Stage Planning Tips
“If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We’ve all heard this before, and it’s true. In every aspect of life, planning and preparation are key, yet often we can fail to take planning seriously. I know I’ve failed to plan in at least a couple of instances (I have two kids), but when it comes to stage planning, I take it very seriously. So should you. Let’s discuss some ways that you can make sure that you’ve planned your stage to the best of your ability, so that you can prepare for success.
1. Show up to the match early
If you think showing up to the range on match day and planning the entire stage in the few minutes you have before shooting begins, you are sorely mistaken. Furthermore, you should be prepared for potential issues. What if you have issues with your handgun? You can’t plan a stage from the safe area. Make sure you get to the range early, even if that means a day in advance, so that you don’t feel rushed. This way you can familiarize yourself with each stage thoroughly before the match even begins. By the time the match starts, you should already feel pretty comfortable with each stage.
2. Walk the stage and count rounds
Don’t pretend to shoot targets. Don’t create a full plan for the entire stage. Just count rounds and look for target positions. Familiarize yourself with the target locations and the amount of rounds necessary to complete the stage. Don’t muddy up your mind with exactly how you will shoot the stage, initially. As you go through the stage planning procedure, your idea of how you intend to shoot the stage will likely change. If your mind has several ways to attack the stage in it at the same time, you run the risk of confusion in the heat of the moment. Just keep this step simple. Walk the stage and count rounds. That’s it.
3. Target visibility
As you’re walking and planning the stage, pay careful attention to the target visibility. It’s important to take into consideration the areas from which you can see each target. Knowing where each target is visible from is very important, so make sure this is kept in the forefront of your mind during stage planning.
4. Plan your reloads
It’s pretty simple, really. Reloads can cost you valuable time where you could be shooting. The key is to pair reloads with another activity which usually prevents you from shooting: moving. Whenever possible, you want to make sure that you are reloading as you are moving towards a new position. Work this into your planning to ensure that you aren’t wasting valuable time in a static position reloading.
5. Look for less than obvious shooting positions
Most of the time, the most obvious solution is the best one. However, this is not always the case. As you walk each stage, consider different ways you can shoot it. Sometimes, a very unorthodox approach can shave time off of your run by improving your efficiency. Just because everyone else is shooting the stage one way, that does not necessarily mean that there is not a better way. This leads us into our last tip.
6. Watch other shooters
Great minds don’t always think alike. While your plan might seem like the best or the only way to shoot the stage, it’s possible that another shooter has found a better way. Watch other shooters both during stage planning and during shooting to see how they approach the stage. They might shoot the stage in an intriguing that way you hadn’t even considered. It’s also possible that they could shoot the stage almost identical to the way you were planning, only tweaking a small detail that improves their time. Watch other shooters, they have great ideas too, from time to time.
Stage planning is all about the gathering of information. Memorize the stage. Know exactly how many rounds you will need and where and when you plan to expend them. Plan your reloads to occur during times of movement. Know where the targets are and where they are visible from. The more you know about the stage, the easier it is to plan so that you can go out and execute.