Shooter's Journal #1

By Travis Johnson


March 25, 2017 My goal this weekend and during a pistol fundamentals class on Saturday was to identify weak points in my fundamentals and really solidify a platform in my shooting that I can grow off of. In past weeks, I have set a plan for my range time and followed through with it at the range, but I wasn’t fully considering why I made that particular plan and whether or not I was working on the most effective drills to improve my level of proficiency. After taking several classes and working one on one with Drew Estell, I am confident that I know what I “need” to do to shoot accurately and get better as a shooter. The next and more difficult step, however, is applying that knowledge consistently every time I holster up and get on the range. Most of my training this weekend was in a full day pistol fundamentals class. We worked many drills isolating each aspect of our shooting platform and moved into more drills that started putting everything together. After spending time isolating grip, trigger control, and recoil management, as well as getting into the basics of shooting on the move, I was able to confirm one of the key areas I need to focus on going forward. One of my primary weak-points at this point is simply going too fast too soon and needing to slow down and focus on consistency. Let’s face it, we all want to shoot fast. However, we need to be able to shoot accurately first, and this requires us to master the fundamentals. I recall a post by JJ Racaza, where he called out how he sees many people running drills “well beyond their capability” or what he calls the “exploratory stage” and not spending enough time on “…something you can do consistently then pushing that same mastered skill set to either further distance or faster rate of fire.” Yeah, many of us train for different reasons that call for different methods of training, but what JJ was getting at is although it may not always look cool “on the gram”, it is consistent and focused training that is essential to becoming a better shooter. Whether in combat, law enforcement, competition, or self-defense, shooting accurately matters. In JJ’s post, he asked, “…how fast can you put 10 rounds in a 2" diameter target at 10 yards, 5x in a row?” Is that practical for many defense or combat based shooting scenarios? Maybe not, but can it help us shoot more accurately with more consistency? I certainly believe it would.

In order for me to perform consistently, I know I need to find what “just right” feels like.

April 1, 2017 This weekend’s training started off by slowing down to focus in on finding my perfect grip, draw, sight acquisition, trigger press, and trigger reset. In order for me to perform consistently I know I need to find what “just right” feels like, and duplicate that 100% of the time. This has been more difficult for me to accomplish than I originally expected. I repeatedly find myself shifting my focus elsewhere when I start dropping shots and trying to correct that one issue that I think caused the missed shot whether it’s my grip, sight picture, or trigger reset. What really worked for me this weekend, was slowing way down and taking my time with each shot to ensure every shot felt as right as the last. I spent about an hour on this and started to see some significant improvement in my shot placement. The area where I feel I am still struggling on at this point is isolating my trigger press. Instead of pulling my trigger finger from the mid-knuckle and up, I tend to move my entire finger which pushes the gun slightly right (since I am left-handed) as I break through the wall of trigger. Once I was able to isolate this and spend a few minutes dry firing while focusing on my trigger press, I saw some steady improvement for the remainder of the day, although this is still an area I need to focus on. The highlight of the day was firing a smooth bill drill with all “A Zone” hits in 1.9 Seconds as I finished up my training, significantly better than my previous attempts. At this stage in my training I do not get too caught up with shooting fast, but it was encouraging to see what I spent the day working on come together well. While I prepare for my next couple weeks of training, I plan to utilize dry fire training at home to really focus on my trigger press and building that muscle memory. During the next couple weeks, I plan to start off with a BAER Standards drill and see if my daily dry fire practice, between training days, is starting to pay off. The results of that drill will dictate most of my training next weekend, however my overall goal will be to continue strengthening my muscle memory with consistency across everything from grip and draw to getting a smooth trigger reset and clean follow up shot. Once I can consistently perform many of the fundamental drills. I will begin speeding it up and implementing some transition drills and shooting on the move.

One of my main objectives is to be confident in my ability to protect myself or those around me.

April 8, 2017 Training this weekend ran a little shorter than planned due to family commitments, but I was able to log some great range time with another shooting buddy. Using some printed T.Rex Arms & BAER Solutions targets, I focused on various fundamental drills while striving for consistency. I spent a little more time on strong hand/weak hand shooting and isolating the trigger press. This helped to identify proper grip and trigger press and recognize when either or both were off. I went into some throttle control drills which utilized a target of various sized circles representing targets at different distances. Firing two-three shots in each circle, the size of the circle dictating speed, the larger circles I would push myself to shoot faster and then slow down as I transition to the smaller targets. The objective with this drill is gauge how fast you can accurately shoot the various sizes of circles, so you want to shoot as fast as you can while guaranteeing good hits. This has been an effective drill for me to assess the fundamentals I am striving to solidify and is one I will run more often. Toward the end of my training, after being confident in my progress throughout the day, I worked on entering and exiting shooting positions, and shooting on the move. Shooting while moving adds an extra level of complexity and is an area that I will need to work on more in future training sessions. Shooting while moving forward “or in depth” and while moving from side to side “or in width” both require a fair amount of training to get comfortable with, however I feel much more confident in my current ability to shoot while moving in depth as opposed to shooting in width. I look forward to working on both and making progress in my ability to shoot on the move in both directions. Shooting on the move can be an important skill regardless of whether you shoot competitively, train for your self-defense, or both. In the case of self-defense or a scenario where you encounter a threat that requires you to use your firearm, I think most of us can agree you won’t be standing static like you would on the flat range. One of my main objectives is to be confident in my ability to protect myself or those around me against a deadly threat in any situation. As I advance in my training that will be a large factor in how I train and what I focus on learning.

