“The Shooting Slump: How to Overcome It”

Aaron Willoughby, HIVIZ Pro Staff

Aaron Willoughby, HIVIZ Pro Staff

By: AAron Willoughby, published by Trap and Field Magazine 

If you have been shooting competitively for an extended period of time, I’m sure you have seen declines in your shooting game at some point or another.  It may be a drop from a 99 in singles to a 93.  Sure, the weather can be a contributing factor, as can poor squad mates, visual problems, fast targets, or any of the other 1,000,000 excuses trap shooters seem to come up with.  These are just things that we all go through and they are often understandable. The problem is most noticeable when our scores suffer continuously, even on the calm, sunny days when everything “should” work perfectly (Although, I like to make a judgment after 1,000 targets).

It’s almost inevitable that you will start to panic when this happens.  You become concerned with your scores, what your friends will think (and how they are beating you), your ego, and everything else that you thought was intact.  Suddenly, you feel lost for answers.  If you fall into this downhill slide and your scores are consistently below your average, you could be entering the “shooter’s slump.” Let me offer my advice on ways to come out of it successfully.  Remember, don’t panic!   It’s much easier to overcome than you think! 

The first step I like to take when I notice a slump is to decide which category the problem falls into.  Is it mechanical, visual, or mental?             

Once I pinpoint which category my breakdown falls into, I can resolve the problem much more efficiently.  If I can’t define a specific category, then I go through each group and analyze every component listed below.  I have broken the categories down for a better understanding and noted the areas that I review once I declare the focus group.    

Mechanical/Gun Fit-stock/comb settings, point of impact, trigger fluctuation.

Visual- hold points, Rx changes.  

Mental-positive reinforcement, pre-shot routine.

Let’s discuss each of these in detail, and strategies I use when diagnosing and dealing with a slump.
 MECHANICAL/GUN FIT

First, I like to check and ensure that all of the following are at the appropriate settings from when I was shooting well: stock/comb setting, point of impact (POI), and trigger poundage. 

Stock/Comb setting - I ensure that the correct number of washers is under the adjustable comb and that the recoil pad has not moved and is in the correct position.  (You should have this noted somewhere in a tablet)

Trigger Poundage - Using a proper gauge, I check resistance to make sure my trigger poundage has not changed.  It is very common, especially in doubles events, for scores to suffer dramatically if a trigger becomes slower or faster.  

Point of Impact/POI Adjustments - One of the most common errors I have seen shooters make is adjusting the rib/POI for extremely high targets.  The majority of the time the shooter will still struggle with the targets even after the adjustment, break their below average score, and conclude the event in frustration.  Their final objective is to get off the shooting line as quickly as possible and leave the club before someone asks what they broke.  Sound familiar?  (I’ve been there too.)

The next day is “picture perfect,” calm winds and beautiful sunshine!  The targets are in “slow motion” and everything should go perfect!  You walk to the 16 yard line and call for the first target.  “Lost,” the scorer yells.  You finish the 25 target round after four misses and panic mode once again sets in.  You finish the event with an 89*100, four targets below your singles average.  What happened?

Shooters, I have seen this happen countless numbers of times.  Not just for a 100 target event, but this continued for up to 900+ targets before the shooter realized he had made a mistake.  I have seen shooters so concerned with their focus and desire to break a top score that they fail to remember the changes they made on the day they broke the bad score. Yes, the memory of the bad score was erased; along with the rib adjustment made trying to improve previous scores.    

In summary, always write down adjustments you make to your gun, regardless if the day is calm.  It’s much easier to look back and check your notes on a daily basis, rather than hope everything is ok.   I keep a notepad in my shooting bag and review it each day I go to shoot.  You will be amazed how it helps you remember shooting techniques, adjustments, and shooting routines.   

Let’s move on to the next focus group!
 

VISUAL

Hold Points - Proper position of the gun above the trap house is critical to seeing the target successfully.  If you hold too low on singles events, the target will “streak” and not appear clearly above your barrel.  If you hold too high on handicap events, you may shoot under the target due to lack of gun speed/movement.  (This is dependent of your POI.  I shoot 75%)  For singles I make sure that I’m placing the gun above the house so that the target appears the slowest, I see it the clearest, and it smokes successfully.  Handicap events are shot with a lower hold point on the house.   

Rx Eyeglass Changes - Your eyes change over time, plain and simple.  This can easily affect your scores and may lead you to the wrong conclusions as to what is causing your “shooting slump.”  Poor eyesight can even make it more confusing when you start adjusting your gun – when the problem actually lies in a needed new prescription.   I recommend having your eyes tested annually for this possibility.  If you aren’t seeing the target the way you feel you should, focus on your gun hold point and/or this area.  $60 for any eye exam each year is a whole lot cheaper than shooting 500 targets before recognizing the real issue. 

