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Dave started the kind of serious thread ("Off Season") we need more of and it didn't take off the way he had hoped. Let's keep trying.
I've read almost everything written about goal setting for competitive shooters and it all seems directed to aspiring Olympians. Still, I understand that one point of the exercise is to make a commitment to training. Taking pen, paper and calendar in hand apparently produces better follow-through than daydreaming, right? I wonder if it would be helpful for some of us, like me, to read what other shooters have done by way of regular practice? There are people posting here who have been at it for many years and advanced to the top ranks of the sport. Some of them are well-known names and some of them, for various reasons (recent ascendance, semi-retirement, shyness), are not. Maybe we could share experiences with the understanding that posting does not constitute any claim to greatness and all learn something. I'll start.
I began working in the garage with a 12 pound airgun three years ago. I wasn't disciplined enough to dryfire. I used scaled-down paper silhouette targets. I shot for about 40 minutes a night, five times a week. I took weeks off when I felt stale. Progress was very slow with long plateaus and then small steps up. The shooting was fun but I was just putting shots downrange rather than working on specific skills. I eventually figured out that the air rifle was so much heavier than the smallbore hunter that my timing was off in real matches. Started dryfiring the .22 and "shooting" slower, working on the mental program, working on concentration, evaluating the results. I'm now averaging 30.5 for the last eight SBH matches which is a definite step up.
Visualization: need to develop that discipline. I recently read that the idea is to work like the devil learning to visualize ONE, perfect shot, making it more real and vivid as you work (as opposed to running through a 40 shot match which is really more of a daydream than a true visualization exercise.) What say ye?
Bassham reminds us to take all the negative talk and thoughts out of our training. Share and talk and think about only the good things and don't listen to all the talk about "problems." Right?
A friend, one of the recently "ascended," reminded me of another Basshamism: "Nothing changes until you do." Those of you who have managed to change for the better have my undying admiration.
 

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I'm on a plateau hovering on an about 29 score average in smallbore. I think this year I'm going to concentrate on my physical fitness. I have found I rarely do as well on my second bank as on my first and by the end of a match on a hot day feel pretty much spent. I watched some of the top shooters at the last nationals with their very weight forward rifles and interesting stances and figure strength and stamina are a part of it.

As for shooting technique. I don't know. I was never taught how to shoot nor do I have a coach. Am I just practising bad habits? Perhaps a video of myself shooting might be good for a few laughs. Most of us have learned the techniques, problem is making all the little things come together every shot and not neglecting one point while concentrating another.

And how do you practise for the match environment when there isn't matches available to you? I think that's a big one.
 

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It's interesting to think about goal setting as planning out training instead of setting goals for scoring. Up until recently, my only goals had been based on scores. I was concentrating on a goal of moving up one class per year. This last month's shoot I had a breakthrough, though. I had been sick with a stomach virus on Thursday and Friday, so I was a bit out of it for the cowboy lever action matches on Saturday. Amazingly, I shot pretty well, and I attributed it to getting more sleep than I usually do. For the smallbore match on Sunday, I wasn't feeling that great but I thought I should at least shoot the match to get some practice in. After not shooting for two months and being sick, my mind was in turmoil trying to execute every step of the shot. I started the 60-shot match on pigs and missed four out of five for each of the two banks. After essentially "wasting ammo" on those two banks, I knew my score for the day was shot and I wouldn't be reaching any goals that day. I decided to just enjoy the rest of the day and not care about my score at all. Yep, you might guess where this is headed. After that point, the targets just started falling, and they kept on doing it.

By the time I made it to rams, I knew something great was happening. I dropped the first four on the first bank of rams and missed the fifth when I got excited about cleaning a bank (big deal for me). The exact same thing happened on the second bank, four straight and then a miss. I just missed the second ram in the third bank, so there was no excitement to keep me from cleaning the rest. That gave me a total of 12 rams out of 15, a feat I haven't come close to before. It was during the rams that I figured out what was going on. I was relaxed, plain and simple. There was nothing in my head but the target. There were no thoughts of shot sequences, of breathing, of scores. It was like the gun just fired as the dot came in on the spot I was focusing on and it was the easiest thing in the world.

