Today we’re continuing our mini-series on my favorite range gear. Last time, I talked about eye protection and today the topic is shot timers. It turns out I had a lot more to say about the benefits of shot timers in general than about the specifics of the shot timer hardware I use at the range. There’s really not a ton of difference between the various models on the market and they all cost roughly the same. Even the most basic model offers 99% of the benefit of any of the other timers. The video below has the details of why I think it’s important to incorporate a timer into your self-defense training, or you can scroll down and read the transcript.
If you really want to get better at shooting, the best piece of gear you can buy is not a new gun. It’s not an aftermarket trigger or new sights. It’s a shot timer. Today I want to talk about why I train with a shot timer and then at the end, I’ll go over the specific models I use.
If you’re not familiar with electronic shot timers, they are pretty simple devices. It’s basically a stopwatch with a microphone. There’s button that triggers a beep for your start signal and then the microphone picks up the gunshots and displays the elapsed time on a little LED screen. It will show you the total time from the start signal to your last shot, and you can also see your split times, which is how much time elapsed in between each shot.
Training to use your gun for self-defense without a way to measure your speed is the same as firing all of your rounds straight into the backstop without using a target. You need a target to give you feedback about whether you can put the holes where they need to go, and you need a timer to tell you if can do that within a realistic time frame.
You might have heard the cliché “I’ve never seen a timer in a gunfight.” Honestly, that strikes me as a willfully obtuse perspective. Of course there is no physical timer in a violent encounter, but there is absolutely a time limit. Or, my favorite response to that objection is that there might not be a timer in a gunfight, but there’s another dude with a gun trying to kill you and he’s probably in a hurry. If you go take a look at the Active Self Protection YouTube channel, you will get to see hundreds of gunfights captured on surveillance cameras with some good commentary and you’ll notice that nearly all of those encounters are decided in a matter of seconds. There is no denying that speed is a critical component of effective armed resistance and shot timers are the best tool we have to measure our speed.
Shot timers are also really useful for introducing an element of stress into our training. It’s nothing like being in an actual fight, or even the pressure of a shooting match, but trying to beat the clock gives you some form of pressure to work under when you’re developing your skills. Something we have learned from people who have prevailed in gunfights and the instructors who have trained them is that being able to shoot under pressure at the range is a valuable skill to take with you into a real violent encounter. Now I’ve never personally been in a gunfight, but every shooting instructor and “been there, done that” guy I have trained with has used shot timers to induce pressure and to objectively measure students’ performance.
Okay, so hopefully I’ve convinced you that shot timers are a good thing to have. Let’s take a quick look at some of the actual hardware. There are really only a handful of models on the market, and they all range in price between about 100 and 140 dollars. I’ve had this one for several years now. It’s the Competition Electronics Pocket Pro. This is the most basic model on the market. It has a belt clip, and a start button which you can set to go off instantly or with a randomized delay. And then these buttons let you scroll through the split times in a string of fire. You can also set a par time, so it will give you a second beep at a time you choose. It’s worked pretty well for me for the most part. For a few bucks more, you can get the Pocket Pro II, which is very similar, but it’s got a nicer display with more information on it.
This one is now my backup timer and the one I’ve been using for the last year is the CED 7000. It’s a much smaller timer, so unlike the Pocket Pro it actually does fit in my pocket. It’s got a few more bells and whistles than the other timers, but the main feature I use is the ability to store up to 10 strings of fire in the timer’s memory. So for instance, if I’m doing several repetitions of a drill and I want to record my times in my training notebook, I don’t have to stop after every rep to write it down. The timer saves them for me, and I can write them all down when I’m done.
The other popular timer out there is the PACT Club Timer 3. I haven’t used it much, but a lot of people seem to like them. There’s also a timer wristwatch thing called the ShotMaxx, but I’ve never even seen one of those in person, and I have no idea if they’re any good.
A lot of people have asked me about using shot timer smartphone apps instead of a dedicated shot timer. I personally don’t have a lot of experience with those, but from what I’ve heard, they are very hit or miss. With indoor ranges, I’m getting the impression that they mostly don’t work at all. The microphone in your smart phone just can’t tell the difference between your shots and the guy shooting three lanes over. And really, the dedicated shot timers can even be tricky to use indoors, so it’s really not surprising that the smartphones don’t work. But if you don’t want to buy a shot timer yet, one thing you can probably use the smartphone for is setting up par times. So you might not be able to see your split times, but you can set up a par time and you should be able to tell if you got off your last shot before the second beep. There’s a lot of stuff you can train that way and it’s definitely better than nothing.
If you’re looking for some stuff to try at the range with your shot timer, you might want to take a look at our Start Shooting Better series where we’ve been demonstrating a new shooting drill every couple of weeks. Or just start with the basic drawstroke. 7 yards on an 8-inch target from the holster in under 2 seconds is a great baseline skill for concealed carry. So grab a shot timer or put one on your Christmas list, get some ammo from Lucky Gunner and get to work.