First off, I want to thank all the competition shooters out there that have assisted me, have answered my questions, and have loaned me ammunition, tools, insect repellent, sunscreen, water, and firearms such that I was able to complete the match. As I have shot at various ranges, I am consistently amazed at how my fellow shooters will bend over backwards to lend some advice, share their thoughts, or provide positive encouragement to the newbie lucky enough to be posted next to them on the on the firing line. I sincerely believe that you will meet the finest people on the face of the earth in the shooting sports and strive to continue the tradition of assistance to our fellow shooters as often as I can.
In my quest to become a better shooter, I have read every book that I could get my hands on. I have traveled around and asked a lot of questions. I looked, I observed, and when I did not understand something, I asked. In every single case, our fellow shooters have paused, gave careful thought, and then provided the most detailed answer they could, all in the spirit of promoting the shooting sports. Watch closely on the bullseye line, and when a competitor appears to have equipment problems, see how quickly the others step up to assist. I have participated in many sports but have never seen this level of camaraderie in any other competition. In the spirit of assisting my fellow bullseye shooters, I hope you find benefit in the following observations.
To shoot a ten, it really is quite simple. You just have to make the gun go bang when the sights are aligned with the target. But seriously, if it really was that easy, we wouldn’t be having all this fun and we would be continuously scoring 100 point targets over and over again. Make no mistake about it, Bullseye competition can be very challenging but it’s the fun part that brings me back to the firing line. In order to maximize my enjoyment of the sport, I have taken classes, read books, surfed the net, and asked a million questions such that I could shoot better. Oh yeah, I practiced, practiced, and practiced some more! Some techniques work for a lot of shooters, other techniques only work for a handful. I have met disciplined shooters that prepare for a match by beginning a special diet three days in advance. Then there are the others that do not give much thought to caffeine, tobacco, spicy foods, or other substances.
I have compiled a number of techniques that work for me and since you have made it this far on the page, you are obviously curious as to what works for another shooter to see if you can pick up a tip or a trick that may enhance your score. With that being said, these are the routines, techniques, and procedures that I am currently following on the bullseye line. If I get a piece of advice that works better for me, I will incorporate it into my routine.
Assuming that you have been shooting for a while and have a pretty good knowledge of the bullsye sport, you probably know which eye is your dominant eyeball, and that you probably use this eye to shoot a pistol. There are many ways to check this out, and some quick searching on the web will assist you.
Physical and Mental:
There are two components of shooting well, the physical aspects and then there are the mental requirements. Let’s take a look at what you physically have to do to put your shots into the ten ring.
In order to shoot a 100 point target (ten shots at ten points each), there are five fundamentals that you need to master to be able to clean your target. These five fundamentals are listed in the order that they need to be addressed, as follows:
The first three become almost instinctive the more you practice. Sight alignment is a bit more important, but trigger control is where the money is. Let’s examine these fundamentals one by one.
This is the simplest one to understand, but you need to comprehend that as you stand that you have a natural point of aim. You need to find your natural point of aim. This is relatively easy whereas you step up to the bullsye line, take a look at the target, close your eyes, and raise your arm as if you are going to shoot a pistol. Extend your index finger, hold a couple of full magazines, some weight, and with your eyes closed, point your index finger to the target. Open your eyes. You will find you are pointing either to the right, or to the left, or, if you were really lucky, pointing right at the bullseye. Ok, what you do is you shuffle both your feet (not one foot, shuffle both of them!), close your eyes, point your finger, and take a peek and re adjust until you are naturally pointed to the target. You need to re acquire your stance every time you step away from the shooting line.
By positioning yourself correctly with your natural point of aim, you will find your gun points directly at the bull after the recoil of the gun on the previous shot. This is most important in timed and rapid fire. I am not sure how important this is in slow fire but I do align my stance in slow fire for consistency.
While the grip on the pistol appears rather straightforward, it has a big effect on the accuracy of your shots. Some shooters swear by squeezing the gun so tight that a drop of oil oozes out from the bottom and then relaxing a little until the oil gets sucked back up into the gun, others advocate a more relaxed grip. I have to say that the correct grip for you is somewhere in between these extremes. It is not a death grip and it is not a timid grip. Grip it with authority but not with pain. Picture a firm business handshake if you can. Concentrate on the front to back pressure as opposed to an all-round squeezing action you first thought was best. Remember, front to back pressure. Grip it tight, and not too tight. Grip it tight enough such that it starts to become uncomfortable after 30 seconds. Grab it from front to back and not all around. Grip it each time the same, over and over again.
