Shot timers are essential to measuring performance at speed. A timer is an essential tool for competitive practice during dry-fire or live-fire sessions. The shot timer will provide details around the speed of your draw, transition times between targets, and the timing of follow-up shots. When you log your times, you can evaluate your performance and determine where to fine-tune.
Key Measures and Methods
Time to First Shot
Time to first shot is a great way to assess your draw performance. However, you must ensure that you build your grip, obtain a good sight picture, and place the shot where you intend. Establish your baseline and refrain from throwing the gun up and just pulling the trigger in less than a second. Use proper techniques, so you do not need to relearn the fundamentals later.
When you are comfortable with your technique, look at areas where you can make incremental improvements to reduce your performance time. Establish a par time of 1.8 seconds initially to finish the draw, find your target, and accurately place the first shot. Once you are comfortable reaching the initial par time, incrementally reduce it by one-tenth of a second until you find your current optimal performance.
Quantifying Multiple Performances
Averages are beneficial in assessing multiple performance scores and times. It is helpful to be aware of your average skill times for draws and multiple shots on targets at different distances. Track your personal bests, so you know what your capabilities are. Review your averages to see where your consistency is improving. As your average improves, so will your consistency.
Split Times or Splits
Splits measure the duration between shots on the same target. This measure helps you see the length of time needed to recover from the first shot's recoil and place reliable follow-up shots on the same target.
Split measures are useful because they tell you the cost in time to recover from recoil to place a follow-up shot. As you work on this skill, ensure you are following the proper technique to get the right baseline.
For example, set up three targets: T1 at ten yards, T2 at twenty yards, and T3 at thirty yards. Engage all three targets at the start signal, taking whatever time is needed to place a pair of shots on each target using proper technique.
Splits and Transitions
When you are shooting two shots on the same target from a close distance, you will achieve quicker shot-to-shot splits. As you move farther away, your split times will become slower. It takes longer to confirm a good sight picture and place a scoring shot on targets at a distance.
Let's say the first shot on T1 was 1.4 seconds, and the follow-up shot on T1 was recorded at 1.7 seconds. That gives you a 0.3-second split time between shots on the first target.
As you transition to the T2 target, you add 1.0 second of transition time. Your first shot on T2 was at 2.7 seconds, and the second shot on T2 was at 3.3 seconds. That gives you a 0.6-second split time between shots at twenty yards.
As you transition to the T3 target, you take 1.1 seconds of transition time. Your first shot on T3 was at 4.4 seconds and the second shot on T3 was at 5.4 seconds. That gives you a 1.0 split time between shots at thirty yards and a total time of 5.4 seconds.
Understanding the amount of time needed at different distances will help you understand what is needed to achieve competitive scoring shots—rather than just firing a couple of shots and hoping for the best.
Transitions measure the time between shots on different targets. This measure is helpful to determine efficiency when shifting to a new target or location. There are two fundamental transition types: standing and moving.
Standing transitions - This refers to engaging multiple targets from the same shooting location. These don't measure movement, only your ability to acquire the next target.
Moving transitions - This looks at how efficiently you can transition to a different shooting location and engage a target. Assessing transition movement reveals where time is spent moving on a stage and which movements have the highest time cost. Whenever you are moving locations, take the quickest route to reduce your overall stage time. When competing on larger stages in USPSA, transition times become a significant contributor to your overall score. Knowing where you need to accelerate and improve transition time is essential to achieving a high score.
Total Elapsed Time
The total elapsed time is the duration of time from the start signal to a final shot. It is beneficial for gauging drills and overall stage performance. As you measure more parts of your performance, you will see areas where you can shave off time. This will contribute to faster stage times and improved scores. When you break down each activity's details, you can better understand the time cost of those activities on stage.
Par times are a great way to practice gun manipulations in live-fire or dry-fire situations. The feature helps quantify the performance of completing skills on the clock using a preset start and stop signal.
Par-time drills are ideal for dry-fire practice because the sound markers signal the beginning and end of each exercise. When you have mastered a par-time drill in dry-fire, test your performance in live-fire. You don't want to create a situation where things look good in dry-fire but don't work when you get on the range. Be sure you are building on proper techniques, and always check your par time performance using live-fire.
Timer Start Signals
The timer can be configured to signal your start in various ways, and the signal can be triggered instantly—after a countdown period or randomly. Using a random start feature will help you develop better reaction times.
Building Confidence with Practice
When you are comfortable with your technique, start using a timer to measure your speed. Timers are great tools to help evaluate and find places to improve. Be sure you understand the different measures and methods used with your shot timer so you can evaluate your performance in practice sessions. Track your par-time performance as you challenge yourself with tighter par times. You'll quickly notice the improvements in your skill level and confidence.