We have all been there, the point in time when you are ready to squeeze the trigger and before you know whatever you were anticipating is over. Being the 3-gunner that I am, I like to refer to this as “Buzzer Blank”. After doing days’ worth of research online and watching countless hours of videos, it was my turn to “step into the octagon” of a 3-gun match. I had watched a few matches as a spectator so I was familiar with the commands and how the procedures work.
As I stepped into the shooting box, everything began to slow tremendously, then I hear the words, “shooter ready, stand by”, then the beep of the timer. The next thing that I knew I was out of breath and wondering what in the world just happened. That was the point that I realized the mental game is where matches are won and lost. This notion was especially hammered home while shooting my first major match.
We had several hours to walk stages before the match started and thus some of us finished a little early were waiting around for the official shooters brief. I stood close to one of the shooters who shot on the 3 Gun Nation Pro series the previous year, hoping to just get some luck to magically float through the air and onto my trigger finger. As I began to watch him, he was using his “air guns” to mentally shoot every stage that we had just walked through with his eyes closed, nailing every target. I was mystified at how he was able to do this. As my experience has grown I have caught myself doing this, running each and every stage in my head without hesitation and sticking to my game plan and planning for the unexpected.Being able to run a stage in your head will not only allow you to gain a competitive edge but will allow you to slow things down mentally knowing every move you are going to make before it is time to execute.
I have started to take my mental game a little further especially in my dry fire practice sessions. I have made up some “target cards” with numbers on them, I will have my wife place them on the wall in any order, give myself a few seconds to peek at them then turn my back. I will then have her call out a number and that is the first number I have to “shoot” then work in order from there. This has forced me to be mentally prepared and to visualize where every target is so I can work quickly through the sequence.
The reason we practice anything is to be able to do it forward and backward, blindfolded. This is muscle memory. Muscle memory is “storage” of motions in our brain. However, we must train our Mental Focus as much or more than muscle memory if we ever want to progress to the upper tier of competitive shooting. For example, if you think about the competitors on the 3 Gun Nation Pro Series, as far as being proficient with each firearms, the playing field is basically level with a few exceptions. The thing that separates the winners of those events are the ones that have practiced the brain skills such as: stage planning, blocking out distractions, changing plans on the fly, being in the right place at the right time and so on.
As you know it is important to do firearm manipulation drills, dry-fire drills, live-fire drills and any other drills that are associated with firearms in order to hone that muscle manipulation. However, don’t forget to train the muscle between your ears.
Have your mind ready.