As part of you gripping procedure, you need to mentally remember to lock your wrist. Lock your wrist the same way each time, over and over again. Firm but not uncomfortable. Lock your wrist as you grip the pistol.
While the grip pressure and wrist lock might be the most important structural requirements for top notch pistol accuracy, they are simple to master but difficult to put in practice consistently. The important thing to remember is to grip the pistol and lock your wrist the same way every time. The real trick is to recognize a grip/wrist procedure that you can replicate each and every time you pick up the pistol. Since the recoil motion is dependent on the grip/wrist, and the accuracy is dependent on the consistency of the recoil, you need to master a consistent grip and wrist action every time you approach the shooting line.
Frequently an experienced shooter will be experimenting with his grip and have some improvement when he is squeezing the beejeevers out of his pistol. When you think about it, if you are gripping the pistol in a death grip as hard as you can, it is relatively easy to consistently grip it over and over again as hard as you can and you will see a small amount of success when you are scoring your targets. Unfortunately, as you progress into a match, your hand, forearm, and shoulder will fatigue, your breath will become short, and you will not be able to maintain a consistent form for the duration of a match. Refrain from the gorilla grip and use a reasonable grip to hold your pistol on target.
Cant or tilt of the gun: Some shooters hold the gun straight up and down, others tilt the gun sideways a little bit. Do what feels comfortable as long as you do it the same way every time. I would not recommend excessive cant of over 30 degrees though. Make sure you zero the gun to account for cant and know the number of clicks both elevation and windage you need to dial in for the short and long line (if necessary).
This is rather simple, basically, before you shoot, take a couple deep breaths to oxygenate your blood, then take a third breath and let half out before you shoot. Same technique for slow, timed, and rapid fire. Some shooters take a quick breath between the 3rd and 4th shots in timed fire. In slow fire, if you do not get your shot off in ten seconds, abort the shot, and breathe.
If you shoot iron sights, I am going to direct you elsewhere to get the proper sight alignment instruction. I shoot a red dot and as such, do not need to align the rear sight, front sight, and target all together. With a red dot, you only have to put the dot on the bull and you’re done. If you are shooting iron sights, please note that I refer to the dot as in the red dot scope for the duration of this discussion. While I am not directly discussing iron sights, the principals are the same for either red dot or irons.
Squeeze the trigger slowly! Squeeze it straight back and concentrate on pulling it straight backwards. The idea is that if you sweep it, you will pull the gun to the left or the right and the shot will be at 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock. Pull it straight back. Really put some thought into the pull of the trigger in the direct front to back axis of the firearm. You do not slap it, you do not jerk it, you squeeze it slowly and are surprised when the shot does go off.
You need to practice your trigger squeeze over and over and over again. Dry fire it, put a target on the wall and with an unloaded gun, dry fire it. Remember to dry fire safely! Go to the range with a buddy. Do the buddy drill where your buddy hands you the gun and you do not know if he loaded it or not and he watches the muzzle to determine if you have jerked the trigger. Put a dime on the top of the muzzle, and dry fire it such that the dime remains. You will get to know your trigger, and your finger will be trained such that you know exactly when the shot is going to be fired. Even after all that practice, dry firing, and actually shooting, it should be a surprise when the shot is fired as you are squeezing the trigger. Remember, a consistent squeeze and surprise when the shot goes off.
If you ever get on the roller coaster where your sights are wobbling and you’re trying to force the gun to fire at a precise time as the sights become aligned with the target, you are going to jerk the trigger. You might have some initial success but in a short period of time you will be slapping or jerking the trigger and pulling the gun off target. Jerking the trigger produces low scores. Slapping the trigger is even worse. Squeeze the trigger consistently and increase pressure at a steady rate. You need to surprise yourself when the gun fires, even in rapid fire!
Slow Fire shooting:
I want you to do an experiment. I want you to first make sure your gun is unloaded, insert an empty chamber indicator in your gun to make double sure your gun is unloaded, and put a target on the wall on the other side of the room. Now raise your gun and aim it at the target. Now hold the dot on the target and examine what you see against the time you have held it up on target.
First off, I will tell you what you will not see. You will not see a perfect sight picture whereas the sights are perfectly aligned on the target for any duration of time. What you will most likely see is a distinctive wobble, circle, pulsing, or continuous movement of the sights as you are holding the pistol on target. If you really take a good hard look at it, you will see that the wobble starts off pretty large, then after about 3 seconds it settles down to a minor circle or pulse, and then in another 4 or 5 seconds, it will start increasing in intensity again. In other words, in the first three seconds your pistol is shaking but settling down. From the third to the eighth second, it’s pretty steady and then after eight seconds it gets continuously worse. After 12 seconds it is so bad that you might as well put the gun down.
