Early Beats Fast: Part Two

June 02, 2016

Early Beats Fast: Part Two

I learned long ago that if I’m not five minutes early, I’m ten minutes late. Applying this principle adds calmness and preparation to my day. It helps me succeed with basically no cost except perhaps leaving a little early or organizing my class plan the night before.

Compare this behavior to people you know who are on-time but arrive with no time to spare. Are they calm? Are they prepared? Can you rely on them or will the slightest hiccup cause failure in their approach?

Now let me ask you a question that I want you to think through:

If we were in a gunfight… would you rather shoot earlier than me or faster?

Most people think about it and pronounce “earlier,” with which I would agree. While this principle is easy to understand, many shooters will still go out and shoot in a way where they “arrive on time” but without the preparation or calmness needed to succeed.

Arriving Early

So what does it mean to arrive early as a shooter? It means that your shooting technique is preparing you for a successful shot as early as possible. This method requires more mindfulness of your process but it will allow you to outperform any shooter that arrives on time.

The earliest way to do something is to be ready before you start.

If you are not already arriving early for each shot, you will need to change both your mindset and your technique to apply this principle. Here are a few questions to help you analyze your performance and determine if you are arriving early:

  • Does your technique have you resetting the trigger during recoil so the gun is ready to fire when the gun settles?
  • How early are your sights aligned? Are they aligned by the way that you get the gun out of the holster and raise it to align with your dominant eye, with no adjustment necessary?
  • Do you stand in your shooting position (which is natural and not threatening) or do you have to do a complicated motion to build your stance?
  • Can you feel your gun go to slide lock or malfunction, or do you have to check?

Examine Your Draw

One issue that students deal with at every class we run is presenting the handgun to the target. There are three general conventions for doing this: arcing, punching out, and rising with sights aligned. While each method can work, which one will allow you to arrive early?

The “radius up” arc method can work but how early is the gun ready to hit the target? Only in the last 10% or so of travel. The muzzle travels a long way, and even with gravity to help you stop, the longer you travel the harder it is to stop. It could arrive on time, but it’s a bit like taking the long way home.

The next method, the punch out technique, involves lifting your gun to your mouth or higher and punching straight out. This does get the gun in the target area sooner but it causes bouncing at the end of the push because the arm tendons and ligaments act as springs at the end of extension. The spring effect can be reduced if you push out slower (which we see a lot), or you can wait for it to stop, which takes longer. Alternatively, you can accept the wobble, pull the trigger, and hope it all works out–but the only way to be sure is to wait.

A third approach, and the method we teach at TPC, is to rise with sights aligned and your hands set at the angle you aim the gun with. This presents the gun to the target for most of the travel time, follows the shortest route, and the sights arrive on target already lined up. Once your sights are up, you simply confirm and shoot. That’s early!

Can you think of an earlier method? Let us know; if it tests out, we will teach it! We aren’t tied to a particular technique… we seek performance.

Will you be on time, or early?

I know what you will say but are you prepared to change your mindset and test your current techniques? A lot of popular doctrine might fall by the wayside–which is fine with us. We did our own tests long ago and found answers driven by performance.

We urge you to consider what you are doing, whether it be presenting a firearm, building your stance, preparing for your next shot, or doing a reload. In every situation being ready early beats being fast but rushed.

Need more help shooting early? We’d be happy to work with you, your agency, or your unit on this. If you have questions, please contact us.

Ken Nelson

Co-Founder, Tactical Performance Center

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