To Learn to Shoot Faster, You Have to Slow it Down

Jeff Gonzales training range at Austin

If you want to reap the harvest, you have to first work the land. As in all things, improving your shooting — and shooting faster, in particular — comes from disciplined effort, practiced on a regular basis.

Understanding Speed

Shooting fast is a combination of two factors, economy of motion and flawless execution. That’s it. The idea of moving the body faster is the first thing people think of when they want to increase their speed and it’s the reason they usually struggle.

It doesn’t matter what you did that one time on the range. All that really matters is what you can do on a regular basis. The connection between those two factors — economy and execution — is consistency. You can’t have on-and-off-again economy of motion nor can you have occasional perfect execution. You have to practice until you can display both of them at a reasonable and sustainable level.

Trim the Fat

When it comes to economy of motion many people misinterpret this as moving faster. That’s not it at all. If you present the handgun to target with a lot of unnecessary, extraneous motion and your sights aren’t aligned because you moved so fast, have you really accomplished anything?

Economy of motion is about using the minimal amount of movement necessary to accomplish a task. Nothing more than what’s absolutely needed.  When I’m working with students, one of the easiest ways to improve their performance is to get rid of all the crap, all extra, un-needed motion and moves they make that only serve to complicate the process and slow them down.

All that superfluous movement isn’t needed. Everything from leaning to hunching to drooping and everything in between. Have a friend video your draw stroke. It’s a great way to see what it is you’re really doing that can be eliminated and will improve your speed. 

Make Fewer Mistakes

At some point you need to learn what’s acceptable performance for the shot required. What’s reasonable to expect and what isn’t. That’s based on time and distance. This concept will help you make progress toward achieving more perfect execution. When you’re pushing the boundaries of your performance, the difference mostly comes in reducing the number of mistakes you make.

In this case, you have to execute your technique that has been synthesized to the bare minimum. I’m talking about out of a 100 presentations you are hitting 80% or better to the standard you set forth for yourself. In many cases the key at this level will be adjusting your speed. I tell students over and over do not shoot faster than you can guarantee the shot. How do we get there is all hard work.

Crawl, then Walk, then Run

When we introduce a subject in our classes — whatever it may be — it starts out with dry fire practice. The progression is to work at a speed at which you can think your way through the technique. Since many techniques are based around several micro tasks performed in a logic sequence, it can be overwhelming for many students.

To help students process this, we progress through three training speeds, slow, half and full speed. Slow speed is where you put in the real hard work. It can feel painfully slow, but it allows you to learn to execute the particular technique flawlessly. “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” is a cliche for a reason…it really works. Continue to work at slow speed until you have the technique down and can reliably repeat it. 

Half speed is where you begin see your hard work start to pay off. As speed gradually increases your hit ratio should remain about the same. If it does, that reinforces the hard work you put in at slow speed. Stay at half speed until your results are consistent and repeatable.

Full speed is where we pressure test our technique. If you’ve been putting in the hard work from the beginning, you should see at least an 80% hit ratio on your baseline results at full speed. When you follow this process the major takeaway is you’ve achieved consistency. It’s impressive for sure.

After you’ve reached this level it really boils down to splitting hairs. Continued practice and attention to detail will let you maintain your speed and your hit ratios. All while making marginal improvements around the edges. 

The problem with the industry is that most folks want to start out at this level and get frustrated when they ; it is not a gear issue; it is a training issue. Always will be…

 

 

comments

  1. avatar Pb_fan59 says:

    “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, slow is fast…. let’s go, Pork”

    1. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

      It applies to racing…

    2. avatar Ron says:

      “When in doubt, whip it out!”

      1. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

        Almost –

        “When in doubt I whip it out –
        I got me a rock ‘n’ roll band
        It’s a free-for-all”

    3. avatar Perry says:

      When learning to play a guitar, I ran the chords at “turtle time” – as slow as necessary to correctly perform the behavior. It’s like shooting free throws. Continue running the behavior as fast as possible without making a mistake.

      Making mistakes causes the incorrect behavior to be remembered. If a mistake is made, revert to the slower speed for a couple more repetitions, then try the higher speed again.

      My draw is .5 to .75 seconds. That is to say, “one-thous-and”. Boom!

  2. avatar Kahlil says:

    With ammo so scarce right now I don’t really have the rounds to spend on training. I have a nice little stockpile but the days where I’d pick up a box or two at the range or store for practice and plinking are gone. Bass pro today only has .17, .25, and .32 pistol ammo. The larger LGS was better stocked with rifle ammo but pistol was reduced to 10mm, .32, .25, and some larger calibers like .460 and .50AE. Damn shame. My local local store (ie, feed store/ffl/sells ammo and a few guns) had more pistol ammo but about $5-10 more per box- hated it but got two boxes of .40 for what I could’ve had 3-4 for a few months ago. Just topping off a couple boxes here and there.

