A guest article by Elizabeth Waddell
I am fairly new to the world of competitive shooting. As of today, I have a measly five USPSA matches under my belt. I know that I cannot expect to be at the top level quickly. I can suck up my competitive nature enough to handle my low percentages. My main goals at this point have been to not DQ, not finish last, and improve each time I go out. Getting out to the match is half the battle right? And for the most part, I feel like I am. I am hearing “alpha alpha” quite a bit more than when I first started. But I have an issue: I am terrified of steel, more specifically plates and small poppers. As soon as I walk up to a stage and see those small white circles, I immediately start psyching myself out. My frustration builds before I even fire off a round. Am I capable of hitting them? Of course I am. But there is just something about being in a match, competing against myself and others, a clock, and with people watching, that sometimes makes me forget everything I know.
At the July match at the Bullet Hole in San Antonio, as soon as I arrived at the stage with two plate racks, I was already counting myself out. It was a 32 round stage. I shoot Production and only carry 4 mags so that is a total of 40 rounds. I knew that if I couldn’t hit the plates and ran out of ammo, I would not only get the misses on the steel but also failure to engages if I ran out before I got to the paper. My plan of attack was to attempt a plate rack, and if I didn’t nail the first six plates in six shots, move on to the paper and then the last plate rack. Can you guess how this went? Shooter ready? Buzz. Miss. Miss times six. Not a single plate went down. Went through the rest of the stage and came to face the second plate rack. Miss. Miss again. My frustration level was through the roof. And you know what that equated to? Me hammering on the trigger, losing my sight picture, breaking my wrist. I finally calmed down enough to take out three plates in a row but by then I was out of ammunition and my game was done. After I showed clear and hammered down, my RO asked if I had noticed that I was anticipating the recoil on every piece of steel. And this is where the mental game comes in. I have been working on that quite a bit lately. But me up front of that tiny white steel and here it comes again. I honestly don’t think I’m anticipating the recoil. I think I am anticipating missing.
My next target time with A Girl and A Gun, I was lucky enough to have some steel set up to work with (ok, I may have begged for our practice time to include some steel). While not a replication of the plate rate, still had six steel set up waiting for me. Standing in the box, I made ready, the buzzer timed, and Ping. Ping times six. No hammering of the trig. No recoil anticipation. Just clear focus on my sight picture and knocking them down. So what was different? Obviously there is a lot less pressure when it is just me and my supportive girls. I don’t have all of the adrenaline pumping through me as in a match. Nor do I have that extra added fear of being embarrassed or the need to prove something. But that shouldn’t matter. I know I can do this in less intense circumstances. So I have some new goals beyond improving on my fundamental physical actions: improving my mental fundamentals. Working on capturing that feeling of calm so I can carry it with me to the match. To learn not to psych myself out before I even pull the trigger. And most importantly to always remember that every match, target, and every shot is a new one.
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