Competition Stage Breakdown

  • Sumo

Taken from Your Competition Handgun Training Program (edited)-

Stage Breakdown – Planning to shoot a stage is often a critical part of performing well in a match.  Below you will find a flow chart that outlines how I go about breaking down a stage and planning to shoot it, and the following are some general details and terms you need to know:

  • Stage Markers – Stage markers are spots on the stage that I use to help me align the gun faster on the first target in a shooting array.  When you walk through a stage you will find that as you enter shooting positions with walls or other vision barriers blocking your view, the first target you will see as you actually step into the location where you will shoot from will appear in a specific location in your visual field (height).  The sooner you can bring the gun to bear on this target, the faster you can shoot it.  For this reason, when moving into the shooting location, if there is a spot on the wall or vision barrier that I can align the gun with, I know when that target comes into view that the gun will pointed toward the target area, at generally the right height.  When entering a shooting position, I extend the gun before I get stopped, and because of this all I have left to do is find the target with my eyes, do some quick centering of the gun on the aiming point, and begin firing.  Conversely a shooter with less experience might have to extend their gun, find the target, and then start their centering process where I already have all that done, giving me significant time advantages.
  • Stop Markers – Similar to stage markers, stop markers are spots on the ground that help me make sure that I stop in the exact spot I need to in order to see, and shoot at the targets in that particular array at that location.  If I fail to find and step on a specific stop marker, I risk having to adjust my feet to shoot a target in an array where there are multiple targets with a big swing involved.  In the below stage, notice the arrows pointing out where there might be stage and stop markers you could use to better shoot the stage.
Stage with arrows that show stage and stop markers.

Stage with arrows that show stage and stop markers.


(Graphic credit Tim Egan and stage designed by Nate Martin)

  • General Stage Breakdown Tips – The following are some things that you will want to pay attention to in your stage breakdown/planning process:
    • Stay away from new things! Stick to skills you know you have and can perform on demand under stress.  The only time you might want to stick your neck out like that is when a title is on the line and you desire to “go for it”.
    • Plan reloads with some margin of error.  I have seen really good shooters trash stages because they planned no reload and decided to shoot to empty and had a malfunction or miss on the stage that messed up their plan.  The time they spent fixing the problem, and then trying to finish the stage cost them much more time than just doing a reload in a logical pause area.
    • Be careful watching shooters before you.  Good shooters make hard stuff look easy.  Bad shooters make easy stuff look hard.  Either way, those images can affect your self-image and hurt your performance on the stage.  I strongly recommend that you do NOT look at the shooters before you when you are about to shoot.  Spend that time facing away and visualizing instead.
    • Know the shooting order.  This seems so simple, but I have seen (and experienced this myself) many shooters perform poorly on a stage because they did not pay attention to the shooting order and got caught by surprise.  Make sure you are prepared to shoot well before your turn.
    • Focus on the match.  If you shoot matches for social reasons, that is cool with me, but I doubt you would be reading this book if you did not have a strong desire to win.  Focus on the shooting rather than socializing at matches, within reason.  Obviously if you are sponsored by a company, that company will want you speaking to other shooters about their product or services, but keep these conversations to a minimum until after you have finished the stage.
    • Maintain your gear.  As described earlier in this book, I “work” matches, rather than shoot them.  This means that I am constantly “working” to prepare my gear and myself for the next stage, or document the results of the last one.  Check your gun and gear regularly during a match.  Keep your glasses clean, magazines clean and prepared, etc.

Stage Breakdown FlowchartThis has been requested by several people, and may be of use to the new shooter.  This flowchart will show you the process I go through to break down and stage in my planning process:


Stage breakdown flowchart.

Stage breakdown flowchart.


Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.


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