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Old October 4, 2011, 10:45 AM   #1
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Point of diminishing returns on the range?

So this weekend, I decided I was going to make up for past missed weeks, and fire all of my leftover 9mm (before selling my old pistol). I had approx 200 rounds left. I then decided to break in my new .40, and brought 200rounds for it. My shot groups at about 75 rounds into my .40 were excellent. And then, suddenly they went to hell. Terrible placement, poor grouping, I just couldnt make it happen.

Of course, I tried to fight on even tough my forearms were getting tired (i think I tightened my grip a ton to compensate for being tired, and bet that was throwing everything off), and ended up shooting up a whole box with terrible results.

Just wondering if anyone else had any insight into the point of diminishing returns, like how to get through it without leaving the range all ****** off, or how to know when to pack it in for the day.
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Old October 4, 2011, 10:54 AM   #2
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Yes. If I'm shooting for accuracy I won't shoot mre than 50 rounds with my .40. If I'm working on point shooting, draw and shoot, or double taps, then I'll shoot more as I'm willing to accept a larger MOA.
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Old October 4, 2011, 11:06 AM   #3
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Being a smoker gives me an excuse to take breaks, rest the hands and arms a bit.

Last outing of shooting a friend and I were using the same target and just switched off every 2 mags or so, and we literally were at it all day. Blew off close to 1000 rounds of .45 between the 2 of us.
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Old October 4, 2011, 11:09 AM   #4
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Yes- I'm good for about a half hour, them I'm wasting my time. Better to shoot more often for shorter period of time, IMHO.
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Old October 4, 2011, 11:09 AM   #5
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It makes sense that the human body gets fatigued. We expend physical energy when we shoot. Also, metal fatigue can be an issue, concentration can wane.

Your story sounds like physical fatigue. I would say that yes, you can get diminishing return from practicing shooting when you get fatigued.

However, on the other hand, you may actually gain a bit of additional physical endurance if you consistently push yourself into fatigue. That is a standard which exercise trainers recognize. You place demands upon the body which exceed the normal capacity to send a signal to the body to increase its capacity to do what you are training.

The trick is to learn what is optimum for your purposes. Shooting is both mental and physical.

I like to leave practice on a good note; so I will push myself to shoot "just one more" until I get that satisfactory performance. It may require a little downtime to allow the muscles to recover and the nerves to recharge. Stop shooting, walk around, shake out your arms, drink some fluids, mentally envision what you what to accomplish . . . . .
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Old October 4, 2011, 11:13 AM   #6
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Look at like a Zen Archer,,,

The moment you start shooting badly,,,
That is when to stop for the day.

Why practice doing something badly?

Back when I was doing archery competitions,,,
I would face the target and shoot a round of six arrows.

If they were grouped tightly and all felt well,,,
I would practice to burn that accuracy into my muscle memory.

If that first six arrows were haphazardly strewn across he target,,,
I cased my equipment and went home for the day,,,
So I wouldn't practice doing it badly.

This practice method got me laughed at,,,
But I won a lot of tourneys.

If I were serious about shooting in competition,,,
I would use the same method today.

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Old October 4, 2011, 11:37 AM   #7
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I have a P226 in .40 S&W, I used to bring all 7 of my magazines to the range fully loaded up and ready to go. After 3 or 4 outings I realized after mag 4 or 5 my groups went to hell. Now I only bring 4, then reload giving myself a little bit of a breather. Even then, on days when my bad shoulder is bugging me it's to much. Now sometimes I just reload two of the 4 before finishing up.

The answer will be different for every shooter but for me atleast at some point I see diminishing returns.

The real bear is the typical range I go to despite being indoors is NOT heated or AC'd. In the summer you have to deal with your own sweat, how it gets in your eyes and on your palms. Thankfully the gun store is probably the only place I can wear a Bandana on my head and not look like a crazyman...

Also, as a general rule I will NOT go to the range if my shoulder is bugging me that day, If I have had a very tough week, If I havn't slept well or if in general I feel bleh because unless you are training to be a Navy Seal like others here have said why practice doing something badly.

Last edited by Patriot86; October 4, 2011 at 11:59 AM.
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Old October 4, 2011, 11:54 AM   #8
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When shooting for groups at further distance, I usually limit myself to 100 rounds. Most of us can shoot defensively at close range all day long, but bullseye shooting is more mentally and physically demanding.

If you insist on extended sessions, try taking a break once in a while to relax your brain, eyes and muscles. Bring something to drink, too.

