on Smoke and Hope. In both cases I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I was hooked.

Over the coming months I watched YouTube videos, listened to the better shooters (which was just about everyone) and practiced. As time went on I got better and started shooting different divisions. In USPSA my progression was Production, Single Stack Major, Single Stack Minor, Limited, Open and now PCC. My Steel Challenge progression was RFPI, RFPO, RFRO, PCCO, RFRI, PCCI, OPN, SS, CO, PROD, LTD, ISR, OSR. Every week there was something I did better than the week before. Maybe it was going one for one in steel, or more alphas than I’d ever shot before.

I can still remember the first time I won a stage in USPSA and then the first time I won a local match. I remember breaking 10 on Smoke and Hope, then 9, 8, 7. All of this was because I was learning the skills through practice. I shot RFPO exclusively for 15 months, learning steel challenge in one division. I still remember the exact moment when I found out I’d made GM in RFPO, no one was home, but I’m sure everyone heard my emphatic scream of YESSSSSSSS! The practice had paid off.

One of my favorite quotes is “You earn your trophies at practice. You just pick them up at competitions”. Through practice I’d built my skills and the performance showed at matches. If you only shoot matches, you may get better, but if you practice, and do it correctly, you will get better. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. If you keep doing the wrong things all you are doing is reinforcing bad habits. Read, watch videos, take a class (call me, have guns, will travel), become a student of the game.

When I was at the 2017 US Steel match (B class RFPO), I’d only ever shot rimfire pistol and RFPI was just a warm-up for RFPO. I’d seen some great shooters in other divisions and said “I’ll never be that fast”. That was “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” and kept me from even trying the other divisions. After earning my GM in RFPO I decided to try the other divisions. Because I’d learned how to go fast in RFPO, I needed to add in the intricacies of the other divisions. Over time and with practice I became a 6 way GM.

Here’s where the title of the article ties in. When I went back to shooting RFPO I stunk. It’s lucky I was alone at the range, I was either talking to myself like there was someone else there (I think I may have answered myself too), or I was cussing. I was slow on the “draw”, transitions were sloppy and even though Steel Target Paint is my sponsor, I didn’t need much of it. The rust had built up, but not on my gun, it was on me. My skills had diminished and it was frustrating.

It took me about ½ the practice to calm down and get back to the fundamentals. I wasn’t going to be fast, but I knew 1 for 1 was going to be the fastest time I could shoot during this practice. I focused on a good grips, sight pictures, trigger presses and transitions. By the end of the practice I was getting closer to my personal bests. I’d begun to knock the rust off.

How to keep the rust off

It’s simple, practice! At every practice session I try to shoot at least 1 rifle, 1 rimfire pistol and 1 center fire pistol. While there are intricacies between RFRO and PCCO, they are both rifles and both have dots. OPN and CO share the draw and the dot. While these platform aren’t 100% the same, the similarities are enough to keep the rust from building. If you can’t get to a range for live fire, then dry fire. 10 minutes a day get’s you about 50 draws. Do the math, that’s over 18,000 draws (13,000 if you just do M-F) in a year. Find that 10 minutes, do the work, build your skill and I believe you will get better.

And remember, One Shot One Steel