I feel I have improved consistency with my grip, sights, and stance, but still struggle with proper trigger control.

April 14, 2017 My focus this weekend was on reinforcing my shooting fundamentals, working into some target transitions and getting into more moving and shooting. At my current phase of training it still takes me a few mags to get warmed up. I haven’t quite built the muscle memory to get out and execute a variety of drills cold, without dropping more than a few shots. To work on this, I start by running the BAER Standards test drill, this is usually the first and last drill I run. My goal is to get close to the 9 second passing score while making sure I do everything right. As expected my initial run through this, cold, was pretty slow and spread out. I shot it in 11.3 seconds and dropped 3 shots. However, it gives me a starting point for the day to work off of. To go through the fundamentals part of my training this weekend I also used the BAER Solutions Warm up target to work a few specific areas and see where I am still off. My largest issue following these drills is still my trigger press and reset. I feel I have improved consistency with my grip, sights, and stance, but still struggle with proper trigger control. Once I diagnosed what I was doing wrong most of the time, which was not pulling the trigger straight back consistently, I worked on isolating the that and focusing on getting smooth and consistent trigger pull straight back, and resetting the trigger for the next shot. It was only after I started to see some improvement and consistency build up that I moved on to target transitions. I have found running target transition drills to be a great step up in training to apply the fundamentals and start adding in a couple more steps that require some training but are important skills to build whether for competition or self-defense. I started out with 2 IDPA style cardboard targets about 7-10 yards apart. The first few runs I ran 1 shot on each and worked up to 2 and 3 shots on each target. I later added in my C-Zone steel target in between the two IDPA targets and worked a variety of transition drills. I am still finding myself transitioning too far when I drive over between targets and need to focus on moving my eyes to the next target and bringing the sights over into my eyes the moment I have confirmed the previous shot.

I kept it fairly simple in order to work on getting it right.

April 22, 2017 Although most of shooting was during a rainstorm, I had a successful weekend of training. You never know what the weather will be like if you encounter a situation where you need to use your firearm for self-defense, so it certainly can’t hurt to train in various conditions. As with most weekends I started off my training with the Bear Standards Test to give myself a starting point to gauge my progress over the weekend. If you aren’t familiar with the BAER Standards test, check out this YouTube Video where Drew Estell of BAER Solutions walks through it. I ran the drill in 8.65 seconds but dropped 2 of the final shots (Passing is 9.00 seconds with no misses). I noticed the two shots I dropped were due to pushing the gun over as I pulled the trigger, signifying not enough finger on the trigger. Diagnosing this right then enabled me to focus on improving that area throughout the day. The two areas I wanted to focus on this weekend were shooting on the move and reloading. As mentioned in my previous posts, shooting on the move is an essential skill to build that many of us tend to neglect. Whether you shoot competitively or train for self-defense, being able to shoot on the move can be important. As this is a skill I am still at the early stages in building, I kept it fairly simple in order to work on getting it right. Moving in depth, I engaged a single target starting at 15 yards and shot 5 rounds as I moved into to about 10 yards. Moving in width, at about 10 yards, I engaged the same target with 5 rounds, moving in across the line of fire about 7-10 yards. While shooting on the move in depth or moving forward, I saw some great improvement. Shooting while move across the line of fire or in width, I did make some improvements but still need to work on keeping my upper body oriented toward the target as I move. As I went into to working on reloads, my main focus was getting a smooth consistent reload, getting back on target, and pulling off consistent shots. To work on this, I ran a lot of 1R1 or “One Round, Reload, One Round” drills from the holster. Over the past month or so, I have been working on reloads frequently and have seen improvement, but I use this drill to focus a lot on getting back on target quickly and getting consistent shots following the reload. In coming weeks, I will most likely continue to work on these skills throughout my training.

Article By Travis Johnson
Shooter's Journey
Travis has made the decision to not just be proficient with firearms, but to get as good as possible. His goal is to show you the process and document his journey through training and classes he attends.


Refreshing to read an article on the internet about becoming a better shooter and not once did he say he needed a drop in trigger, stippled grip, different sights, etc. etc... Got some new drills to try from this, thanks for the info!