    1. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

      Airsoft
      During the lockdown I still practiced.
      Don’t let this stuff beat ya back from training. Stay frosty

    2. avatar Not Larry from Texas says:

      this . . . . . .should had bought more. . . .darn babies and saving for house.

    3. avatar LifeSavor says:

      Kahlil,

      For that very reason (preserve ammo), I purchased a laser bullet. Practice at home almost every day. Low-light shooting in the basement. Drawing from mo holster, slowly, refining my movements.

      Sometimes, I use the app to record my shots, but I can see the laser strikes clearly.

      Of course, no recoil or noise, but for technique drills, as well as low cost, and convenience, a worthwhile investment.

      1. avatar Kahlil says:

        I’ve thought about one of those laser systems.

        I have snap caps for my revolver and semi auto calibers and use them. I am just lamenting the actual live firing at a range with tactile feedback of the recoil and sound of the round being set off. For all the benefit of dry firing you still need to have the real thing on occasion.

    4. avatar Don from CT says:

      Two words. Dillon Precision.

      1. avatar David Fhlug says:

        Reloading supplies are getting scarce too.

  3. avatar WI Patriot says:

    Slow is fast, always has been, always will be…

  4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Wow! Jeff you wrote down what I’ve been teaching/saying for decades. “Slow down and speed up.” “Smooth is fast. Even though it feels slow.” “Take your time. In a hurry.” “Herky jerky feels fast. It’s not.” Finally, “You can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight.” A coach that knows what he’s doing is the most important thing anyone can have if he really wants to learn pistol craft. Or any firearms discipline. I spent nearly four years in what I call a semi-elete military unit. Then I got into law enforcement. In between I met a man that had never done either. He taught me more about shooting than I learned from anyone. He was fucking good! When I got into law enforcement I swept almost every firearms class I was in. And lost only to guys that learned the same way I did. If you don’t think you need training, you almost certainly do. One of the best articles I have ever read on the subject. Please write more.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      well, somebody’s got to clean up all that brass.

  5. avatar Steve Sherridon says:

    You can practice 90% of what you need by dry firing (with a shaved rimless snap cap and a groove dremmeled around to provide a channel for a rubber washer to go around it, so the snap cap stays inside the barrel when you rack the slide).
    Grip, draw, aim, fire, can all be done with dry fire and it will probably increase your ability for follow up shots as well…. No ammo needed.

    Just do a hundred dry fires a day- and then go to the range and try ten rounds and you’ll see the improvement…..

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Steve,

      What is the point of modifying a snap-cap so that your handgun cannot eject it? So that you can rack the slide and not have the slide lock open?

      1. avatar Joel says:

        Most striker fired pistols require you to rack the slide to reset the trigger. A snap cap that doesn’t eject is handy dry firing this type of handgun.

        1. avatar CarlosT says:

          You can reset the trigger in most guns without fully racking the slide.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Dont need the snap cap with decent firearms.

  6. avatar Steve Sherridon says:

    oh- and practice with a weighted mag so your dry fire is as real as it gets…(I sacrifice an old mag- take out the spring, wrap it in tin foil and pour lead into it – so it’s the exact weight of a full mag) then replace the baseplate….now your dry fire is exactly as it will be when it goes bang…..

  7. avatar Steve Sherridon says:

    …….and don’t forget to take that snap cap out of the barrel when you’ve finished dry firing or nothing goes bang…..

  8. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I have a concern about large amounts dry-fire training with semi-auto pistols that do not have second-strike capability:

    As many of us have heard and experienced, “Train how you should fight and you will fight how you trained.” In other words, if you are ever in an actual self-defense situation, you will likely do exactly what you did in training. Sounds great. I foresee one slight problem, though. If you train with a semi-auto pistol that does not have second-strike capability, you can only pull the trigger once in dry-fire practice and get the audible and tactile feedback of the trigger releasing the striker or hammer. If you pull the trigger again, nothing happens unless you rack the slide.

    What I just described presents a problem. You are very likely to train where you only pull the trigger once — or — you are very likely to train where you pull the trigger once and immediately rack the slide. Does everyone see the problem there? You end up training yourself to only fire once or to fire once and immediately rack the slide in a self-defense situation. That could literally cost you your life.

    Thoughts everyone?

