By Keith Garcia, 3GN Pro
How should you get ready for a major match? In this case the 3GN Nationals. Knowing how and what to train for can be the difference between a good or poor performance. After you get your guns running 100-percent reliable, what is the next step? The goal of training is to walk out on any stage and say to yourself, “I can do all these shooting challenges, now how do I do them in the most efficient manner.” Being efficient and avoiding penalties will result in good stage times. To achieve my best performance I focus on three main areas of training: Shooting, Firearm Manipulation and Transitions.
Shooting: All aspects of aligning the sights and pressing the trigger to get effective hits.
Rifle: I prefer a 200-yard zero with my long–ange ammunition (Hornady 75-grain BTHP match) because it has the benefit of also being very close to a 50-yard zero with my 55-grain ammo. Most of the shooting we do in a match is 50 yards and closer, so knowing where the gun hits under 50 yards is just as important as knowing your long-range holds. To build confidence in shooting the rifle I like the following types of drills. I use two MGM Targets auto poppers with Colt speed plates and a Pew Pew Plates 17.25-inch steel target. Shooting steel targets is the best way I have found to train to develop a recognition of how fast you can shoot with respect to target size and distance. Shooting steel gives you immediate feedback, allowing you to make corrections or move on to the next target. One of my favor sayings is “you don’t know until you know.” Shooting steel allows you to quickly figure out how fast you can get on a target and how fast you can get follow up shots. That way you will “Know” with respect to target size and distance what an acceptable sight picture looks like and how fast you can shoot splits and still get hits.
Drill: Two auto popper and Pew Pew plate at 25 yards. Popper, plate, popper—arranged one yard apart (manufactures of both targets recommend a 50-yard minimum distance when shooting steel with a rifle. I use soft tip ammo and have never had an issue with deformation or deflection with these quality target systems. That being said, shoot at your own risk). Standing offhand with rifle at port arms hit left popper, then center plate twice, then right popper. Push to see how fast the spits can be shot on the plate and drive the gun hard between targets. Keep track of the time and push until the speed is too fast for quality hits, then pull back to a speed you own every time. This speed is your match speed and you need to learn it. Match speed means you get fast and effective hits 100-percent of the time, whether it’s the first stage or last stage. I repeat this drill at 50, 75 and 100 yards. At the 75- and 100-yard distances I add a 3GN barricade. I shoot standing off-hand, standing while braced on top of the barricade and kneeling while braced. I track the time to get effective hits and decide what position is best for each distance.
I use this same array for my pistol training. I start at 10 yards and shoot from the holster. I move back 5 yards each time until I get to the 40-yard mark. The target size and distance is a huge factor when shooting pistol from 10 to 40 yards. This drill allows me to understand how much time I need to let the sights settle and how much to focus on the trigger. In my experience, focusing on the trigger is much more important than the sights when shooting pistol. Pulling the trigger straight to the rear is what I focus on while getting the sights somewhere on the target. Many shooters put too much focus on stopping the gun dead center on a target and getting a perfect sight picture only to miss because of a bad trigger press.
Shotgun shooting drills need to accomplish two things: 1) slug accuracy out to 100 yards and 2) understanding of what choke to use when shooting knock down steel with birdshot. I shoot groups with all my chokes from cylinder to full and record any changes in accuracy. It is important to know how each choke shoots slugs. When I approach a stage I will look for the hardest piece of steel to knock down and use the appropriate choke to allow me to shoot as fast as possible but still achieve an effective hit. If there are slugs on that stage then I need to know how they shoot through that particular choke. I also pattern all my chokes out to 25 yards in 5-yard increments. Finally, I shoot thick 3-inch round steel targets to make sure I can knock them down with a given choke from 5 to 25 yards.
Firearm Manipulation: All aspects of keeping the guns running (loading, reloading and malfunction clearances).
The best part about these skills is that you can practice them all at home in dry fire. Most pistol and rifles are magazine fed and have similar loading, unloading and clearances. In my practice I cover all the scenarios I see in matches during the year. Unloaded starts with ammunition on my belt, unloaded starts with ammunition staged on a table and loaded starts with a reload. All three guns are included in this dry fire and it takes about 15 minutes a night to do all the different challenges. Shotgun loading for the non-open shooters is an important factor. I practiced for many hours until I felt proficient. I practice loading the shotgun as fast as I am able to get the rounds in the gun. If I push too fast I miss loads and rounds fall to the floor. The most important aspect of the shotgun is efficiency in shooting and loading. Missing shots causes you to load more shells, and missing loads has the same result. It is best to slow down to a speed where you get effective hits with every shot and every shell goes into the gun.
Transitions: Switching between guns during a course of fire under time.
This aspect of the 3-Gun game has been neglected by a majority of shooters. I see shooters wasting time moving between the guns on every stage I shoot. This is time you are giving away to your competitors. On a stage where all three guns are used I think the average shooter wastes 2-5 seconds on transitions. During my nightly dry fire I include techniques that require me to move between all three guns. I look at the best way to put a gun down and the best way to pick the next one up. I search for the most efficient way to move between the guns. In your training look at the time you are not shooting as wasted time and try to develop faster ways to get to the next gun. Consider the safety issues when practicing and do not create a situation where you do something so risky you will get DQ’d. My advice is to get rid of the long guns with haste and do not baby them. Drop your guns, don’t throw them, but don’t baby them either. Let them go when you are done with them; if you have quality gear it will not be damaged.
Good luck in your training, and I hope to see you all in Virginia.