Ok, what does that tell you?
To make a long story short, what this is telling you is that you should acquire the bull in the first three seconds, and then get a shot off in the next four seconds. If you do not get a shot off in those seven or eight seconds, then the wobble is not going to get better such that you better abort the shot. Remember, this is slow fire, you have all the time in the world! When it is too wobbly in timed and rapid, well you gotta work through it the best you can. Practice will help you out on timed and rapid.
Acquire the target, let the sights settle, and shoot, all within 7 or eight seconds.
Simple? Right? Yeah, I know, lot easier said then done. This is where high quality fun practice helps.
Chicken Finger and the Bouncing Dot (sights not settling down):
Remember the last exercise where you hold your gun up and try and align the sights/dot on the target, it is jumping and circling around the bull and you cannot get it aligned? We determined that you need to get the shot off within 8 seconds or else it will get worse. In slow fire you can usually abort the shot if it gets bad but after you have aborted five shots in a row you are officially struggling. How about timed fire and the dot is wobbling and will not settle down, now what?
I am going to tell you that you ignore the bouncing dot and focus on your trigger squeeze! You really do need to ignore the dot because you will become obsessed with the most perfect sight picture and with the gun wobbling, you do not get a perfect sight picture and you will stop squeezing the trigger. What happens is that you will not want to pull the trigger because the sights are not aligned with the target. Mentally, since your sight picture is not perfect, your brain is subconsciously telling your trigger finger do not squeeze until the sights are aligned. This is very common and as a matter of fact, it is so common we have a name for this phenomenon, Chicken Finger. Your finger takes on a mind of its own and refuses to pull the trigger!
Well, I want you to consider the following. When you get up there and hold the gun on the target, everybody’s sights are jumping around the target, not just yours. Now let’s analyze this a little bit. Yes your sights/dot is jumping around. But as the dot is jumping around, lets say that 80% of the time it is in the 10 ring of the target, 15% of the time it is in the 9 ring, and 5% of the time it is in the 8 ring. Now if you could do a perfect trigger pull with those percentages, you would average out with a 97.5 score for this scenario.
Doesn’t sound like you? Ok, assume that 75% of the time the dot is in the 10 ring, 15% of the time it’s in the 9 ring, 6% of the time its in the 8 ring, and 4% in the 7 ring. Do a perfect trigger squeeze with this hold and the mathematics predicts a 96 point score.
Not convinced? Ok, you’re really wobbly. 40% of the time you are in the ten ring, 30% in the 9, 15% in the 8, 10% in the 7, and 5% in the 6. Pull the trigger perfectly with that wobbly sight picture and you will get an average of 89 points on your target. Think about what these percentages look like as you hold your unloaded gun up to the practice target you have posted on the wall. How often does the dot wiggle out of the black? While it is impossible to keep the dot in the x ring, it is not difficult to keep the dot in the black for a relatively new shooter which is the 7 ring in slow fire.
What is going on here? What is happening is that you are watching the dot and waiting for the sights to align perfectly and you are interrupting your trigger pull and screwing up your shot. In other words, in your quest for the perfect sight picture, you are messing up your trigger pull. Don’t believe me? Well hold your gun up to the target and as the dot wanders around the bull, how is the dot wandering? Is it all in the black or is it drifting out to the six every so often?
So what can you do about it? Simple! Ignore the dot! That’s right; ignore the dot bouncing around the bull! Watch the dot close but concentrate on the perfect trigger squeeze. The reasoning? The above three examples are of a master rating hold, an expert rating hold, and a beginner hold, all during slow fire. A beginner would love to get three 89 point slow fire targets in a row, an expert would be overjoyed with three 96 point slow fire targets, and a master would be pleasantly surprised to have the 97.5 scores as well.
So how do I ignore it? While it can be difficult, you need to tell yourself to “Watch the Dot, Wait for Bang”. When you step up to the bullseye line, your holding your gun and the dot is bouncing around and instead of concentrating on the dot, just watch it and put all your efforts into the most perfect trigger squeeze you can possibly do. You deliver the trigger squeeze you are capable of, the mathematics will come into play and your score will improve.
“Watch the Dot, Wait for Bang!”
