Improve Your Shooting with a Shot Timer

How to Use a Shot Timer to Improve Your Shooting Skills

Marksmanship is an art just like any other technical skill, and it’s something you have to work at if you want to become a true master. Improving your shooting skills requires more than just endless hours at the gun range; it requires constant practice and accurate timing so you know how quickly you can do certain critical actions.

The trouble is you probably aren’t able to record the time it takes for you to, for instance, reload your weapon while actively performing that action. That’s why you need a shot timer: a dedicated timekeeping device that can help you improve your shooting skills in a variety of ways.

If you are considering buying a shot timer, check out our list of the best shot timers.

What Are Shot Timers?

Shot timers are handheld electronic devices that consist of a few basic parts, like a microphone, speaker, and a logic board. You can usually get a decent shot timer for around $100.

They keep track of the time it takes to complete various shooting tasks, like shooting in sequences, reloading, and more. They use the microphone to track when various shots are squeezed off, helping you to practice your shot cadence and other aspects as well.

In short, think of shot timers as hand timers devised specifically for shooting improvement. If you’ve ever taken a professional shooting course with an instructor at your local gun range, odds are they used a shot timer to measure your progress. Shot timers are also used in professional marksmanship competitions.

Shot Timer Modes

Most shot timers will come with two modes, each of which is better for different things.

  • Comstock Mode – Comstock mode is typically used for live ammunition at a shooting range. In this mode, the timer beeps to tell a shooter when to start, then uses the microphone to listen for shots. It records elapsed time from the starting beep until the first (or subsequent) shots. The screen of the shot timer will tell you the “split time”, or the time it took from one shot to the next.
  • Par Time Mode – Par time mode is used for measuring the time it takes to complete a specific task, such as dry fire exercises. The timer beeps once to signal the start of the task, then beeps again after a preset period of time. For instance, say that you want to put five shots on your target within five seconds. You can use a shot timer’s par time mode to try to get your shots off in time, using the timer to gradually increase your speed as you improve.

Ways to Use a Shot Timer to Improve Your Skills

Shot timers can be used to improve your skills across a variety of categories. Here are a few examples.

Dry Fire Drills

One of the best things about shot timers is that they are one of the most effective ways to train when not at the range.  You can practice draw speed, reloading speed, and a variety of other aspects of shooting live at the range or dry firing at home.  Dry fire drills are an excellent way to increase your practice time without a trip to the range and without expending expensive ammunition.

Draw Speed

Shot timers can help you with your draw speed or handgun presentation. This is a crucial skill for law enforcement officers or anyone who wants to be able to draw their self-defense sidearm quickly in a dangerous situation; after all, you can’t use your weapon until it is fully removed from your holster and pointed at your target.

With a shot timer, you can use par time mode to, for instance, measure how long it takes you to draw. Start by setting a three-second delay so you can push the button and prepare. You can then set a limit for a second beep so you know how quickly you have to draw the firearm to meet your goal times.

Use the shot timer ten times to determine your average draw speed, then work on improving your speed from there. Using the shot timer, you can learn to quickly draw your handgun from its holster, aim it toward your target, align your sights, and dry fire all before the second beep.

Reloading Speed

Similarly, you can use a shot timer to improve your reloading speed. This is important for law enforcement officers and other combat professionals, as well as people who participate in target shooting competitions.

In many of these competitions, the time you spend reloading your weapon is time you aren’t using to hit targets or move through the course.

Just as you can use a shot timer to figure out your average draw speed time, you can also use it to figure out your average reloading speed.

One great way to practice your reloading with a shot timer is to fire a single shot, reload your weapon, then fire a second shot. Using the Comstock mode, the shot timer will be able to split the time between the two shots, which can effectively tell you how long it took you to reload in the middle of the action.

Repeat this exercise 10 times to figure out your average, then start working to lower your reload time until you are satisfied. The par time mode can be used to conduct reloading drills until you hit your reloading speed target.

Shot Cadence

Lastly, shot timers can help you with your shot cadence, which is the time it takes between shots. If you are trying to maximize accuracy, you have to spend at least a little time realigning your sights with your target and preparing before pulling the trigger. The less time you have to take between shots while maintaining accuracy, the faster you’ll be able to complete target shooting competitions.

Remember, shot timers can tell you how much time you take between each shot you fire by splitting the difference between recorded shots. Use a shot timer to measure your performance as you empty a magazine on a target. You’ll be able to look at how much time on average you spend between shots, as well as determine whether there are any points in a magazine where you slow down or speed up.

A smooth, steady shot cadence can improve your performance in the field and during target shooting competitions. As with the above two aspects, your shot timer can be used to improve your cadence over many practice sessions. Once you know how long you take between shots, you can consciously practice decreasing that time while maintaining your accuracy.

Wrap Up

All in all, a shot timer can help you decrease the time it takes for you to draw your weapon, reload, or even squeeze off accurate shots in a single magazine. All of this can contribute to your overall performance and score in a serious target shooting competition, plus help you to become more deadly with your self-defense weapon.

Consider bringing a shot timer with you on your next visit to a gun range. Odds are you’ll see the value of your shot timer immediately.

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