    1. avatar Joel says:

      Sounds like a good argument to carry a Revolver to me….. 😉

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Joel,

        I love revolvers. I will not say on an open/unsecured forum exactly how many I have. I will say that I like them enough to have more than one.

        As much as I love revolvers in general — and specifically in this case how they are fantastic for dry-fire practice — I have yet to carry one for every-day self-defense. I have carried a revolver a couple times (for general self-defense) in unusual situations. And when I am camping, hiking, or hunting I always carry a .44 Magnum revolver in case a black bear, feral hog, cougar, or berserk white-tailed deer decides to attack.

        Who knows, maybe it is time that I start carrying a revolver for general, everyday self-defense.

        1. avatar WI Patriot says:

          “Who knows, maybe it is time that I start carrying a revolver for general, everyday self-defense.”

          At least as a secondary or B/U…

      2. avatar Accur81 says:

        My best defensive revolver holds 8 rounds of .357. My self defense semi autos hold 12, 13, 15, 17, 20, 29, 31, and 33 rounds. And I can reload them fast. I get that Jerry M. and certain T800s and T888s can reload revolvers with blinding speed – I’m just not one of them. YMMV.

    2. avatar LifeSavor says:

      U_C,

      Exactly so. I use a laser bullet to practice at home. Each trigger pull requires a re-rack to reset the trigger. An inconvenience, but for practicing drawing through to site acquisition, left-hand, right-hand sight-acqusition, low-light training, all at home, the inconvenience is worth it. I will still train at the range for the full shooting experience, but not as often, at least not until ammo becomes more plentiful.

    3. avatar Specialist38 says:

      I have thought about it…and i guess it could lead to doing a “rack” after firing one shot in a stressful situation.

      But the same could be said for any activity you practice a lot….reload….tactical reload….drawing back to your chest after a shot…..

      Farago once opined that he felt like he should snicker the safety off in his 1911 every time he pulled it from the holster to ensure he snicked it off when he really needed it. I suggested he was borrowing trouble and over-thinking it…..or that he should carry another pistol type.

      Hopefully, a variety of training exercises will circumvent focusing on one particular task under stress. I dry fire all the time and have never rack the slide after one shot of live ammo.

      Maybe the report of a 9mm or 357 improves acuity.

      I’ll stick with thinking it’s not an issue……unless you only dry fire…..then it still may not be an issue if the balloon goes up.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Specialist38,

        I have heard many people recommend flicking off the safety every time your draw your semi-auto handgun even if you normally carry it with the safety off. The thinking behind this is that your clothing or something could snag on the safety and engage it without you realizing it — then when you really need to draw and shoot in righteous self-defense, your handgun does not fire. So, to be on the safe side (pun intended), you always practice flicking off the safety when you draw and shoot just in case it was somehow engaged.

        Obviously, if your safety is already off when you have to draw and fire, swiping your thumb over the safety does not actually do anything and you are able to fire as usual. Personally, I don’t see how that could introduce any negative side-effects. Is there a down side to going through the motions of flicking off a safety when it is already off?

        1. avatar Specialist38 says:

          Farago was talking about carrying with safety engaged.

          He thought he needed to flick the safety off EVERY time he removed the pistol, even if just moving to storage.

          I figure if you don’t trust yourself to operate the safety under stress, get a different gun. People managed to get by with 1911s, HiPowers, and other SA pistols for decades.

          Seems a bit much to me…..YMMV

      2. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

        Like the master, Sykes, said in “Shooting To Live” forget the safety, drill it and “pin” it down.

    4. avatar Anymouse says:

      A second-strike capability still isn’t training like the pistol would normally operate, unless it’s a DAO. Normally, you’ll only need to release the trigger enough for it to reset (typically 1/8″-1/4″) and then you’re almost at the “wall” for a single-action trigger pull. Without the slide moving, you have a full double-action trigger pull. You can try to get closer to live fire behavior with autoreset triggers, SIRT simulators, or CO2 recoil systems. Even if the trigger pull exactly reflects live fire and there is some recoil, it doesn’t have the same recoil.

      I don’t see this being an issue of inducing training scars because it shouldn’t be the only training you’re doing. If all you ever did was dry fire/rack without live fire, it might be a problem. If you are racking after every shot in dry fire, I would recommend making sure to include the “tap” step. Even though it’s unnecessary, the dry fire will feel like a misfire, and the fire/rack/fire/rack cycle could be instilled when you have a real malfunction.

