So you’ve listened to the briefing, made several careful walk-throughs, decided on what targets you will shoot from each part of the stage and identified when you’re going to do your reloads – you have the A-Plan sorted but what if you miss and top up? Or worse, what if you miss more than once?

Anyone who has ever competed in any practical shooting discipline will be familiar with the phrase ‘it was all going so well until…” This is particularly true with practical shotgun because most of our targets are reactive, we can see if we hit them, unlike handgun or rifle where Mike tends to be announced as an unwelcome visitor by the RO.  In contrast on a birdshot stage we see it unfolding as we are still shooting and this can lead to things unravelling if you’re not used to B-Plan shifts on the fly. While we’re on the differences between disciplines let’s also consider that for shotgun’s tube-fed majority you can’t just push a button and slot in another X rounds, if you top up on missed shots beyond the initial loading plan then you have to make up the deficit, somewhere along the way, cartridge by cartridge.

On most stages the B-plan isn’t a complicated ‘if this happens I’ll do that’ strategy its more likely to be a series of tweaks to your loading and the only way to get used to this, much like any skill, is to look for a style of training that lets you to practice it.

Here’s one suggestion on how to train for B-Plan top-ups. If you set up a stage to shoot with your training buddies then the first run is best used for realistic match training, you’ve gone to all the trouble to build a stage after all, so shoot it at match pace. We all have our own match pace but I’m talking about somewhere between a 7 – ‘I just need a banker run here to get my nerves settled’ and a 9 ‘I’m feeling pretty sporty today and I like this stage, it suits my strengths’. Try to beat a particular guy in the group you’re with as this creates a little match-like pressure but don’t go crazy with the speed, remember if this was stage 1 of a 12 stage Level 3 you don’t want to spend the day wishing your chances hadn’t ended on the first stage.

With that training run over (hope you beat your friend) you still have a stage built and you might as well experiment on it for the rest of the day. If there are any other tactical options for the layout, different to the one you picked for match-mode, then shoot them all staying at about the same pace. This will show if you picked the right strategy first time out by allowing you to experiment with the alternatives. It also avoids practicing shooting a single stage over and over, something we never do under match conditions in IPSC. Also reverse the brief if the stage suits it, so you’re retreating rather than advancing or going left rather than right, these things are all important and you will shoot a stage some day where the required direction of travel is uncomfortable, get used to this.

Now we come to the B-Plan practice. Remember that match speed run, about an 8 on the 1-10 speed scale? Now try shooting it as close as you can to 10,  just the shooting goes to 10 – you don’t need to run faster or load faster, simply pull the trigger faster. One of two things will happen; either it will work out and you will discover that you’ve been wasting your life shooting too slowly or (back in the real world) you will start to miss a target or two that you could hit pretty easily when you were within your capabilities at match pace. The result is that you will have to load more to make up for the top-up shots. Better still this will happen at random intervals on the run, just like a top-up shot on a real stage and therefore in a manner that is much more useful than any predetermined drill.

Finally, well beyond what can be accomplished with mastery of the B-Plan tweak, there are occasions when even the very best shooter can have a bad day, you may have noticed this! When the timer becomes more like the Neuraliser of MIB fame; ‘Beep – where am I , what’s my name…” We’ve all been there and there’s no shame in it, however when this happens the panic stricken competitor, now bereft of a plan, needs an escape route which may not necessarily be pretty but will minimise the damage to the day’s overall score.

In this situation the best way to get to the end is usually to over-load – if you’re moving just load, forget about trying to remember where you should load, just load all the way – because, trust me, the ignominy of taking extra rounds out when the RO says ‘unload and show clear’ is vastly better than going for a match-saver that you’ve already used and then swearing at each of the remaining targets as you shoot them in ‘load one, shoot one’ style.

This brings to mind a great universal truth that unites all shooters – There are only two times in your life that you could ever wish you had less ammunition; your house is on fire or your drowning.

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