Visual Patience

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The expression visual patience came as I was driving home from a match. For each shot, I allowed the mental time necessary to call every shot with certainty. I was in no hurry whatsoever. I shot a flawless match, which felt effortless.

Merriam-Webster, conviction: A state of mind in which one is free from doubt.

To shoot with visual patience is to call every shot with conviction. You see continuously, visually finishing each shot.

Train visual patience on the practice range. You must know what you have to see to call each shot on every target at any distance.

As you master visual patience, seeing what you need to see and firing the shot become simultaneous.

Rob Leatham is a master of visual patience. But the funny thing is—he doesn’t know that.

Below are examples of what I needed to see, with a nine-inch paper plate as the target. (What you must see may vary.)

What you must see and know, at: 

5 yards: A rough sight picture, or top of the slide, on the target. Often called a flash sight picture.

10 yards: A more refined, but not necessarily perfect sight alignment, inside the target. 

15 yards: A clear front sight focus, and a slightly paused or stopped sight alignment on the center of the target. Often called a stopped sight picture.

25 yards: Same as above, but with a more recognized, paused feeling added to a perfect, stopped sight picture, with a clear front sight focus.

50 yards: Same as above, but with an even more recognized, paused, and stopped feeling added to a razor sharp front sight focus.

After you know what you need to see to call any shot, take visual patience into competition. 

Create a visual plan for every shot in every stage. For example, if all the targets require two hits, visualize what you’ll see for the first shot and what you’ll see for the second shot. Each will be completely different visualizations; because you’ll visualize the first shot as it arrives on the target, and the second shot as it returns from recoil.

Once you have visualized what you will see for each shot, shooting with visual patience means that you do that. It’s one thing to visualize it, and quite another to do it under pressure.

I remember a classic statement from Jerry Barnhart, after winning a stage at the Steel Challenge. Asked if he saw a sight picture for every shot—his perfect answer was, “I saw what I needed to see.” 

Once your fundamentals and technique are solid, winning USPSA matches is all about vision: you must visualize and execute visual patience.

The enemy of visual patience is rushing, which is what everyone does, except the winners.

In competition, before each stage, generate the conviction to be visually patient—execute your precise visual plan. Know that if you do just that, you will be fast enough; you will have done all you can do.

I’ll post a new topic each Friday afternoon, in one of two categories. One will be on shooting, and the other will be on living. Or: how I learned to live from what I learned by competing.
Thanks for coming in.