Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Slow is slow. Fast is fast. Smooth is smooth.

So, the other day I ran across a defense of the old aphorism:
"Lately, I’ve seen a lot of criticism over “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”  I think part of it is that a lot of folks have seen, heard, or possibly even said that line without actually knowing what it meant."
I can assure oddball that many, if not most, of the critics are well aware of the meaning. The problem is with how it gets used in the broader firearms self-defense community.

My first class with ToddG was the single biggest light bulb moment of my shooting career. You see, actual performance tracking is not something you ran into in the defensive shooting community very often back in the day, and it's still not super common.

On the one hand you have the people who hit the range every month or so and spray an even distribution of holes across a B27 target and then excitedly point out the lucky ones that "would've hurt that dude for sure!" On the other hand you have the guys who profess their martial skills with the gun fu, and can indeed keep a reasonable group on a B8 repair center, but seem to be nowhere to be found when there's a timer around.

The best contribution Gamer culture makes to shooting is the lack of fear of people finding out how much you suck. It's the main reason a lot of folks avoid action pistol shooting or metrics-heavy classes: It's easy to talk like a ninja on the internet if nobody can look up your scores. If you compete, or attend the sort of classes where metrics are involved, your ego may take a hit when you find out that you're maybe not where you thought you'd be in the standings.

And the thing about getting faster is it's not a thing that happens naturally. It's a skill that needs to be learned, the same as accuracy. In fact, it is a harder skill to learn. Shooting accurately with a pistol in slow fire is not that difficult: Line up a good sight picture and then control the trigger straight to the rear without disturbing that sight picture and your bullet will impact right where you want it to, every single time.

And you do need to be smooth! Herky-jerky movements all add up to extra time. Watch a USPSA GM draw their pistol: There's no jerking or hunching of the shoulders. When an experienced IDPA competitor is reloading from concealment, their hand only goes far enough under their fishing vest to acquire the spare magazine, rather than blowing past the mag to dramatically clear the cover garment and then come back to the reload.

But shooting fast? You only learn how to do that by shooting fast; you won't know even know what fast is unless you feel it. And to do this, you have to give yourself permission to miss in practice. (There's a reason why dropped shots on the 3x5 of the FAST are a two-second penalty while you only lose a second for each dropped shot on the 8" circle.)

So if you're sitting there doing the same reps slowly and smoothly over and over, waiting for the magic of speed to somehow come along, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I've heard more than one trainer mention that people don't need to be encouraged to shoot fast in a gunfight; they do that all by themselves. Well, the middle of a gunfight is a lousy time to try and pick up a new skill, right?

Me? I'm slow, but I'm getting faster. I managed a personal best on a clean FAST from concealment yesterday. I think I've got at least another second I can shave off that time just in the draw and reload...