Let’s look at our final area of interest. 

MENTAL

Positive Reinforcements - When we are frustrated and down, it’s very easy to lose our confidence.  When I’m attempting to overcome a slump, I try to reinforce positive thoughts while shooting.  I try to remember days when I shot well, winning a trophy, or breaking a perfect 200*200.  When I’m shooting great, I constantly remind myself key phrases like: “I am: confident, #1, hard working, a champion, dedicated.”  Strive to make this a habit and you will be surprised by the results and how much more quickly the slump disappears.

Pre Shot Routine - A shooter’s pre-shot routine is probably the most important area of preparing the perfect shot (if your mechanics and gun fit are accurate). This repetitive routine involves “what you tell yourself prior to mounting the gun and making the shot.”   I like to analyze my pre-shot discipline and make sure that I am executing it consistently.  

Our minds are an amazing system!  If we condition ourselves to “think” that we are #1, often times we will become it for that event!  Confidence can go a long way in the shooting sports.  When I’m shooting in this mindset, everything else becomes automatic.  I’m not concerned with variables.  Develop a simple saying you use every time you prepare for a shot and I guarantee you will see improvement in your scores.  I have noted the current pre-shot message I use below:

  1. 1.I am a champion.
  2. 2.I can break this next target.
  3. 3.I am #1. 

Conclusion

In summary, I hope that I have given you some helpful insight on ways to overcome a shooting slump.  These areas of focus are the “core” for successful shooting.  If you can learn to recover these three simple aspects I have mentioned (mechanical/gun fit, visual, mental), your scores will improve.  Shooting slumps can be frustrating and devastating to our confidence, and our averages.  Try not to be concerned with the advice of others, as it can become confusing and make the situation worse.  Their style of shooting may be completely different from your own, and they may not easily relate.  Be honest with yourself in recognizing a slump, and place trust in your own recovery strategy as I have noted above.  Remember, having the desire to overcome a slump and wanting to be successful is the first step. Oh, it never hurts to also remember that you are having FUN!

This Isn’t Your Ma’s Dinner Party!

Ok, this might not be the image you conjure in your mind when the word “camp” is mentioned….

Babes With Bullets Camp, Steamboat Springs, CO June 2012

What happened to dinner?!

  Steamboat Springs was host to another Babes With Bullets Camp, www.babeswithbullets.com, last month.  Smith & Wesson, www.smith-wesson.com, is the primary sponsor of the camps as you can see by the camp loaner guns, which are M&P 9mms, provided by S&W, equipped with our HIVIZ sights. 

HIVIZ M&P Sight

  The camp had 30 women in attendance, anywhere from 20 years old to their mid- 60s.  We had beginners who had never touched a gun just wanting to get started, to a few competitors wanting to hone their skills, and some with personal life experiences that brought them to camp wanting to learn more about safe gun handling.   As always, the “dream-team” of instructors were there!   IPSC style shooting was the focus, first day is simple gun handling, safety, holster use, etc. before the ladies are moved on to “Bill Drills”, transitioning between targets, and movement and timing on regular IPSC stages.

“Back to the line for you!”

  And no, this wasn’t a camper trying to sneak off the line.  Camp Director, Deb Ferns was getting a little encouragement /pat on the back for a job well done from Instructor Judy Wooley.  

Our “Princess” bullseye shooter for the day!

  Deb makes sure the ladies have fun during their instruction and of course there is a “Princess” Bullseye shooter title to be had for the lady with the tightest shot group.

With a view like this, who cares what the accommodations look like!

  Of course our accommodations were over the top here also, but with views like this who would have cared? 

  The camps are a great avenue for women wanting to get some intensive training from the elite shooters like Kay Miculek and Lisa Munson, and a host of other top shooting instructors on their team, with some quality equipment and accessories to learn on.

“Ma would be impressed!”

Sports World Tulsa Open House

Mid-August HIVIZ will once again be attending the Sports World Tulsa Open House.

Sports World, Inc. in Tulsa, OK

   The owners of Sports World, www.sportsworldtulsa.com, have their annual Open House mid-August each year.  Last year was our first time in attendance.  The store is stocked with rows upon rows of long guns and quite the assortment in the cases of handguns also.  Many of the major gun manufacturers and other major sport accessories manufacturers have representatives in attendance for the weekend event as well.  The store is beautiful with a small cafe located inside, gunsmithing on the premises and a friendly and very knowledgeable staff working the floor.  You can’t go wrong coming to this store!

Check out the HIVIZ Display!

 HIVIZ is proud to offer our product through Sports World!  I hope if you are anywhere in the vicinity of Tulsa, OK  Aug. 16th-19th that you’ll take the opportunity to stop by the Open House. 

HIVIZ BirdBuster Shotgun Sight

Keeping it Fun! – Introducing the next generation to shooting.

