Resolve to become a better shooter in 2023 with these suggestions.
New Year’s Resolutions suck, but it is the perfect time to set clear goals to improve your shooting skills. It’s all fine and dandy to set big goals for yourself, but without a game plan of how to get there, you won’t progress as a shooter. I should know I’ve been competing for years in shooting sports, and this year was the first time I could see the gains I made in 12 months of hard work. At the 2021 PCC Nationals (the pinnacle of my shooting sport), I shot 57% of the overall winner. The same National Champion in 2021 also won the 2022 National Title. This year at the 2022 PCC Nationals, I shot 72% of him. So how did I do it? I’m about to give you the breakdown and more of how to get better.
1. Dry Fire
Look, dry fire is the largest way to improve your shooting. Most of the skills you need to train and improve can be worked on in dry fire. It’s not fun by any means, but this is the way. You can work on your draw (whether you’re working on from concealment or for competition), your reloads, sight alignment and sight picture, your grip, and so much more. You can learn to pull your trigger properly and get a feel for its break and even the reset. Be serious about dry fire because whatever you practice there will show up in your live fire.
2. Take a Class from a Pro
By far, the fastest way to figure out what you’re doing wrong, how to improve, and make a game plan to do so, is by taking a class from a professional. A professional instructor will be able to point out every flaw in your shooting and has the ability to convey to you how to fix your issues. I can guarantee that you will be drinking from a fire hose in the class, but you will walk away with drills to perform at home to improve.
3. Work on Increasing Speed
You will never get faster without pushing your speed. Several Grand Master level shooters have shared with me what they did to increase their ability to shoot accurately and at speed. I wasn’t a fan of this process because it feels weird, but it works. The best way to increase your speed is by first shooting a drill as you would at your current shooting ability. This is your benchmark. Then, run it again as fast as possible without caring if you hit a single target. Next, run the same drill, making every single shot on target without a single miss and without having a makeup shot. Ok, now, run the same drill, mixing the two. I can almost guarantee you’ve already shaved down time from your original benchmark time. This whole process tricks your brain into letting your body do what it can and process information quicker.
4. Improve Your Shooting Accuracy
On the flip side of speed is accuracy. To be a competent shooter, you must have a mix of both speed and accuracy. You have to begin to push speed even if your accuracy isn’t there. Most of us see a target in full and aim center mass, hoping to hit the bullseye, but we fail to pick out a small spot on the target to hit every time. Remember the phrase, “aim small, miss small?” Well, it’s applicable here! When you see a standard USPSA target, for example, your eyes should always go to the spot you pick out on the target to hit, and that’s where your shots need to work on going every time. It’s easy to see brown, pull the trigger, or see the large “A” zone and be content with hitting anywhere in there. The goal is to call your shot as you pull the trigger and know without looking at the target exactly where that bullet hit. Grand Master level shooters can tell you exactly how many Alphas, Charlies, Deltas, Mikes, and No-Shoots they have on an entire stage without looking at their targets.
5. Be Intentional About What You Practice
Going to the range to shoot at targets with no game plan of what you’re working on will not improve your shooting skills. You have to know exactly what you want to improve and plan out drills. For example, if you want to decrease the time it takes you to unholster your gun and get the first shot on target, then you need to practice unholstering your gun, aiming at the small mark on the target you want to hit, and when you pull the trigger, know that you hit that exact spot. Remember, accuracy matters as well. So how do you measure this? The best investment you can make is by getting a shot timer to record a benchmark time that it takes you to do this drill, dry fire train, and then run it in live fire to see your improvements over time.
6. Shoot Matches
There are very few ways to mimic the stress you might feel in a defensive scenario and absolutely no way to know how you will react without it actually happening to you. The closest you can get is by shooting competitions. Shooting matches induces pressure to perform under the stress of the timer and in front of an audience of peers, strangers, and even friends. I guarantee you’ll have a poor draw, whiff a reload, and have a few mikes on targets along the way. Ultimately, these competitions will help you work on fundamentals, improve your shooting speed and accuracy, and introduce you to new problems to solve on the clock. Did I mention there are swingers, bobbers, clamshells, and other fun target arrays that you must learn to shoot?
7. Work on What You Suck At
But don’t you want to see how fast my splits are?!? It’s super fun to double-tap targets and practice what you’re good at, but is that really making you a better shooter? You must be honest about your weaknesses and practice shooting what you suck at. Each time I improve a skill, I get excited until I notice a new weakness. I immediately improve that weakness, only to discover a new one. My friend Ken told me, “You must fall in love with the process, not the outcome,” and he was right. There will always be something you need to improve, and even if you’re the best in the world, you can always be better. Learning never ends, so enjoy the journey of becoming better every day.
Are You All In?
If you’ve made it this far, I want to know if you actually plan to or have already done some of these action items. Reach out to me on Instagram or tag me in any posts about what you did to improve your shooting. Let’s celebrate the small victories and keep grinding it out!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kenzie Fitzpatrick is a professional competitive shooter and an active blogger for many firearm websites. As an NRA-certified instructor and National Range Officer Institute Chief Range Officer, Kenzie trains new shooters on basic firearm safety, brings new shooters to competitive shooting and works major matches across the country. She has a passion for teaching people how to carry concealed and is a positive ambassador for the Second Amendment. Kenzie is also the host of the Reticle Up Podcast, where she interviews competitive shooters, hunters, anglers, archers, entrepreneurs, and outdoorsmen.
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