I have “Watch the Dot, Wait for Bang” written on the side of my pistol box so I do not forget it.
Even with your best applications of the five basic fundamentals, (Stance, Grip, Breath, Sight Alignment, and Trigger Control), sooner or later you are going to get a terminal case of Chicken Finger such that your trigger finger will freeze up on the firing line. You can say “Watch the Dot, Wait for Bang” all you want but your still up there looking at the target through the red dot and your pistol has not gone bang. Time to abort the shot during slow fire, put the gun down, and start over. Timed and Rapid, well, you got to get the shots off and do better on the next target.
There are two treatments for terminal Chicken Finger, the first one is to pretend you are doing timed or rapid fire during slow fire. Simple, Pick the gun up and shoot it. Convince yourself. As Teddy Roosevelt would say, Bully yourself through it.
The other Chicken Finger treatment is to incorporate the following into your shot plan. Tell your self “Squeeze the trigger quickly”. This mentally prepares yourself such that once you begin your trigger squeeze, it’s just a couple milliseconds before the shot fires. Your trigger finger becomes a slow, very precise machine, and squeezes the trigger the same speed, front to back, every single time.
I have “Squeeze Trig Quick” on my pistol box too, right after “Watch the Dot, Wait for Bang”
Everybody needs a good shot plan.
While my shot plan is very basic in nature, (“Watch the Dot, Wait for Bang!”, then “Squeeze Trig Quick”), I have it posted on my pistol box such that I review it before every slow fire shot and before every string of timed and rapid. I think I have the shortest and most brief shot plan ever constructed by a bullseye shooter on the face of the earth. Is it the right shot plan for me? Probably, but I am always looking to improve it. Is it the right shot plan for you? Most definitely it is not.
You need to construct your own shot plan from your own practice sessions and you need to determine what you need to put on your shot plan in order for you to have confidence in your abilities and get your mind focused on your shooting. While my personal shot plan might be overly abbreviated, elsewhere on this web site I have posted the most comprehensive shot plan I have ever seen. Your shot plan is somewhere in between these two extremes.
Well, let me rephrase that most comprehensive shot plan as posted here, I once saw a shooters shot plan where he reminded himself to take a sip of water before he acquired his stance at the bullseye line before every string of fire. That is probably the most comprehensive shot plan I have ever seen. I do not understand it but from scoring his targets, I can assure you that it was the correct shot plan for that particular shooter. The point is that when you begin a shot plan, do not leave anything out of it.
How to make your own shot plan: I recommend you take the extensive shot plan I have provided, and as you practice eliminate various parts as they become unnecessary. The more you practice, the more these routines become extinct and as such, your shot plan is not a permanent etched in stone list of commandments but a living document that grows and contracts as various aspects become important to your performance. Do not hesitate to add an item previously deleted and if you think a unique item needs to be included, go ahead and add it.
What do you do with your shot plan? Some shooters print it out and place it on the table when they practice and compete. Others put it on their box so it is visible from the shooting line. Many competitors have their shot plan memorized and some really good shooters do not realize that they even have a shot plan but they follow it every shot.
The shooters that do not have a shot plan are forever doomed to be referred to as “Marksmen”.
Every so often, every shooter goes into a slump. It happens, you will get out of it, and it will happen again. You will wonder if you will ever shoot a decent target again. You seriously consider taking up tiddly winks or knitting. You are tempted to stop on the bridge in order to dispose of your firearm in the river after that last match.
Well, I can tell you a couple of things………..
First off, alter your route home from the match such that you are not crossing any bridges over the river to remove the temptation.
Secondly, you will get out of the slump, you just to realize you are in a slump and dedicate yourself to working out of it.
As a matter of fact, there is a proven method to get your scores back up to normal, and on that slow but steady climb to high master rating. It is not secret, it just takes some practice. A lot of practice. And when you practice, concentrate on the five fundamentals while being conscious of the Chicken Finger Virus while relying on your shot plan. Have confidence in your shot plan because you have a lot of work invested into making it perfect. I guarantee that the five fundamentals will bring your scores back.
Cure for a slump? Confidence, practice, shot plan, Chicken Finger?, and the five fundamentals. Works every time as long as you stick to it.
The Mental Aspects of Shooting:
There have been whole libraries written on the mental aspect of how to shoot good, not just pistol, but rifle, shotgun, benchrest, 3 gun, 4 position, free rifle, silhouette, apple seed, you name the shooting sport, somebody’s written about it. In almost every shooting book out there, there are two basic truths to shooting good, at least as far as your mind is concerned.
