“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” -Oft cited training adage.

The trouble with cool sounding quotes is that they’re usually not completely true.  Words have specific meanings.

 Ron Avery recently wrote an article picking that quote apart.  I’m going to cover what he said in my own words.

But first, why an article about speed?  We’re talking rifle shooting here, not IPSC, not quickdraw, not tactical carbine shooting.

Speed is a factor in field shooting because:

a.  that cape buffalo/lion/grizzly/active shooter won’t take his time to try to kill you.

b.  tasty game animals don’t like to wait too long to be shot

c.  The longer you “fuss the shot”, the more fatigued you will become and the more
      likely you’ll miss

d.  why be slow when you can do the same thing while being fast?

Choose your answer, but do it quickly!

I think what the quote up top is intended to convey is that speed without smoothness is counterproductive.  So what they could say is, “Don’t go so fast until you have the technique down better.”

We’re not concerned with slowness here, are we?  So let’s start by doing this:
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”  But that’s not necessarily true either.  Smoothness does not automatically equate to speed.  Smoothness is characterized by ease and lightness of movement, but has nothing to do with speed on its own.

Speed must be consciously applied and increased.  To develop smooth speed, there must be a gradual progression of speed under the cover of smoothness.  At times, the smoothness must be challenged to bring in the speed.

After pondering the question of speed I identified several components: efficiency, smoothness, quickness, lightness.  Efficiency is easily understood, but not always so simple to embody.  It usually takes a different point of view to identify inefficiency, but a video camera or mirror can also help.  An even more low tech way to naturally shed inefficiency is our old three friends: repetition, repetition, and repetition.  If you’ve done much volume reloading, I’m sure that there have been times when you realized if you moved your bullet tray a few inches, a second or two was saved in the process.  These epiphanies usually happen after we’ve pulled the reloading handle a few hundred times.  Don’t be afraid to put in some dry fire time with your rifle.

I believe that smoothness needs to be consciously cultivated.  There seems to be such a thing as practicing too slow- the movements will get choppy and unnatural.  Be mindful of one movement leading to the next.  If you’re moving efficiently it should begin to feel very natural.  Mount the rifle, carefully and smoothly placing the butt in the shoulder pocket, while placing the comb of the stock into your cheek, forming the all-important cheek weld, while also ensuring perfect eye relief (or sight alignment if irons are your thing).  Attain a sight picture, allow your breathing to pause at its natural point, and press the trigger.  Follow through and work the bolt while breathing.  Make certain that you maintain your cheekweld and visual connection to the target as you work the bolt.  Be ready for a follow up shot. Everything should be smooth and efficient- as perfect as you can get it.

Quickness is not the same as fast.  With quickness there is no rush.  We’re not trying to force a fast movement.  We’re just doing a correct movement in less time.  This is where lightness comes in.  We don’t want a lot of tension in our movements.  It makes them less precise, less sensitive, and slower.  In the end, what you’re doing should feel easy.  That means you’re getting good.

Another way to increase speed is to use a shot timer.  I used one extensively, a PACT club timer, until I broke it (my fault, not the timer’s).  The disadvantage of a timer is that it only tells you when to start and when to stop.  There are no cues in the middle to keep your time on track.  This led me to work speed like I would do it on the guitar, with a metronome.

If you’re not familiar with a metronome it’s just a device that clicks at a rate measured in beats per minute (BPM).  You can break down each part of a skill and assign it a click, or if you’re musically inclined, a note value.  The best metronome for firearms skill practice would be an inexpensive quartz model like this.  I had a 9 volt battery last about 15 years in one.  The range and choices of BPM rates are odd; this goes back to old school mechanical metronome settings.  I made a chart converting BPM into seconds for half beats, and 1, 2, 3, and four beats.
Here’s a picture of my chart:

If you’d like a copy, shoot me an email.

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