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The Outlaw Travis James
by on August 16, 2020
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So far in the month of August, Chickie and I have shot three matches.  Each one had the same overall lesson. "Shoot the stage in front of me."  Bucky Buckskin, Arcadia Outlaw, Christian Mortician, Shelleen, Cypress Sam, Fireball, Delta Glen, and Santa Fe River Stan have all said something similar to me at least once this month.  You’d think I would have learned my lesson in less than 16 stages, but I did not.  

 

Chickie shooting a stage at Ok Corral Outlaws while I TO for her.

 

It took me until Stage 1 (our fifth of the match) yesterday at Lake County Pistoleros for the lesson to finally sink in.  We were shooting rifle targets at 23 yards.  The sweep was a Reverse Lawrence Welk (4,3,2,1) for both pistols and rifle.  This is a sweep I have practiced often and feel that I can shoot it fast.  But because of the distance to the targets, I could not just hammer away on my rifle because the movement of the muzzle means more variance in the point of impact of the bullet.  So, I had to slow down and make sure my sight picture was much better than if the targets were closer.  The next stage was the same scenario except the targets were at 12 yards.  We were able to hammer away and “burn ‘em down” and the difference in my stage times was huge!  26.02 seconds long range (Stage 1 LCP Video) compared to 17.03 seconds short range (Stage 2 LCP Video).  The first time we shot this same scenario was at Roughshod Raiders earlier this month, when Delta Glen set up a stage at the extremes of the SASS recommended target distances.  I did not shoot the stage as it called for and the raw time comparison was not as drastic, 29.85 seconds and 2 misses long range (Stage 5 Raiders Video) compared with 23.34 seconds clean short range (Stage 6 Raiders Video).  But the total time told the biggest story 39.85 versus 23.34.  I did not shoot the long range as accurately as I should have and TRIED to shoot the short range too fast.  Hence, the small spread in the raw times but the exceptionally large spread in the total times.

What exactly does "Shoot the stage in front of you" mean?  Simply because you can shoot ten shots in under four seconds on your rifle you cannot shoot every single stage at breakneck speed.  You shoot .8 second splits with your Model 97 wide open, but you cannot attack every stage or target layout that way.  Maybe you can “spike” .08 second splits with your pistols but you probably should not do it with 12” X 16” targets at 12 yards.  I made each of these mistakes this month and some more than once.  But it was all part of the lesson.

We must assess what type of stage it is and shoot it accordingly.  Does the stage have alternating single taps for every shot?  If so, you can't just blaze away because you will miss.  Does the stage have knockdowns?  Maybe you want to consider some heavier pistol loads if yours are at the bottom end of the power factor.  Does the stage have lots of movement?  Then getting to the proper spot efficiently may be what makes the stage for you.  Are the targets big and close?  Hit the afterburners and let the lead fly!

 

 

When we first start to shoot faster, we naturally want to use that speed as much as we can.  It is fun to shoot fast if that is how you enjoy our game.  It’s sort of like owning a sports car.  We want to drive it fast all the time but if you do you may get tickets or even worse get into an accident.  So, sometimes, speed kills your match, like that nice sports car.  Just like you must assess the road, driving conditions, traffic, and speed limit when you drive that “gas drinking, piston clinking, air polluting, smoke belching, four wheeled buggy from Detroit City”; you must do the same when shooting a stage.  The big difference is, there typically aren’t many blatant street signs or speed limits on the stage or in the stage instructions.  We must learn what they are by using our current skill set and understand the limitations of each stage. 

 

 

It is not easy to learn this skill and only the best shooters do this with consistency.  We see plenty of shooters with blazing fast speed, but they seldom win the big matches.  They try to go out and shoot a stage how they want to shoot it (i.e. fast) instead of heeding the “stage signs” in each scenario.  The ones who consistently win the big matches are those who have learned how to navigate each stage as it is presented to them with their skill set as smoothly as possible.  They do not allow someone else shooting a faster stage to affect their stage plan.  The top shooters execute each stage within the limits of their skills or in other words “shoot their own game” each stage of the match.

 

Aren't those signs clear as mud?!

 

If you shoot with others who are faster than you, ask them what their stage plan is after the stage instructions are read.  Talk it over with them and tell them what your ideas are.  We do this before each stage and it really helps make those hidden “stage signs” much clearer.  It allows you to talk through your stage with others and may bring to light some things you were not considering.  If those shooters are bringing up concepts or techniques you don’t understand, ask them to explain.  This helps you understand WHY they are doing things the way they are and eventually allows you to formulate your own plans because you understand how to read the signs. 

So make sure and pay attention to the speed bumps, round-abouts,  and stop signs of each stage.  If you can read and follow them, navigating each stage becomes more efficient and your stage times will reflect this.  I don’t want the readers to think this is only directed at the fastest shooters.  If we understand our own skill sets and the limitations of each stage, we can all improve our times and enjoyment of this great sport of Cowboy Action Shooting.

the OTJ

SASS # 107517

Topics: sass, cas
Like (14)
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Realtree
Excellent perspective. Thank you for the insight. Agreed, as well. I find myself nowadays using the monthly matches as trial and error and don't even worry about scores at the end of the match as long as I come away with a learned behavior and outcome. I use those experiences to better my plan i... View More
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August 17, 2020
The Outlaw Travis James
I have been doing the same thing lately. This weekend I was messing around with a few different shotgun loading techniques. The monthlies are the place to do that kind of stuff.
August 17, 2020
Santa Rosa Slinger
Well-said and well-written! You've articulated what I think I've been trying to tell myself over these last few weeks/months. Though I've become gradually more comfortable with the game, its rules, how to work the guns, transitions, etc. and thought I was starting to shoot faster, I was becoming dis... View More
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August 17, 2020
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The Outlaw Travis James
Exactly! The two places to cut the most time from your stages are transitions and shogun. We missed you on Saturday but I hear some congratulations are in order. Did I hear that you have a future shooter on the way?
August 17, 2020
Camo Cowboy
Thanks for a nice article. As a new shooter I am not at your levels of shooting. This information does help to look at the future and how to do things and how to mentally and physically adjust. Your words of asking questions and the " how would you do this stage " is very good helpful information. T... View More
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August 17, 2020
The Outlaw Travis James
There are tips in here for all levels. I hope the info is helpful for everyone.
August 17, 2020