Smoothness equals speed on the time clock. So how can you iron out some of those kinks that slow you down? Stage planning is the answer.
Mental Prep Work
Make sure when you are up to shoot that you fully understand the stage - if there are any lines to remember or props to use, where you may have to move during the stage, and the shooting pattern / number of shots you will fire. Bring a few extra rounds in case you have to reload on the clock. All this will take is just a few extra moments before you shoot to mentally focus and plan out the stage in your mind. The payoff of this small investment is confidence, which will allow you to shoot without hesitation when the timer sounds.
Staging Your Long Guns
Staging your long guns is an aspect of successful shooting that is often overlooked. Many shooters put their guns down without any thought about how they are placed and why. Staging your gun with the front sight pointing at the first target you will shoot will make your first shot faster and smoother. In addition, if you have a "brain fade" and forget the shooting order (which we ALL do), having your long gun already pointed at the relevant target is the perfect reminder.
SASS rules state that the trigger guard must be on the table. However, you CAN stage your lever off the edge of the table, allowing your fingers quick access.
Consolidating Your Movements
Extra movements will cost you time. Some movements are completely unnecessary and wasteful. Other movements can be combined for efficiency. For example, pulling your shotgun shells WHILE moving to the shotgun table and not after you've picked up your gun will save you time. Ideally, you will be firing the first round from your shotgun as soon as it touches your shoulder. Practice multiple shotgun shell pulls. How many can you fit in your hand? Have someone video your stages so that you can analyze your performance afterward. It's easier when you are "looking in" later to spot wasteful movements and bad habits that you might have otherwise been unaware of.
It All Adds Up...
Maybe you feel that these minor things couldn't possibly make much difference to your time on the time clock, but it can definitely add up. Some matches are won by literally a point of a second. In the long run it can really pay off to take that extra few extra seconds before you shoot to set things up in a way that will give you better physical and mental control over the stage.
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