Target practice at the range.

  Recently I finished a trade show inHarrisburg,PAand had some time to visit with nearby family.  This included a beautiful morning spent at the range with three generations of the family.  The youngest was my 11 year old niece.

  Bella has been going to the range with her dad off and on for the past four years.  She started out with a Cricket .22 single shot.  Last year I won another Ruger 10/22 at a match and changed out the stock with a Boyd laminate with the some snazzy purple coloring for her.  Bella was now upgraded to the ten shot magazine!  This girl is now putting 1 inch groups at 100 yards from the bench!  Her dad offered to take her for an evening at the sprint car races if she put the first shot in the bullseye….darned if she didn’t just edge it too!   Races it is! Next to safety, the point is to keep it fun for them!

Look at that concentration!

    After convincing me of her prowess with the 10/22, we brought out her little 32 revolver.  We went over safe loading and muzzle management from bench to shooting line.  You could tell this was not her first time at the range, but it still gave opportunities for giving little lessons on range terminology such as not “sweeping” any part of your body, muzzle down range, “going hot” etc.  I was impressed with her concentration.

A little intimidating, but willing to give it a “shot”!

  We brought out the 20 GA Remington 870, www.remington.com, youth model for her next.    This is still a bit intimidating for her.  We made sure she had the light loads for the least recoil possible and set her up with dad to assist.  With some Shoot ‘n See targets she shot twice and peppered it!  Now the big grin was on.  Along with this I’ve been sending her the occasional DoAll, www.doalloutdoors.com,  self-healing fun targets to shoot at.   She loves it and I will continue to encourage her whenever I have the opportunity. 

  Check out HIVIZ Sights for the shotgun, rifle and handgun fiber optic sights available!  www.hivizsights.com

Sharing family time and enjoying a sport together is time cherished.

Women Getting Started in the Shooting Sports….

Below is an email I received this morning from a woman who recently attended one of the Babes with Bullets Camps instructed by Kay Miculek and her team of top notch competitors.  I encourage others if they have the opportunity, to introduce someone to shooting sports, women or youth that may not know how to get started.  You can make a difference!

“Dear Chris:

 I recently attended a BWB Camp for the first time in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

My husband, Dan, has been active in the shooting industry his entire life, including the almost 27 years we have been married. I have never taken any interest until… Sheila Hoekstra from On Target Guns encouraged me to attend a camp. Did not expect such a life changing event. Having a healthy respect for weapons and somewhat intimidated by their power, I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into.

I have worked in the medical field for over 30 years, and was a little afraid, but initially was looking for a concealed carry because of rotating shifts and fear for my safety. I also want you to know I stood a little straighter with that holster around my hips. Did I stress enough how the ladies treated us with respect, never made us feel stupid or out of our element? (even though I sure was?!!) The camp was first class all the way. Safety was number one, and was at the forefront of everyone’s minds for the duration.

This was very empowering , not overpowering as Sheila had promised. I can not wait to purchase my own handgun, and begin serious shooting at the range. Dan is excited as well to share his life long passion with me on the range. All the instructors were top notch and made an unbelievable team from which to learn.

 I applaud you and your company for sponsoring these camps, and the education of women in an otherwise male dominated field.

Thank you, and please extend my thanks to all those who make these opportunities available.

 Best Regards,

 Carla LaFond”

2012 IRC Championships

      It’s time again for the upcoming International Revolver Championship coming June 1-3rd hosted a the Hogue Action Pistol Range in San Luis Obispo, CA. 

The International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE) www.icore.org was founded in 1991 by Mike and Sharon Higashi.  Amidst all of the other action shooting sports at the time they started the revolver-only competition.  The sport combines elements of Bianchi Cup, IPSC, and the Steel Challenge exclusively for revolvers.

The event draws some 250 of the top revolver shooters from over 22 states and 6 foreign countries.  The main match consists of approximately 300 rounds with side matches available every year.  Smith & Wesson, www.smith-wesson.com, sponsors the match.   A popular model in the event is the SW 627, 8 shot, where you just might see quite a few HIVIZ sights on the Limited Class revolvers!  

HIVIZ Model #SW3002

S&W professional shooter and HIVIZ Pro Staffer, Jerry Miculek, www.bang-inc.com, has won 20 out of 21 Championships…and only because he missed attending one year! 

Photo by Yamil Sued

Two of the summer upcoming regional matches are the Rocky Mountain Regional, June 23-24 at WCFW High Plains Shooting Range in Galeton, CO and the East Coast Regional on July 22 at the Ontelaunee Rod & Gun Club in New Tripoli, PA.  You can visit www.icore.org for complete match listings and schedules for 2012. Also check out the ICORE website for courses of fire and classifier stage descriptions.

“Wheel Guns are Real Guns”