In practical shooting you often have a lot of freedom with how you can shoot a stage. More often than not the course of fire will state that after the start signal you may engage the targets as you see them. These are some of my favorite stages because you get to put together a strategy that will work best for you. Here’s a stage from the 2017 USPSA Optics Nationals that presented plenty of options.
On Stage 2 you could stand anywhere in the free fire zone and shoot whatever you could see from whatever position you liked. That’s what we call competition FREEEEEEDOOOOOMMMM! In this case it meant that you could even eliminate a position altogether like I did passing up the low port and engaging targets from the platform.
When you can literally choose your own adventure on a stage, how do you decide what to do? Here are a few things to consider…
- Targets – If you can eliminate a position, that’s great, but if the targets are so difficult that you miss or have to shoot slowly with several make up shots, you may be better off just shooting the targets where you feel most confident hitting them.
- Positions – Opting to shoot from an unstable platform, low port or a hard lean can save you a lot of time, but if you can’t get into or out of the position easily or consistently in your walk through, it may not be the best route. Searching for targets, not being able to control your sight picture and falling out of position all eat up valuable time.
- Riding the Ragged Edge – If given an equal option on a stage, I prefer to move through a course from left to right. That’s because as a right handed shooter this makes it easier to keep my muzzle pointed down range. There are times when that’s not possible or situations where gun handling skills are really put to the test. If you’re running a stage in a way that forces you to pay extra close attention to your muzzle, you’ll need to keep that in the forefront of your mind as you run the course. It may make you slower or worse, you may face a disqualification.
- Comfort Level – There are times I just don’t have a warm fuzzy about a shooting plan. The stage may be so complex or position intense that I just don’t feel confident moving in and finding the targets. When that happens, I may take an easier route even if it means being just a tad slower. The potential disaster factor of multiple misses or a very slow run isn’t worth a solid performance that keeps me in the hunt.
In a match and not sure what to do? Stick with the plan that you feel that you can shoot your best. Then make a note to set up the stage or one like it in practice. Challenge yourself in your training so that the next time you’ll know exactly what you’re capable of.