USPSA matches frequently have stages which can be shot many different ways. It’s a thinking game almost as much as a shooting game. What is the best way to shoot this stage? And the best way depends on the shooter. Can they easily make long distance shots? Can they run and stop quickly? Can they shoot better over or under obstacles?
One of my biases has always been to run to a set of targets and shoot them from close up rather than shoot from a distance. I consume time running but I can shoot a lot faster and get better hits when I am close to the targets. But there is a tradeoff. If there is only one target then almost always it is going to be better to take your time and make one or two carefully aimed shots rather than run 50 (or more!) feet to hit a full sized USPSA target. So how do you know when you should run and when you should just shoot?
I’ve always just sort of guessed and sometimes had dramatically great results. So much so that I have had better scores than Master class shooters and the shooters who followed me would shoot it “my way” rather than the way others had been shooting it before me.
But how can one know which is the better way, without shooting the stage both ways, rather than relying on intuition? I decided to do some tests. I reserved a bay at the local indoor gun range and placed a bunch of USPSA targets at the end of the range. I then moved back various distances and tried shooting the targets various ways.
In each test I shot carefully enough to get all A-zone hits.
At 15 yards I found I could run to about one yard away from the targets and then get a single shot on the first target in about 3.5 seconds. The second shot on a target required about 0.20 seconds. As I moved parallel to the target line the transition to each new target required 0.40 seconds. From 20 yards the run time was about 4.4 seconds with, of course, the same splits on the targets as I moved parallel to the target line.
From a low ready position at 15 yards it took me about 1.3 seconds for the first shot with splits of about 0.55 seconds regardless of whether it was the same or a different target. From 20 yards it was about the same acquisition time for the first target but with splits of about 0.95 seconds.
I also tried shooting at the same time I moved toward the targets. This took much longer than either of the other methods.
From this information I made a spreadsheet that allowed me to explore the decision as to run and shoot or just shoot. The results surprised me. I expected that at greater distances it would be require more targets to make it more worthwhile to just stand and shoot rather than just shoot. But that wasn’t the case.
At 15 yards I should run and shoot if there are five or more targets. Otherwise I should just stand and shoot. At 20 yards I should run and shoot if there are only three or more targets.
It turns out the time to run goes up linearly with the distance but the additional split time (compared to shooting from one yard away) goes up at a faster rate. I was going to extrapolate from these two data points to different ranges but with the split time varying in a non-linear fashion I need more data to be able to do a proper extrapolation.