The first basic truth is that you need the confidence in your ability to shoot a good score. This comes from practice, practice, and more practice. Fortunately, since you are on this website and reading this page, you already have a healthy appetite for the shooting sports and really enjoy shooting. All practices need to be fun and enjoyable or they will not be very beneficial. If you ever find yourself trying to convince yourself that you need to get one more practice before the next match, well, that one last practice will not do you much good. Better to skip that practice and rest up and prepare yourself mentally for the match. Build your confidence with short easy practices. A couple short practices of 30 rounds every day is better than one long practice session of 200 rounds. I realize that it might be a drive to the shooting range, you might not have time tomorrow, and all the reasons it makes sense to get the absolute most out of a practice session, but forcing yourself to practice just for the sake of practicing is not the way to shoot better. You need to practice to go over the five basic fundamentals (stance, grip, breath control, sight picture, and trigger pull) in order to gain confidence in your abilities, and that confidence in your abilities will improve your score.
Not only do you need the confidence in your ability, you need the experience with your equipment and ammo so that it will perform to the high level that you need it to. If you are not sure if your gun is reliable, it is impossible for you to have a high level of confidence when you step to the bullseye line. Fortunately, with the amount of practicing needed to perform at a high level, you will know if your gun and ammo are up to the task or not. Reliable gun/ammo combinations need to go 300 rounds between cleanings without an alibi. I sold my last bullseye pistol since it had on average 1 alibi every five 900 point matches even though it was cleaned before every match.
When you have confidence in yourself, your equipment, your ammo, you need to fill your mind with the confidence that you will put the next round into the X. Picture yourself shooting the X. Go through your shot plan, the stance, the grip, the breathing, and then line up your sights and squeeze the trigger perfectly and you will watch the bullet go through the X.
You need to believe you will do it, in your mind you will watch yourself shoot an x, and then you will go to the line and shoot an x for real.
Now let’s talk about being focused. You must be focused on the task at hand. You cannot multi task with your mind while you are on the bullseye line. At the risk of stating the obvious, you cannot shoot well when you are thinking about the babysitters, worried about the report you need to finish up tomorrow, or how the hot weather may impact the concrete pour on that abutment you are forming up. You need to extinguish everything else from your mind. Better yet, delete it! Blank it all out. All you are concerned with is putting the next round through the X. I want you to forget everything. You need to forget your anniversary, your children’s birthday; I want your mind to be so blank that you have a hard time remembering your name.
Your name? Huh? Perfect!
A lot of shooters pursue the shooting sports exactly for this reason. They blank out their mind such that they can focus completely on the physical requirements of the shot and their conscious enters into a “Zone”. All that matters is the target on the wall. They are totally connected with their equipment, the sights, the target, and they will actually see the bullet fly into the target as they squeeze the trigger. They will not hear the shot go off. They will not realize that there is a person next to them shooting a firearm. Their focus is completely on the X in the middle of the center ring and delivering that bullet exactly where the lines of the X cross themselves in the middle of the target. It is called “Getting into the Zone” and it is simply awesome. It is incredible. Nothing else matters at that point in time, you are one with your target and you look forward to the next target so that you can watch the bullet go through the cross of the X again. All other operations are done automatically, you faintly hear the range officer although you follow his instructions to the letter. Your practice and training take over and everything is done without thinking about it. Getting into the zone is relaxing and exhilarating, having total control and yet releasing all control at the same time. Doing the precise detail perfectly yet it comes together without thinking about it.
Let’s go over the mental aspects of shooting one last time.
You practice so you become CONFIDENT. CONFIDENT in the five basic fundamentals, CONFIDENT in your shot plan, CONFIDENT in the procedures written down in your shot plan, CONFIDENT in your abilities, and CONFIDENT in your equipment and ammo.
Then at the match, you are CONFIDENT which allows you to FOCUS. You FOCUS on the target, you FOCUS on the sights, and you FOCUS on the bullet going to the target. You FOCUS your mind into the “Zone”, where your whole being is to watch the bullet go through the X in the middle of the target.
In summary, you practice to gain CONFIDANCE. Your CONFIDANCE allows you to FOCUS on your shooting. You are so FOCUSED that your mind gets into the “ZONE”. When you are in the “ZONE”, you shoot 10’s.
Other hints, tips, tricks, and helpful information:
Take a paper target and permanently post it on a wall in your house or apartment. With an unloaded gun, use this target to dry fire practice with when you can. Use a copy machine to scale it down proportionally for the distance. If your significant other objects to the target scotch taped to the wall, get your first 100 point target, frame it, and use that.
