This week's Tip is hosted by Dale Rhea. Question: What is the best way to practice for the plates when you are unable to shoot metal at your range and still build up your speed? For the Unlimited Class, sight picture and trigger control are first so how do you work on the rythm for speed on the plates? Dale's response to this topic is as follows: Every time you use your pistol, make sure safety is your first concern. Plates are incredibly difficult to shoot well. The bright white circle grabs your attention and causes you to lose focus because it makes you look at the plate rather than at your sights. The result is disastrous. The inability to practice on steel targets actually is a blessing in disguise. When you are learning, the noise and movement of real steel plates will distract you. The best way to learn the techniques for speed on steel is by practicing on paper targets. First, you need to make a virtual plate rack. Any cardboard will work; just paint a white 8-inch circle in the middle. It is important to have a brown border around the plate so you can see where your misses are going. I use NRA D-1 (tombstone) targets and paint the 8-inch center of the target white. Set up 6 of these targets so the plates are 12 inches edge-to-edge. Get both brown and white target pasters. Using the correct color pasters will help maintain the visual integrity of the paper plate rack and allow it last longer. Pasters and targets are available from www.targetbarn.com Going fast on the plates requires your very best techniques. Your grip, stance and balance are more important here than on any other stage. When you are practicing, try to simulate the match. Pick out the center of the first plate. At the start signal, raise the pistol and align the sights on that spot. You should see a crisp sight picture with a slightly blurry plate behind it. Hesitate just a little on the first plate. If you miss that first shot the rest of the run is down the tubes. Dont jerk. Aim, then squeeze the trigger until you feel it break. When the shot breaks, immediately move your eyes to the next plate. Dont look for your hit; look at the next plate and move the pistol over and align the sights on it as you release the trigger to the reset position. As the pistol comes out of recoil you should be aligning on the next plate, feeling the trigger reset and pulling your focus back to the front sight so you regain that crisp sight picture. Feel the trigger, let it break, then move on to the next plate. Be sure to follow through on the last plate so you will not try to finish too fast and jerk the last shot. You dont need a timer to become a good plate shooter, but after you become competent, will need one in order to become a great plate shooter. Using a timer will help you see the time to your first shot and the time between shots. As you make minor adjustments to your shooting, the timer will help you see whether the changes are helping you go faster. When practicing without a timer, start from the low ready, and simulate the range instructions, saying to yourself, Are you ready? Standby. Beep. Using a red dot sight makes shooting plates both easier and faster. Your focus is totally on the plates. When you see the dot coming onto the plate, squeeze until you feel the trigger break, then move on to the next plate. If you missed you either jerked or the pistol needs to be sighted in. In order to go fast you must be relaxed. At the match, remember to stay within your ability. You cannot shoot the stages faster during the match than you can in your practice sessions. Many good shooters shoot the match a little slower than they shoot in practice in order to handle the adrenalin generated by competition. Stay focused on what you are doing. Dont let other shooters distract you. If you find yourself thinking about anything other than the plates ask for timeout and refocus. I have seen great plate runs shot from either right to left or from left to right. Shoot in the direction that feels right for you. If you are going at warp speed with a scoped pistol you may want to go from right to left to avoid the possibility of a jam caused by the gun colliding with the ejected brass. Dale's response is posted by Bobby Carver for Dale Rhea.