Last edited by BeachHead; October 4, 2011 at 12:38 PM.
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Old October 4, 2011, 12:31 PM   #9
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After fatigue sets in, you're simply making noise. If there is something to be gained by shooting after your tired/fatigued, I'd love to know what it is. I have found that fatigue can be delayed somewhat by stepping away and taking a short break.
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Old October 4, 2011, 12:33 PM   #10
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My first trip to the indoor "Air Conditioned" range this year was bad...

It was hot. I was uncomfortable, I had to keep wiping my eye protection because sweat was running down onto the lenses, my palms were sweaty, my Glock was slippery and I couldn't keep a good drip, my shot groups were horrible, etc...

I also got tired pretty quickly, my sight picture was pretty shaky... and my arms were tired.

The first thing that I did was alter my daily workout to do more upper body work – especially the muscles I use to hold my pistol out… one of the best exercises I know for that is the wrist roller.

The only way I do the exercise different as shown is that I hold my arms out straight - and higher, not at waist level like in the video but at shoulder level - about where my arms would be for firing a pistol.

The next time I went I brought two towels and a sweatband in case I needed it. I didn't need the sweat band because the towel was enough. I also brought a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I used the other towel to wipe my hands to keep them pretty much oil-free.

The change in my exercise regimen made a huge difference. I was able to hold the gun steady for a longer shooting session and I wasn’t getting fatigued and having muscle tremors.
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Old October 4, 2011, 12:33 PM   #11
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Shooting is 95% mental. When you reach the point of "diminishing returns", it means you got tired and gave up on your fundamentals.

When that starts happening, you need to take a few deep breaths and return to you fundamentals.

It's called building endurance. If you're going to run a 10 mile race, in practice you don't stop every time you hit 10 miles, you push yourself farther.

Like the race, continuing shooting builds you endurance, as your endurance increased, so does your ability to run 10 miles.

It doesn't hurt to pause and take a few deep breaths, re-adjust your position.

When I'm shooting Slow Fire at 600 or 1000 yards, I normally shoot 20 rounds plus sighter's.

Regardless how I feel after the first 10 rounds of the string, I get completely out of position. Re-adjust the sling, position, NPA, etc and start over as if I'm shooting another match.

One over looked and seldum discussed fundamental of marksmanship is relaxing. There is no reason you can't shoot while relaxed. If you can't relax in your position, you have the wrong position.

It works with pistols and revolvers the same as it does with rifles.

If you get tired shooting 50 rounds, start shooting 100 rounds WHILE CONCENTRATING ON FUNDAMENTALS.
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Old October 4, 2011, 01:11 PM   #12
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The other thing that factors into this is emotions and mentality. The last time I went to the range I had in mind that I was going to get a certain shot group at 50' My first few shot groups were not that great, they started to tighten up and then I got a really good one and I set that target aside. But I wanted to do better, so I kept at it, but I never produced a better shot group than the one I set aside. I did get keyed up over it and my last five minutes at the range I was determined to produce my best shot group of the day - but it didn't happen. My last shot group was pretty lousy.

Some of the things that I learned from that experience is that I really don't know where my best shot group is going to show up, I just have to relax and let it happen. Me mustering my will power and trying to force it - is not going to make it happen. The expectations that I put on the situation just make me agitated, make me tense and probably keep me from really relaxing. One of the false expectations that I have is that my shooting is going to get better and better and better and the pinnacle is going to happen with my last shot group of the day... Me getting tense about not doing well made me shoot less accurately - my shooting just got worse.

Well it doesn't happen that way very often and if I want to be miserable because it didn't happen that way - I can chose to do that. Or I can just accept the best shot group I created and accept that it occurred somewhere in the middle of my shooting session and leave the range happy.
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Old October 4, 2011, 02:31 PM   #13
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I've had this happen, mostly with knife throwing. Sometimes with archery. Not much when shooting, but I also don't often have much money for ammunition so I likely just haven't had the chance.

I agree that it's about the fundamentals, once you forget them everything is off. Taking a break helps. With knife throwing I would just start throwing left handed. I became more aware of the basics and I also got better with my left hand. Maybe giving your right hand a rest and shooting leftie could help.

