Why you need to slow down to shoot faster (and better)

The limiting factor for most shooters trying to improve speed and accuracy is a lack of efficiency

The old adage is true: slow is smooth and smooth is fast. We all want to shoot faster and more accurately, but the desire to go too fast is what gets in the way. If you want to be fast and accurate, slow down and focus on economy of motion.

Factors limiting speed

The limiting factor for most shooters trying to improve speed and accuracy is a lack of efficiency. Action that includes unnecessary movement takes more time.

If you want to improve your shooting speed and accuracy, you need to increase your efficiency.
If you want to improve your shooting speed and accuracy, you need to increase your efficiency. (Photo/Todd Fletcher)

This potential lack of efficiency begins with drawing the pistol from the holster. In an effort to be fast out of the holster, most shooters have a tendency to tense up in anticipation of the draw. They are more likely to mess up their initial grip on their handgun, which leads to a second attempt at obtaining a proper grip. Then, without a smooth and efficient draw stroke, precious time is added bringing the handgun up to the eye-target line by moving through a casting or bowling motion.

Even with an efficient, straight line draw, muscle tension may cause “spearing.” Spearing is a springing effect at the end of the draw stroke. This spearing of the handgun toward the target causes the sights to bounce, affecting the shooter’s ability to obtain a proper sight picture. Once again, the attempt to be fast becomes counterproductive.

Focus on increasing efficiencies

Instead of trying to be fast, shooters should concentrate on increasing efficiencies.

First, slow the process down and focus on the movement. Obtain a good grip high on the backstrap. Lift the handgun from the holster, level it toward the target as early as possible, and raise the sights into the eye-target line. Work the trigger straight to the rear as soon as the handgun stops. This is all it takes to make quick and accurate shots. Additional movement only adds time and room for error.

Assuming the decision to shoot has already been made, work on eliminating the “dwell” time at the end of the draw stroke. This is the lag time between the handgun stopping at full extension and the break of the shot. Having an exceptionally fast draw is wasted when the shooter hesitates attempting to recognize the “perfect” sight picture. Slowing down the draw and working on picking up an acceptable sight picture more quickly will help eliminate “dwell” time. Once the shooter’s eyes are trained to pick up that front sight as it flashes into view, it becomes easier to work that trigger straight to the rear without wasting time at full extension.

Combative accuracy is the goal

When working on combative speed and accuracy, remember the goal is combative accuracy. Set your accuracy standard accordingly.

You won’t need a perfect sight picture. This is not precision shooting. Your goal is to make quick, fight-stopping hits.

Reducing unnecessary movement can improve the efficiency of reloads and increase your speed.
Reducing unnecessary movement can improve the efficiency of reloads and increase your speed. (Photo/Todd Fletcher)

A lack of understanding when it comes to desired accuracy will lead to prolonged dwell time while searching for that “perfect” sight picture. In order to increase speed, a shooter will need to develop confidence and a certain level of comfort with taking the shot with a “good enough” or flash sight picture.

Combative speed and accuracy go beyond that quick first shot. Excellent weapons handling skills are essential for fight-stopping, follow-up shots.

Performing reloads is another area where shooters can eliminate unnecessary movement. The technique of bringing the handgun into your working space is a good method, but there is a sweet spot for efficiency. The most common mistake is bringing the handgun in too close to the torso, resulting in significant movement of the handgun and eyes off target. Not only does this add precious time to reacquire the target, but taking eyes off a potential threat can be bad for our health.

The other extreme is bringing the handgun in close to the face. This is great when the movie camera is trying to get an actor’s face and handgun into a close-up, but it is not an efficient means of reloading. Instead, find a comfortable working space approximately 6 inches from full extension, straight back toward the shooter. This reduces the movement of the handgun, while allowing the reload to occur in an area where the shooter has more control and dexterity. It also keeps the head and eyes up and engaged in the fight.

Find the sweet spot. Some shooters will be more comfortable bringing it in a bit closer, and some will move it even less. Either way, minimizing movement will result in faster reloads.

Another way to speed up reloads is to evaluate the angle of the handgun during a reload. The angle of the magazine well can affect how quickly a magazine is inserted. By canting the weapon slightly, the magazine well can be pointed at the magazine pouches. This creates a straight line between the fresh magazine and the magazine well. Basic geometry states the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This straight line is not only fast, but it is the easiest and most sure way to get a magazine seated quickly and securely.

Top tip: How your smartphone can improve shooting performance

When you are serious about getting faster and more accurate, your smartphone may be your biggest asset. Video a few drills for analysis. When reviewing your performance, watch the handgun, eyes and support hand to help identify unwanted and unnecessary movement. You will be amazed by how much extra movement occurs without conscious awareness.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say our crusty, old firearms instructors were right after all: slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Relax, slow down and work on eliminating extra movement. Remember, we don’t need you to shoot fast; we need you to shoot well…quickly.

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