It occurred to me then I hadn't been that relaxed while shooting since the very first day that I had ever shot smallbore silhouette, scoring a 30/60 without my forward arm anywhere close to my body or anything about offhand shooting other than some practice for hunting. That day that got me hooked on silhouette had been the key to my lack of improvement the whole time. Back then, I didn't know what I should be doing to shoot offhand well. I was just enjoying shooting. Of course, with this realization came a flood of thoughts of how I'd screwed up in other matches, including Pe Ell, by not realizing the problem earlier. Just like that, the relaxation was gone. My mind was in turmoil as I stepped back to the line for my relay on the chickens. In a panic, I tried to think of anything else to get all the stuff running through my head out of the way. Oddly enough, the first thing that came to mind was The Star Spangled Banner, since I knew I could hum that without even having to think about it. As I started very quietly humming it and focusing on doing that, the relaxation was back and I finished off well on the chickens.

Now, after all of that long-winded story, I'll get to my point. I don't focus on goals for scoring anymore. At the beginning of that match, I was an A-class shooter with 30/60 being a good score for me. If you'll remember from above, that 30/60 is the same score I started with my first match over a year ago. Once I just relaxed and enjoyed shooting, I ended up with a 40/60, which is a AAA-class score, and I did that after dropping 8/10 of my first two banks of pigs. Also, at the end of the match I wasn't tired at all. As Dave Imas can verify, I'm usually mentally exhausted at the end of a match and a nervous wreck the whole time. If any of you who went to the Pe Ell match remember the guy in the bright yellow raincoat pacing the whole time, that was me. :)

I do intend to take the advice of some others here and set a goal for more training time, more sleep, and more exercise. That training time isn't just to try to get my hold steadier. Even more than that, it's to get so accustomed to my rifle that I don't have to think about squeezing the trigger. I want to be able to have absolutely nothing in my head but the spot on the target and have the gun fire as the dot touches that spot.
 

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Hi ajj, very good topic! I wish I could add something but I seem to be shooting worse for the last two years. for expample at the end of 2003 I was shooting high A scores, but for 2004 I was shooting low A and high B scores I'm doing better this year but not as good as the 2003 season. I know there isn't any easy or quick way to shoot better but I think there are a good number of AAA and master class shooters that post here and maybe they could give us some advice, after all its to everyones benefit to advance this sport. You mentioned dry firing with your 22rf if it is an anschultz do you dry fire with the firing pin on an empty chamber? Keep up the good posts.
Drags
 

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Hi, Drags. I use empties to dry fire, turn it every five shots. The pin face doesn't hit anything on an empty chamber but I still like to cushion the stop. .22 snap caps wear out pretty quickly. With empties, patch out the barrel afterwards. The burned primer material gets knocked into the barrel and it's abrasive. May make no difference, but...
Didn't Jason describe something we've all been through? Some of my best scores have come when I started poorly and gave up. Bill Krilling's book (Shooting for Gold) makes a point of advising a happy, smiling, "light" attitude at matches. Grim determination is counterproductive. Train in relaxation techniques. Reminds me of something I picked up from a golf magazine in a doctor's waiting room. How to shake off a bad shot. When we are disappointed or irritated by some event we invariably do two things: Look down (hang our heads) and frown or make an angry face. Soooo...when you jerk the trigger right out of the center of that pig, look UP and SMILE. (Does it work for me? Naw. But it's probably one of those things I just haven't trained for hard enough.)
 

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I'm getting this picture of a whole line full of armed people wandering about, staring off into the heavens and grinning idiotically. :shock:

Always try to remember that golfers often wear yellow pants and green shirts... (How much of what they do do we want to use?)

Whenever anyone brings up golf techniques, I think about a friend's opinion of the game:

"There're two kinds of games where you hit balls." (He says.)
"In one kind you hit the ball and YOU chase it. In the other kind you hit the ball and SOMEONE ELSE chases it. Now which one of those seems smarter?" :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
For the record, I am not a golfer. And while I am accustomed to comments about my goofy demeanor it does seem unkind for Nomad to make fun of my clothes.
 
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