    5. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

      My thought is that it’s not a real problem, and people doing large amounts of dry-fire training do not have that problem in matches or classes. If it’s really a big deal, go use a Glock and the paper in the ejector port trick, or a P320, or any number of other guns that don’t give you a totally dead trigger.

  9. avatar Kendahl says:

    This Clint Smith video on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCOGhiaW5SA) discusses shooting fast versus shooting accurately.

  10. avatar possum says:

    Rip that sucker out of the holster, start pulling the trigger the micro second you think it’s cleared, keep on blazing until your sights get near the target, when she runs dry spin the gunm on your finger and reholster. A friend tried to video tape me, but his camera only records at 7000 frames per second. All we got was a grey blur

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I imagine your video looked something like this:

      1. avatar possum says:

        nah, if he’d a done it my way he’d have shot his horse,

  11. avatar GS650G says:

    I got a walther PPQ air pistol. The trigger isn’t PPQ grade but I can practice with it indoors. I have a stockpile of ammo like most fun owners but I’m loath to shoot much due to ammo shortage and the crush of shooters at all the ranges near me. Just too many people .

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Triggers on striker-fired pistols have always reminded me of the trigger on my first Daisy BB gun……so an airsoft gun ought to just the ticket.

      I think Glock makes a training gun with a trigger that always resets. Dont know how easy they are to obtain.

      1. avatar Anymouse says:

        Glock makes a couple versions of LE-only training guns (T and R suffixes). They are Simunition (blue) and non-firing (red), respectively. The slide/barrels are special, but the frames are identical to the firing versions (except color), so the slide needs to be manipulated to reset the trigger. The self reset triggers kits are 3rd party items for about $200, but you may have seen one installed in a training gun.

        1. avatar Specialist38 says:

          Could be…..seems pricey for the mod.

    2. avatar possum says:

      a lousy trigger is what makes you good

      1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

        I believe that can be true “sometimes”.

        Had a 9mm Llama long time ago, crappiest gun I ever owned, but I shot it very well having learned how it handled. It was a rattle can. Kinda wish I still had it just to have it.

  12. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    In terms of speed, it is worth mentioning that the closer the engagement, the less effort you have to invest in aiming, which directly affects how fast you can put rounds on target.

    For example, if you had to draw and shoot an attacker at 25 yards, that requires bringing your handgun up to eye level, lining up the sights, aiming accurately, and squeezing the trigger. That takes a relatively long time. On the other hand, if you had to draw and shoot an attacker who was only two feet away, that merely requires clearing your holster and shooting from the hip. That is much faster than the 25 yard shot.

    All this means that you would be wise to practice for something like three different self-defense engagements:
    1) super-fast draw and shoot from the hip at an “attacker” that is two feet away
    2) fast draw, raising your handgun to eye level, and “point shooting” at an “attacker” that is maybe up to 10 feet away.
    3) medium speed draw, raising your handgun to eye level, aligning your sights, and aiming carefully at an “attacker” that is 20+ feet way.

    Disclaimer:
    We obviously cannot practice self-defense against humans with live ammunition. Thus, in my three strategies above, I was referring to human silhouette targets when I used the word “attacker”.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      I have done a fair amount of hip shooting and can say the most obvious thing is how easy it is to miss at 5 feet. (Maybe less so at 2 feet but this muzzle contact distance).

      One thing I learned from Bill Jordan and Skeeter Skelton was canting the gun sideways when you clear leather. This twist brings the muzzle up as most people shoot low when hip shooting.

      Practicing a smooth draw is still paramount because when facing a competition timer or an armed assailant, most people are going to perform the super-fast draw.

      1. avatar possum says:

        You’ve shot with Bill Jordan and Skeeter Skelton. Wow, that must of been a trip.

        1. avatar Specialist38 says:

          LOL. Learned from reading.

          I did get to meet Bill Jordan at a gun show in Dallas.

          Nice fella…

    2. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

      Or, crazy idea, you could simply dryfire practice until you can do a 1-1.5s draw-to-fire on targets 10yds away. I’ve seen it done, IWB and AIWB. It’s not even all that hard with an OWB if you put in some time.

      1. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

        With sights, I mean.

    3. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

      uncomon_sense:

      “We obviously cannot practice self-defense against humans with live ammunition.”

      Who says?

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    If slow is fast and fast is slow, then is up down?

  14. avatar Damcowboy says:

    Oh Lordy, no, no, no. Slow is not fast. It’s just frickin slow. If you wanna get fast you have to go fast to the point you make mistakes. Keep going that fast until you don’t makes mistakes then go faster. There isn’t a single world champion practical shooter who believes or teaches that slow is smooth, smooth is fast crap. ITS CRAP! Slow is just slow and so are you if you believe that shite.

