In 2012, Casey Reed had never even owned a pistol. Today, the Federal Premium engineer is a USPSA Grand Master and one of the world’s best practical handgun shooters. Obviously, natural talent, tireless determination and a lot of hard work have made him the shooter he is, but he also got to this point by perfecting a series of skills. Whether you have dreams of competing at the highest level, or just want to shoot better, follow Reed’s steps.
USPSA is an extremely dynamic sport that involves lots of movement--whether leaving a position you just shot from, running to another, or setting up in a new position. That’s why Reed says it’s so important use the proper stance.
Reed stresses that the foundation of a good stance is setting your feet roughly shoulder width apart and keeping your knees slightly bent, with a minor forward weight bias.
“There’s a reason almost every kind of athlete positions themselves like this,” Reed says. “It lets you move fast and provides the most stable base for shooting. And if you keep your shoulders slightly in front of your hips, it will control recoil for faster follow up shots.”
Shooting accurately is always important, but Reed knows that shooting accurately at speed is even more critical to high scores in competition. And shooting fast demands having the proper grip on your gun to control recoil and allow faster follow-up shots.
For Reed, the first aspect of a good grip is getting your hands as high on the gun as possible. This lets you control muzzle flip more effectively than if you were to hold the gun low. For your dominant hand, the webbing between the thumb and index finger should be in the beavertail of the gun. For the non-dominant hand, the index finger should be in contact with the bottom of the trigger guard.
Reed says the second component is to grip the gun hard. “What works best for me is to grip the gun as hard as possible with both hands while maintaining dexterity in my trigger finger,” he says. “This usually means my dominant hand is gripping just slightly less than my non-dominant hand.”
Shooting accurately depends on properly executing two fundamental skills: Aligning the sights on target, and pressing the trigger without disturbing them.
“A good trigger pull means putting the pad of your index finger on the trigger—not the joint or tip of the finger.”
Although there are a couple different trigger pull methods, Reed says the exact technique isn’t as important as being able to perform it without disturbing the sights—and that requires pressing the trigger straight back, every time.
The draw—it’s the first technique used in just about every USPSA stage. And Reed says that regardless of how the stage starts, the goal is always the same: Get a good grip on the gun and bring it up fast and efficiently from the holster to shoot as soon as possible.
Upon the start signal, the dominant hand should move directly to the pistol and start to acquire a grip. Meanwhile, the non-dominant hand must move across the body toward the holster. Once the dominant hand obtains a grip, the pistol starts to be drawn from the holster and brought up to firing position.
“That’s when your non-dominant hand needs to acquire a grip on the gun,” Reed says. Bring it up to about eye level, push it toward the target and fire when ready. “
It’s a simple fact—most competitive pistol shooting stages require you shoot more rounds than your magazine holds. This means you’ll need to reload to complete the stage, and since you’re on the clock, the faster you do it, the better off you’ll be.
Reed’s first step is to drop the empty magazine by pressing the mag release with his dominant-hand thumb.
“At that same time, your non-dominant hand needs to be moving toward your belt to pull a fresh mag,” he says. “Be sure to grab it in such a way that your pointer finger lays across the front of the magazine, with the base pad seated in the palm of your hand.”
Bring your gun to chest level and angle both the mag well of the pistol and the incoming magazine itself toward each other to ensure a fast, snag-free transition.
“Keep your eyes locked on your gun, while inserting the magazine, then reestablish a proper grip and sight picture and continue shooting the course of fire.”
In any USPSA stage, you usually have to engage multiple targets. Minimizing the amount of time it takes to transition between shooting one target and the next is critical for faster stage times, and Reed says it’s one of the biggest separators between good shooters and the best shooters.
The transition process starts when you take your final shot on a given target. As soon as the gun discharges, your eyes should immediately go to the next target. While the gun is still in recoil, it should follow your eyes and move toward the new target, using the momentum of recoil itself to help bring it into the next shooting position.
“A common mistake is to shoot, let the gun recoil and settle, then begin the transition process,” Reed says. “This wastes precious time.”
He also stresses the importance of looking exactly where you want to shoot the next target, saying that some shooters miss the A zone simply because they weren’t looking there. So acquire the proper sight picture, take the shot and start the process again until you’ve completed the stage.
Reed points out that most USPSA stages require you to shoot from multiple positions, so it’s extremely important to get to each new position as quickly as possible. “Dynamic moving skills like position entry are a key separator between shooters,” he says.
This process starts when you’re running to the next position. Reed suggests visualizing where you need to shoot from on the ground ahead of you and then picture exactly where you need to place your feet. When you’re roughly two to three steps out of the desired position, begin to decelerate.
“Keep your knees bent. It absorbs shock and stabilizes your upper body,” he says. “As you slow down, bring the gun up and start to aim at the next target.”
Your ability to leave each position in a USPSA stage fast and efficiently is just as critical as entering them.
Reed cautions that every shooting position is different and might require a different technique to exit efficiently. Some positions require you to push off hard in the direction needed. Others demand that you lean and be next to a fault line, which might force you to step out and push off.
“Whatever technique you choose, it’s important to start the process as soon as possible and move aggressively,” he says.
Shooting On The Move
Although you’ll rarely shoot on the move in competition, Reed believes that knowing when and how to do it right can result in very fast stage times.
“But first, be realistic,” he warns. “If you can’t aggressively move and shoot at the same time, don’t. You’ll score higher if just stand and shoot.”
When you do shoot on the move, remember that all techniques of a good stance and position entry still apply. Bend your knees to absorb shock and keep you upper body stable while your lower body is moving. Finally, practice. Learning how to stabilize your sights and shoot accurately while moving in any direction takes a lot of time behind the gun.