Photo of a Casio Pathfinder

Time Management for Competitions

In Blog by Rich

Time Management for Competitions is a topic we’re going to discuss in an effort to help newer shooters. One thing I see a lot at matches is newer shooters getting a little too focused on one of many tasks a particular stage has laid out for them and wasting not only time, but opportunities to pick up points on the stage. I think the problem comes from ‘wingin’ it’ with the stage in general, and that is the definition of poor time management for competitions. Too many times people see a stage, they stand around talking and then when it’s their turn they just walk up and give it a go without any thought.

Time Management for Competition – How To

If that’s your style, I’m not trying to knock it. However, I’ve noticed that the people that do well at competitions aren’t standing around yacking nearly as much as some other guys. The ones that do well, that are serious about competing, are watching other shooters shoot the stage. The order they engage targets, the positions they use to get a shot off from different positions. Did the last guy do really well? Or not so hot? If he did well, consider using his plan or adapting some of what he did to fit the plan you have. If he didn’t do so great, and you were thinking of doing the same thing, maybe re-evaluate your own plan in light of that information.

The reason I say this is I’ve seen guys walk up, time starts, and then they burn through huge chunks of time trying to figure out on the clock how they plan to accomplish target engagements. When the clock starts, you should already have a plan. Either a plan of your own, or somebody else’s that went ahead of you, but don’t just wing it. Have some idea for how you plan to progress through different shooting positions and the order you plan to engage the targets in. I’ve seen numerous times guys take shots at small targets and miss, just because they are the closest. If they would have considered engaging the second or third target out first, they might have better success since it was larger in size. Think about that kind of stuff while you are writing down the adjustments you need for the stage.

Time Management for Competition – Keep Going

Here’s another big one, keep moving. Don’t get locked in on any one aspect of a stage. Think of time management for competitions like taking a test in high school. If you have limited time to take the test then you don’t want spend half the time figuring out the answer to one question, right? Same concept with a precision rifle match. Think of the stage as a test of your shooting ability and each target as a question. If you get stuck on one, move on, don’t burn all your time trying to figure out one problem. Match directors can be sneaky bastards…they will toss a position into a stage that really has no good way to engage it. Yet I’ve seen people take one shot, get to a spot where there’s no good way to engage a target, and they freeze.

I watched a buddy burn almost all his time on one stage where you had to shoot at targets from two different positions. He was messing with his gear trying to get stable for a shot at one of five targets and just kept doing that till he timed out. Had he engaged three, tried to engage the other two, and realized it wasn’t practical, then he could have moved to the second shooting position and picked up another three points by engaging those first targets again. That’s what I mean by not getting hung up on any one aspect of a stage. If you have trouble, move on. Don’t burn time on something really challenging unless you’ve already attempted to get every other point on the table. If you finish early, you can usually go back. Though not always, either way, this is the whole ‘a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush’ type of scenario. Take the points you know you can get before burning all the time you have on points that are uncertain.

So how do you manage the time you have, properly? I’ve gone after challenging stages that I thought I would run close on time by running the stopwatch on my wrist. It’s why I linked in the Video above from the 2013 Sniper’s Hide Cup. It involved two shooting positions for rifle and pistol targets during the transition. Not saying it was awesome execution but it illustrates what you can be facing and why you can’t get held up. Most RO’s will tell you your time but sometimes its easier to just look at your own wrist if you can see other people are struggling to get things done without timing out. Having some kind of plan is huge. You really don’t have time to figure it out as you go so like I said, watch the guys that go ahead of you and see what they do and how well it works. Have your adjustments somewhere handy. I’m a huge proponent of the wrist coach/arm band devices where guys keep their data easy to reference.

Photo of a Casio Pathfinder

Time yourself if the stage is really complicated and you need to keep an eye on the clock!

I really like the Sunrise Tactical wrist coach, and I think I will probably be purchasing one to go with each rifle. It has a clear window facing up off your forearm that I really like. You can write target distances on it with a grease pencil and put your adjustments next to the target ranges while creating a little range card view of your stage to keep it all straight. You can flip that up and have additional 3×5 cards under windows beneath the top. I like to put a couple density altitude cards under those as a backup for my Kestrel. Anything with batteries can stop working at any time.

Inside of the Sunrise Tactical Arm Board, two additional windows and pen storage

Inside of the Sunrise Tactical Arm Board, two additional windows and pen storage

Time Management for Competition – Stay Organized

Have your gear squared away. You are typically a little pressed for time to finish a stage and that’s if everything goes right. If your rifle starts jamming, doesn’t feed right, any kind of misfire or ammo problem, you may have just lost the ability to even finish the stage at all. I’ve been there. I had some crap magazines at a match and it made things difficult all weekend. I swore I’d never do that again and I bought better ones immediately after returning from the match. I’ve not had feeding issues since and while I’ve not had flawless performances since, I’ve not experienced the same problem with magazines either.

Have your ammunition handy, and always have extra. I’ve seen guys just shoot lights out on difficult stages, they are literally cleaning the stage and tearing it up and then they run out of ammunition. No extra mag. No extra rounds handy anywhere. No time to make it back to the pack and then back to the gun before time runs out. Talk about a bummer. Nothing sucks more than being really dialed in and going to work only to not have what you need to finish the stage. Keep a spare mag, beyond what you think you need for the stage, on you at all times. Invest in the Short Action Precision round holder that you can attach to your stock with Velcro so you always have an extra two rounds on the rifle.

TAB Gear SAC

TAB Gear SAC

Short Action Precision Round Holder Photo

Short Action Precision – Round Holder

To wrap this all up if it wasn’t obvious what I’ve been getting at all along…proper time management for competitions is really more about preparation and having a plan than counting the seconds as they pass. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Don’t waste time before you shoot yacking unless you have a plan, your gear is ready, and you are confident that you are ready to attack the stage.

Owner and Proprietor of AccuracyTech, LLC. Rich is a Firearms Enthusiast, Precision Rifle Competitor, and Writer. He is committed to bringing readers quality reviews and articles related to the Precision Shooting Sports. If you have any questions for him, please use the contact form on the site.