Journey to USPSA Regionals: The Heat is Killing My Shooting Skills, or Is It?

Welcome to “Journey to USPSA Regionals”. This is my personal journal related to my training and competition activities on my journey to train-up and improve my shooting skills to compete at a USPSA regional level. In this article, I complain and whine about the exhausting heat, as well as share some of my recent live fire training experiences. Wow it has been hot!

Shooting, Range, Pistol Training

Boy It Is Hot!

Shooting + 100 Degrees = Better Grip

As many of you may be experiencing, this time of summer is HOT!  It is the core of the summer and, in the region where I live, we have been averaging 95 – 100+ degree days for more than two weeks. I mean Habanero pepper hot! So hot, that I am soaking wet from just loading the car!  In addition to the heat, we have had repressive humidity. Fortunately, our area has had regular rains which have kept the ground wet, but at the same time has created hot, repressively humid days.

The primary range where I shoot is an outside range. It is in an area that may be even (slightly) hotter than at my home. There is red clay which holds moisture. If it is 100% humidity elsewhere, it is 150% humidity inside the berm of the range. When this hot weather first set in, I was like, WTH… This weather is killing my shooting and shooting skills development. That said, as I moved beyond my internal whining and complaining, I started to realize the opportunity it posed.

Shooting, Pistols, Training

Getting Ready!

A few minutes into most range trips, my hands are so soaking wet with sweat that my gun starts to get “loose” in my hands. As a result, during the first few 100 degree day shoots, I was finding that my shooting was “off”. But, as it got “off”, I was forced to address my grip in order to get it back “on”. Granted, the overall shooting day still was “off”, but at the end of the day I found that I dramatically improved my grip. Fundamental to all shooting skills development is the grip!

Voila, hot weather is a cure to your grip! Well, not really, but it can help. Lesson learned – do not shy away from training in hot weather. It is pure hell (pun intended), but the benefits can be in ways that are very subtle, yet profound.

Pistol Shooting, Training, USPSA

A Target @ 25 Yards

Thumbs, Thumbs Everywhere

In a previous post, I discussed an issue that I was having with my grip and the magazine release. While shooting a local ZSA (Zombie Shooting Association) match, my magazine kept falling out of my gun. I initially blamed it on some magazine issues due to some extensions I had put on the gun. It actually was the tear-drop shaped and oversized magazine release. My new-formed, better grip had been barely squeezing the back of the release during recoil. This caused my magazines to drop out.

The problem went away when I changed to a lower profile, yet keeping an extended magazine release.

During one of my “hell hot” training sessions, my slide began to not “lock back” after the final round. After a little bit of testing, I realized the firmer squeeze I was using (due to my sweaty hands) was causing me to “ride” the slide release a little with my strong hand thumb.

Recoil, Shooting, Grip

Clearly A Grip Issue – Uncontrolled Recoil

In this case, parts are not the fix – it was a shooting skills fix.

My grip was the fix. I needed to find a better way to tighten my grip without using my strong hand thumb. Also, I needed to be more aware of when I curl that thumb around as a support or engagement element.

Another item I need to add to training details I need to watch.

New Drills

My buddy Tony at Lock and Load Firearms introduced me to Haley Strategic by sending me some target packs. After receiving them, I checked out some of the training videos that Travis Haley has available online. One of the videos was focused on “deliberate training”.  This video had a drill that I am now calling the 5/4/3/2/1- drill.

Grip, Shooting, Training

Better Grip – Note Strong Hand Thumb

In this drill, he draws to fire in a decreasing timed manner starting with 5 seconds, then 4, 3, 2… The goal is to start with using all of the allotted time and put a round in a head “A” box sized target. When you get down to your lower range (target of sub 1 sec), you are decreasing time in .1 of secs in the attempt to lower your time. At the start, when you have 5/4/3 seconds, you are focusing on deliberate actions and movements and refining them to the automatic responses you need to work at on the lower end (2/1/-).

Great drill. After just a few passes, I have realized some significant weaknesses across the draw-to-fire composite shooting skills.

Baseline Shooting Skills (Re)Focuses

After a few weeks of my live fire drills, I have isolated several focuses I need to make for my improvement. These are:

  • “Draw to” on target – right now, my draw to on target time is taking me way too long! It is close to  1 1/2 sec, maybe even 2 secs. Several drills have isolated the issues: taking the first grip and final sight alignment are the big time consumers.
  • Grip – as noted in the article above, I need to ensure that my strong hand thumb is not wrapping around as part of my grip. Sometimes on the draw, I have noted to stabilize the gun before I have my weak hand secure the gun.  I wrap my strong hand thumb around to control the gun which displaces my weak hand from its proper position.
  • Strong/Weak hand – In my 700 pt aggregate drills, I have noted that my solo strong/weak hand work is horrible. I have started doing research on drills that will improve this skill. Overall, this should enable better shooting, even when shooting two-handed.
Bill Drill, Shooting, Grip

Good “Bill Drill”

During these few weeks of training, I have been shooting my core live-fire measurement drills. These are the drills I will track my scores/times and measure my improvement. Getting good baseline scores/times helps to establish the low-bar and to identify whether my training is improving, is stale or needs adjustments.

Read the other “Journey To USPSA” articles here:

Rebuilding Core Basics

My Best Worst Day of Shooting

Establishing a Training Regimen

Dry Fire Drills Revisited

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