Part 2: How fast is good?
In Part 1, I shared my opinion on how much accuracy is required to be, “good.” In summary, it’s execution of proper fundamentals 100% of the time. A good habit if you will. Allowing for rather generous amounts of variation in the sights, a 4” group generally describes fundamental marksmanship though that group size is scalable and adaptable. Lest you think this too lenient, go visit the public firing line and note how very few shooters can hold a 4” group with all of their shots. Granted, you may be reading this knowing you are capable of sub 4” groups at 7 yards. That’s very good, but, how fast can you shoot and still hold that 4” group?
Unfortunately, most shooters develop only a tenuous grip on marksmanship. They can put together a 10 shot group in a 4” circle, but it takes very little to get them to fail at fundamentals, they have no habit. There are many reasons for this: attending only a weak fundamentals class or a combat pistol class that never taught marksmanship, failure to visit the range regularly (weekly?), not dry-firing even more regularly (daily?), and too quickly seeking speed at the expense of accuracy are the prime culprits.
I encourage students to never neglect accuracy in pursuit of speed. Famed GM Saul Kirsch commented that IPSC/USPSA shooters trade accuracy for speed. He only spoke to those sports as it was where his experience lay. It applies to defensive pistol craft as well. When you have the ability to shoot 1” groups at 7 yards you have accuracy to trade. Under stress, you have habit to counter the debilitating effects of stress. But, if you have no accuracy and no habit, you have nothing to trade and no counter to stress. You are regulated to being slow or being inaccurate or being a mess under stress. In essence you are relegated to being a monkey whacking at a trigger.
As I tell my Basic Pistol students, any monkey can whack a trigger fast. Speedy shots only matter if the shot is still fundamentally sound. This means rapid staccato firing is meaningless- you’re only as “fast-good” as you can remain “accurate-good.” Once your shots lose fundamental accuracy, you’re not shooting “good”; you are just making fast noises with your gun. Good shooting is efficient- a healthy balance of speed and accuracy. It is maintaining fundamental accuracy in ever smaller increments of time or, if you prefer, not sacrificing too much accuracy for speed.
Ok, smart guy, how efficient is good?
You are as efficient as you are. Hopefully you are striving for improvement no matter your skill level. I have observed many a true-blue beginner shoot at about 3 to 4 seconds per shot. They were as efficient as they could be with whatever gun they were shooting that day having fired only 50 rounds in their life. Some true-blue beginners were closer to 1 second per shot, but with a Ruger MK III .22 LR at 3.5 yards into a 2” square (scalable). If forced to opine, and it would only be an opinion, I’d say that most people recognize the skill it takes to shoot 4″ groups at 2 seconds or less per shot.
Shooting 4″ groups at less than 2 seconds per shot takes skill (it is not happening by accident). It is solid fundamentally and it takes confidence (knowledge that one is right in the execution of the shot). I suspect at 1 second per shot other shooters clearly take notice. At under 1 second per shot some may suspect you’re just making fast noises until they see the the 4″ (maximum) group… then it should impress. At under .5 seconds per shot it might be fair to say the shooter is approaching something akin to mastery of fundamentals. Regardless of how closely you agree with my opinion, the focus should be inward. Currently I can hold a 4″ group at 7 yards in just under .4 seconds per shot and a 2″ group at about 1″ second per shot.
Where I to shoot a Bill Drill at the .37 average split with a 1.1 second draw I could complete it in 2.95. That’s not bad, but… I can consistently and reliably shoot the Bill Drill in 2.20 or or less. That’s because the 5.9″ x 11” “A” zone allows me to get away with sacrificing a little more accuracy and even fail “fundamental accuracy” to small degree. You may be impressed or you may be smirking at a sub 2.05 – 2.20 second Bill Drill or .37 splits to hold 4” at 7 yards; regardless, you should only invest in practicing.
Instead of judging others, focus on yourself. If you can hold 4” groups in 3 seconds per shot today, you are a good shooter. Strive to be a better shooter tomorrow. If you can hold 4” at .4 seconds per shot today, drive for .33 seconds tomorrow. Good shooting has little to do with whether you are better than anyone else. It has a lot to do with whether you are better than you were yesterday and you won’t be better that you were yesterday without practicing. When you are practicing you are focused inward, where you should be focused.
Thus ends Part 2. Part 3 will conclude with why this standard works and how to use it.