Buy 22LR ammo by the case online. Stock up so you are not discouraged from practicing due to low ammo supplies. Stock up as much as you can with respect to the recent ammo shortages and direct your purchases to the suppliers that did not gouge buyers in the last shortage.
If you compete outside without any type of shelter, make sure you practice outside without any type of shelter. Practice in the rain but keep an eye out for lightning.
Please wear ear protection, eye protection, use empty chamber indicators, and practice safe gun handling.
Buy a couple packages of empty chamber indicators from the CMP. They are about $5.00 for a dozen and pass them out to other shooters. I have yet to come across a shooter that was not delighted to receive one.
Remember to thank the range officer and compliment him on his performance. They work hard to call a safe and fair match. If he messes up a call, please be courteous.
A red dot will improve your score significantly when compared against iron sights.
A trigger job is a good investment on a Browning Buckmark and a Ruger. It may be a good investment on a S&W model 41 depending on the condition of the original trigger.
Use snap caps to practice dry firing. If your snap caps wear out quickly, used 22 brass work too.
A bottle of water can be a life saver on the shooting line. So can a soft clean dry rag.
A hat with a brim will probably improve your sight picture by reducing glare, especially in indoor ranges.
Make it as easy and convenient to practice regularly. Ideally, a range in the basement or out the back door is the best. I can accept that this might not be possible for most of the people reading this so consider what obstacles are inhibiting your practice and consider what you can do about them.
Old briefcases at the second hand store make excellent target containers. Matter of fact, they are so good that you might want to consider new ones if you have the cash.
Take two staplers to the range and to the target board when you are posting targets. One will run out and the other will malfunction. That way you can take the staples out of the malfunctioned stapler and use the empty one to finish posting the targets.
Hammer Tackers or hammer staplers work really good on good particle board target boards. Get the ones that use the T-50 staples that is the most common size. The smaller ones fit into your pockets better, the huge dewalt hammer tackers will pull your pants down.
Targets are cheap. During practice, it is tempting to try and save money by shooting 20, 30, or even 40 shots at a single target. Limit yourself to 15 shots at a single target, and a lot less for 45 caliber at closer ranges. Sometimes target pasties can salvage a practice target too.
Ammunition comes in boxes of 50 or 100. This leads to a temptation to plan to shoot 100, 150, or even 400 rounds per practice session. It is far better to devote your mind to make every shot count, evaluate every shot/target down range, and recognize when your mental focus diminishes and end your practice at that point in time. Three consecutive 30 round practice sessions every day is ten times better then a single 300 round practice session where most of the rounds are send down range with minimal mental guidance. Sometimes your most valuable practices consist of 3 rounds, and sometimes its beneficial to blast away and clear the mind to start all over again on the fundamentals. 27 unfired rounds left in the box? Save them for the next practice.
Figure out a system such that you can load five rounds in each magazine during the match. Do not rely on mentally counting each round as you load it into the magazine. When you get into the zone, simple things like counting to five will interrupt your train of thought. There is nothing more discouraging then hearing the click of a empty chamber on the fifth round on a timed or rapid fire target. Load five rounds a magazine. Not four rounds, not six rounds, but five rounds a magazine. Personally, I have custom wood boxes manufactured that hold exactly 100 rounds. 20 rows of 5 rounds such that I have a visual confirmation that my magazines are loaded with five rounds. While this might seam extreme, figure out a system and practice with it, and practice some more.
A half dozen dry fire shots before a match will increase your score tremendously. Take a couple during the 3 min prep period, and then take a couple more at the beginning of the first slow fire target. You got plenty of time, and after a number of matches you will figure out exactly how much time you need for ten shots on a slow fire target. Most people shoot ten rounds in 7 minutes. Use a couple of those minutes at the beginning for some dry fire warm ups.
A couple extra red dot batteries in the pistol box is cheap but invaluable. Priceless if you need them on the firing line.
Use the bathroom before you step up to the firing line. Even if you do not have to.
Some bullseye advice columns recommend marking the floor with an easily erasable marking system once you find your natural point of aim. Sharpie permanent markers are generally not accepted as a easily erasable marking system. You will notice no recommendations of any floor marking procedures throughout this website.
Be courteous to the range officer calling the match. He has about 3,600 commands he has to deliver perfectly in a typical 900 point match. If he screws up once, he has a 999.722 batting average. Ya think the shooters will remember those 3,599 correct calls?