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The Rhythm of Speed Shooting

Advice for the Shooter

I first met Patrick Flanigan at one of his Xtreme Shooting events. It was at a National Hunting & Fishing Days celebration and I was imprerssed with his ability to operate in a pretty restricted area but even more with how he related to the crowd.

Several months later while at the Grand American Trap Shooting Championship, I learned that Patrick was to entertain later that evening. It was a miserably hot and humid day with temperatures hovering around 100 all day and humidity that is typical for an August day in Southern Illinois.

His show was to have begun at about 6:00 p.m. as I recall but was delayed, several times due to shoot-offs in the various classes. Even after his show began, he was interrupted numerous times by announcements of the winners of those classes over the public address system. It would have been frustrating to anyone.

It was one of those times when it would have been very easy for him to just pack up and leave after the show. The weather had been unbelieveably hot and his show had been interrupted repeatedly by an announcer on the public address system but despite the weather and the interruptions, Patrick stayed and met every person who wanted to talk. He signed autographs and patiently answered question after question by both adults and kids.

Finally, Patrick and I were able to sit down and have a conversation about his Xtreme Shooting events and how things were going in his career. That conversation became one of the most read articles that I've published on my site.

I have followed Patrick's career for seveal years. The one dominant theme that I've witnessed is his genuine desire to entertain his audience. Yes, he's a phenominal shooter and an inventive man who strives to come up with something new and exciting but most of all, he's a genuine person who wants to relate to everyone who takes their time to come out and attend one of his shows.

I learned early on that it's nearly impossible for any writer to ask a new question. Knowing that, a while back, I asked Patrick if he'd just relate to his fans some of what makes him tick. What would he like to tell others who would like to improve their shooting skills and what secrets he would share with them about how he can shoot so quickly.

The following is just some of what he shared with me.

"Being a solid and accurate shooter requires dedication, discipline and many rounds of practice. However, to be a great speed shooter would require those same attributes in addition to a significant rhythmic understanding and feel for shooting.

On April 3rd of 2007, I set a speed record with a non-modified Winchester SX3 auto loader by firing 12 rounds in 1.4 sec. This is equivalent to a Browning M-2 belt fed machine gun. Many individuals questioned whether the SX3 is stock or modified and argued that it just is not possible. Well, I will tell you now that it is possible and it’s possible to make it shoot even faster.

Here is my secret. I have been a drummer for twenty plus years, longer then I have been shooting firearms and as you all know a successful or accomplished drummer must have solid rhythm. My rhythm, like my shooting, is very instinctive and natural. Yes, I had to work to develop it. However, I feel as though I have always had it in me. A part of drumming is learning rhythmic patterns that are structured numerically and accented on different beats.

For example, a triplet would be structured as single beats in a three beat grouping and accented in different ways. I apply different rhythms to my Xtreme sport shooting, especially my speed shooting!

The particular rhythm you would hear from my speed record video would be that of sixteenth notes. Sixteenths notes would look something like this **** **** **** and counted like this, 1e+a, 2e+a, 3e+a. Twelve beats played together in three four-beat groupings. I know that sounds like a lot to chew on and you have probably gone back and read that last sentence 3-4 times, but that is why I am able to shoot as fast as I do.

The above demonstrates how I subdivide the twelve notes (or twelve shots) into three groupings of four notes. Those same twelve notes can also be broken up in several other ways.

Four groupings of three notes: *** *** *** ***

Two groupings of six notes: ****** ******

Six groupings of two notes: ** ** ** ** ** **

The way that each shooter chooses to phrase the notes will be unique to him/her and reflects that person’s own internal rhythm(s). Playing drums through the years has helped me to learn an increased number of rhythms, expanding my rhythmic ‘vocabulary’ and giving me more options to draw from when it comes time to start pulling the trigger!I know we cannot all go out and take drum lessons just to increase the speed of our trigger finger, so I will give you some alternate tips that may help:


1.) Get yourself motivated and energized before attempting a speed challenge. Prior to attempting to set a speed record or before I attempt to fire an auto loader rapidly, I will count the rhythm in my head a few times until I am ready and when ready I will then relay that rhythm to my finger. It is my way of mentally preparing and pumping myself up for the challenge. I hear the rhythm first!

2.) Finger exercises. Yes, it sounds foolish but it works. I am always tapping my fingers to music or playing finger drums on the dinner table.

3.) Get a steady rhythm of your own. Try to create your own natural rhythm in your head. In fact, you probably have one already and don’t even realize it.

4.) Practice!!! Practice may be the most generic tip I can offer although it is the greatest tip you can learn.


Like any great athlete, we all need to identify our weaknesses and our strengths. Once we have done that then we can focus on what needs to be done in order to improve our game. I spend time before practice day thinking about what I need to improve on and that becomes my focus until bettered. You should approach every practice with the idea of leaving your practice a better shooter. In all honesty, if speed is your biggest weakness, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Speed comes with repetition!

Now get prepared, find your rhythm, be safe and go on out and enjoy your shooting practice!"

Recently, I learned that Patrick has now broken his previous World Record for speed shooting. While I understand that trying to set a world record for shooting quickly is not the goal of most or even of many of us, it's always intereting to hear what works for a World Champion and World Record Holder in any sport.

What is important to all of us and should be of interest to all of us is that we have ambassadors for the shooting sports out there, like Patrick Flannigan. We need to win the hearts and minds of those folks who really have no opinion of guns and shooting. We need to have moms, dads, daughters and sons see just how much fun the shooting sports can be.

Exhibition shooters like Patrick can spread the word in ways that most of us never can. If you've not had an opportunity to see one of his shows, I'd recommend that you visit his site and see if there is one near you. Even better, contact him and see if you can schedule one of his shows in your area.




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