Kirsch - Determining Stage Strategy

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From Thinking Practical Shooting, by Saul Kirsch (page 32).

When you can estimate your expected points and time on a stage, you know what hit factor to expect. But what does it mean to say that a stage has a 4.000 hit factor? Remember that the hit factor is the relationship between the points and time. If the hit factor is 4.000, it means that on this stage, each second is worth 4 points. Or, if you prefer, each point is worth 0.25 of a second.

With this information you know that:

  • If you can gain 1 extra point on a target by shooting 2 A's rather than A/C by shooting a split of 0.40 instead 0.30 seconds, you should slow down and shoot the longer split. It may cost you 0.10 of a second, but as you have calculated, 1 point is worth 0.25 second!
  • You can calculate the price of a miss in seconds. A miss costs you 15 points. In this case 15 points are 3.75 seconds (15 points x 0.25 sec). You now know that if it takes you less than 3.75 seconds to pick up a miss, you should do it. You will get a better hit factor, and so more match points. This is useful information to have before you shoot, in case, for instance, your gun runs empty on the last shot.
  • In some cases, this tells whether to wait for another pass of a swinger or a moving target. If you know the hit factor in advance and that it takes two seconds for the swinger to reappear, you will know if it's worth the extra time to wait, or the possible miss and move on through the stage.

When the hit factor is low, the stage is "points heavy". This means you should slow down a little and really go for all A's. When the hit factor is very high, speed carries more importance. What you regard as very high depends mostly on your individual shooting level. I have seen stages where the hit factor for the top shooters was almost 20! Imagine a stage with 28 rounds, all close targets, and little movement. A top shooter can complete a stage like that in 6-7 seconds, maybe less. There are 140 points available, so 140/7 seconds = 20 hit factor. On this stage, each second is worth 20 points. Each point dropped is worth only five hundredths of a second. In this scenario it is "warp speed time". You don't mind shooting a bunch of C's -- what you want is the best time!

On a stage with a high hit factor, the cost of a mistake or malfunction in match points goes up. If you have a malfunction that takes 3 seconds to clear on a stage with a 15 hit factor, it costs you as much as three misses (45 points off). If you have that same malfunction on a stage with a low 5 hit factor, those 3 seconds together would be worth only one miss on the stage.