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The Speed Challenge: Tips for Shooting Clays

By Patrick Flanigan - Xtreme Sport Shooter

Being a solid and accurate shooter requires dedication, discipline and many rounds of practice. However, to be a great speed shooter would require those same attributes in addition to a significant rhythmic understanding and feel for shooting.

On April 3rd of 2007, I set a speed record with a non-modified Winchester SX3 auto loader by firing 12 rounds in 1.4 sec. This is equivalent to a Browning M-2 belt fed machine gun. Many individuals questioned whether the SX3 is stock or modified and argued that it just is not possible. Well, I will tell you now that it is possible and it’s possible to make it shoot even faster.

Here is my secret. I have been a drummer for twenty plus years, longer than I have been shooting firearms and as you all know a successful or accomplished drummer must have solid rhythm. My rhythm, like my shooting, is very instinctive and natural. Yes, I had to work to develop it. However, I feel as though I have always had it in me. A part of drumming is learning rhythmic patterns that are structured numerically and accented on different beats.

For example, a triplet would be structured as single beats in a three beat grouping and accented in different ways. I apply different rhythms to my Xtreme sport shooting, especially my speed shooting!

The particular rhythm you would hear from my speed record video would be that of sixteenth notes. Sixteenths notes would look something like this **** **** **** and counted like this, 1e+a, 2e+a, 3e+a. Twelve beats played together in three four-beat groupings. I know that sounds like a lot to chew on and you have probably gone back and read that last sentence 3-4 times, but that is why I am able to shoot as fast as I do.

The above demonstrates how I subdivide the twelve notes (or twelve shots) into three groupings of four notes. Those same twelve notes can also be broken up in several other ways.

Four groupings of three notes: *** *** *** ***

Two groupings of six notes: ****** ******

Six groupings of two notes: ** ** ** ** ** **

The way that each shooter chooses to phrase the notes will be unique to him/her and reflects that person’s own internal rhythm(s). Playing drums through the years has helped me to learn an increased number of rhythms, expanding my rhythmic ‘vocabulary’ and giving me more options to draw from when it comes time to start pulling the trigger! I know we cannot all go out and take drum lessons just to increase the speed of our trigger finger, so I will give you some alternate tips that may help:
  1. Get yourself motivated and energized before attempting a speed challenge. Prior to attempting to set a speed record or before I attempt to fire an auto loader rapidly, I will count the rhythm in my head a few times until I am ready and when ready I will then relay that rhythm to my finger. It is my way of mentally preparing and pumping myself up for the challenge. I hear the rhythm first!
  2. Finger exercises. Yes, it sounds foolish but it works. I am always tapping my fingers to music or playing finger drums on the dinner table.
  3. Get a steady rhythm of your own. Try to create your own natural rhythm in your head. In fact, you probably have one already and don’t even realize it.
  4. Practice!!! Practice may be the most generic tip I can offer although it is the greatest tip you can learn.
Like any great athlete, we all need to identify our weaknesses and our strengths. Once we have done that then we can focus on what needs to be done in order to improve our game. I spend time before practice day thinking about what I need to improve on and that becomes my focus until bettered. You should approach every practice with the idea of leaving your practice a better shooter. In all honesty, if speed is your biggest weakness, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Speed comes with repetition!

Now get prepared, find your rhythm, be safe and go on out and enjoy your shooting practice!

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts…

Patrick

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