Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Range Report - Slow Fire vs. Rapid Fire

A New Year's Resolution for this year was to do more rapid fire shooting at the range. Friend Burt and I went to the range with his nifty Springfield XD, and I spent most of the evening on rapid fire.

Most of my shooting over the last couple of years has been slow fire. Deliberate, aimed fire with (ideally) an almost Zen-like focus on slow, "surprise break" trigger squeeze. I'm passable at this - not great, but passable, as you can see from this target shot last October (with Burt's XD).

For me, slow fire is several seconds between shots. Rapid fire is a shot at least every second (actually this is slow compared to some of the folks I've shot with). This time, I was trying for two shots a second, and my groupings were, well, more interesting:

All over the map. Some not even on the map. 60 rounds, 44 hits (74% on the paper). Boy, howdy, this was a quick (fire) lesson in humility.

Target Re-acquisition is my biggest challenge: unless you're shooting .22 or something with almost no recoil, each shot will move your aim point off-target. Lining the target up in your sights lets you not miss the target (duh!). Doing this in slow fire is no problem - take your time, get lined up. For rapid fire, you need more "muscle memory" than I have developed. I need to spend many more hours under the Jeff Cooper Mind Enhancer Ray and then go practice, practice, practice.

Slow fire is terrific fun - groupings are small and tight, and it's easy to congratulate yourself on your excellent marksmanship. I typically step back from the line in a relaxed, Zen-master state.

Rapid Fire is work. It's hard, it's frustrating watching your groupings balloon to the size of a barn. You step back from the line tense, and even sweating. You see your mistakes in the harsh spotlight. But this seems to be the way to better marksmanship.
A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation…you have to catch yourself doing it before you can correct it.
- Seneca


ASM826 said...


Here another way to look at rapid shooting. Get some targets like the cardboard silhouettes used in IDPA, or make some round targets with a 6 inch black center.

Set them up at your shooting distance. 10 yards, maybe, or whatever distance you are practicing at. The object is to have a reasonable sized center, blazing away at the X ring from 50 feet is unrealistic.

Now, either from the holster or the "low-ready" position, bring the gun up, acquire a sight picture and when you are sure of that "A" hit, pull the trigger.

In other words, when your sights are aligned and you are focused on the front sight, centered on the target, take the shot. The object here is to take one shot as rapidly as you can, while being sure of the sight picture.

If you do that, your rapid fire skills will improve. Resist the temptation to go faster than you can accurately make those hits. They do not have to be in the center of your target, but they should be grouping.

Then, make them "double taps". Do the above, striving to do everything correctly and not creating any bad habits in an effort to go faster, but after the first shot, as the gun returns from recoil, reacquire a sight picture and take a second shot.

Again, both times, only go as fast as you can do this and get "A" hits. Your rapid fire will improve. If you find that some of your hits are drifting out, slow down slightly and resume your practice.

Your Zen state is right, that is how you should feel. Detach yourself from the outcome, and focus on the process, breathing, stance, sight picture, grip, trigger control. When the hammer falls, know the outcome, accept the recoil, reacquire and take the second shot. Your rapid fire is the fastest speed at which you have control of the outcome.

Come and visit, we'll go to the range. I'll close with a quote from a LEO instructor I learned a lot from, "In a gunfight, you can't miss fast enough to win."

Wild Ed said...

Remember that smooth is fast. Speed comes with smooth practice. Make sure of your sight picture and practice staying smooth through the rapid fire process. Speed will come with proper practice, you can not rush. Remember practice does not make perfect but Perfect practice makes Perfect. Wild Ed