(Yes, I know knife throwing is never going to save me but it's fun and I've been at it since I was 12, before shooting.)
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Old October 4, 2011, 05:41 PM   #14
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thanks for all the input guys, I particularly liked reading about the knife throwing.
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Old October 5, 2011, 06:29 AM   #15
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I think it depends a little on what you're practicing for, as well as what you're shooting. My goal used to be little more than keeping up my "qualification," so to say, in order to be tolerably decent with all of them. Gradually, however, shooting ceased to be fun. I had no friends that were shooters, although I have associates now who hunt but the hunters were a very closed community. So I quit shooting, not that I ceased being interested in guns and shooting, obviously.

I also think that if you are practicing for serious self-defense, I wonder about actually shooting in one session more than you actually carry. Up to a certain point (which is what the question was), it doesn't hurt and you'll probably want to work on a few details here and there. Other things can be practiced without shooting, that is, by dry firing. Things like practicing your draw and so on. Some ranges frown on certain things like drawing and shooting from the holster or rapid fire and so on. You're always limited one way or another.

Ideally, if you could get in some practice by doing a little shooting all by yourself somewhere where you don't have to follow anyone's rules and where you have to do a little extra to shoot and make hits without worrying about someone watching or having to stand a certain way in a certain place, I think that would do more to help your actual skill with shooting than anything. But that's easier to say than to do.

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Old October 5, 2011, 07:52 AM   #16
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Physical and mental fatigue can very much play a role when you are attempting to be as accurate as possible. Many times in different shooting diciplines people will find ways to mitigate this fatigue and to increase their endurance.

Not sure how much experience you have with recoil from large caliber firearms, but there is a differnce in how much each individual can take before they begin having trouble with maintaining tight groups and performing the fundamentals in a consistant fashion. Each person will be a little different and what you do to avoid this will be up to you. Pushing too far will make it more difficult for you to improve or maintain a high level of markmanship proficiency. You must learn and know your limitations.

Recoil has a cumulative effect on the CNS. There is an old torture technique I have heard called " Chinese Water" toruture. The method involves strapping a person to a chair and while they are immobilized a steady drip of water is allowed to strike the victim upon the skull. Given enough time the drops begin to feel as if they are hammer blows and even become painful to the victim. The splashing effect also causes flinching in the victim as well. This is the same effect that a shooter will encounter as he shoots more and more rounds in a non stop string of shooting.

The fatigue induced by higher recoiling firearms takes less to reach this threshhold than with something such as a .22LR pistol or a .38 Special shooting wadcutters out of a full sized service revolver. Once you do reach that point the body begins to react to it and attempts to protect itself. A flinch in a natural reaction to an external stimulus where the mind and body will perceive it as harmful. Just as constant noise will cause a person to tire so will a louder more intense report for a larger caliber. So it is this synergistic effect on the person which lead to a degradation of accuracy. If you push too hard the body will develop bad habits you had previously trained out of your shooting.

Older gentlemen that shoot heavy magnum rounds in large caliber pistols, think 44 Magnum and up, can atest to them not needing much more than 50rounds before they encounter this same effect and they have a great deal more tolerance from steady shooting and building up to those calibers. The same can be said of any firearm and shooter combination.

Shooting gloves and recoil vests or weighting for longarms can mitigate this and allow a little more shooting. Increasing your round count by taking taking more and longer breaks will help too. The one thing you don't want to do is push so hard that the CNS becomes traumatized by it as this will be hard to overcome once you begin shaking and flinching.

A similar effect to external stimulus can be seen in a heat exaustion victim. The next time the same person begins to even come close any exaustion from heat their body will shut down early in anticipation of the mind pushing it beyond it's physical limits as happened before.

Muscle fatigue plays a role too, but as a rule that would be related to having a very poor level of fitness. Gripping the pistol or firearm just enough to contol it and not putting a death grip on it are a happy medium developed from getting familiar with the firearm in question.

Today many don't encounter this problem or recognize it for what it is. The CQB thing, that is so fashionable, requires very little in accuracy but is more of about quickness and repetitiveness. These same guys often find themselves with poor accuracy when they attemp it from over training and abusing their CNS.

Also take note that the miniscule recoil of a 9mm or 5.56 chambered firearm allows for much higher round counts to reach this same threshold. Many will say that lower recoil and muzzle blast make it easier to accomplish a high level of marksmanship. I don't disagree, but it isn't because of the lower recoil, but rather from not having more varibles to deal with, other than the fudamentals of it. Basically you need to learn to walk before you run. It is the bane of many super manly guys that think they must start out with larger calibers and they are tougher than the other wimpy guys because of it. What they do is make it harder for themselves to unlearn the bad habits they ingrained into themselves from improper techniques and self abuse. Taking pain from shooting is a sure way to make it difficult in many more ways than most think.

