Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mailbag: Gunfighting Drills

The question, what to do to improve gunfighting skills, is the first mailbag question to come through Facebook. (Thanks!) Since gunfighting is a core element of the modern competitive game I thought the answers might prove useful to a wider audience.
Before you start to moan about more drills this isn't going to be about drills. At least not like you probably think about drills. Well, maybe the one. The thing is I don't like drills either. Sure, there's a few that are absolutely necessary. The problem with ordinary drills though is that they are too often disconnected from the play of the game. It's like working out in the gym with nothing but isolation movements when what you really need--particularly if you're training to augment athletic performance--is complex movements that train your muscles to work in harmony. The same is true of the best paintball drills.

One last thing before you get started. Many players will naturally attempt to find a way around doing what they are supposed to and/or argue/complain about the goal of any drill. My favorite way of keeping everyone on point is to divide the team into groups that will stay together for all the drills. The reason is that it's important to provide immediate consequences for failure. Failure to complete a drill successfully results in running a half lap or full lap of the field. This creates an incentive and reminds the team that failure in competition also has an immediate consequence.

These are team drills (unless you're on a 3-man squad.) The minimum requirement is 6 players. The drills suggested here are given in the order they should be done in as the progression goes from simple to complex.
Begin with a one on one drill. (Yes, this one is pretty much a drill-type drill.) Ideally on a full size field even though you will only use one half (snake side or D-side) at a time. It's simple; two players begin at Home and on a signal break to a nearby bunker which is mirrored by the other player. The object is to take control of the edge, push your opponent off his edge and make the bump to the next bunker (leading to the wire) alive. (The bump should be accomplished gun up and maintaining edge control.)

Follow the first drill up with a two on two variation. The object remains the same but with two players at each end the task becomes more complicated but at the same time there are also more solutions. On the break beginning the drill one player (at each end) moves to the primary, the other remains at Home. Now the first goal is to get a player to the next bunker but it doesn't have to be the player in the primary. Besides increasing the movement options the drill adds an extra move, too. (On most xball type layouts that next move would be into the snake however the field can be set-up as desired.) The drill doesn't end successfully until two bumps are accomplished by a live player. [After the first bump if a player chooses to make a move to the corner that doesn't count as the second bump but is allowed.]

The last drill in this sequence is a half field 3 on 3 race. On either side of the field it's some version of a race to the fifty depending on the layout. Remember, the object is the race. You can either let the players play or restrict them to making their bumps the same way they did in the earlier drills--or a combination of both. Either way the basics of edge control and coordinated movement are in play and the fact it's a race with a specific goal pushes the action.

If you have the time and resources these should be repeated on the opposite side of the field and have the players switch ends of the field so everyone plays with both hands on both sides of the field. (Or, next time you do this group of drills you make sure it's different for everyone from the last time.)

Finally, one very positive way to let the players have some fun (and improve in the process) is to set-up a compact field approx. 80-100 feet long and 50 feet wide. Play it as a 3-on-3 and if you have enough players or want to share some practice with another team you can play a mini round robin-type tourney. The value in this is the dimensions. As long as it doesn't have too many props it keeps the action fast and very close. It forces players to make fast decisions and develop fast reflexes--or else. At the same time it replicates most gunfighting relationships that come into play in regular competition but is also very unforgiving of poor technique, slow and sloppy play. Want to hone your gun skills razor sharp? This is the one to separate the men from the boys (or girls.)


Mike said...

Really, REALLY like this post. More like it would be great Baca, thanks.


sdawg said...

Could have used this post last week when my team was trying to do drills. We actually did something close to these.

Questions: In all drills are, are you shooting off the break? Do you stop and start over when someone gets hit? Especially the 2on2 drills.

Baca Loco said...

Glad you like them, Mike. There may some similar posts you missed back in the archives as I've done them off and on since day 1.

sdawg--yes. Most of the time, no. Remember, the "losers" run and being down on numbers in practice is always a good thing.