    1. avatar Kendahl says:

      The point of practice is to develop muscle memory. Then, when your life is at stake, muscle memory will enable you to get your gun out of the holster and on target without conscious thought. Adrenaline will take care of speed.

    2. avatar possum says:

      Go slow , get it smooth, then start ripping that gunm. If you developed muscle memory at a set speed when you exceed that speed your muscle memory falters. All that’s fine in a cowboy shootem. But let me tell you a story. Once upon a time possum had a trooper mark 3, he reloaded his own and spent many hours practicing drawing and firing and hitting the target. I was fast and impreesed my peers.One night a friend came over and we played shoot you. I gave him my .44 Mag SuperBlack Hawk with ten inch barrel and a Hunter side holster made for a Redhawk, I had the Trooper 4 inch barrel in a Bianchi. I checked the gunms to make sure they were clear and we played fast draw. Since we both decided I had an unfair advantage he was given the opportunity to say go. Upon his word go, I beat him to the draw but my hammer fell in space, he had moved to the side as he drew and clicked me. That’s a gunmfighter and I learned a lesson

  15. avatar enuf says:

    I feel for that young woman in those too-tight skinny jeans. Those things damage the circulation when worn everyday, very unhealthy.

    She’d be much better off to trim the legs short, make them into a pair of Daisy Dukes so her legs get proper circulation and enjoy the free air.

    I’d be happy to loan her my paramedic shears, we’ll hold the shoot’n lesson while she’s fixing the problem ….

  16. avatar M. Murcek says:

    Bill Hickock said he didn’t want the first shot, just the best shot.

    1. avatar possum says:

      He carried two gunms because he missed half the time

  17. avatar Taylor_TX says:

    All the ammo I’ve been able to afford during this BS has been steel, but its good enough for training 🙃
    if you’ve not heard of the DryFireMag, its amazing and has been my training buddy since March and the ammo started drying up. Its not cheap but definitely worth it.

  18. avatar Ron says:

    Always aim for the crotch.

    1. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

      Ron:

      You know damn well that I’m the only one here charged with advocating “tickling their privates”, “busting a cap in their junk”, “performing curbside vasectomies” etc.

      Get off my cloud!

      LOL!

  19. avatar The Rookie says:

    “To learn to Shoot Faster, You Have to Slow it Down”

    Or, you could buy a minigun.

    1. avatar Montana Actual says:

      I like this approach. Any full auto will do, really. Shall not be infringed… or taxed.

  20. The book that explains the neurology of what happens in practice is THE TALENT CODE by Daniel Coyle. (Couldn’t paste the screenshot of the book-sorry). Whether you’re drawing and shooting a pistol, playing a musical note, kicking a soccer ball, whatever, the brain runs that process through nerve pathways to the involved muscles. Every time a nerve pathway fires, more myelin, the insulation around nerves, is wrapped around the nerves in that pathway. Good or bad, efficient or inefficient, right or wrong, you’re making that pathway stronger. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes myelin which strengthens the pathway. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you have an old, inefficient pathway, you can’t get rid of it. You have to make a better, more efficient pathway. There’s a 4 minute you tube video of the author giving an overview. Enjoy!

  21. avatar Montana Actual says:

    “Trim the fat”

    Some of you need to seriously take that advice.

  22. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

    “Shooting fast”? While we, the POG, whom carry every day draw from holsters the “urbans” have to fish their gats out of the crotch of the briefs that they wear under their boxers and pinned down saggy pants. We have a slight advantage and can increase that even more by always being aware of our surroundings.

    btw:

    There’s nothing more satisfying and entertaining than watching a crack-slinging ghetto thug writhing on the ground for forty-five minutes in a dirt parking lot with two holes in his right upper thigh that’s ballooned to nearly three times it’s normal size. He wouldn’t say whether he was shot by rivals or whether it was “self-inflicted”, I suspect it was the latter.

  23. avatar OLDSARGE, AMARILLO, TX says:

    Jeff – I am in my mid + 60’s and recently have been practicing my draw from concealed carry, I wear both a T shirt and button down shirt covering my D Wesson .45 Guardian. I read somewhere first shot should be in A zone USPSA in 1.5 seconds or less. My best times so far have been 1.54 & 1.59 (one time each) my average time is probably 1.70 – 1.80. My hits are 80% in A zone balance in C zone. I can get it under 1.50 in open carry mode but not concealed.
    I’m assuming your recommendation would be to keep practicing but I wonder if my 1.50 expectation is realistic for my age and infirmities?

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