Take your time as the others have said. Once you begin to see your accuracy going out, pack up for the day or in the least take a good long break and them come back at it. If you still find your accuracy is not as it should be, from your own self knowledge, then it is time to just go home. If you haven't had enough of training time with the firearm in question, then practice some presentation, grip/mounting and dry fire to further reinforce the skills you wish to improve or maintain. Quality over quantity is a good mind set to have. More can be better but only if it is not at the expense of what you have already.
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Old October 5, 2011, 08:15 AM   #17
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I have a friend of mine that gets so unnerved when he goes shooting, his hands are fairly shaking... it's not the best thing. There are a number of reasons he's like that... he's excited to go shooting (he doesn't go unless I drag him along,) he's nervous (he wants to perform well in front of everyone else,) he lacks good familiarity with his weapon (I handle my 45 every day... he doesn't) and he tries to rush.

On the other hand, I try to relax... I force myself to relax and stop shooting from time to time, reload mags, ponder life, stare at the target or just sit. Get my breathing under control.

Diet has something to do with it, too. I love coffee, but I don't drink it on the way to the range... caffeine with adrenaline isn't a very good combination for target shooting. You need to eat something before hand, too. If I'm at the range more than 1 hour, I eat a granola bar or something, and drink water. I also take a couple Ibuprofin [sp?] beforehand.
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Old October 5, 2011, 10:41 AM   #18
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I recall now that Horace Kephart, upon showing off a group of excellent marksmen shooting at distant targets back when big bore single shot target rifles were all the rage, noted that the comment of his guest was that if it weren't for all the smoke and noise, it would very much be a ladies' game. In other words, it had little relevance to anything useful. But it is an arguable point.
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Old October 6, 2011, 05:30 PM   #19
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Think about how good a shot you would be if you fired only 10 rounds, but did it every day! It tends to focus the mind.
So does thinking that each round costs $10 - which may be true in a few years.
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Old October 6, 2011, 07:54 PM   #20
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No matter what skill you're trying to learn, there is a point where fatigue occurs and you will perform worse if you continue.

In some skills (such as guitar), continuing past the point of fatigue just burns in bad technique and is counter-productive. In others, such as learning to land an airplane, really bad things can happen.

It ain't the quantity of the practice - it's the quality.
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Old October 6, 2011, 08:19 PM   #21
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Reaching the point of diminishing returns? I can honestly say that I've never been there. This may sound corny, but I try as best I can to enjoy every second I'm sending projectiles down range because I don't get to go nearly as much as I want to. Most of my practice takes place in my garage with my air rifle so when I go to the range its fun time. I'm usually with two friends that enjoy target shooting as much as I do so and between shots, looking down spotting scopes, and changing targets we're talking points of impact, bullet and powder combos, velocity, mechanics, barrels, calibers, etc. There have been days when I didn't accomplish much of what I hoped I would but I can always sit in my garage the next day with one of my shooting buds, a cold beer or two and talk about what took place the previous day. I guess what I'm saying is that for me its too much dag gone fun to get bent outta shape about
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Old October 6, 2011, 09:49 PM   #22
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Bear in mind that in Bullseye National Match rules target shooting, a competitor shoots 30 rounds each in .22, CF, and 45 categories. Other types of bullseye matches can require 270 rounds fired. While there are time breaks beyween the couses of fire, it's still necessary to avoid any fall-off in performance if one wants to remain competitive.
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Old October 7, 2011, 08:38 AM   #23
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Slueth, you're on to something. Skeeter Skelton mentioned in one of his articles about doing some shooting everyday, pretty much like that. It never sounded like Elmer Keith did a great deal of shooting either, just continual practice but not shooting up huge amounts of expensive ammo. But having appropriate opportunities to do that is another story.
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Old October 7, 2011, 09:14 AM   #24
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Practicing slow-fire at a range is kind of a waste of time to begin with, after you've acquired a certain proficiency, and you're familiar with your weapon. If you want to test or improve your skills, take a class, shoot some IDPA, etc.
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Old October 7, 2011, 09:52 AM   #25
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Rarely do I shoot for groups with handguns. When I am shooting for groups with a handgun it is using sometype of support to test consitancy with my hand loads. Other than that I shoot fast, and go for hit or miss. I hit way more than I miss.

Rifles that is whole other world apart. I take breaks with either when shooting, also I am a calm, and relaxed person so that helps. Now the half gallon of coffee I have for breakfast probably does not.
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