Under Fire, A Look Back

I spent a few days looking back and thinking upon my first experience with Hot Shots and what I got out of it. Overall I really enjoyed it. I thought the courses of fire were well put together. They were are all doable, maybe not now at my current level, but I have a strong feeling that it can be done. Nothing tricky about them, except when you’re put under stress. It’s a bit challenging to remember the long course of fire and the order of engagement. But either way, it’s very fun to do.

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However, here is what Hot Shots really taught me the most that night. First off, this is no ordinary 3-Guns. It’s in fact a thinking game that tests your shooting skills at every angle and position. Whether you practiced or don’t practiced on your weapon manipulation; well then, it will definitely be apparent to everyone.

For me, the most challenging part was trying to figure out what works for me. Up to now, I haven’t been challenged to do long distance pistol, carbine, or shotgun engagement. In fact, the farthest I’ve done it was with my trusty HK. And I took that out at 75 yards on a calm easy day. Here at 50 yards while being under duress, is a whole different game.

The first thing I realize that goes out the window whenever I was physically challenged was my fundamentals of marksmanship. I thought if I hold my breath just long enough to be still, I can quickly hit the targets. Instead that became more tiresome. And when I became tired, I was slacking on my trigger and sight picture. I was just shooting and hoping for the best.

It’s also apparent that I was really green with my carbine. I saw a few students and some YouTube videos of guys being able to stand and shoot their way to the targets at 50 yards. So my dumb ass thought it as easy enough to do when in fact, I should have thought it through and should have hit the deck immediately. On the video playback, the instructor had no problem taking a kneeling position to steady himself and nail the targets. It took me about half of my magazine before realizing I was completely on the deck taking out the steel. Even then, by the time I got to the second position, I already timed out.

That inexperience cost me a lot of time. But that price gained me this little insight that made a big difference for me on the second run.

Another thing that really made it awkward was trying to carry all of these long guns while running. Its like I was playing a live version of HALO or CALL OF DUTY, but with real guns. I’ve been so used to watching 3-Guns where each shooter would carry one weapon at a time and then dump them into a barrel while getting the other weapon. Here, it was all about carrying that extra load to give you that extra sense of duress.

Lets put it this way, if it was the Zombie Apocalypse, I’d be carrying as much weapons as I can too!

In a way, it was kind of funny to see other students trying to figure out their gear situation. But what was interesting was that a few of the students didn’t bother to bring their slings for their weapon. So that made it even more challenging for them. In this aspect, the lesson here is to always come prepared. And this is very true.

It’s better to come fully loaded out and then be able to downsize your equipment on the spot than to scramble and hope that someone has extra stuff for you to use. So if it means bringing all your slings and whatever else, then bring it. On the flip side, a lot of guys came to the event with all their mags loaded. However, they didn’t look too happy when they had to unload all their mags to meet the course’s ammo requirement. If this was a typical run and gun event like the other clubs, then I guess it’s ok with having all your gear ready to go. But because we weren’t told what the course was, it was a bit presumptuous to think otherwise.

The instructor gave us a good suggestion. If you want to come with loaded mags, that’s fine. But have some extra empties to meet the ammo requirement. Not all course of fire requires a full mag. Some require 6 others require 15 rounds.

The second aspect of Hot Shots is the physical challenge. While I don’t consider it a marathon type of fitness, you are expected to at least do sprints. And when I say sprints, it’s with all your guns, gears, and ammo. It will test your ability to drop down quickly and be able to get up and move quickly.

More importantly, how good can you do burpees!?

Now I will admit, I’m not Schwarzenegger. But I would like to be some day. However, the reality is that there is a real strong correlation between your level of fitness and your ability to compete or surviving a street encounter. If you’re just looking to go to the range and shoot paper targets, then I guess fitness isn’t your thing. But since I would like to compete in 3-Guns, fitness has to be part of my daily training.

Sadly during my run at Stage 2 on the Bermuda Triangle, it definitely tested my ability at both levels of shooting and being physically fit. As I was moving from position to position, I was really panting hard. So that means I need to start doing more cardio.

Finally, your mindset will be challenged accordingly. Whether you’re going to argue with the RO about a bad call, or trying to figure out your next move or trying to correct your error, you need to keep focus. And I had a lot of moments where my mind was distracted because I didn’t make the hits.

This shouldn’t have affected me. I’ve been here before in my pistol classes where if I missed the shot, I make up it. Calmly and smoothly. I don’t know if it’s because I’m still trying to figure what works best for me on the carbine and shotgun or because I was too worried about the clock.

Overall, I will say that learning the fundamentals of the carbine and shotgun manipulation will be a priority on my list. If anything, my first time out to do a Hot Shot event was like my first time trying to have sex. Awkward in every worst way I can imagine. Setting those feelings aside, the true lesson that translated to me and probably everyone else is that good fundamentals in marksmanship are very important. Even if I didn’t know how to manipulate the shotgun or carbine, at least I have a good reference of a starting point.

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For now, I have a lot of work to do. But I certainly am now hooked on doing Hot Shots as much as I can. It’s challenging and quite fun to do if you can set aside whatever disappointments you placed on yourself. It’s a test of your skill sets and by far beats IDPA hands down. More importantly, it should serve as a benchmark for you to honestly gauge yourself as a shooter and marksman.