For the past 3 months, I’ve been working into a routine using Hit Factor calculations to measure my Pistol and Rifle performance. This routine consists of treating range time as if it were a match, collecting data to perform a IPSC/USPSA Hit Factor calculation.
Previously, I would rely on subjective “feelings” to gauge my performance and though I dumped a lot of rounds down range, I wasn’t able to formally characterize any gains or isolate any room for improvement. With this “Hit Factor” method, I feel more confident, my range time has been more enjoyable, and I’ve been able to measure discernible improvement.
The Hit Factor is simply the “Points Per Second” calculation for a given string of targets. To calculate it, you sum up your points against a standard target than divide it by the total time.
Materials you need to do this are:
- a shot timer (I use a ShotMaxx 2 Watch Timer – http://fasttoys.net/ca/DAA-Shotmaxx-2-Watch-Timer/),
- rehabilitated IPSC targets (either Metric or Classic – although recently I’ve stuck to Metric)
- tape to reset the target
- a small notebook
- a spreadsheet with formulas to calculate Hit Factor
You also need to define simple sets of drills you repeat on the range.
I try to keep sets down to 5 reps with no more than 10 rounds per set. More rounds than that and it becomes too difficult to score and reset the target (the tape will start to obscure the target zones and/or shots will get lost with overlapping hits).
It is important to keep these sets as simple as possible to isolate individual areas of improvement. If the drill combines multiple skills, it is not a good drill.
For example, “Draw from holster at surrender position, controlled pair against the target at 10 yards” may seem simple, but it actually combines two broad set of fundamentals (drawing and firing a controlled pair) that is impacted by dozens of basic factors. This includes: hand positioning at surrender, hand movement to grip, acquiring the grip, draw, present, first round target acquisition, first shot trigger control, recoil management, reacquiring the target, trigger reset, second shot trigger control.
It is better to do a single drill, focusing on each skill individually since factors affecting one may not affect the other and it won’t be obvious if you combine them both.
A lightened trigger may help with your first shot trigger pull, but it may alter your trigger reset and second shot. How can you objectively assess your trigger reset and second shot if your drill includes the basics of doing a draw, present, and first round? You can’t.
To isolate those specific factors, I have 3 sets of drills I consistantly run to collect data for. (In brackets are my shorthand).
- Draw from surrender, one shot drill (Draw OSD)
- Present from compressed ready, one shot drill (OSD)
- Present from compressed ready, controlled pair (CP)
With these drills, I am able to diagnose areas of strength and weakness and, when off the range, meditate on ways to improve. This is especially important when you are making modifications to your guns, as doing this allows you to determine if a modification actually gave you a performance gain or not. It also allows you to determine areas to work on during your dry-fire practice at home.
Contrasting running these 3 isolated drills versus the single drill of Draw/Controlled Pair, the Hit Factors from each make your strengths and weaknesses very obvious and make very clear what you can do to improve.
Your goal should always be to either have a consistent or improving Hit Factor for each drill.
That said, session over session, you have to variables consistent. Target range and type of target especially.
Data collected against an IPSC Metric at 10 yards is not the same as data collected against an IDPA target at 7 yards. While your general skills may improve swapping back and fourth between targets, your ability to isolate down specific, actionable points to improve on are almost impossible without consistent, reliable data.
Given this methodology, there are three ways to improve, borrowing directly from Jeff Cooper’s (and IPSC’s) Motto: “Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas” (DVC):
Accuracy, Power, and Speed.
Power relates primarily to Power Factor. Power is why in IPSC/USPSA, points on the different target zones differ for Major vs Minor Power Factor. From a 3-Gun perspective, I hold the opinion that Power also relates to the mechanism by which a gun manages the it’s ammunition. Hence, changing divisions represents a substantial change in how “Power” comes into play in your technique as a shooter. This was my preferred workaround the fact that I hate quad loading and wasn’t committed to spending the time with a dremel to be able to do it consistently. (I Derya to shoot Open Division with me next year).
I think Speed and Accuracy are more interrelated and that improving either (or both) is where shooters can spend a lot of time on the range and at home improving. This is done through practicing isolated fundamentals. Things like presenting and acquiring a sight picture, full take up of the trigger, catching the link on a reset, taking a follow up shot, reloads, etc.
On the timer, pushing the limits of speed comes with the trade off of sacrificing accuracy (and vice versa). It’s only by practicing and analyzing the basic skills that you can increase your speed without sacrificing accuracy, or vice versa.
This is also why I adopted this “Hit Factor” method of practice.
One other major advantages of using this method is having concrete performance data that you can draw hard conclusions from. This goes back to the notion that previously, most of my assessments were subjective based on “feel,” not backed by hard data.
As an example, “Controlled Pair drill from Compressed Ready at 10 Yards” is a drill I have consistently ran the past 5 weeks with multiple configurations of Glocks (concluding with my development of my Roland Special Twins).
For all configurations, this was my Hit Factor Min, Max, and Average during those 5 sessions:
During this time, I incrementally upgraded and practiced with my Roland Twins. Those upgrades and trigger time had a very clear impact on my performance.
I could boil down my conclusions to be even more granular, comparing the performance of individual configurations I used at Week 1 with my best performance during Week 5.
During Week 1, my Hit Factor across 3 sets of Controlled Pairs with a Stock Glock 19 averaged 4.01.
During Week 5, my best Hit Factor with “Roland 1” was 9.38. My Stock Glock 19 was 42.8% of my best Roland Special’s best, most recent performance.
If I wanted to look even more closely at the data, my Stock Glock 19’s Average Times and Score, respectively was:
Time (individual reps across 15 reps in 3 sets)
Points (totals per set, across 3 sets)
For my latest Roland 1 Performance was:
Time (individual reps across 5 reps in 1 set)
From this, I can draw the clear conclusion that my Roland Special is faster, more consistent and allows me to be more accurate compared to my Stock Glock 19.
There’s a myriad of reasons WHY this is the case (and I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on that). Suffice to say, I can quantify the gains I have made by upgrading and practicing with my Roland Special compared to a random Stock Glock.
Going off my most recent data, my Roland Special is 9% faster, 42% more accurate.
Were I to try to improve my performance with my Stock Glock 19 with this data, I could either practice slowing down to be more accurate or follow a similar upgrade path to what I did to my Roland Special (something I’m not interested in, at this time).
What is evident is the Hit Factor differential between them is likely too large to overcome with practice alone. This is why my Roland Special is an Open Division pistol, while the Stock Glock 19 might be suitable for Tactical/Limited Division.
In closing, collecting this data gives you hard data from your range visits. It allows you to develop your skill set more efficiently versus endlessly doing mag dumps. This also has the side benefit of keeping the cost low by realizing greater performance gains with a lower expenditure of ammunition and unnecessary upgrades.
If you are interested in hitting up the range with me sometime, I’d love to get you started on following this methodology for yourself!
Hope to see you out there soon!