In whatever endeavor you choose to partake in life, one of the critical components of success is visualization. Once you’ve made a decision to do something and the commitment and resolve to follow it through, persistence, constant practice, and seeking out those better than you are the other steps in the process towards mastery. Top Shot Champion Chris Chen talked about this when he came out to our Family Day event in April 2015.
Visualization and its other buzzwords (visioneering, acting as if you already have it, seeing is believing, etc.) are critical to your success in the shooting sports. This article will cover visualization in the context of shooting a USPSA stage, but you can apply the same method to 5-Stand, .22 Steel, 3-Gun, or any other types of matches.
Break a Stage Into a Series of Smaller Stages
When you shoot a stage in USPSA, break the stages into a series of mini-stages, by round count. So, if you are shooting Single Stack, Limited 10, Limited, Open, Revolver, or Production, break down the target arrays you are going to shoot into a series of reloads. If it’s a more complicated stage, then further break the stage down into a series of shooting arrays. This series of mini-stages in your head is a lot easier to hold and keep track of when you visualize how you are going to shoot it. Even if you mess up and miss a popper, at least your stages are now just a series of reloads or array of targets you have to shoot. If you think you might run out of ammunition at the next array, the easy fix is to reload as you move to the next array of targets.
Visualize yourself advancing onto a target cluster, your gun being lowered as you are about to stop in front of them. As you stop, you are already pointed in, your sight alignment, sight picture and trigger control already in place. Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!
Now, move! Reload as you move. You are saving time by reloading on the move rather than getting there, then reloading. Remember that this sport is all about time and accuracy. The faster you are and the more accurate you are, the better you score.
While you are sprinting to the next target array, your gun is raised and directly in front of you. You use gravity to help lower your gun onto the targets as you execute the perfect sliding stop, your hands connecting in front of you, forming a good shooting triangle. Your sight picture, sight alignment, and trigger control is on par as you quickly pick up the pre-travel and fire a pair into each cardboard target.
But wait! You actually missed a pepper popper in the array and had to make up with several shots! You know you only have one in the chamber and you have to fire two more. The next array you have to run to only has 4 rounds. No matter. As you duck-walk backwards onto the next array, you execute a fluid 1.5-second reload, and deliver a pair into the last cardboard target. You are on your way out of that array anyway, and you know that as you move backwards and shoot, you are saving time.
Now, sprint! Run for dear life! Getting in that array, you already know that there is a no-shoot covering half the target from your walkthrough. The other target is half covered with hard cover. Your heart is racing a mile a minute. You know that by the time you get there, with your gun raised and poised in front of you to take advantage of gravity that your accuracy is starting to take a little dive. So, when you get to that array that requires just 4 rounds, you deliver the pair into the target that is half covered with a hardcover. You start to settle into your shooting stance and routine, now able to take care of the other target with the no-shoot covering it! Now, that’s smart!
You sprint to the next array, reloading as you run. This is very straight forward, with 4 fully-exposed cardboard targets and a popper in between. Eight rounds later, shooting from right to left, as this is the most fluid way, you connect with two paper, the popper, and the remaining two paper. The stage is finished!
Suddenly, you are snapped out of your thoughts by the RO calling your name. You are the next shooter. The visualization exercise was so real that you can feel every muscle twitch, while you were running the stage in your head. Your breathing even quickens. Congratulation! This is the true success to visualization. You put yourself there before you ever get there. And you will get there as a result.
You take several deep breaths to calm down and relax, as you step up to the shooting line, more confident that you will shoot the stage well now that you’ve run over the scenario in your head several times, breaking up the stage into a series of mini-stages.
Relax. Enjoy. Have Fun!
While most people shoot purely for enjoyment and fun, some of us like to take it to the next level. Some of us take it a little too seriously sometimes. I’m just here to remind you that each of us are in a different place and different level. At the end of the day, you really are just competing against yourself.
These visualization skills can be applied to any other area of your life, like the promotion you wanted, the golf game you want to perfect, or your day at the race track.
If you can look back at yourself 6 months or a year from today and see a better version of yourself, then you really have something to be proud of. And while you’re on your way there, relax, enjoy and have fun. If you take yourself too seriously, you’re just going to make yourself and everyone else around you miserable.
Until next time, good shooting!